Monthly Archives: December 2007

English and globalization: Perspectives from Hong Kong and Mainland China

English and globalization: Perspectives from Hong Kong and Mainland China. Ed. by Kwok-kan Tam and Timothy Weiss. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2004. Pp. xxvii, 276. ISBN 9629961849. $35 (Hb).

Reviewed by Liwei Gao, Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center

This volume collects fifteen papers that examine the different cultural and pedagogic aspects of English as an international language, and the effects of Englishization in Hong Kong and Mainland China. The papers in this book address the issue from a broad variety of perspectives, which include culture, communication, and the classroom; standards and variations; diversity and plurality; computers and linguistic fashions; interrelationships among language, literature, and culture; English language education and intercultural competencies; and interrelationships among linguistic standards, international communication, and linguistic imperialism. Papers about the context in Hong Kong precede those about Mainland China.

In Ch. 1, ‘World English(es) in the age of globalization’, Kwok-kan Tam provides a theoretical and historical overview of this issue. He argues that language cannot be conceived of as being independent from cultural formation in the process of globalization. In Ch. 2, David Parker discusses the relationships among English, culture, and modernity and stresses that students in Hong Kong need to be literate in the cultures where English is the major medium of communication via the study of English literature. In Ch. 3, Timothy Weiss argues that English study is a creolizing event in that it is done through readers with diverse cultural backgrounds who interpret, fragment, and transform the texts that they read through different cultural lenses. In Ch. 4, ‘Linguistic imperialism and the history of English language teaching in Hong Kong’, Joseph Boyle notes that English now actually mostly serves a pragmatic means of globalization. In other words, it has largely transcended its colonial heritage. In Ch. 5, Stuart Christie discusses Maxine Hong Kingston’s The woman warrior and observes that Hong Kong students tend to use cross-cultural imagery to interpret the cultural issues in this work.

In Ch. 6, ‘Globalization, tribalization, and online communication’, Suying Yang remarks that globalization does not necessarily lead to the end of diversity in the modern society. Instead, globalization and localization will coexist and interact with each other. In Ch. 7, ‘Globalization and English language teaching in Hong Kong’, George C. K. Jor describes how internationalization affects the teaching of English in Hong Kong and suggests that new information technology and global resources be applied in English teaching. In Ch. 8, ‘The English language and Chinese people’, Phillip Shu-yue Sun discusses the disadvantages inherent in the communicative approach to language teaching and argues that one’s mother tongue may actually be an asset for learning foreign languages. In Ch. 9, ‘When English becomes big business’, Labao Wang points out that English in China has now become a trendy commodity and cautions people against the potential corrosion of the Chinese culture in the process of excessive consumption of English. In Ch. 10, ‘Globalization and intercultural competence’, Qiufang Wen points out the inadequacy in present models of English teaching in China and proposes a new model, a model of intercultural communicative competence.

In Ch. 11, Ming Li (Suzhou) discusses the issue of standard and variation in teaching English as a foreign language and suggests that educators should not be teaching one and only one so-called standard variety. In Ch. 12, Liyan Ma emphasizes the important role of empathy in intercultural communication and contends that students will be able to be engaged in more effective intercultural communication once they understand the role of empathy. In Ch. 13, Hong Ye calls people’s attention to the significance of cultural literacy and stresses a cultural approach to teaching literature to Chinese students. In Ch. 14, Ming Li (Guangdong) demonstrates how the integration of language and culture will help Chinese students to improve their intercultural communication. In the last chapter (Ch. 15), Agnes Lam and Kathy Chow review English language education in China and conclude that both ideology and economic needs provide the impetus for English learning in China.

Linguistic dimensions of crisis talk: Formalising structures in a controlled language

Linguistic dimensions of crisis talk: Formalising structures in a controlled language. By Claudia Sassen. (Pragmatics & beyond new series 136.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2005. Pp. ix, 230. ISBN 9789027253798. $132 (Hb).

Reviewed by Charlotte Brammer, Samford University

In Linguistic dimensions of crisis talk, Claudia Sassen presents a complex method for describing and analyzing crisis talk within the specific realm of aviation parlance and posits the method’s applicability to other types of crisis talk. Her goal seems two-fold: to illuminate possible communicative opportunities to avoid future crises and to propose a methodology that ‘promises to lead to extensions for a comprehensive modeling of discourse that is both theoretically well founded and empirically testable’ (175).

In Ch. 1, S uses her previous work (2003) to carefully define ‘crisis talk’ as ‘a dialogue genre that occurs in threatening situations of unpredictable outcome, with no obvious way out, and requiring spontaneous decision, unconventional strategies and unrehearsed actions’ (1). In Ch. 2, she justifies her use of head-driven phrase structure grammar (HPSG) as a ‘reductionist’ tool for operationalizing illocutionary force, as derived primarily from Austin 1962, Searle 1969, and Searle & Vanderveken 1985, among others.

Seventy-seven transcript files and five audio files make up the corpus of air traffic control and cockpit voice recordings (ATC/CVR) used for this project. As a condition for inclusion in the corpus, the files are available on the internet. Additionally, all of the transcripts are in English, even though English may not have been the first language for all speakers. Chs. 3 and 4 contain extensive detail of S’s use of KWIC-concordance and XML-markup, and provide as well a list of steps for creating the XML tags (115). In Ch. 4, S finds that intra-cockpit conversation is ‘leaky’ at times, meaning nonprofessional or off-task, and that normal conversation patterns are disrupted (131). One possible explanation for this behavior, according to S, is because ‘the participants, in particular the crew hopes to receive help from the tower’ (sic, 132).

In Ch. 5, S selects three transcripts for closer analysis and makes several observations about crisis talk in comparison to noncrisis talk in aviation. First, she finds that crisis talk exhibits more patterns, defined in terms of illocutionary force (e.g. command, ask, response). She also finds that elaboration occurs only in the noncrisis talk examples, presumably because ‘to elaborate on one’s preceding clarification is probably too time-consuming for a situation that requires quick action’ (155). Not surprisingly, perhaps, she also finds that expressives (curses and warnings) are relatively frequent in crisis talk, but not in noncrisis conversation; similarly, ‘the number of politeness formulae like thank and greet decreases in crisis talk’ (155). In sum, S develops a speech act/HPSG model in order ‘to detect leaky and thus dangerous points in communication … to minimise escalations during flights and to make aviation safer’ (173). Her model appears substantive and should be tested in other types of crisis talk.

Dialect and dichotomy: Literary representations of African American speech

Dialect and dichotomy: Literary representations of African American speech. By Lisa Cohen Minnick. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2004. Pp. xxii, 194. ISBN 0817313990. $39.95 (Hb).

Reviewed by Charlotte Brammer, Samford University

In Dialect and dichotomy: Literary representations of African American speech, Lisa Cohen Minnick combines qualitative criticism with quantitative corpus-linguistics methods to analyze the use of African American dialects in literary texts or ‘literary dialect’. M justifies this dual approach by arguing that ‘in order to give a thorough evaluation of an artist’s work with respect to literary dialect, neither exclusively linguistic nor exclusively literary approaches can do justice to literature that incorporates imaginative recreation of the sounds of language along with the social themes surrounding the places in time that are recreated’ (149). The first two chapters of the text provide rich background on, including criticism of, literary dialect and its analysis. Combined, the chapters present a strong case for adding corpus approaches to literary analysis for understanding authorial use of literary dialects.

M uses two well-known text-analysis programs (the Summer Institute of Linguistics’s LinguaLinks and Oxford University Press’s WordSmith Tools) to examine select phonological and grammatical features of direct speech from four important American texts: Mark Twain’s The adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), Charles W. Chesnutt’s ‘Dave’s Neckliss’ (1889), William Faulkner’s The sound and the fury (1929), and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their eyes were watching God (1937). For each text, she analyzes between 4,000 and 6,000 words and reports statistically significant quantitative results that enhance the qualitative discussion. While she cannot definitively assert that Twain either was or was not racist in his depiction of Jim, she can demonstrate that Twain ‘incorporated features that have been identified with African American speakers in the scholarship, and he did so in a way that reveals his understanding of how these features functioned in real speech’ (67). Similarly, she asserts that Chesnutt’s ‘exacting depiction of [phonological and grammatical] features contributes substantially to an image of Chesnutt as a conscientious and definitive recorder of late-nineteenth-century black speech in North Carolina’ (94).

In her analysis of literary dialect use in each text, M tries to reframe the most salient debates, not to resolve them. For example, one critical and persistent debate about Faulkner’s use of dialect in The sound and the fury centers around race: specifically, was he a racist? Though troubled by some of Faulkner’s recorded comments, M does not seem to accept an unqualified view of the author as racist and concludes ‘that Faulkner’s use of dialectal grammatical features probably indicates a sincere attempt to represent them realistically rather than stereotypically’ (101). The sheer quantity of direct speech in Hurston’s text creates space for interesting corpus analysis. As M points out, ‘substantial portions of the novel consist not of narration or presentation of actual events but in fact are related second-hand in conversation’ (138). Importantly, M’s discussion of this text focuses more on gender conflicts than racism.

In her conclusion, M restates her justification for engaging such challenging and unconventional methods: ‘using interdisciplinary methods to access literary texts helps to offer fresh insight not only into the texts themselves but also into issues of language variation and attitudes surrounding it’ (152–53). Both literature scholars and linguists can appreciate that.

Talk that counts: Age, gender, and social class differences in discourse

Talk that counts: Age, gender, and social class differences in discourse. By Ronald K. S. Macaulay. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp. 236. ISBN 0195173821. $39.95.

Reviewed by Charlotte Brammer, Samford University

In Talk that counts: Age, gender, and social class differences in discourse, Ronald K. S. Macaulay applies quantitative analysis ‘to determine to what extent variation in the use of certain linguistic features correlates with extralinguistic categories, in this case, age, gender, and social class’ (8). He situates this text with other variation studies (notably Labov 1966, Wolfram 1969, Fasold 1972, Trudgill 1974, Milroy 1980, Coates 1996, Eckert 2000) and claims a continued interest in ‘the distribution and effects of stable differences … similar to those expressed in Bernstein’s early work (e.g., Bernstein 1962)’ (5).

To explore linguistic variation in terms of age, gender, and social class, M works with two groups of data: (i) Ayr interviews, a recorded collection of twelve interviews with speakers from Ayr, Scotland (reported in Macaulay 1991), and (ii) Glasgow conversations, recorded talk between friends (reported in Stuart-Smith 1999). The Ayr interviews were analyzed for social-class comparisons; the Glasgow conversations were analyzed for age, gender, and social class. Using frequency counts, comparisons with other variationist studies, and some statistical analysis (primarily the Mann-Whitney nonparametric test), M provides good support for his findings. After thoroughly discussing the corpora, his methods, and specific definitions of social class, age, and gender, M unveils his findings in Chs. 6 through 14.

In terms of social class, M identifies differences in frequency of use and variation of application, and reveals as well similarities in the use of specific discourse features. For example, he found that middle-class speakers use passive voice more frequently than working-class speakers do (p < 0.05) and that working-class speakers use dislocated syntax (e.g. she was a very quiet woman my mother) more frequently than middle-class speakers do (p < 0.001) (Ch. 8). In terms of modifiers, M found that middle-class speakers use evaluative adjectives more frequently than do working-class speakers (p < 0.004) (Ch. 10). He also found minimal social-class differences in the frequency of use of you know (Ch. 7) and the use of modal auxiliaries (Ch. 9), and suggests that syntactic variation may not be as salient for exploring social-class linguistic differences as originally thought.

Gender, particularly when linked to social class, may yield the more interesting findings. Age is also an important aspect of his findings. In the Glasgow data, for example, M found that females, especially middle-class women and girls, use you know substantially more often than do males, and that middle-class females are more likely to use you know for emphasis or elaboration, reserving I mean for explanations. In Ch. 7, M proposes that ‘the use of these discourse lubricants is a distinctive part of the discourse style used by middle-class women and that their daughters are learning to follow their example’ (86). Two important discoveries include the females’ more frequent use of coordinate clauses and because clauses (p < 0.05). M found neither modals nor modifiers particularly promising as identifying either gender- or age-specific discourse features. Pronouns are more frequently used by females than males, and M points out that this is consistent with other research, noting that ‘in their use of articles and pronouns the males show themselves to be less interested in people than are the females’ (Ch. 11, 138).

In addition to the highly accessible and engaging discussion, the text’s rich context and extensive bibliography (some thirteen pages) make it an important resource for future studies in discourse and variation analysis.

Yearbook of morphology 2004

Yearbook of morphology 2004. Ed. by Geert Booij and Jaap van Marle. Dordrecht: Springer, 2005. Pp. 323. ISBN 1402028997. $179 (Hb).

Reviewed by Marcin Kilarski, Adam Mickiewicz University

This volume consists of nine articles, including six papers from the 4th Mediterranean Morphology Meeting in Catania, 2003. Stephen R. Anderson, in the opening paper ‘Morphological universals and diachrony’, considers the value of typological regularities in the study of the language faculty; on the basis of three examples, Anderson shows that such regularities may not be due to cognitive limitations but to the pathways of historical morphology. In ‘Morphological universals and the sign language type’, Mark Aronoff, Irit Meir, Carol Padden, and Wendy Sandler demonstrate the paucity of morphology in new languages on the basis of Abu-Shara Bedouin Sign Language—a unique sign language from Israel that has developed de novo in a stable community without any external influence. In ‘Typology and the formal modelling of syncretism’ Matthew Baerman evaluates proposed constraints on syncretism against a corpus of over a hundred languages; the data for subject person marking on verbs do not appear to be fully compatible with earlier predictions, the results being described as ‘not encouraging’ (60).

Berthold Crysmann, in ‘An inflectional approach to Hausa final vowel shortening’, presents evidence against a phonology-based view of phonological alternations in Hausa, suggesting instead that they are an exponent of an inflectional category—the marking of the mode of argument realization. Paul Kiparsky, in ‘Blocking and periphrasis in inflectional paradigms’, considers paradigms that combine synthetic and periphrastic forms, and argues that a lexicalist treatment is superior to approaches in terms of distributed morphology and paradigm function morphology. In the last conference paper in the volume, ‘Morphological autonomy and diachrony’, Martin Maiden focuses on diachronic changes in the Romance verb, claiming that autonomous morphological structure is present within both the paradigmatic and the syntagmatic dimensions, that is, in inflectional paradigms and in the concatenation of morphemes, and should not be regarded as ‘a stagnant backwater of linguistic structure’ (169).

Ana Luís and Andrew Spencer, in ‘A paradigm function account of “mesoclisis” in European Portuguese’, offer an analysis of the pronominal clitic system in European Portuguese. The clitic clusters, which exhibit both morphological and syntactic properties despite being identical, are treated as morphological elements with three types of placement: the default suffixed placement (to the verb in enclitics or the stem in mesoclisis), with alternate proclitic placement as phrasal affixes. Gereon Müller, in ‘Syncretism and iconicity in Icelandic noun declensions: A distributed morphology approach’, provides an account of Icelandic noun declensions. With the widespread syncretism and the constant reuse of a small number of inflectional markers, the prevalent properties of economy and optimal design are said to be manifested in the interaction of inflection markers, rather than inflection markers themselves. Finally, in ‘A constraint on interclass syncretism’, Rolf Noyer focuses on stems belonging to more than one inflectional class in Old Russian and the dialects of Greek. The proposed constraint is tested against three types of mechanisms in mixed inflection: phonologically conditioned allomorphy, default spell-out, and impoverishment. The volume concludes with a discussion note by Jonathan David Bobaljik, ‘Itelmen plural diminutives: A belated reply to Perlmutter 1988’, and two book notices by Geert Booij.

In conclusion, the papers in this volume have important implications for the study not only of morphology but also of typology and universals and historical linguistics. On the formal side, there are a few distractions, for example, the lack of standardization in references (e.g. in first names), missing or inconsistent references (e.g. Aronoff et al., Baerman, Kiparsky, Noyer), spelling (e.g. Aronoff et al., Kiparsky, Müller, Noyer), numbering of footnotes (Baerman), and informal citations (Kiparsky).