Studies in Germanic, Indo-European, and Indo-Uralic

Studies in Germanic, Indo-European, and Indo-Uralic. By Frederik Kortlandt. (Leiden studies in Indo-European 17.) Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010. Pp. xii, 534. ISBN 9789042031357. $165 (Hb).

Reviewed by Elly van Gelderen, Arizona State University

This book collects most of Kortlandt’s writings on Germanic, Indo-European, and Indo-Uralic. There are papers on the spread of Indo-European, the origin of the Goths, the phonology and morphosyntax of Indo-European, many of its daughter languages (Greek, Indo-Iranian, Tocharian, Albanian, Armenian, Balto-Slavic, Italo-Celtic, Anatolian), and the controversial claim of an Indo-Uralic language family that includes the Indo-European and Uralic languages. There are eight chapters on Germanic phonology, eleven on Germanic verb classes, verbal and nominal inflection, and several chapters on German, English, Scandinavian, and the Russenorsk pidgin. Many of these are short state-of-the-art articles written in a common sense style and containing a wealth of background information.

According to K, ‘a quest for relative chronology of linguistic developments’ (xi) is central to his work. His reconstructions are bottom-up and always show concern for empirical evidence. Besides the richness of his data, his citation of earlier literature and discussion of various theories reminds the reader of the wisdom and insight of such older scholars as Holger Pedersen and C.C. Uhlenbeck.

K argues that Indo-European is a branch of the putative Indo-Uralic family that was influenced by a North Caucasian substratum when early Indo-European speakers moved further north from the northern shore of the Caspian Sea. He claims that, as a result, ‘Indo-European developed a minimal vowel system…a very large consonant inventory…, grammatical gender and adjectival agreement, an ergative construction which was lost again but has left its traces in the grammatical system, especially in the nominal inflection, a construction with a dative subject…. The Indo-Uralic elements of Indo-European include pronouns, case endings, verbal endings, participles and derivational suffixes.’ (

Donella Antelmi and Francesca Santulli (111–34) compare how representatives of the Left and the Right exploit the speech presenting a new government to the Italian parliament, the two other articles focus on the discursive features of the conventionalized mechanisms of control in parliamentary debates (Clara-Ubaldina Lorda Mur on ‘questions au gouvernement’ in France) or the lack thereof (Elisabeth Zima, Geert Brône, and Kurt Feyaerts on ‘unauthorized interruptive comments’ in Austria).

Part 3 contains three chapters on ‘Procedural, discursive and rhetorical particularities of post-Communist parliaments’ that focus on changes in parliamentary discourse across the Communist, transitional, and post-Communist periods. The articles concern the management of interpersonal relationships through (dis)agreement strategies in the Romanian Parliament (Cornelia Ilie), occurrences of applause and laughter in the Polish Sejm (Cezar Ornatowski), and the discursive construction of the addressee in the Czech Parliament (Yordanka Madzharova Bruteig).

Part 4 contains crosscultural studies of parliamentary discourse. In his contribution (305–28), H. José Plug seeks to determine whether the different institutional characteristics of the Dutch and European Parliaments have an impact on how personal attacks are discursively managed, whilst Isabel Íñigo-Mora (329–72) explores the rhetorical strategies of British and Spanish MPs in discussing the Iraqi conflict.

The strength and relevance of this volume undoubtedly lies in the fact that through a rich collection of case studies, focusing on an important selection of parliamentary institutions and applying diverse analytical approaches (including discursive psychology and (critical) discourse analysis), the authors lay a sound foundation for further linguistic research on the impacts of parliamentary interaction on current political action.