Monthly Archives: February 2008

The handbook of bilingualism

The handbook of bilingualism. Ed. by Tej K. Bhatia and William C. Ritchie. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. Pp. xviii, 884. ISBN 0631227342. $146.95 (Hb).

Reviewed by Bingyun Li, Fujian Normal University

This handbook is divided into four parts. Part 1, ‘Overview and foundations’, presents some foundational issues of bilingualism (John V. Edwards) and conceptual and methodological issues in studying bilingualism (François Grosjean). It is a pity that Grosjean does not touch upon how to collect, transcribe, and categorize naturalistic data or on problems related to data analysis.

Part 2, ‘Neurological and psychological aspects of bilingualism’, is divided into five sections. Section 1, ‘Neurology’, contains only one chapter, which looks at the phenomenon of bilingual aphasia (Elizabeth Ijalba, Loraine K. Obler, and Shyamala Chengappa). Section 2, ‘Approaches to bilingualism and language acquisition’, deals with the development of child bilingualism (Jürgen M. Meisel) and the relationship between bilingualism and second language acquisition (Yuko G. Butler and Kenji Hakuta). Section 3, ‘Bilingual language use: Knowledge, comprehension, and production’, focuses on how grammar plays a role in bilinguals’ speech comprehension and production. It would be better if pragmatic aspects of bilingual language use were also included. Section 4, ‘Bilingualism: Memory, cognition, and emotion’, looks at bilingual memory (Roberto Heredia and Jefferey M. Brown) and emotional and mental aspects of bilinguals (Jeanette Altarriba and Rachel Morier). The final section, ‘The bilingual’s repertoire: Code mixing, code switching, and speech accommodation’, treats code mixing, code switching, and speech accommodation, the more extensively researched areas in bilingualism. Of particular note are Ch. 13, ‘Social and psychological factors in language mixing’ (William C. Ritchie and Tej K. Bhatia), and Ch. 14, ‘Bilingual accommodation’ (Itesh Sachdev and Howard Giles), the latter of which ‘aims to provide a general overview of a social psychological approach to bilingual communication that springboards from notions of bilingual accommodation’ (353).

Part 3, ‘Societal bilingualism and its effects’, is divided into two sections and focuses on how social factors have an important bearing upon bilingualism. The first section, ‘Language contact, maintenance, and endangerment’ consists of five chapters. Ch. 15, ‘The bilingual and multilingual community’ (Suzanne Romaine), provides an overview of types of bilingual and multilingual communities. Ch. 16, ‘Language maintenance, language shift, and reversing language shift’ (Joshua A. Fishman), presents a blueprint for the restoration of endangered languages, an issue of major concern to many members of linguistic minorities. Ch. 17, ‘Minority and endangered languages’ (Nancy C. Dorian), provides an in-depth review of a wide variety of issues concerning the process of language endangerment. Ch. 18, ‘Multilingualism in linguistic history: Creolization and indigenization’ (Salikoko Mufwene), argues against the traditional view that special processes of creolization and indigenization occur in multilingual societies and in favor of the notion that the processes occur in any case of language change determined by language contact. Finally, Ingrid Piller and Aneta Pavlenko (Ch. 19, ‘Bilingualism and gender’) discuss gender and bilingualism in various contexts.

In Section 2 of Part 3, ‘Bilingualism: The media, education, and literacy’, Ch. 20 (‘Bilingualism in the global media and advertising’ by Tej K. Bhatia and William C. Ritchie) is a review of work on the place of languages in a bi-/multilingual society in the media in general and in advertising in particular. It addresses the question of why more than one language might be used in the advertiser’s effort to attract buyers for products and services. Ch. 21, ‘What do we know about bilingual education for majority-language students?’ (Fred Genesee), reviews in depth the research on one case of bilingual education. Ch. 22, ‘The impact of bilingualism on language and literacy development’ (Ellen Bialystok), discusses the wide range of factors that contribute to or detract from success in the attainment of literacy in bilinguals.

Part 4, ‘Global perspectives and challenges: Case studies’, examines the state of bilingualism in the Americas, in Europe, in Southern Africa, in East, South, and Central Asia, and finally, in the Middle East and in North Africa.

All in all, this handbook covers current important issues in bilingualism studies and points to future possible directions. It promises to be the standard reference guide to research on bilingualism.

Le français en contact avec l’anglais au Cameroun

Le français en contact avec l’anglais au Cameroun. By Edmond Biloa. (LINCOM studies in French linguistics 4.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2006. Pp. iv, 194. ISBN 3895864897. $69.60.

Reviewed by Angela Bartens, University of Helsinki

With 279 living languages according to the Ethnologue database, Cameroon features a singularly high degree of linguistic diversity. While one might expect that the engineers of Cameroonian independence would have opted for one official language to unite the nation, colonial history and the initially federal union of the Cameroons dictated otherwise: in 1961, both English and French were declared official languages. In his most recent monograph, Edmond Biloa, best known for his work on the Cameroonian Bantu language Tuki and on Cameroonian French, tackles the ensuing situation of language contact and conflict.

The volume begins with a general discussion of language contact and conflict, followed by a short chapter on the French-English bilingualism of Cameroon. Chs. 3 and 4 deal with Cameroonian English and French, respectively. When discussing the tense-mood-aspect (TMA) system and other structures of Pidgin English (50–54), B notes parallel structures from the Grassfields Bantu language Lamso but ignores the fact that the structures in question are shared by most Atlantic English-based creoles. Several of the examples cited as typical of Cameroonian English are not exclusive to it and some are even acceptable in Standard English. Likewise, lexical items and structures shared by other varieties of French are not recognized in a satisfactory manner: recognition occurs to some degree as far as European French is concerned, but not at all in the case of other African varieties. Chs. 5–7 deal with the sociolinguistic and didactic aspects of the contact situation and the mutual influence of one language on the other. For sociolinguistic reasons, the French influence on English is much stronger than vice versa. There is considerable overlap between these and preceding chapters: many of the examples given in Chs. 6 and 7 are repetitions from Chs. 3 and 4, and one wonders why the corresponding chapters were not merged in the first place. One may also note that, oddly, Camfranglais is not recognized as an instance of code-switching but is considered a result of imperfect language acquisition (143).

Apart from sometimes unfortunate typographic errors that are not the author’s responsibility, certain passages suffer from the fact that B relies too heavily on the work of colleagues. It should be said to his credit that it is always difficult to produce accurate panoramic descriptions that go beyond one’s original area of specialization. To my knowledge, no single researcher has attempted to tackle the entire language-contact scenario in question. The volume under review constitutes an important contribution that will doubtlessly motivate others to look deeper into the intricacies of Cameroonian French-English contact.

The enlightening postscript by George Echu, ‘Official bilingualism in Cameroon: From myth to reality’ (175–87), demonstrates that it will still take effort and time to reconcile the theory and practice of bilingualism in Cameroon so that it can become an effective tool of national unity.

An Ili Salar vocabulary: Introduction and a provisional Salar-English lexicon

An Ili Salar vocabulary: Introduction and a provisional Salar-English lexicon. By Abdurishid Yakup. (Contribution to the studies of Eurasian languages 5.) Tokyo: Department of Linguistics, University of Tokyo, 2002. Pp. xiv, 182. OCLC 60659716.

Reviewed by Craig Farrow, SIL International

Publications on the Salar language (primarily Qinghai Province, China) are few and far between, and so An Ili Salar vocabulary is a welcome contribution, especially since it is the first publication to focus on the Ili variety (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China; population in 1985 census: 3,706). Although the book is not a treatise on the Salar language (that is not its intent), Abdurishid Yakup offers interesting insights into the historical development of the Ili variety and helpful comparisons with the many languages it has been in contact with.

The main factor that sets this variety of Salar apart from the varieties spoken in Qinghai is that the language of wider communication in Ili is Uyghur, as opposed to Mandarin Chinese. ‘Unlike Qinghai Salars, not many Salars in Xinjiang are able to communicate in Chinese’ (19), and since Salar has no written script ‘the Salars use Modern Uyghur as the main literary medium’ (20). The Ili Salars have migrated from Qinghai over the last hundred years and Y believes that Ili Salar is regaining Turkic morphological features from Uyghur that had been almost lost in Qinghai. This leads him to conclude that Salar’s recent exposure to a related language, after being isolated from Turkic languages for a long time, has resulted in a faster assimilation of Uyghur features than would normally be expected through contact with languages of different language families.

In light of the variety of languages that Salar speakers have been in contact with over the last centuries, Y’s discussion of the influence that contact with related and unrelated languages has had on Ili Salar is noteworthy. In fact, a chief strength of this work is the frequent presentation of cognates from the various contact languages—Chinese, Tibetan, Uyghur, Kazakh, and Arabic—as well as relevant comparisons with the Qinghai variety of Salar. Y not only gives illustrative examples in the introduction, but borrowings from contact languages are also an integral part of the lexicon.

The lexicon itself is, of course, the main part of this work. It consists of around 5,000 entries covering an extensive range of primarily concrete lexemes. Lexemes are transcribed in IPA using a mixture of phonemic and phonetic representations (to illustrate how various phonemes are realized), although these are not marked in any way, so it is not always clear which is which. Glosses are supplied in English, and, where Y has identified borrowings from other languages, he also gives the likely source lexemes. A significant feature of the lexicon is numerous example phrases and collocations, with the result that this work also provides some basic morphological and grammatical data.

Y also briefly includes a comparison between Ili Salar phonology and the Qinghai (Gaizi/Jiezi) variety, a history of the linguistic classification of Salar, a good background and historical summary of the Ili Salar people, cultural and sociolinguistic observations, and a thorough bibliography.

Overall, this work is a valuable contribution to the linguistic literature. Being the first publication on Ili Salar, it provides good groundwork for further study and comparison between Salar varieties. It is also a useful resource for researchers interested in the dynamics of language contact, especially among Central Asian languages.