Frequency effects in language, vol. 1: Frequency effects in language learning and processing

Frequency effects in language, vol. 1: Frequency effects in language learning and processing. Ed. by Stefan Th. Gries and Dagmar Divjak. (Trends in linguistics: studies and monographs 244.1.) Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2012. Pp. v, 243. ISBN 9783110274059. $140 (Hb).
Reviewed by Natalia Levshina, Université catholique de Louvain

The fact that usage frequency has an effect on linguistic form and function has been known since George Zipf’s work. However, it is only recently that frequency has gained its central place in usage-based theory and methodology. Although there seems to be a general concensus that frequency ‘matters‘, the exact nature of its influence on language use, acquisition, and change is still not fully understood. The high-quality articles solicited for this book as well as for its companion book offer an important contribution to our understanding of what frequency effects are and why they exist.

The studies cover a wide range of topics: phonology and morphology, multiword units and syntactic variation, children’s language, second language acquisition, and language change. The data are impressively diverse and include corpus-based and experimental evidence. The latter ranges from classical acceptability judgments and questionnaires to less familiar techniques, such as continuous shadowing and sentence copying. Although most studies report convergent evidence from different sources, this methodological pluralism also allows the researchers to overcome the limitations of using only one method.

However diverse, the articles in the book are connected by one leitmotif: our application of frequency measures and intepretation of their effects should be very nuanced. This is illustrated by a quote from Albert Einstein in Nick C. Ellis’ article: ‘Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot be necessarily be counted’ (7). As Ellis argues in his overview of the state of the art, corpus frequencies on their own are uninformative and should be integrated in multifactorial dynamic models of language learning, development, and use. The behaviorist-like understanding of frequency effects as mere repetition should be replaced with a contextually informed one. This contextualization can be interpreted, for instance, as the cumulative exposure of a word to specific phonological environments. On the other hand, frequency effects of multiword expressions can be contextually enhanced by the presence of additional lexical clues.

Speakers are also sensitive to relative frequency measures (e.g. the difference between the frequency of a base verb and that of a prefixed form), as shown by Eugenia Antić in her experiments with morphological productivity of prefixed verbs. Vsevolod Kapatsinski’s study provides experimental support for the well-known thesis of Joan Bybee that product-oriented generalizations of stimulus frequencies are more important that the source-oriented ones. Nuancing is also needed at the level of interpretation of linguistic facts; frequency should not be regarded as a magic all-explaining factor. Gunther De Vogelaer’s study of standardization and resemantization in the gender system of Dutch dialects shows that corpus frequency can predict processes related to Labovian diffusion (standardization), but not transmission (resemantization), where the age of acquisition is a better approximation of entrenchment.

The book can be recommended to anyone interested in empirical methods and theoretical developments in contemporary usage-based linguistics.

History of linguistics 2008

History of linguistics 2008: Selected papers from the 11th international conference on the history of the language sciences (ICHOLS XI), Potsdam, 28 August – 2 September 2008. Ed. by Gerda Hassler. (Studies in the history of the language sciences 115.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. xi, 468. ISBN 9789027246066. $180 (Hb).
Reviewed by Julie M. Winter, Heinrich Heine University

This book contains thirty-two articles selected from among some 220 presented at the eleventh International Conference on the History of the Language Sciences in Potsdam. The articles, chosen to represent major foci and the broad range of themes at the conference, cover the time periods extending from antiquity to the present day. They reveal that humans across cultures have long had a strong interest in studying language and have done so from various perspectives. Linguistic science today is a broad field reflecting the wide range of traditions and approaches that have come before.
The thirty-two articles selected are divided into five sections: methodological considerations, linguistics, and philology; antiquity; renaissance linguistics; the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; and the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

What unifies the articles is that they all represent the attempt to understand the history of linguistics using modern methodological approaches—in particular, the ability to collect and analyze linguistic data electronically—and the broad, interdisciplinary approach to studying a particular topic. A further underlying unifying element is that each of the contributions supports the idea that we can best understand the field of modern linguistics by having an understanding of the history of linguistics and how the field developed.

The remarkable variety of periods and topics dealt with in this collection precludes a summary of the themes in this short book notice; a few examples of the types of articles included must suffice. The contribution from John Walmsley, ‘“A term of opprobrium”: Twentieth century linguistics and English philology’, explores how modern linguistics grew out of philology, the term used to signify the study of language and literature before the twentieth century. Walmsley describes how linguistics distinguished itself from philology and what has been gained and lost as linguistics developed.
As another example, Daniel J. Taylor illuminates the type of work carried out in the study of language in ancient times with ‘Rewriting the history of the language sciences in classical antiquity’. In this article he examines the work of Marcus Terentius Varro (116–27 BC) and demonstrates that Varro’s contributions, as well as other Graeco-Roman linguistic endeavors, are of high quality and must be reevaluated in order to assess their value accurately.

Reflecting the diverse range of topics, we also have the contribution from Clemens Knobloch, ‘“Cultural morphology”: A success story in German linguistics’. Knobloch explains how the sociologically oriented approach of cultural morphology gave new direction to German dialectology and gave the discipline status in the humanities in early twentieth century Germany, a time period in which emphasis on the Volk was particularly important.

This book is valuable as the articles shed light on areas that help us understand the history of linguistics in a broad way and furthermore highlight the fact that while the actual science of linguistics saw a rapid rise in the twentieth century, the study of language has been around for a long time. The various areas, schools of thought, nuances, and approaches all contribute to the field of linguistics today and should not be neglected. Linguistic science is indebted to what scholars turned to and discovered in the past.

Case, argument structure, and word order

Case, argument structure, and word order. By Shigeru Miyagawa. (Routledge leading linguists.) New York: Routledge, 2012. Pp. 328. ISBN 9780415878593. $135 (Hb).
Reviewed by Natalia Levshina, Université catholique de Louvain
This book celebrates decades of the author’s research on syntax, case marking, and argument structure. The topics, which range from numeral quantifiers to genitive subjects and analytic causatives, are discussed from the generative perspective. Although Japanese serves as the departure point in all case studies, the selection of languages that are covered is very broad: from Old English to Altaic Dagur and from Slavic languages to Mitla Zapotec. The book thus makes an important contribution both to universal grammar and to our understanding of language diversity.
The book is organized in an original way, with two chapters presenting the author’s earlier work and more recent developments in each of the five major topics. Such composition enables the author to show the evolution of his ideas in time, and places them in the changing theoretical context. This ongoing debate makes the book fascinating to read and provides a vivid demonstration of the global changes in the generative framework.
All topics concern the interaction of case marking, argument structure, and word order. The first topic deals with numeral quantifiers in Japanese, which can be separated from the nouns they modify. According to the author, this phenomenon supports the hypothesis of A-movement in unaccusatives and passives. The second topic is ditransitive constructions in Japanese, which allow for different order of the recipient/goal and theme. The author argues against the popular account based on the notion of scrambling as a defining property of Japanese, and shows that Japanese ditransitives are not fundamentally different from the English double-object and prepositional-object constructions.
Next, the book offers a discussion of the nominative/genitive subject alternation in Japanese, contrasted with similar phenomena in Altaic languages, and pinpoints similarities between the genitive of dependent tense in Japanese and the genitive of negation in Slavic. The fourth topic is causative constructions in Japanese, which are discussed in a broader context of the division of labor between syntax and the lexicon. Using the notion of blocking, or pre-emption, and, more recently, ideas from distributed morphology, the author explains how ‘elsewhere’ causatives with –sase in Japanese and make in English can function as lexical or analytic causatives, depending on the availability of a free slot in the lexicon.
The final topic is the change in accusative case marking in Japanese. Drawing on numerous examples from ancient texts, the author shows how the competition between three options for accusative case marking (namely, abstract case, morphological case, and head incorporation) that were available in Old Japanese and Early Middle Japanese has been won by the morphological case option. He also provides arguments for why this development fits the general principles of universal grammar.
This book is very rich in examples, combining contemporary language data with diachronic and developmental evidence. The writing is very lucid and accessible, even to a non-specialist. The book can be recommended to anyone who is interested in linguistic theory and universal grammar.

Metonymy and metaphor in grammar

Metonymy and metaphor in grammar. Ed. by Klaus-Uwe Panther, Linda L. Thornburg, and Antonio Barcelona. (Human cognitive processing 25.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009. Pp. viii, 423. ISBN 9789027223791. $149 (Hb).
Reviewed by Siaw-Fong Chung and Heng-ming Kang, National Chengchi University

The editors hint that an important notion of this book is ‘how figurative thought might influence grammar’ (1) and how one’s grammar structure could be ‘motivated … by conceptual-pragmatic factors’ (4). Ronald W. Langacker presents several grammatical structures (e.g. prepositional phrase constructional schema) using metonymic representations. Several important concepts such as ‘active zones’ of a ‘profiled relation’ (48), reference points (52), and buried connections (61) are introduced.

In Part 1, ‘Word class meaning and word formation’, Wiltrud Mihatsch tries to find evidence in Indo-European languages to confirm Langacker’s idea that ‘all nouns … are conceptualized as THING’ (75). Margarida Basilio explains how ‘metonymic processes’ are required to understand nouns in Brazilian Portuguese (e.g. from an OBJECT, piano, to an ACTIVITY performed with the object) (103). The formation of agent nouns with [[X]-ista] constructions that ‘denote people with reference to political, theoretical, or religious bodies of ideas’ is one example (106). Gary B. Palmer, Russell S. Rader, and Art D. Clarito state that ka- in Tagalog serves a similar function as English -er/-or when ‘denoting an agent or instrument’ (111), and the semantics of this morpheme could be understood metonymically.
In Part 2, ‘Case and aspect’, Wolfgang Schulze uses the local cases of the East Caucasian languages Aghul and the Udi as examples to discuss how their understanding requires metaphorization. Klaus-Uwe Panther and Linda L. Thornburg argue that a chain of metonymy and metaphor meanings is required to understand the French passé simple to be ‘a past tense with a perfective sense’ (192).

In Part 3, ‘Proper names and noun phrases’, Günter Radden tries to approach the English generic reference from the perspective of cognitive linguistics, comparing the representative generic (indefinite singular), the proportional generic (indefinite plural), the kind generic (definite singular), and the delimited generic (definite plural). Mario Brdar and Rita Brdar-Szabó argue that the adverbial replacements for metonymic subjects are metonymic, which involves a two-tiered metonymy, PART FOR WHOLE and CAPITAL FOR GOVERNMENT. Mario Brdar later investigates two metonymic cases, WHOLE FOR PART in animal grinding and woods and MANNER FOR ACTION in predicative adjectives.

In Part 4, ‘Predicate and clause constructions’, Rosario Caballero relies on a corpus of collected architecture magazines to investigate motion predicates, especially when used in architectural discourse as opposed to general context. Debra Ziegeler and Sarah Lee propose a metonymic three-stage process of grammaticalization to account for the development from causative-resultatives to conventionalized scenarios in Singaporean, Malaysian, and British English. Rita Brdar-Szabó finds out that in English and German, stand-alone conditionals can serve as indirect directives, but this is not the case in Hungarian and Croatian.

Finally, in Part 5, ‘Metonymic and metaphoric motivations of grammatical meaning’, M. Sandra Peña Cervel and Francisco J. Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez focus on two image-schemas—the path-end-of-path transformation and the multiplex-mass transformation. Antonio Barcelona observes different types of prototypical and non-prototypical constructions in a corpus of short, constructed conversations. One’s knowledge of the grammatical constructions will provide the background for metonymic inference.

Politeness and culture in second language acquisition

Politeness and culture in second language acquisition. By Sooho Song. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Pp. xii, 164. ISBN 9781137030627. $80 (Hb).
Reviewed by Theresa McGarry, East Tennessee State University

This timely book presents a comparative empirical study of politeness phenomena in the English requests of native speakers and of speakers whose first language is Korean. In the preface, Sooho Song contextualizes her study in terms of the importance of both politeness and culture for intercultural communication. The first chapter (1–7) goes more into the practical and theoretical significance of the relationship between politeness and culture in language acquisition, and also sets out the research questions: how culture influences speakers’ perceptions of ‘weightiness’ of a request and selection of a politeness strategy, and whether cultural differences ultimately affect learners’ politeness expressions. The second chapter (8–62) provides a brief overview of first language effects on language learning, interlanguage pragmatics, theories of politeness, including sociocultural aspects thereof, and politeness relating to sociocultural aspects of society in Korea.

In Ch. 3 (63–83), S proposes a revision of Penelope Brown and Stephen Levinson’s politeness theory that incorporates a role for culture-specific perceptions. She then describes the method of data collection and analysis. The data include the responses of about 160 undergraduates, half at a US university and half at a Korean university, to sixteen given situations involving a request. The respondents rated each situation with regard to social distance, power ratio, and size of task imposition; and they also constructed an utterance appropriate to the situation. The constructed utterances were analyzed with respect to both the politeness characteristics of the main sentence performing the request and the supportive moves accompanying that sentence.

Ch. 4 (84–134) presents the results of the analysis at two levels. At the macro-level, the analysis of the aggregate data supports Brown and Levinson’s model, and the analysis of the two groups of speakers separately shows a difference in the perception of situations, leading S to suggest that the model is not universally applicable with regard to the perception of the size of imposition involved in a request. At the micro-level, the results also indicate some cultural differences regarding social distance and power ratio perceptions relating to specific situations, e.g. Koreans perceive more social distance between a grandchild and his/her grandfather than do Americans. Moreover, proficiency levels, learning experience, and first language transfer may affect some strategy choices, such as the use of ‘I am sorry’. Ch. 5 (135–43) summarizes the findings and discusses the theoretical and pedagogical implications of this empirical test of a well-known politeness model.

While the methodology has some limitations, notably that the utterances are elicited rather than naturally occurring, the author discusses these and justifies her methodological choices. The book contains an unfortunate number of editing lapses and some organizational shortcomings. However, the study constitutes an important advance in the study of politeness, particularly with regard to cultural specificities, that both informs and inspires.

Texture: A cognitive aesthetics of reading

Texture: A cognitive aesthetics of reading. By Peter Stockwell. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012. Pp. viii, 216. ISBN 9780748625826. $32.
Reviewed by Thomas Hoffmann, University of Osnabrück

After decades of little to no contact between linguistics and literary studies, the recent rise of cognitive poetics has led to a considerable increase in interdisciplinary research which combines insights from (stylistic) literary criticism, on the one hand, and cognitive linguistics and psychology, on the other hand. Along this line of research, this book presents a cognitive poetic analysis of the experiential quality of textuality, that is, ‘the outcome of the workings of shared cognitive mechanics, evident in texts and readings’ (1).

As Peter Stockwell points out in Ch. 1, ‘Text, textuality and texture’ (1–16), ‘a close stylistic analysis forms the main method of this book’ (9), which is also informed by insights from cognitive poetic principles (such as experientialism, generalization, continuity, embodiment, and ecology) and draws on cognitive models (such as text worlds, prototype theory, projection, and cognitive grammar). In Ch. 2, ‘Resonance and intensity’ (17–55), based on the cognitive psychology of attention, S outlines ‘a general model of resonance’ (54) to explain the ‘prolonged response’ and ‘aura of significance’ effects that a literary reading can have (19).

In Ch. 3, ‘Sensation and empathy’ (56–105), S shifts the discussion of intensity to the physical and higher-level conceptual experiences of reading. Taking all physical and virtual sensation to be cognitively embodied, he outlines how readerly empathy and sympathy can be explained by his approach. Ch. 4, ‘Voice and mind’ (106–33), focuses on ‘the cognitive mechanics that readers must engage in when experiencing fictional literary works and the beings which inhabit them’ (106). Central to S’s analysis is the claim that individuals construct a cognitive sense of identity which forms the basis for cognitively forming relationships with other people. Here it is important that the cognitive mechanics (characterization, point of view, and deictic positioning) that are employed to interact with people in the ‘real’ world are essentially the same as the ones that are used to establish relationships with fictional characters.

The role of the personality of the reader is further elaborated on in Ch. 5, ‘Identification and resistance’ (134–57). Adapting a psychological projection account of mind-modeling that incorporates notions such as the text world, S outlines a cognitive account of how readers identify with characters (or why they resist such identification). In the final chapter, ‘Texture and meaning’ (168–92), S then heavily draws on principles of cognitive grammar (namely construal, image-schema, and trajectory-landmark) to account for ‘cohesion and coherence in literary texture’ (15) (giving, for example, an analysis of narrative pace and action chaining).

While the choice of cognitive linguistic principles discussed in this book occasionally appears somewhat eclectic, it is, nevertheless, a book that opens up many new research avenues for future interdisciplinary work between linguistics and literary studies. It should therefore be of great interest to researchers from such diverse fields as stylistics, literary criticism, and cognitive linguists, as well as cognitive scientists.

Cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspectives on academic discourse

Cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspectives on academic discourse. Ed. by Eija Suomela-Salmi and Fred Dervin. (Pragmatics & beyond new series 193.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009. Pp. vi, 299. ISBN9789027254375. $143 (Hb).
Reviewed by Siaw-Fong Chung and Li-Yin Chen, National Chengchi University

Eija Suomela-Salmi and Fred Dervin introduce that this book features research in eight languages (English, Spanish, French, Swedish, Russian, German, Italian, and Norwegian) in written and oral academic discourse (AD).

In Part 1, ‘Discursive characteristics of AD’, Christina Janik finds that ‘shared knowledge’ and ‘underspecified references to research literature’ abound in Russian historiographic articles. German articles use higher numbers of footnotes. Rebecca Beke and Adriana Bolívar compare modalization in Spanish research articles and essays in four disciplines. They find that ‘[p]ossibility is the preferred category of modalisation used by philosophers, linguists and psychologists, while educators give quantity more prominence’, whereas ‘[p]robability is more frequently used by linguists’ (39). Pilar Mur Dueñas examines citations in twenty-four English research articles on business management by American and Spanish scholars. American scholars use more citations to justify their research. Erik Schleef examines English and German tag questions and discourse markers in speeches of American and German undergraduates, focusing on factors such as disciplines, discourse roles, gender, context, and culture.

In Part 2, ‘Different voices’, Marina Bondi analyzes the openings of 964 English and Italian research articles in history and economics. Most economics openings are epistemic openings that serve interpretive functions, whereas history openings are usually phenomenic openings that provide a time-setting function and tend to mix textual voices of historical characters and witnesses. Kjersti Fløttum explores academic voices when an author serves as writer, researcher, arguer, and evaluator in 450 research articles in English, French, and Norwegian from economics, linguistics, and medicine. Trine Dahl investigates author roles in 160 English and Norwegian research article abstracts in economics and linguistics. English economists prefer the researcher role while Norwegian economists take the writer role. English linguists prefer to position themselves as arguers. Giuliana Diani finds that linguistic reviewers tend to adopt multiple voices in communication and show a preponderance of ‘I’ that projects a prominent identity of self. Merja Koskela and Tiina Männikkö explore the importance of bibliographical notes and content notes in Swedish research articles in history and philosophy.

In Part 3, ‘Cross-cultural rhetoric’, Zofia Golebiowski compares contrastive relations, collateral relations, and comparison relations in three English articles (by an English native speaker, a Polish speaker working in Australia, and a Polish speaker from Poland). Rosa Lorés-Sanz compares forty English research article abstracts for international journals and forty Spanish research abstracts for national publication. Anna Mauranen analyzes ‘rhetoric use of repetition’ (208) and ‘matching/contrast’ (213), among other things in data from monologues and speeches in contexts where English is a lingua franca and in a corpus of data from native speakers (205). Irena Vassileva investigates typescripts of recorded conference discussion in terms of ‘expressions of appreciation and agreement’ (225) and ‘requests for more information or clarification’ (227).

Finally, in Part 4, ‘Construction of concepts in the academia’, Suomela-Salmi and Dervin use transcriptions of a radio program interview to examine ‘interaction/rhetorical strategies, argumentation through reformations and voicing/positioning strategies’ (246). Olga Galatanu details the role of lexical semantics in AD by analyzing the word ‘university’, a word representing ‘an identitary image of Europe as a society of knowledge, citizens and diversity in unity’ (291).

A cognitive linguistic analysis of the English imperative: With special reference to Japanese imperatives

A cognitive linguistic analysis of the English imperative: With special reference to Japanese imperatives. By Hidemitsu Takahashi. (Human cognitive processing 35.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2012. Pp. xvii, 242. ISBN 9789027223890. $135 (Hb).
Reviewed by Thomas Hoffmann, University of Osnabrück

English imperatives range from fairly prototypical directive uses in which a speaker clearly orders a hearer to do something (Eat your salad!) over discourse interactional routines (Let me just say that …) to more expressive speech act functions (Get well soon!). In order to provide a full account of all these various uses, the present book combines insights from cognitive grammar, prototype theory, and construction grammar.

In the introduction, Hidemitsu Takahashi outlines the basic aims and scope of his book and gives a short overview of the various uses of English imperatives. On top of that, he also provides information on the book’s theoretical background and the data used for his study, as well as a short summary of the individual chapters. Ch. 2, ‘Observing English imperatives in action’, then contains the results from T’s corpus study. Drawing on more than 1,700 tokens sampled from four selected American novels, his results unearth several important features of English imperatives, including which verbs occur most frequently in English imperatives (let’s, tell, let, and look), which of these prefer first person objects, and which of these are used as discourse-organizational markers.

Next, based on his empirical findings, T provides a construction grammar analysis of the various imperative uses identified by his empirical study. In Ch. 3, he puts forward a cognitive grammar account of the meaning of the English imperative that crucially relies on the notions of schema and prototype. The insights from this analysis are then used to provide an explanation for apparently non-prototypical uses in Ch. 4, ‘Accounting for some of the findings in Chapter 2 and the choice between imperatives and indirect directives’. After that, T shows how voice and aspect interact with imperatives in Ch. 5, ‘Mixed imperative constructions’, and discusses ‘Conditional imperatives in English’ (Ch. 6) as well as ‘English imperatives in concessive clauses’ (Ch. 7). Finally, after a contrastive analysis of ‘Japanese imperatives’ (Ch. 8), the book ends with a short chapter entitled ‘Conclusion and prospects’.

This book offers a usage-based as well as cognitive account of the various types of English imperatives. While future research will definitely have to draw on more authentic (that is, non-fictional) data, T’s book nevertheless offers a very compelling and careful analysis of the phenomenon that should be of great interest to syntacticians, cognitive linguists, and researchers working within a constructionist framework.

The mental corpus: How language is represented in the mind

The mental corpus: How language is represented in the mind. By John R. Taylor. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. viii, 321. ISBN 0199290806. $99 (Hb). Reviewed by Natalia Levshina, Université catholique de Louvain

The book represents extensive argumentation in favor of the radically exemplar-based view of language, as opposed to the generative rule-based model. The core idea of the book is expressed in the metaphor of the mental corpus as a collection of our previous encounters with language, which constitute our linguistic competency. Although this idea is not new in usage-based linguistics, the book is probably a first systematic attempt to develop a fully exemplar-based theory of language representation. For empirical support, John R. Taylor uses a multitude of examples from contemporary English corpora and the Web. The book is written in clear, accessible language and can be recommended to students of linguistics and professionals alike.

The composition of the book is straightforward and serves the purpose of the main argument. In the beginning, the author presents the generative, or ‘dictionary plus grammar book’ (19), model which posits two essential kinds of linguistic knowledge: the list of words, on the one hand, and the list of rules to combine them, on the other hand. Chapter by chapter, T builds up a body of linguistic evidence that erodes this neat either-or distinction and charts the vast territory of exceptions and irregularities, which has been ignored by the generative theory. Starting with the units most resembling dictionary items (words and idioms), T moves on to more abstract schemas to reveal, on the one hand, a staggering amount of creativity in the lexicon and, on the other hand, an equally impressive portion of idiomaticity in what has been considered to be autonomous syntax.

By the end of the book, the reader should become convinced that ‘a very great deal, perhaps even the totality, of what occurs in language can be rightly said to be “idiomatic”’ (282). However, it is important to emphasize that T’s conception of language has nothing to do with simplistic behaviorism, since he shows that speakers are also capable of generalizations, which emerge from the instances and can be seen as probabilistic rules. This possibility of generalizations over data provides the basis for linguistic creativity and incremental innovation. A quintessential role in this process belongs to the frequency profiles of constructions encountered by speakers, who rely on this implicit knowledge in language processing and production.

The book demonstrates how the exemplar-based view of language representation and learning can provide insights in many research areas and topics, including lexical semantics, variational and diachronic linguistics, construction and cognitive grammar, language acquisition, and markedness theory in typology. Thanks to its timely and clear theoretical message and innovative contribution to various research domains, this book can be regarded as an important step in the development of the usage-based framework and linguistics in general.

Comparative grammar of the Mongolian literary language and the Khalkha dialect: Introduction and phonetics

Сравнительная грамматика монгольского письменного языка и халхасского наречия: Введение и фонетика. [Comparative grammar of the Mongolian literary language and the Khalkha dialect: Introduction and phonetics.] By Борис Яковлевич Владимирцов [Boris Yakovlevich Vladimircov]. (LINCOM gramatica 125.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2012. Pp. xii, 436. ISBN 978-3862901906. $111.

Reviewed by Mikael Thompson, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Boris Vladimircov’s work, originally published in 1929, is a classic of Mongolian studies that deserves reprinting. It was the most important study of the Khalkha dialect (the standard dialect of Mongolia) before Nicholas Poppe’s grammar of 1951, and it retains value to linguists today for its description of contemporary Khalkha pronunciation.

V’s book has three parts. The introduction (1‒50) surveys the dialects of Mongolian and provides a historical overview. Part 1 proper (51‒89) discusses the sound system of Khalkha and classical Mongolian script. As the modern Cyrillic alphabet was introduced in the early 1940s and a Latin script based on Turkic Romanization systems (widely used in the 1930s but never made official) was only developed around the time this work was published, comparison between the literary language and Khalkha required the citation of words in classical script. While the absence of standard Cyrillic forms renders this book less immediately accessible to linguists, its treatment of classical script is very good. Khalkha forms are transcribed in standard Cyrillic phonetic transcription.

Part 2 (91‒421), a comparative study of literary Mongolian and contemporary Khalkha, makes up the bulk of the work. After a short section of general remarks (93‒96) follow discussions of stress and vowel harmony (97‒142), vowels (143‒345), and consonants (346‒421). While the focus is a comparison of the sound systems of the literary language and Khalkha, it includes much data from other dialects. As the number of pages suggests, V’s treatment of vowels is richer than that of consonants, and while changes in the Mongolian vowel system are extensive, the fact remains that V’s treatment of consonants lacks some detail. Finally, the end matter consists of an index of Khalkha roots (422‒32), an index of Khalkha morphemes (433), and errata (434‒36).

As a comparative and historical study of Mongolian, this book is a transitional work from the time the basic knowledge of the field was being collected and refined; rather, Nicholas Poppe’s introductory work in 1955 is the starting point for studies of Mongolian dialectology. On the other hand, for Mongolists interested in the development of the field, it is well worth reading. Moreover, much of the content is still useful. The section on stress (which includes a useful discussion of poetic meter) and the discussions of classical script generally hold philological interest even today: literary Mongolian is a written language whose monuments span eight centuries, and V’s discussions of the changes in the script and the development of loanwords at different periods are well worth reading. Nonetheless, the book is likely to be predominantly of interest to specialists, and the price makes it suitable primarily for university libraries.