Monthly Archives: February 2010

Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation

Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation. Ed. by Gene H. Lerner. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2004. Pp. 300. ISBN 9027253676. $83.

Reviewed by Liang Chen, University of Georgia

Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation is dedicated to Harvey Sacks, whose research into talk-in-interaction proved foundational to the field of conversation analysis. The editor Gene H. Lerner opens the volume with a brief introduction to Sacks’ work and influence, to the contributors, all of whom were students and/or colleagues of Sacks’, and to the articles themselves (1–11). Gail Jefferson (13–31) provides a technical introduction to the transcription conventions she originated. She focuses on the value of careful transcription, especially emphasizing the transcription of nonlinguistic features of conversation, such as laughter and timing. The rest of the book consist of three parts: ‘Taking turns speaking’, ‘Implementing actions’, and ‘Sequencing actions’.

In Part 1, Harvey Sacks (35–42) presents his groundbreaking work on fundamental organizational aspects of turn-taking in conversation such as taking one turn at a time, minimizing overlaps and gaps between turns, and so forth. Gail Jefferson (43–59) then continues with the problem of simultaneous speech or overlap, focusing on the systematic forms of overlap and methods for ‘post-overlap retrival’ of overlapped talk.

Part 2 focuses on the various ways speakers accomplish conversational goals. Emmanuel A. Schegloff (63–107) examines the sequence organization in the simple act of answering the phone. Specifically, he discusses the effect of the telephone summons—who is qualified to be the answerer and how that person will answer the summons. Anita Pomerantz (109–29) examines data of reported absences from an attendance clerk at a high school to see how people carry out conversational tasks related to their institutionally relevant identities. The methods that the clerk employs are found to include being neutral, focusing on the procedures of the school, avoiding subjective comments, and compensating for incomplete and possibly incorrect records. In her third contribution to the volume, Gail Jefferson (131–67) examines newspaper reports and conversational data and finds that, in extraordinary circumstances, people tend to select ‘first responses’ that contain an ordinary interpretation of the extraordinary event.

Part 3 focuses on the placement of specific action sequences within conversations, and on the connection between linguistic features and social action. Alene Kiku Terasaki (172–223) examines the ‘pre-announcement sequence’, which is one type of preliminary or small sequence of actions designed to come before the main action sequence, and which she divides into three components: pre-announcement, solicitation, and announcement. She suggests that syntactic and sequential features are at least as important as content features in determining what in a conversation will be perceived as the ‘announcement’. Gene H. Lerner (225–56) examines collaborative turn sequences: those sequences with one speaker completing the in-progress turn constructional unit of another speaker. He discusses the ways in which this completion can be either accepted or disregarded. In the final contribution, Jo Ann Goldberg (257–97) examines how a speaker can change loudness from one utterance to the next to sustain engagement or demonstrate disengagement in the closing-sequences of telephone calls.

The articles in this volume merit the praise as an excellent collection reflecting the ever-widening appeal and potential of conversation analysis, specifically as influenced by Harvey Sacks. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the analysis of talk in interaction.

The acquisition of complex sentences

The acquisition of complex sentences. By Holger Diessel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Pp. xviii, 364. ISBN 0521831938. $32.99.

Reviewed by Liang Chen, University of Georgia

The acquisition of complex sentences presents a usage-based approach to the acquisition of complex sentences in English. It consists of eight chapters plus a substantial appendix. Two conclusions are drawn from a detailed examination of some 12,000 multiple clause utterances from five English speaking children. First, ‘the development of complex sentences originates from simple nonembedded sentences that are gradually “transformed” to multiple-clause constructions’ (3). Second, ‘children’s early complex sentences are organized around concrete lexical expressions. More schematic representations of complex sentences emerge only later when children have learned a sufficient number of lexically specific constructions to generalize across them’ (3).

The introduction (Ch. 1) includes a discussion of the methodology of the study and the two hypotheses behind it, the structure of the book, and the definition of complex sentences—sentences with a matrix and a finite or nonfinite subordinate clause (either complement, relative, or adverbial), or sentences with coordinate clauses.

Ch. 2, ‘A dynamic network model of grammatical constructions’, presents a rationale for carrying out the study within a functional cognitive framework and briefly introduces construction grammar and the usage-based approach to grammar.

Ch. 3, ‘Towards a definition of complex sentences and subordinate clauses’, defines complex sentences as ‘grammatical constructions that express a specific relationship between two (or more) situations in two (or more) clauses’ (41). The chapter ends with a summary of the features of prototypical subordinate clauses.

Ch. 4, ‘Infinitival and participial complement constructions’, examines the acquisition of nonfinite complement constructions. Diessel claims that the earliest nonfinite complement constructions in child speech constitute propositions that made reference to a single situation and thus do not actually involve embedding. Through a process of clause expansion, the nonembedding nonfinite complement constructions develop into truely embedding ones that can be considered two propositions.

In Ch. 5, ‘Complement clauses’, D suggests that the acquisition of finite complement clauses is also accomplished through the process of clause expansion, whereby a single proposition expressed in early complement clauses expands in later development into two independent propositions. D observes that early complement clauses are typically accompanied by formulaic matrix clauses, which are performative (e.g. as epistemic markers or attention getters) rather than assertive. He suggests that the development complement clauses go through a process whereby first formulaic constructions occur, then performative matrix clauses, then assertive matrix clauses.

Ch. 6, ‘Relative clauses’, discusses the development of relative clauses from simple, lexically specific constructions into full-fledged biclausal structures. The earliest relative clause (i.e. predicate nominal amalgams as D calls them) is not independent of the matrix clause. Only later do children produce fully biclausal structures in which two independent propositions are expressed. The development of relative clauses is therefore very similar to the development of finite and nonfinite complement clauses since each involves an incremental development from simple to more complex clauses via a process of clause expansion.

Ch. 7, ‘Adverbial and co-ordinate clauses’, suggests that adverbial and coordinate clauses, which D subsumes under the term ‘conjoined clauses’, are developed through the common process of clause integration, whereby two independent clauses are integrated in a biclausal construction.

In the conclusion (Ch. 8) D relates the findings about the development of the various complex sentences to the usage-based model and cognitive grammar. It highlights the two claims made throughout the book that complex sentences start as simple clauses, and that complex sentences emerge as lexically specific constructions and develop into constructional schemas.

1Each chapter of the book can be read independently. The language is concise and fairly comprehensible. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in language acquisition and the syntax of complex sentences.

Time in natural language

Time in natural language: Syntactic interfaces with semantics and discourse. By Ellen Thompson. (Interface explorations 11.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2005. Pp. 224. ISBN 3110184141. $109 (Hb).

Reviewed by Andreea S. Calude, The University of Auckland

Thompson’s book is concerned with how language represents time. The main aim of the work is ‘to provide an analysis of the structure of time which accounts for the systematic correlation between the temporal meaning and structure of sentences’ (3).

The analysis is conducted within a generative-grammar framework, specifically the minimalist program, assuming the principles outlined in universal grammar. The readers are assumed to be familiar with the syntactic framework employed in the book, and little in the way of theoretical explanations is given throughout. The author makes use of a Reichenbachian approach to handle discussions relating to tense marking, and a Vendlerian classification for analysing aspect. The data comes almost exclusively from English (though there is a handful of examples in the endnotes from Chinese, German, Russian, and Spanish). Ch. 1 outlines the background to the study and explains how the seven chapters of the book are organized.

Ch.apter 2,: ‘The structure of time adverbials’ (15–49), is concerned with the syntax of tense. The discussion is not only limited to the tense phrase (TP), but also includes temporal information given throughout the clause, such as the Event time represented in the VP, and the Reference time in the AspectP. Temporal adjunct clauses constitute the focus of Ch. 3, ‘Adjunct clauses and the structural representation of simultaneity’ (51–85). T argues that the interpretation of various temporal adjunct clauses is reflected in their position within the clause.

Ch. 4, ‘The temporal syntax of arguments: Reduced relatives in subject position’ (87–117) gives an analysis of gerundive clauses that occur in subject position, with particular reference to the ambiguity problems regarding their temporal interpretation. It is proposed that gerundive relative clauses, which receive their temporal interpretation from the Event time, are correlated with a VP-internal interpretation of the subject (11).

The adverb then is at the heart of the discussion in Ch. 5, ‘Principles of time in discourse: Temporal syntax beyond the sentence’ (119–55). Here T examines the representation of tense at the discourse level, arguing that the analysis of tense presented in Ch. 2 accounts for the correlation between the meaning of then and its position within the clause.

In Ch. 6, ‘The structure of aspect’ (157–81), there is a shift in focus from tense to aspect, with the aim of showing that the theory developed in the pervious chapters for tense applies similarly to the investigation of aspect. In particular, it is once again shown, this time with reference to structures involving aspectual interpretations, that Event time is located in the VP and Reference time in AspectP.

Finally, T concludes with an analysis of aspectual verbs given in Ch. 7, ‘Syntax and semantics of aspectual verbs’ (183–204).

Time in natural language is intended for linguists interested in the minimalist framework and provides an account for how this framework could be applied to tense and aspect.

The linguistics of history

The linguistics of history. By Roy Harris. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005. Pp. 256. ISBN 0748619305. $89.

Reviewed by Andreea S. Calude, The University of Auckland

The linguistics of history is a fascinating account of how issues surrounding language, such as the use of language, the obligatory reliance on and employment of linguistic materials, the bias of language, and so on, affect the historian and historical research. It offers a connecting link between the Western philosophy of history and the Western philosophy of language, spanning as far as back as Ancient Greece and as far into the present as the advent of television.

The book contains seven chapters. The first, ‘Language and the historian’ (1–33), addresses the question of how and if historians might be able to verify that their interpretations of linguistic resources used to depict past events are indeed accurate and faithful to their original intended purpose. Ch. 2, ‘History and the literate revolution’ (33–67), looks at how the invention of writing drastically changed our view of the past, how it helped record the past, and how it made ‘a continuous historical consciousness possible’ (66).

In Ch. 3, ‘History as a palimpsest’ (68–100), Harris explores the lingering impact of the literate revolution on language, politics, and historical truth. In particular, he explains that these aspects have become interlocked in such a way that it is increasingly difficult to disentangle them from each other. Ch. 4, ‘Historicism and linguistics’ (101–36), will perhaps be of most interest to linguists, since it concerns the birth of linguistics, in particular comparative philology, as a science, and the way in which the history of its founding was constructed to fit certain national and personal goals.

H returns to the responsibilities of the historian in Ch. 5, ‘History and ordinary language’ (137–67), where he deals with the use of ordinary language, prescriptivism, the limits and bias of language as a tool, as well as several ramifications of this bias. Ch. 6 (168–97) treats the issue of ‘autonomy’ of history and the extent to which one can talk about such an autonomy.

Finally, Ch. 7 (198–228) concludes with a philosophical discussion of truth in historical accounts, and the integration between oral language, written language, and historical truth. Significantly, this final chapter contains a detailed discussion of the various formats (oral, written) available to the historian for presenting the past, and the implications they each bring with them to the final chronicle.

The linguistics of history is an engaging read, for both historian and linguist alike. It is a fascinating mixture of philosophy, linguistics (especially spoken and written language and communication), and history. While the book is not, however, a straightforward, simple read for the unseasoned researcher, it does prove a rewarding and stimulating one for those willing to pursue it.

Strength and weakness at the interface

Strength and weakness at the interface: Positional neutralization in phonetics and phonology. By Jonathan Barnes. (Phonology & phonetics.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2006. Pp. ix, 292. ISBN 9783110185218. $137 (Hb).

Reviewed by Anna Balas, Adam Mickiewicz University

The book is a revision of the author’s doctoral dissertation completed at the University of California, Berkeley in 2002. The study investigates the typology and implementation of positional contrast in the world’s vowel systems with the purpose of accounting for regularities in this typology and explaining the relationship between phonetics and phonology. The study adopts a diachronically oriented phonologization approach.

The ‘Introduction’, the first of five chapters, clearly defines positional neutralization, presents phonetic and phonological considerations in the treatment of positional neutralization, defines the relationship between phonetics and phonology in the phonologization approach, and sets the goals for the study: to probe the controversies concerning the positional neutralization and the role of phonetics in phonology more generally. Chs. 2 through 4 examine the operation of phonetic principles in phonologization on the bases of diverse empirical findings. Ch. 2 presents the licensing asymmetries between stressed and unstressed syllables, and demonstrates that unstressed vowel-reduction patterns are mostly based on the neutralization of vowel-height contrasts in duration-dependent undershoot. Ch. 3 presents positional neutralization effects in final syllables. They vary crosslinguistically, and they are, on the one hand, limited by domain-final lengthening and articulatory strengthening of preboundary elements, and on the other hand, enhanced by radical drops in subglottal pressure, drop in F0, lower intensity, and devoicing. This line of argumentation leads to a conclusion that the approach, in which the inherent strength or weakness of structural positions is encoded in universal grammar, gives less precise predictions than the approach that derives the typology of positional neutralization from the phonologization of phonetic patterns and that can thus account for the effects of opposing phonetic tendencies. Ch. 4 offers an analysis of positional neutralization in domain-initial syllables, arguing that, although positional neutralization affecting initial syllables is rare and in fact limited to vowel harmony, it is not a consequence of the initial position itself, but rather the effect of the crosslinguistic phonetic characteristics of initial syllables. Ch. 5 offers a discussion of the enterprise of phonological typology and the phonetics-phonology interface. The conclusion is that the synchronic connection between the phonological regularities and the phonetic patterns is not enough to account for the positional neutralization. Typological patterns are argued to be best explained by phonetic factors, whereas categorical positional neutralization in synchrony is best explained by phonetics-free phonological approaches.

A question a reader might want to consider is whether it would be possible to find a framework which incorporates and sees phonetic motivation for changes, phonologization. and a synchronic state as a continuum.

Following the main text, the book concludes with notes, references and an index.

The discussion in this work of phonological neutralization is very clear, thorough, engaging and informative. The book is worthwhile not only for those working on positional neutralization but also, as a phonological-phonetic venture to those interested in the phonetics-phonology interface.

Syntactic effects of morphological change

Syntactic effects of morphological change. Ed. by David W. Lightfoot. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Pp. 448. ISBN 0199250693. $134.99.

Reviewed by Claire Bowern, Yale University

This collection of twenty-one papers originated in the sixth Diachronic Generative Syntax Meeting (DIGS VI) at the University of Maryland in 2000. The volume’s theme is the consequences that changes in morphology may force in syntax, and there is a particular focus on the role of the loss of morphological marking in reanalysis. Most (but not all) of the papers assume a model of generative diachronic syntax in which change results obtain in acquisition when a child makes a different set of generalizations (and consequently sets its parameters slightly differently) from their parents. The introduction to the volume is cast in principles-and-parameters (cf. ‘[g]rammars differ sharply: a person either has a grammar with a certain property, or not’ (2)) and assumes that the only important locus of syntactic change is child language acquisition (and not, for example, adult grammar change). The papers employ several different models, although most papers are written within the minimalist framework.

An overarching question of whether changes in morphology drive changes in syntax, or whether the relationship is indirect. What evidence does morphology provide for learners acquiring syntax? Can syntactic changes be triggered simply by a change in morphological distribution? Is this the only way that syntactic change occurs? Do we ever find evidence for syntactic change instead driving morphological change?

The answers presented in this volume are mixed. Some of the papers highlight the problem of assigning a single underlying cause to a particular set of linguistic changes. Cynthia Allen, for example, argues that the trigger for the rise of combined adpositional genitives in Middle English is the loss of case marking and a more general relaxation of morphological blocking. Željko Bošković, in his commentary on Allen’s paper, asks what a principle such as the relaxation on constraints of morphological blocking means, and argues that such a principle does not have any place in the minimalist program. It remains to be seen, however, what place the minimalist program has in theories of language change (a question raised only indirectly in this volume).

The papers in this volume are grouped into four different parts. Part 1 concerns morphologically driven syntactic changes in languages such as English, Portuguese, Old Japanese, and Icelandic. Ian Roberts and Anna Roussou, for example, examine three cases of grammaticalization and argue that there is a correlation between the grammaticalization clines familiar from the functional linguistics literature and Guglielmo Cinque’s universal hierarchy of functional categories.

In Part 2, two papers discuss indirect links between morphology and syntax, using data from the history of Welsh and Portuguese. The six papers in Part 3 are all concerned with movement operations in various Germanic languages. Finally, there are two papers in Part 4 dealing with computer simulations.

This is a varied volume and many will find points of interest. I suspect that this volume will be of more use to theoreticians studying the relationships between morphology and syntax than to diachronic linguists.

What is thought?

What is thought? By Eric Baum. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004. Pp. 495. ISBN 0262025485. $45 (Hb).

Reviewed by Chaoqun Xie, Fujian Normal University

What is the mind? How does the mind work? The ‘mind’ question is one of complexity and difficulty, and scholars make continued efforts to find answers to it. Although there are different approaches to this question from different perspectives, there appears to be one thing in common, that is, the mind is often talked about metaphorically (see e.g. The literary mind, by Mark Turner (Oxford University Press, 1996) and The algebraic mind by Gary F. Marcus (MIT Press, 2001)). What is thought? also talks about the mind metaphorically, but in this case, the mind is thought of as a computer program. In this work, Eric Baum, a computer scientist, aims to draw ‘the most straightforward, simplest picture of mind’ (2).

What is thought?, which is patterned after Erwin Schrödinger’s What is life? (Cambridge University Press, 1944), contains fifteen chapters. In Ch. 1, the introduction, B points out that the whole book can be summed up in a single sentence, namely, ‘Semantics is equivalent to capturing and exploiting the compact structure of the world, and thought is all about semantics’ (3). Or, to put it more succinctly, the mind is nothing but a program. The remaining fourteen chapters are devoted to the justification of this underlying theme, which, as B confidently claims, ‘explains everything, and does so economically’ (31). The chapters are as follows: ‘The mind is a computer program’, ‘The Turing test, the Chinese room, and what computers can’t do’, ‘Occam’s razor and understanding’, ‘Optimization’, ‘Remarks on Occam’s razor’, ‘Reinforcement learning’, ‘Exploiting structure’, ‘Modules and metaphors’, ‘Evolutionary programming’, ‘Intractability’, ‘The evolution of learning’, ‘Language and the evolution of thought’, and ‘The evolution of consciousness’.

To justify the central premise of the book, B draws upon, among other things, recent developments in artificial intelligence and neural networks, thinking highly of and attaching great importance to the modularity of mind and Occam’s razor. He argues, among other things, that ‘life is the execution of the DNA program’ (7), that ‘the mind is an evolved program that exploits the compact underlying structure of the world’ (14), and that Occam’s razor ‘is the basis of mind itself’ (8). For B, ‘our minds do vast computations of which we are not consciously aware’ (408).

All in all, this is an exciting book simply because it provides an exciting answer to an exciting question. The picture of mind as drawn by B is largely informative, impressive, and persuasive, and would surely contribute to human understanding of how the mind works. Students of artificial intelligence, linguistics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and psychology would find this title intriguing, thrilling, and encouraging. In fact, anyone intending to know more about the nature of thought should not miss this book.

I have some additional comments. First, it seems to me that the ‘most straightforward, simplest picture of mind’ does not necessarily entail that it is the most true-to-life picture; an easy and exciting answer is not necessarily equal to a correct answer. Second, B subscribes to the prescription of Occam’s razor that ‘given any set of facts, the simplest explanation is the best’ (8). In fact, the simplest is not necessarily the best because, for it to be the best, it should first and foremost be correct. Who decides the correctness of the simplest? Which is correct, and which is not? The modularity hypothesis is not without problems either. Third, any book on the human mind is destined to be at once thought-provoking and controversial. This book is no exception, and that may in part explain why B is ‘confident that the picture herein will not convince all readers’ (2).

Weeds in the garden of words

Weeds in the garden of words: Further observations on the tangled history of the English language. By Kate Burridge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Pp. vii, 196. ISBN 9780521618236. $19.99.

Reviewed by Colette van Kerckvoorde, Simon’s Rock College

The English language is a garden with beautiful flowers, but some claim that our language, especially in its spoken form, also contains a lot of weeds, that is, unwanted elements. It is difficult to define what weeds exactly are: they grow in unwanted places, and they may own virtues that are yet to be discovered. These linguistic weeds, Burridge argues, are a sign that the English language is alive and well, and she attempts to explain why some of these weeds flourish while others eventually wither, why certain features become irritating to some speakers, and why we all react differently to innovations in the language.

This book is the sequel to B’s popular Blooming English: Weeds in the garden of words. Just like its predecessor, it is a collection of numerous individual pieces that can be read in any order. Since the pieces were originally designed to be read out loud on the radio, they are informal and popular. There are no footnotes or endnotes, although there is a bibliography at the end of the book.

Linguistic weeds can be found in our vocabulary, in our grammar, and in our spelling and pronunciation. Grammatical weeds seem to irritate people most. For each of the three categories listed above, B describes several specific and commonly held opinions about correct versus incorrect usage of the language, and she explains that such ‘deviant’ use may eventually become part of the standard language in the future or that it may just die out and be no more than a temporary fad. She stresses, again and again, that several features of our language now considered standard were once frowned upon. Finally, she also draws attention to the emergence of reference works and their perceived authority among the general public, as well as to the prestige of the written language. To give just a few examples of some of the topics under discussion: among the lexical weeds there is a discussion of the current yeah-no forms, the influence of political correctness on our speech, and the difference between disinterested and uninterested. Among the grammatical weeds we find a discussion of the passive voice and its alleged abuse, the group genitive, and the agreement of the verb with collective nouns. Pronunciation and spelling weeds include the question of hyphenation, and dropping a d in Wednesday or an r in February.

B’s book is entertaining, and it contains a lot of interesting anecdotes and trivia about individual words and their history. B convinces the reader that the English language is constantly changing and demonstrates that linguistic change matters to the general population. She emphasizes that linguists refrain from judging use and favor a descriptive approach. This book is easy to read and explains the history of many exceptions in the English language. It is written with language purists in mind; as such, it would be a wonderful addition for any public library and should receive popular approval.

Medical interpreting and cross-cultural communication

Medical interpreting and cross-cultural communication. By Claudia V. Angelelli. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Pp. xiii, 153. ISBN 9780521066778. $36.99.

Reviewed by Colette van Kerckvoorde, Simon’s Rock College

Given the increase in the number of recent immigrants, many hospitals in the United States are faced with new challenges, since patients and their caregivers often do not share the same language. While smaller communities usually rely on relatives or friends to help out, it is clear that such ad hoc solutions are not optimal. In larger hospitals, medical interpreters are employed, and the need for such professionals is rapidly growing. In this book, Angelelli focuses on the role of the medical interpreter and examines whether the prescribed rules and codes for these professionals are realistic.

Medical interpreters are typically part of a private interaction between two people in hierarchically different positions. During such an encounter the caregiver must try to understand the symptoms and attempt to facilitate the patient’s expression of thoughts, feelings, and expectations. The official role of the medical interpreter is one of neutrality and invisibility: the interpreter supposedly does nothing beyond decoding and encoding parts of the conversation. While such an expectation of the interpreter may be quite appropriate and feasible in a court setting or in a business interaction, it does not make much sense to expect the same in the field of medical interpreting, A claims. Over a period of two years, A followed, observed, and worked with a team of medical interpreters in a California hospital in order to determine what role the interpreter plays in an interpreted communicative event (ICE). Her study included both face-to-face interactions and conversations over the speakerphone.

Her findings clearly challenge the notion that invisibility and neutrality are attainable. In fact, the interpreter is much more than a mere language-switching operator. A describes medical interpreting as a communicative act in which interpreters frequently create and own text, and thus are not invisible. She examines what triggers the interpreters’ participation in the interaction between patient and the caregiver and concludes that there is a visibility continuum: minor visibility usually happens during the highly ritualized openings and the closings of an ICE, where interpreters may modify or direct the conversation so that it conforms to the norm of the patient’s culture. Various levels of visibility may occur during the actual medical exchange: interpreters exercise agency to achieve the communicative goals of both parties involved, they may expand the renditions of the patient and/or the caregiver by producing texts that they own, and they frequently include some cultural brokering. They also orchestrate moves and coordinate information-based relations between the speakers.

This book does not require any linguistic background and is written primarily with health-care professionals, communication specialists, and students of interpreting in mind. It offers a good glimpse into the daily life of medical interpreters and stresses that medical ICEs occur within institutions that are permeable to the mandates of society, that each party brings his or her own social factors to the encounter, and that the interpreter must consider these social factors while processing information between languages and cultures.

Linguistics in the Netherlands 2005

Linguistics in the Netherlands 2005. Ed. by Jenny Doetjes and Jeroen van de Weijer. (AVT publications 56.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2005. Pp. viii, 242. ISBN 9027231656. $143.

Reviewed by Taras Shmiher, Ivan Franko National University

This volume contains a selection of papers presented at the thirty-sixth annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of the Netherlands, which took place in Utrecht on January 29, 2005. Its aim is to present an overview of research in different fields of linguistics in the Netherlands.

The Dutch language is researched from the perspectives of grammar, second language acquisition, and dialectology. Renée van Bezooijen and Charlotte Gooskens (13–24) study Dutch speakers’ abilities to understand Frisian and Afrikaans, and determine that they have fewer problems understanding Afrikaans than Frisian. Yuki Niioka, Johanneke Caspers, and Vincent J. van Heuven (139–50) prove how inverted sentences with or without question intonation influence the perception of interrogativity in Japanese speakers of Dutch as a second language. In their paper on Dutch and Sign Language of the Netherlands, Liesbeth de Clerck and Els van der Kooij (61–72) discuss the properties of the adverbial exclusive zelf and deduce that it is a twofold category composed of modifiable and real intensifier subclasses.

In the study of subject-object ambiguities in spoken and written Dutch (99–109), Frank Jansen states that the avoidance of ambiguous structures frustrates the operation of the left-right principle in writing. In the same vein, E. G. Ruys (151–63) explores analytical tools for determining prepositional complements in the Dutch middlefield.

Developing methods of dialectal analysis, Marco René Spruit (179–90) applies a quantitative measure of syntactic distance for classifying Dutch dialects. Norbert Corver and Marc van Oostendorp (7386) examine the interplay between syntax and phonology in the formation of substantively used possessive pronouns in the Groningen and Low Saxon dialects.

In the English-language domain, Hans Broekhuis (49–60) suggests a novel view on English locative inversion and investigates some consequences for English and Dutch grammars. Jutta M. Hartmann (87–98) argues for taking wh-movement in the there-BE construction as syntactically unconstrained. From the theoretical perspective, Mark de Vries (219–30) briefly explores the properties and boundary conditions of the syntactic operation Merge.

Historical linguistics is represented by Mircea Branza and Vincent J. van Heuven (25–36), who temporally locate in the sixteenth century the critical stage in the differentiation between American Spanish subjuntivo imperfecto forms in -se and -ra. Anne Breitbarth’s paper (37–47) deals with the auxiliary ellipses that developed as a formal marker of subordination in Early Modern German (1350–1650).

Irene Krämer (111–23) explains how children at the relevant ages distinguish between two classes—‘strong’ and ‘weak’—of determiner quantifiers. Though conducted in the realm of pragmatics, this research may extend to involve cognitive development, that is, theory of mind or perspective shifting.

Louise Baird (1–12) investigates the eastern Indonesian Klon-language ‘agentive’ system of pronominal marking and identifies two types of ‘splits’. Peter de Swart (191–202) focuses on the ungrammaticality of some active constructions (‘paradigm gaps’) and the resulting obligatory voice alternation in the Coast Salish languages (the Northwest coast of North America). Craig Thiersch (203–18) summarizes Malagasy syntax and the remnant-movement approach and gives three sample problems that this analysis can explain. Jan-Wouter Zwart (231–42) surveys the phenomenon of noun phrase coordination in head-final languages that overwhelmingly employ initial conjunctions.

Jie Liang and Vincent J. van Heuven’s article (125–37) about the phonetic and phonological processing of pitch levels disproves the claim that it is only time pressure that affects the identification pattern of Chinese aphasic speakers. Raquel S. Santos and Ester M. Scarpa (165–78) discuss the acquisition of articles and the phonological bootstrapping of the same into Brazilian Portuguese.