Monthly Archives: March 2010

Arabic today

Arabic today: A student, business, and professional course in spoken and written Arabic. 2nd edn. By John Mace. New York: Edinburgh University Press, 2008. Pp. 355. ISBN 9780748606160. $40.

Reviewed by Omaima Ayoub, Islamic Foundation School

This second edition of Arabic today provides a course of spoken and written Arabic for students and business professionals living, or planning to live, in the Arab world. Intended to facilitate direct and effective communication, this book can be used as a textbook in contemporary Arabic classrooms or as a self-study guide. The book bridges the gap between the written language (which is never used in everyday speech) and regional dialects (which are never written down) by focusing on an emerging spoken form that fosters both speaking and writing skills. Accompanied by an audio material with a native voice, Arabic today offers a perfect resource for Arabic teachers and learners.

The pronunciation guide, which follows the introduction, offers a simple outline of the Arabic sound system. This outline includes vowels and diphthongs, consonants similar to those in English, consonants different from those in English, deep velarized consonants, velarized /a/ and /ā/, stress, hyphens, weak vowels, doubled consonants, and written pronunciation.

Part 1 teaches an educated form of spoken Arabic in fifteen lessons that include contextualized dialogues, grammatical explanations and illustrations, and exercises to reinforce the materials. Dialogues are provided on the accompanying compact disc. The section on spoken Arabic includes chapters on greetings and on interactions that may occur in locations such as at the airport, in town, in a visit to friends, on the telephone, in a restaurant, in a visit to a factory or a village, in the market, and in the news. This first part can be used in isolation to teach spoken Arabic or as an introduction into Part 2, which teaches written Arabic in eleven lessons.

Part 2 stresses on the inner workings of the Arabic writing system. It teaches standard written Arabic through segments on reading and writing, the alphabet, Arabic transcription, insurance, transport and communications, personnel management, petroleum, the newspapers, correspondence, the transfer of technology, and the United Nations.

This edition of Arabic today concludes with a key to the exercises, new word indexes (in Arabic and English), and a grammar index. Overall, this coursebook combines exercises that develop speaking and writing skills, build a vocabulary repertoire of approximately 2000 words, and incorporate dialogues that can help those who have no prior knowledge of the language to communicate in Arabic both directly and effectively.

Ultimate attainment in second language acquisition

Ultimate attainment in second language acquisition: A case study. By Donna Lardiere. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007. Pp. viii, 273. IBSN 0805834567. $80 (Hb).

Reviewed by Richard W. Hallett, Northeastern Illinois University

In Ultimate attainment in second language acquisition: A case study, Donna Lardiere seeks ‘to characterize formal aspects of a particular L2 [second language] end-state idiolect’ and ‘to see whether the findings can be accounted for under recent proposals in the theoretical and language acquisition literature’ (19). To these ends, L presents a detailed case study of Patty, a Chinese-American naturalized immigrant who has been L’s long-term acquaintance. Seven chapters comprise this book. In Ch. 1, ‘Some preliminary issues in adult L2 ultimate attainment’ (1–20), L offers an overview of second language acquisition (SLA) concepts, notions, and controversies key to this case study including fossilization, stabilization, target, idiolect, ultimate attainment, and poverty of stimulus.

In Ch. 2, ‘Introducing Patty’ (21–47), L provides the necessary background information about Patty. Born in Indonesia in 1953, Patty, whose parents spoke Hokkien and Mandarin, was dominant in Hokkien but also fluent in Mandarin and Indonesian by the age of three. At the age of fourteen, Patty moved to China, where she lived for two years. She began to study English, the language of investigation in this case study, when she moved to Hong Kong at the age of sixteen. She married a Vietnamese man, with whom she spoke Cantonese, and together they immigrated to the United States when she was twenty-two. Patty subsequently earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the United States, divorced her Vietnamese husband, and married a native speaker of American English. L notes that Patty does not fit the classic scenario of a L2 learner per Schumann’s (1997) acculturation model.

Ch. 3, ‘Knowledge of finiteness’ (48–93), provides a detailed description of the more formal aspects of Patty’s knowledge of English syntax. This chapter is divided into four sections: ‘Defining finiteness’ (49–50), ‘Considering the input: Kinds of evidence for finiteness’ (50–64), ‘Knowledge of finiteness in SLA’ (65–73), and ‘Finiteness in an end-state L2 grammar’ (73–93). In this chapter L offers details on Patty’s marking of tense, agreement, pronominal case, and form of finiteness.

The issue of Patty’s lack of past tense marking (less than thirty-five percent overall in obligatory contexts) is the focus of Ch. 4, ‘The acquisition of past tense’ (94–139). L provides factors that may have affected this rate such as phonological reduction, first language (L1) influence, type of speech style, and social network affiliation. Patty’s errors in past tense marking, L concludes, are predominantly those of omission.

The focus of Ch. 5, ‘Clausal word order and movement’ (140–79), is verb-raising, which includes adverb placement, wh-movement, relative clauses, and passives in Patty’s English. In Ch. 6, ‘Nominal phrases’ (180–202), L analyzes Patty’s use of possession, plurals, and articles and discusses the interaction between definiteness and number. In Ch. 7, ‘Conclusions’ (203–36), L reviews the formal aspects of Patty’s English idiolect and considers L1 influence and the possibility of decreased sensitivity to input, ‘two (probably related) factors that have been hypothesized to play a crucial role in adult second language acquisition’ (203). Based on the longitudinal study of Patty’s English, L concludes that the formal domains of linguistics ‘are not linked in the way that linguistic theory has previously suggested’ (236).

This in-depth book is a welcome addition to SLA literature. It should be a supplemental text in SLA and psycholinguistic courses.


Schumann, John H. 1997. The neurobiology of affect in language. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

First steps towards a grammar of Makasae

First steps towards a grammar of Makasae: A language of East Timor. By Juliette Huber. Munich: Lincom Europa, 2008. Pp. 60. ISBN 9783895861406. $58.80.

Reviewed by Malcolm Ross, The Australian National University

This sketch grammar of the Ossu dialect of Makasae is a revised version of the author’s 2005 Zurich MA thesis, based largely on data collected from two speakers temporarily resident in Portugal. Timorese languages are either Austronesian or Papuan, and Makasae, the East Timorese language with the largest number of speakers after Tetun, is claimed to be a member of the Papuan Trans New Guinea family. It retains the subject-object-verb (SOV) word order typical of Trans New Guinea languages but does not reflect their morphological complexity. Instead, Makasae is largely isolating. Isolating languages are typically SVO, and much of this sketch is concerned with the mechanisms that allow speakers to identify the grammatical roles of noun phrases in Makasae in the absence of SVO order.

JulietteHuber’s strategy is to deal in detail with issues that reflect this concern although more briefly—sometimes very briefly—with other topics as well. This is reflected in the relative lengths of the ten chapters: Ch. 1 ‘Introduction’ (1–4), Ch. 2 ‘Phonology’ (4–6), Ch. 3 ‘Lexicon’ (6–7), Ch. 4 ‘Derivational morphology’ (7–13), Ch. 5 ‘The noun phrase’ (13–46), Ch. 6 ‘The verb phrase’ (64–70), Ch. 7 ‘Postpositions’ (half of page 70), Ch. 8 ‘Negation’ (70–74), Ch. 9 ‘Syntax’ (74–102), Ch. 10 ‘Conclusion’ (half of page 103), and Ch. 11 ‘A narrative text’ (103–13). Thus, the lion’s share of this book is devoted to the noun phrase (34 pages) and syntax (29 pages).

Ch. 4 shows that reduplication is the only productive derivational process. There is no inflectional morphology in Makasae, so the language is indeed isolating. Within the chapter on noun phrases (26–28) and in the discussion of transitive clauses in the chapter on syntax (80–81), H demonstrates how the distinction between reflexive and nonreflexive third person pronouns is sometimes crucial to disambiguating the subject and the object. In the chapter on verb phrases, H discusses the object marker ma (60–64), which marks the recipient or beneficiary argument in ditransitive clauses (as well as instruments). Almost half the chapter on syntax (75–93) is devoted to markers of grammatical role, in particular the morpheme ini, the exact analysis of which is puzzling, as it appears to have both agentive subject marking and an information-structural function (seemingly as a focus marker, because it cooccurs with question words). It is noteworthy, however, that ini occurs only five times in the 9-page narrative text, implying that its functional load is not as great as appears from elicited examples, and that this puzzle will be resolved when a larger corpus of naturally occurring texts is collected.

This sketch is clearly written and, where H focuses on an issue, she provides detail and does not shy away from counter-examples, a fact that makes these parts of the description typologically useful. However, an inevitable consequence of H’s strategy is that parts of the grammar receive little or no attention. There are just hints that adjectives are a subclass of verbs (29) and that evidentiality is explicitly marked (57), and no description of complementation other than indirect speech (101–02). If one accepts the wisdom of the author’s strategy, then the only weak points in content occur when she touches on diachronic issues. H’s references to the Trans New Guinea family are decidedly outdated (2–3, 17), and her analysis of the numeral system is undermined because she overlooks the fact that not only lima ‘five’ but also at least pitu ‘seven’ and siwa ‘nine’ are Austronesian loans (22–23).

German: A linguistic introduction

German: A linguistic introduction. By Sarah M. B. Fagan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Pp. xiv, 317. ISBN 9780521618038. $39.99.

Reviewed by Mark J. Elson, University of Virginia

According to the author, this book is intended for a broad readership, including students, scholars, and others with an interest in the subject. Sarah Fagan’s goal is ‘to provide an introduction to Standard German that is rich in detail, grounded in modern linguistic theory, and comprehensive in that it includes the history of the language, dialects, and sociolinguistic issues’ (1). The introduction (1–3) is followed by seven chapters: ‘Phonetics and phonology’ (4–53), ‘Morphology’ (54–114), ‘Syntax’ (115–48), ‘Semantics’ (149–80), ‘History of the language’ (181–213), ‘Regional variation’ (214–43), and ‘Sociolinguistic issues’ (244–80). These chapters are followed by a glossary (281–94), a bibliography (295–309), and an index (310–17). Each chapter concludes with exercises.

Although F wrote the volume from a generative perspective, the inclusion of this theory is uneven. In fairness to the author, it should be noted that the series of which her book is a part may have required the assumption of a theoretical framework beyond the well-established default framework provided by phoneme, morpheme, and syntagm. The presence of generative theory is—not surprisingly—most noticeable in the chapters on phonology and syntax. But it is present only in the shallowest sense of the term, that ‘a formal and explicit set of rules underlies the native speaker’s knowledge’ (2). The rules that are offered are of the type that might have been found in early generative descriptions. There is no significant attempt to incorporate more recent theory into either phonology or syntax other than, in the discussion of syntax, a reference to X-bar theory, inflection (INFL), and complementizer phrases (CP), which contributes little. Theory of any sort is much less obvious in the remaining chapters: most general and student readers will have come into contact with these concepts (e.g. synonymy, dialect, variation, tense, gender, and language contact) through language study and therefore will not view them as theory—or as the result of assumptions about language—but rather as everyday knowledge about language. I suspect that the discussions of phonology and syntax—where theory is most evident—will be difficult for students and general readership to penetrate, but, at the same time, not sufficiently elaborated or contemporary in the descriptive apparatus they adopt to be of value to linguists. Furthermore, I question the author’s claim that prior knowledge of German and linguistics is not essential (1). Although it is true that glosses and translations are provided, and it may also be true that, in principle, previous knowledge is not required, for a person without such knowledge, the descriptions of phonology, morphology, and syntax will probably require an instructor. It is doubtful that any book accommodating all of the audiences that the author addresses could be written, and therefore she might better have concentrated, if the series permitted it, on one of the three, perhaps the student in advanced German or in a class on the structure of German.

Aside from the question of theory and its place in a book of this sort (which I have mentioned only by way of providing an accurate description of the book’s organization), this volume is valuable because of its comprehensive treatment of the data. Of necessity each topic is discussed only briefly although to an extent sufficient for an introductory course on the structure of German or for scholarly use by those who want a competent introduction to the facts before they attempt a more in-depth investigation.

Each chapter is clear, adequately informative, and well-constructed. The chapters on history, regional variation, and sociolinguistics are especially welcome, containing information that is not readily available in survey form elsewhere. However, the chapter on semantics is devoted largely to grammatical meaning, with only the briefest attention to lexical semantics. Although the discussion of grammatical meaning is—perhaps understandably, in view of its complexity—weak in certain areas, most noticeably in regard to voice and aspect. Nevertheless, this book has much to offer as a survey and description of German, and its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. The author is to be commended for an admirably detailed handbook that will serve its readership well.

Natural phonetics and tonetics

Natural phonetics and tonetics: Articulatory, auditory, & functional. By Luciano Canepari. Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2007. Pp. xiii, 502. ISBN 9783895866449. $125.72 (Hb).

Reviewed by Christopher R. Green, Indiana University

Natural phonetics and tonetics serves as a detailed handbook for individuals of varied levels of experience with descriptive phonetics and phonology. Originally published in Italian, this book is best read alongside its companion volume, Luciano Canepari’s Handbook of phonetics, to which the author makes frequent references. The viewpoint of the author regarding the utility of precisely detailed phonetic description and the failure of most phonologists (and even some phoneticians) to provide them is abundantly clear from the foreword alone. In particular, C comments on the ambiguity that is introduced both in the practice of phonetic transcription and into the terminology that has been traditionally used to describe the many hundreds of sounds found in languages across the globe (Ch. 1).

Ch. 2 is indispensible for any linguist attempting to tackle this volume. It is within this chapter that the reader learns of the motivations and implementation of an entirely new system of phonetic transcription—the canIPA (Canepari international phonetic alphabet)—that effectively does away with the official (and other nonofficial) proposed versions of the IPA due to their stated impracticality and inability to provide adequately detailed descriptions of many sounds. C, in particular, rails against the widespread use of diacritics in the official IPA (Ch. 7), in favor of a one symbol, one sound approach. His descriptive ideals are further detailed in Ch. 3 in a discussion on the successes and confounds of language learning.

The truly worthwhile contribution of this handbook is its exhaustive set of figures—including orograms, labiograms, palatograms, laryngograms, and tonograms—that provide a visualization of articulatory and other physical attributes of a vast variety of sounds. These are included in a description of the entire phono-articulatory apparatus (Ch. 4) as well as more specifically for vowels and vocoids (Ch. 8), for consonants and contoids (Chs. 9–10), for sounds described as phonic peculiarities (Ch. 11), and for other micro- and macrostructures like tonemes, intonemes, syllables, rhythmic groups, and prominences (Chs. 12–13).

In the remaining chapters of this handbook (Chs. 15–22), C offers his ‘phonosyntheses’ of over 350 languages (both dead and alive) spoken around the world. Although an entire chapter is, perhaps understandably, devoted to his own language (i.e. Italian), the reader may be surprised by the inclusion of only twenty-five languages (out of approximately 2,000) for the entire African continent and fifty-one (again, out of approximately 2,000) for the entire Asian continent, in their respective chapters.

In sum, Natural phonetics and tonetics is replete with detailed information and will be a valuable handbook to many linguists. One should be cautioned, however, of the oft-stated (and amusing) reminder by the author, that ‘If going through [the chapters of this book] means nothing at all to someone […] let it be at that! After all, phonetics is not for everyone’ (271).

The ancient languages of Asia Minor

The ancient languages of Asia Minor. Ed. by Roger D. Woodard. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Pp. xx, 185. ISBN 9780521684965. $32.

Reviewed by Wolfgang Schulze, University of Munich

This volume is part of the series drawn from the famous collection The Cambridge encyclopedia of the world’s ancient languages (WAL). WAL covers forty-four languages, eleven of which are described in the present collection. This selection concentrates on languages in the region defined by the editors as Asia Minor: This includes the Asian parts of present-day Turkey as well as Armenia and Georgia. Specifically, Asia Minor covers three genetic domains: (i) Indo-European (e.g. Armenian, Anatolian, and non-Anatolian), (ii) Southern Caucasian (e.g. Old Georgian), and (iii) Hurro-Urartian. Unfortunately, this volume neglects (Proto-)Hattic, a language documented mainly in Hattic-Hittite bilingual texts and Hattic passages in Hittite sources. Another language that should be included in this context is Caucasian Albanian, a precursor of Udi (a Southeast Caucasian minority language in Northern Azerbaijan). However, Caucasian Albanian became known only after the volume was edited—namely, in 2009, when Jost Gippert, Wolfgang Schulze, and others deciphered and published newly discovered texts of this ancient language (from roughly 500 AD). Except for these two languages, this volume covers all of the relevant remains of the languages of Asia Minor, thus providing an extremely valuable text and source book.

Contrary to other volumes of the same series (e.g. The ancient languages of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Aksum), the authors of the individual sections of this book faced the problem that only some of the languages have a broader documentation: Languages such as Palaic, Carian, Lycian, and Phrygian lack comprehensive sources. Hence, their description cannot be anything but fragmentary. This aspect is mirrored by the fact that the overall length of the individual chapters differs considerably. For instance, some twenty pages are devoted to Classical Armenian, but only five to Carian and six to Palaic.

This book starts with a brief introduction by the editor (1–5), followed by a description of the Indo-European languages that were present in Anatolia. Hittite is described first, because it is the best documented and hence best known language in this region (by Calvert Watkins; 6–30). The subsequent chapters on Luvian (31–39), Palaic (40–45), Lycian (46–55), Lydian (56–63), and Carian (64–68) are authored by H. Craig Melchert. The chapter on Phrygian by Claude Brixhe (69–80) concludes this section. Gernot Wilhelm turns to the Hurro-Urartian cluster (Hrurrian, 81–104; and Urartian, 105–23). The two Transcaucasian languages, Classical Armenian by James P.T. Clackson (124–44) and Old Georgian by Kevin Tuite, 145–65), complete the core of this volume, followed by an appendix on the cuneiform script and indices.

The degree of certainty regarding grammatical and lexical issues as well as quality and quantity of the documented sources reinforce the contents of the individual chapters. For instance, the descriptions of Classical Armenian and Old Georgian are necessarily condensed, but not at all lacking. Other descriptions, such as the chapter on Carian, reflect nearly everything that is known about the language. However, each chapter is marked for a very careful and unbiased presentation of the relevant data. Naturally, all of the authors—pronounced experts in their fields—show preferences for certain views and analytic proposals. But these views are nearly always contrasted with alternative views and hypotheses. Hence, the individual descriptions can undoubtedly serve as a doorway to the world of these ancient languages, stimulating the reader to make additional use of the extensive bibliographical references. Many readers will enjoy that they can now easily check what is known about a given language without having to consult the often disperse and far-flung literature.

The format of the individual descriptions comes close to what has been called basic linguistic theory. In most cases, the descriptive tools are theory-neutral, although many articles show a certain preference for labels borrowed from language typology. This allows readers not acquainted with the idiosyncratic descriptive labels typical for some domains to easily understand a given analysis. This positive effect is further supported by a very reader-friendly format that includes easy-to-read tables, charts, and figures. In fact, this volume (as it is true for its companion volumes) is edited in a way that makes it a joy to browse through the chapters and discover details about the fascinating world of ancient languages in Asia Minor.

The ancient languages of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Aksum

The ancient languages of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Aksum. Ed. by Roger D. Woodard. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Pp. xx, 251. ISBN 9780521684972. $39.99.

Reviewed by Wolfgang Schulze, University of Munich

This volume is part of the series drawn from the famous collection The Cambridge encyclopedia of the world’s ancient languages (WAL). WAL covers forty-four languages, seven of which are described in the present collection. This selection concentrates on the languages of Mesopotamia (i.e. Sumerian, Elamite, and Akkadian [including Eblaite]) and the languages of Egypt and Ethiopia (i.e. Old Egyptian, Coptic, and Ge’ez), thus covering two isolated languages (i.e. Sumerian and Elamite), three Semitic languages (i.e. Akkadian, Elbaite, and Ge’ez), and two non-Semitic Afro-Asiatic languages (i.e. Old Egyptian and Coptic). The individual chapters are written by experts of high renown who escape from offering speculative details typically proposed for some of these languages.

This book starts with a brief, but very informative, introductory chapter by Roger D. Woodard, the editor of the volume (1–5). Each individual chapter begins with a section that addresses questions of language (pre-)history including cultural and ethnic issues, followed by a presentation of the language’s writing system and issues of phonetics, phonology, and phonotactics. Note that for both Akkadian and Egyptian, this section is more elaborate; sign lists for both cuneiforms and hieroglyphs are presented. The subsequent sections are organized traditionally; covering issues of morphology, syntax, and the lexicon. All chapters close with a reading list that is selective with respect to the larger languages (e.g. Sumerian, Akkadian, and Egyptian) but rather exhaustive for the smaller ones (e.g. Elamite and Ge’ez). Unfortunately, the descriptive sections for the individual languages do not include longer sample texts that would help the reader to become more familiar with the language.

Nevertheless, all of the chapters document the given language to a very high standard: Once the reader has gone through the many details, they can safely claim to have more than just a basic notion of the nature of these languages. The overall strength of the individual articles is given by the fact that the authors carefully discuss different proposals related to the interpretation of both sociolinguistic and linguistic issues. They constantly refrain from highlighting their ideas to the disadvantage of other proposals. At the same time, the authors never comply with suggestions that stem from nonscientific hypotheses, which is especially crucial to the dimension of Sumerian and Elamite prehistory.

The main body of this book starts with a description of Sumerian by Piotr Michalowski (6–46), followed by the section on Elamite by Matthew W. Stolper (47–82). John Huehnergard and Christopher Woods provided the section on Akkadian (focusing on Old Babylonian) and Eblaite (83–152). Egyptian and Coptic are described by Antonia Loprieno (153–210), and Gene Gragg acquaints the reader with Ge’ez (the language of Aksum; 211–37).

The editor has nicely managed to keep the balance between the prerogatives of a generalizing descriptive template and the idiosyncratic descriptive traditions typical for some of the languages. The overall descriptive template becomes visible especially with the way the authors provide interlinear glosses for the many examples. The idiosyncratic traditions, on the other hand, are present with, for example, the transcription or transliteration systems that may change form language to language. The fact that these systems are correlated with the standard pattern of phonological charts easily helps the reader to understand the given transcription system.

The sections on morphosyntax are strongly oriented towards the descriptive standard of language typology. This fact should be especially welcomed by readers interested in the use of language data for typological and other generalizing purposes. In this respect, the presentation of languages such as Elamite and Ge’ez fills a major gap in the typological database of languages. These languages are usually considered by specialists only, the work of which is often difficult to access. Now, these two languages share the level of descriptive presentation given for many other languages and thus allow for exploitation in the same sense. The section on Ge’ez has additional strength because the author constantly refers to both Arabic and Akkadian to illustrate the commonalities and divergences of Ge’ez with respect to other Semitic languages.

Furthermore, each chapter takes into consideration the fact that the language is represented by corpora that cover a rather long span of time (except for Eblaite and Ge’ez). Hence, the descriptions share a strong diachronic component that allows the reader to understand the development of the individual languages over (in the case of Egyptian) more than 3000 years. In fact, the section on Egyptian can be easily read as an admittedly condensed historical grammar of the language in its different stages, including its last stage—namely, Coptic. In other words, this chapter helps to better understand the origins of Coptic itself.

This volume is kept in an extremely reader-friendly and very appealing format that is full of examples, illustrations, and charts. It can be used not only by specialists who want to quickly check specific data but also by anyone who wants to learn more about the fascinating world of early Mesopotamian and Egyptian languages.

Naturalness and iconicity in language

Naturalness and iconicity in language. Ed. by Klaas Willems and Ludovic De Cuypere. (Iconicity in language and literature 7.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2008. Pp. x, 249. ISBN 9789027243430. $158 (Hb).

Reviewed by Heiko Narrog, Tohoku University

The question of iconicity in language recently enjoyed a revival primarily in the functional and cognitive approaches to language popular in the 1980s. Nowadays iconicity commands interest beyond linguistics in a number of neighboring disciplines such as philosophy and semiotics. However, the field is still full of open questions such as whether there is something like iconicity in language at all. Often associated with iconicity is the concept of naturalness, which, in theories like natural morphology, seems to presuppose some concept of iconicity. The present volume focuses on these topics, beginning with rather broad philosophical and semiotic approaches before advancing towards more concrete linguistic studies.

An introduction by the editors (1–23) is followed by four papers in philosophy and semiotics. In ‘Philosophical naturalism and linguistic epistemology’ (25–46) Lia Formigari contrasts two major forms of naturalism in modern linguistics—namely, what she labels as Noam Chomsky’s internalist naturalism and Willard Van Orman Quine’s externalist naturalism. Formigari sees the choice between these two types of naturalism as essentially methodological but suggests that Quinean naturalism may be ultimately more attractive to linguists as it does not ‘isolate language from other cognitive and behavioral competences’ (44).

Based on his work in pictorial semiotics, Göran Sonesson (‘Prolegomena to a general theory of iconicity considerations on language, gesture, and pictures’; 47–72) points out a potential distinction of six different types of iconic relationships and argues against scales or degrees of iconicity.

In ‘Semiotic foundations of natural linguistics and diagrammatic iconicity’ (73–100), Winfried Nöth suggests that iconicity is inherent in all kinds of well-formed linguistic constructions. The phenomena usually discussed under the heading of iconicity merely exhibit an extra degree of it.

Henning Andersen’s ‘Naturalness and markedness’ (101–19) marks a shift to papers on linguistics proper within this volume. In his contribution, Andersen compares naturalness theory and markedness theory and concludes that markedness theory better accounts for variation and change essentially subsuming naturalness theory.

In ‘Natural and unnatural sound patterns: A pocket field guide’ (121–48) Juliette Blevins tries to clarify and exemplify the notions of natural sound patterns as patterns that can be explained in terms of how humans articulate and perceive speech. Adducing evidence from various types of research, she argues for keeping the issue of naturalness in phonetics and phonology strictly separate from the same issue in grammar.

José Carlos Prado-Alonso’s ‘The iconic function of full inversion in English’ (149–65) is a corpus-based study of full inversion involving prepositional phrases, as in the sentence On the back seat was a heap of packages. He concludes that full inversion has different discourse functions, which depend on the type of text genre in which it is used.

In ‘What is iconic about polysemy? A contribution to research on diagrammatic transparency’ (167–87) Daniela Marzo claims that polysemy, in contrast to conventional thinking, is in fact iconic in terms of diagrammatic transparency. A questionnaire study shows that transparency is greater in the case of polysemy motivated by metaphor than in the case of polysemy motivated by contiguity.

In ‘Iconicity in sign languages’ (189–214) Eline Demey, Mieke Van Herreweghe, and Myriam Vermeerbergen promote the view that iconicity is pervasive in sign languages, particularly as a kind of superstructure. They point out that one of the differences between spoken and signed languages is that in sign languages, even low-level form elements are meaningful—that is, the phonemic and the morphemic level coincide.

In the last article, ‘Arbitrary structure, cognitive grammar, and the partes orationis: A study in Polish paradigms’ (215–39), Dylan Glynn offers a cautionary tale. In contrast to cognitive grammar, which claims iconic motivation for parts of speech, Glynn’s study of the Polish vocabulary of precipitation reveals that iconic motivation cannot explain lexeme-class compositionality in this semantic field.

The introduction by the editors offers an excellent overview of issues in the study of naturalness, especially iconicity. A name index and a subject index complete this book. Iconicity is somewhat better served in this volume, especially as one of the three articles on naturalness (e.g. Formigari) discusses naturalness in a quite different sense than the editors and the other contributors (e.g. Andersen, Blevins). Nevertheless, this is a valuable contribution to the study of iconicity and naturalness, which will also be of interest to nonspecialists.

Mechanisms of language change

Mechanisms of language change: Vowel reduction in 15th century West Frisian. By Arjen P. Versloot. (LOT dissertation series 195.) Utrecht: LOT, 2008. Pp. 368. ISBN 9789078328698. €29,96.

Reviewed by Marc Pierce, University of Texas at Austin

This book, a Groningen dissertation, outlines two models of language change, discussing them in light of data from fifteenth century West Frisian texts. The first model is largely predictive, intended to model vowel reduction as a phonetic process, and focuses on vowels in individual words, rather than on vowels as abstract phonemes. The second model is more speaker-oriented, assigning the speaker the role of evaluating the language of other speakers and in turn estimating other speakers’ reactions to their own speech. Both of these models are rooted in the idea that language is ‘a deterministic dynamic system, governed by self-organisation’ (14). In the author’s view, both of these models are able to predict correctly various types of language change. Fifteenth century West Frisian was chosen as the data source for a number of reasons, ranging from the more pragmatic (a readily accessible electronic corpus is available) to the more philosophical (it exhibits a number of intriguing developments, including open syllable lengthening, syncope, degemination, and various changes in the case and gender system).

This book consists of six chapters: the ‘Introduction’ (1–79), which lays out the parameters of the study; ‘Description of processes’ (81–201), which reviews the developments analyzed in this book; ‘Phonological interpretation’ (203–24), which analyzes the various developments in phonological terms; ‘Late mediaeval Frisian as a tonal language’ (225–56), which draws parallels between the Frisian situation and various tonal Scandinavian dialects and therefore concludes that late medieval Frisian was also tonal; ‘Modelling language change’ (257–94), which returns to the theoretical aspects of the study; and ‘Concluding remarks’ (295–303). The book also contains an extensive list of references, numerous maps, summaries in English and Dutch, and various indices.

There is much to admire in this book. Arjen Versloot has an excellent command of the material and has striven to communicate his grasp of and enthusiasm for the subject to the reader. In some ways, this attempt has been successful: The claim that late medieval Frisian was a tone language, for instance, is thoughtful and carefully-argued, and is rooted in parallels from both the Scandinavian languages and the West Germanic languages (e.g. certain Franconian dialects). In other ways, unfortunately, this book is somewhat less admirable: An excellent dissertation is not always an excellent book, and this volume regrettably falls into that category. Too many ideas are discussed and discarded that should probably have been removed before publication, there are some startling gaps in the bibliography (e.g. there is no reference to Tomas Riad’s work on the development of the Scandinavian accentual system or Willem Visser’s work on the syllable in Frisian), translations from other languages into English are not always completely accurate, and the entire book could have used a careful editing job by a native speaker of English to correct various stylistic and grammatical errors. These objections aside, this book will be of value for those interested in historical linguistics, Germanic linguistics, and Frisian.

Internal reconstruction in Indo-European

Internal reconstruction in Indo-European: Methods, results, and problems. Ed. by Jens Elmegård Rasmussen and Thomas Olander. (Copenhagen studies in Indo-European 3.) Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2009. Pp. 268. ISBN 9788763507851. €47.

Reviewed by Marc Pierce, University of Texas at Austin

This book contains eighteen papers (two in German and the rest in English) originally presented at a section meeting of the XVI International Conference on Historical Linguistics, held in Copenhagen in August 2003. These papers address a broad range of topics, drawing on data from languages like Tocharian, Latin, and Old Irish. As the limitations of this forum preclude a full commentary on and evaluation of all of the papers in this volume, only a few will be discussed here.

Brigitte Bauer discusses ‘Residues as an aid in internal reconstruction’ (17–31) and argues that the use of residues in internal reconstruction will enable researchers to reconstruct earlier stages of proto-languages than internal reconstruction without residues allows. Adam Hyllested’s paper, ‘Internal reconstruction vs. external comparison: The case of the Indo-Uralic laryngeals’ (111–36), is broader in scope, as it looks at data from both Indo-European and Uralic, with an eye to determining the fate of Nostratic laryngeals in these two language families. Jay Jasanoff’s ‘*-bhi, *-bhis, *-ōis: Following the trail of the PIE instrumental plural’ (137–49) first reconstructs *-is as the oldest instrumental plural ending in Proto-Indo-European and then uses this newly-reconstructed ending to account for various other developments in Indo-European (e.g. the Anatolian neuter plural ending –e).

In ‘How many noun suffixes did Proto-Indo-European have?’ (187–204) Birgit Anette Olsen reviews the dizzying array of nominal suffixes that have been reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European and argues that internal reconstruction allows for the reduction of this long list. Finally, in the last paper in this volume, Jens Elmegård Rasmussen poses the question of ‘Internal reconstruction applied to Indo-European: where do we stand?’ (255–68) and offers a state-of-the-art report by way of an answer.

Other papers in this volume include: ‘Genitive and adjective: Primary parts of the Proto-Indo-European language-system’ (73–84) by Sabine Häusler, ‘The range of Tocharian a-umlaut’ (171–79) by Martin Kümmel, ‘The Indo-European long-vowel preterite: New Latin evidence’ (205–12) by Moss Pike, and ‘Die semantische Rekonstruktion von Wortbildungssystemen (am Beispiel von Verbalabstrakta im Germanischen)’ (213–27) by Natalia B. Pimenova.

As noted above, these papers were originally presented orally in 2003. While it is unfortunate that their publication was delayed until 2009, the papers in this volume are almost uniformly interesting and well-argued, giving a valuable snapshot of the use of internal reconstruction in Indo-European linguistics today. Publication values are high; the volume is sturdily-bound and typos are normally minor and self-correcting. However, a few of the papers could have used a careful editing by a native speaker of English.