A short reference grammar of Slovene

A short reference grammar of Slovene. By Marc L. Greenberg. (LINCOM studies in Slavic linguistics 30.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2008. Pp. 160. ISBN 9783895869655. $140 (Hb).

Reviewed by Tijmen Pronk, Leiden University

Marc L. Greenberg’s A short reference grammar of Slovene offers exactly what its title promises: a concise overview of all aspects of Slovene grammar, sometimes expanding on interesting details, sometimes only providing the most important facts. It describes the phonology (Ch. 3), nominal and verbal inflectional morphology (Ch. 4), derivational morphology (Ch. 5), syntax (Ch. 6), and discourse markers (Ch. 7) of the standard Slovene language. In addition, G includes examples of substandard and dialectal use (especially the city dialect of Ljubljana) throughout the work, which is important in view of the substantial differences between the strata.

After providing some general introductory remarks about Slovene, its history, and its dialects, G gives a brief overview of Slovene phonology, with phonetic remarks when necessary. An extensive section is devoted to the prosody of the language. Ch. 3 gives a forty-seven page overview of the morphology of the language. The pronoun and present tense of the verb receive ample attention; the nominal and adjectival declensions are treated more broadly.

The following fifteen-page chapter on derivational morphology discusses all common derivational suffixes in a structured way and contains many examples. The chapter on syntax occupies roughly a quarter of the book and discusses a range of topics, including the use of prepositions, numerals, and conjunctions, and also the structure of main and subordinate clauses. Ch. 7 deals with a number of discourse markers and their use. The book concludes with two texts with interlinear transcription and translation, one in standard Slovene and one in the Ljubljana city dialect, followed by a bibliography.

The practical approach G has chosen by using examples from a number of existing texts and databases is instructive and makes the language come alive. This approach, complemented by clear presentation throughout, makes this book a valuable contribution to the field. G’s decision to indicate the pitch of a word accent (‘rising’ or ‘falling’) throughout the book, a feature that is usually omitted, is praiseworthy. The way that vowel timbre and pitch-accent are indicated is, however, unfortunate. G’s notation is a mix of the ‘tonemic’ notation used in larger dictionaries and the ‘non-tonemic’ notation used in other grammars. As a consequence, the notation is clear and consistent in isolation but could be confusing for someone who also consults other linguistic works on Slovene.

Summarizing, G’s book is an excellent reference book for Slavicists and general linguists alike. The book is not exhaustive, and the author does not claim it to be; not all subjects are discussed in the same amount of detail, but the subjects that G focuses on are instructive indeed. The large number of examples provided throughout makes this book a valuable resource for learners of Slovene.