Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Chinese rime tables

The Chinese rime tables: Linguistic philosophy and historical-comparative phonology. Ed. by David Prager Branner. (Current issues in linguistic theory 271.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006. Pp. viii, 358. ISBN 9789027247858. $180 (Hb).

Reviewed by Jakob Dempsey, Yuan-ze University, Taiwan

This volume combines three main themes: (i) a review of modern scholarly activity related to the medieval rime-tables; (ii) papers discussing early Chinese phonology with reference to rime-table categories; and (iii) papers and appendices focusing on transcription-related issues, including a lengthy treatment of diasystemic transcription systems for Chinese (i.e. systems used to represent more than one dialect or language).

David Branner’s introduction includes instructions on how to use the tables to spell out contemporary (i.e. literary) pronunciations in a given dialect, along with background on the Indian, especially Buddhist, origins of such tabular phonology. The introduction focuses on ‘the contested place in the modern study of Chinese historical phonology’ (12) accorded to the rime-tables. The intentions of the original writers are a central issue: What language were the original rime-table creators trying to represent? How was this methodology used to describe later forms of Chinese? In East Asia, many scholars regard the rime-tables as a guide to the language of the Qiè yùn, but Branner is rightly suspicious (e.g. how would the tables’ creators know the pronunciation of a language spoken several hundred years before their time?) and focuses more on Edwin Pulleyblank’s influential analysis and its problems. The introduction also discusses the word děng, often transcribed as ‘division’, a concept central to the rime-tables. How to phonologically interpret the apparent contrasts among the various divisions has been a matter of dispute for over a century; papers by Abraham Chan, Axel Schuessler, Wen-chao Li, and An-king Lim offer new interpretations, with the latter two invoking influence from Altaic speakers. Two papers by W. South Coblin and one by Branner deal with the medieval and early modern history of rime-table scholarship. Papers by Richard Vanness Simmons and Jerry Norman speak against the common tendency to force modern dialectology into the Procrustean bed of rime-table categories.

The last third of this book demonstrates ways to transcribe and represent the phonological categories of the rime-tables to serve a utilitarian purpose such as a comparison of modern dialects (in another paper by Richard Vanness Simmons), or depicting a phonological system that (according to the paper by Jerry Norman) underlies a majority of modern Chinese dialects. Branner’s paper ‘Some composite phonological systems in Chinese’ covers these issues, and he further offers a large appendix with ten transcription systems for medieval Chinese, including his own neutral transcription system. However, the systems used by Norman and Branner limit themselves to the basic twenty-six letters; years ago this was a practical if not ideal procedure, but now it leads to misleading representations and overly complex formulations that could easily be avoided. What Norman transcribes as *iang may well have been *eŋ; however, the character e is already being used for /ə/. He transcribes as mvan, which resembles no historical development known to this reviewer. A more practical way to merely representing the rime-books’ categories might resemble this reviewer’s long-standing 历代拼音 (lidaipinyin) system, a historical spelling (cf. right-rite-write-wright), which is simply pronounced as modern Standard Chinese.

This book is recommended for its innovative treatment of a topic rarely covered in books outside of China.

A lateral theory of phonology

A lateral theory of phonology: What is CVCV, and why should it be? By Tobias Scheer. (Studies in generative grammar 68.1.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2004. Pp. lix, 854. ISBN 9783110178715. $152 (Hb).

Reviewed by Przemysław Czarnecki, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland

This book is the long awaited product of Tobias Scheer’s fruitful research on various phonological phenomena examined within the framework of the CVCV theory (or, as the title of the book indicates, the lateral theory of phonology [LTP]). Although many of S’s ideas have already been presented in conference talks and published articles, this book will be enthusiastically received, as the phonological community has long needed and looked forward to a compact presentation of the tenets of LTP.

In the theoretical section of this book, S devotes himself entirely to the presentation and defence of the central ideas of LTP. This theory, a direct offshoot of government phonology, breaks dramatically with what are normally considered the cornerstones of most phonological theories. LTP stipulates that phonological organization is in fact extremely simple because it can be reduced to sequences of consonantal and vocalic positions arranged along two theoretical devices: government and licensing. Due to a lack of sufficient space to present even a fraction of the theory’s foundations, and given that part of the book is intended merely as a guide to LTP, the specifics of this theory will not be examined here.

This volume is divided into two main parts: the first clarifies the nature of CVCV, the second attempts to justify the theory and support the premise that CVCV is preferable to other phonological approaches. To this end, S analyzes an impressive amount of data, gathered from such disparate and often unrelated languages as English, German, Czech, Polish, Moroccan Arabic, French, Icelandic, Somali, Italian, Dutch, Brazilian Portuguese, and Tiberian Hebrew, among others. The sheer magnitude of data facilitates a lively discussion of, and solutions to, a wide range of traditional dilemmas within the field of phonology, such as word-initial consonant clusters, vowel and consonant length, syllabification, vowel-zero alternations, empty nuclei as well as weak and strong phonological positions within the syllable. Interestingly, the core of the discussion is framed at every point in reference to broader phonological controversies. With a keen eye as well as persuasive argumentation, S elucidates both the theoretical and empirical weakness of some pivotal positions held within traditional generative phonology (in the spirit of Sound pattern of English, Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle, New York: Harper and Row, 1968), government phonology or optimality theory (criticized for its alleged arbitrariness and tendency to overgeneralize). In widening the scope of discussion, S generates interest and accessibility not only for students of LTP but for every practicing phonologist.

In sum, S has offered an interesting read. As this volume is only the initial installment of a larger book project, vol. 2 will be eagerly anticipated.

Collocaciones en lenguaje periodístico

Collocaciones en lenguaje periodístico: La predicación compleja. By Antonio Álvarez Rodríguez. (LINCOM studies in English linguistics 9.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2006. Pp. 266. ISBN 9783895869839. $78.08.

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, University of Granada, Spain

This book is a study of the verb-noun collocations known as light verb constructions, verb support constructions, and complex predicates. Although these structures have been studied in depth in German—and have experienced some recent popularity in Spanish linguistics—surprisingly few recent studies have been attempted in English. Antonio Álvarez Rodríguez uses a substantial corpus of British newspapers to demonstrate how the use of these verb structures varies across different journalistic genres (e.g. politics, economics, sports). Moreover, the author provides an in-depth study of how morphosyntactic features vary in frequency, versatility, and productivity in both the verb and the noun phrase. A considerable number of tables and graphs illustrate these syntactic characteristics. The author limits himself to the study of seven verbs (do, have, give, make, take, hold, and keep), the first five representing the most frequent support verbs, while the final two verbs, of lower frequency, were selected for their contrastive value.

The literature review in Ch. 1 provides an outline of the general syntactic and semantic characteristics of complex predicates. A diachronic perspective of these structures in Old English enhances the discussion. Subsequently, the coverage given to complex predicates in dictionaries is also reviewed.

Ch. 2 describes the corpus used for this study as well as the system of scanning for the targeted verbs using Microsoft Word.

Ch. 3 is dedicated to the analysis of the verb support and a discussion of the results. Have and make occur extremely frequently, while do, keep, and hold occur only sporadically. As might be expected, the past tense and the nonfinite verb forms predominate, although the passive voice is frequent in the political genre.

Ch. 4 discusses the various noun phrase determiners, beginning with an overview of the different determiner types and their relative frequency. Interestingly, the sports genre makes strong use of possessive and complex determiners.

Ch. 5 describes the different types of noun phrase modifiers and their relative frequency in both the verbs and the different genres. The author considers both pre- and postmodification, covering adjectival, participle, and clausal modification.

Ch. 6 investigates the characteristics of the noun, specifically, the deverbal character of nouns—perhaps the most emblematic aspect of complex predicates. The author notes that, although the English noun and verb may be isomorphic, this is not necessarily a relevant characteristic of these structures in other languages. The nouns, however, certainly tend to be abstract and appear with greater frequency in the singular. Additionally, the occurrence of multiple complex predicates is discussed here—that is, the merging of two structures that share the same support verb (e.g. give help and advice).

The relative frequency of each support verb together with its noun complements is also examined. Some nouns, of course, are able to combine with more than one support verb, and the distribution of nouns across different verbs is also investigated (lead is perhaps the most productive, combining with give, have, hold, keep, and take).

This book is clearly written, logically organized, and easily accessible. The numerous tables and the examples extracted from the corpus ensure an adequate illustration of the phenomena. In sum, this is a worthy contribution to an important area of the English language.

Language in the brain

Language in the brain: Critical assessments. By Fred C. C. Peng. New York: Continuum, 2005. Pp. xix, 322. ISBN 9780826438843. $60.

Reviewed by Susan Windisch Brown, University of Colorado

Recent advances in brain imaging have inspired linguists, psychologists, and neuroscientists to explore more deeply the brain functions involved in language. With this book, Fred Peng attempts to provide these scientists with the information needed from outside their core fields to pursue this task competently. Additionally, P presents his model of language in the brain while exhorting linguists to abandon the nonsensical claim that syntax plays any role in language (229). The book is divided into five main parts: (i) a historical overview of how various fields have defined language and where they went wrong, (ii) a proposal on how to correct scientists’ misunderstanding of language and appropriately redirect their efforts, (iii) a primer on neuroanatomy, (iv) P’s explanation of the brain functions that support language, and (v) an outline of a model of language production and reception.

In the introduction, P argues against language innatism and promotes the importance of neuroanatomy to the analysis of language, warning that without it, linguistics will most likely be renamed pseudo-theology (xvi). The historical overviews of linguistics and semiotics that follow seem largely accurate, although P neglects to mention any theories of functional linguistics or research in psycholinguistics. He concludes this section by describing how medical specialists, including aphasiologists, have grossly obfuscated and misunderstood language (48).

Part 2 proposes a new direction for linguistics, semiotics, and neuroscience that establishes improved communication between these fields. P suggests an extension of Ferdinand de Saussure’s langue/parole distinction that subdivides each into individual and social aspects.

Next, P describes in detail the development of the human nervous system and the parts of the brain. However, this section is peppered with controversial comments presented with no direct engagement with opposing theories. For example, P asserts, ‘communication disorders include autism, dementia, mental retardation [. . .] which are actually none other than various forms of language disorder’ (71). No research is cited to either support or contest this claim.

In Part 4, P fleshes out his theory that language is memory-governed, meaning-centered, and multifaceted. Several widely accepted notions about brain functions are challenged, often by refuting extreme forms of these claims. For example, P explains that the idea of regional specializations in the brain—such as those for language or facial recognition—is based on the view that each is ‘manipulated exclusively by a designated brain structure […] as if other brain functions, such as memory, play no role in these so-called specializations’ (235).

Finally, a model of language production and reception is presented, in which production is achieved by binding concepts to motor images. These then separate so that motor impulses can be sent to the appropriate physical apparatus. Crucial to this model is the notion that proto-meanings are chunked into pieces to match the number of acoustic images they are to be bound to. At the same time, these chunks are lined up in ‘some kind of a vague time axis’ (259). Unfortunately, it is not clear how this chunking, binding, and sequencing is achieved or how it is different from syntax, the existence of which P has repeatedly denied.

This book may be useful to linguists looking for a primer on neuroanatomy, although care would have to be taken to independently identify which descriptions of brain functions are supported by current research in the field. As a resource of linguistic theory for psychologists and neuroscientists, this book neglects to include many theories of interest to those fields. Additionally, P’s strawman techniques and simple dismissals of opposing theories undermine the credibility of his claims. This book does provide, however, important reminders that language and speech are not separate entities, that language requires the use of many parts of the brain, and that the hearer’s reconstructed meaning of an utterance is not exactly the same as the speaker’s intended meaning.

Word sense disambiguation

Word sense disambiguation: Algorithms and applications. Ed. by Eneko Agirre and Philip Edmonds. (Text, speech and language technology, 33.) Dordrecht: Springer, 2006. Pp. xxii, 364. ISBN 9781402068706. $49.95.

Reviewed by Susan Windisch Brown, University of Colorado

Eneko Agirre and Philip Edmonds have done an admirable job of providing a comprehensive look at the natural language processing task of word sense disambiguation (WSD). Rather than gathering papers on individuals’ recent research, the editors have commissioned the top names in the field to present overviews of major issues, methods, and research directions.

The first several chapters establish the context for word sense disambiguation: why it is seen as necessary for natural language processing (NLP) applications, what the parameters of the task are, and how to evaluate a system’s performance. Adam Kilgarriff (29–46) explores the fundamental question of the nature of word senses and the difficulty of establishing a definitive word sense inventory. Nancy Ide and Yorick Wilks (47–74) question the assumption that WSD systems must determine fine-grained sense distinctions. The need to shift to more coarse-grained sense distinctions is echoed by Martha Palmer, Hwee Tou Ng, and Hoa Trang Dang (75–106), within the context of explaining the current methods of WSD evaluation.

Diving into the nuts and bolts of implementing WSD systems, the next three chapters review several broad categories of methodology. Rada Mihalcea (107–32) explores knowledge-based methods, starting with the influential Lesk algorithm and continuing through measures of semantic similarity, selectional restrictions, and heuristic-based methods. Ted Pedersen (133–66) reviews unsupervised corpus-based methods, which he characterizes as ‘knowledge lean’ (134). Supervised corpus-based methods are described by Lluís Màrquez, Gerard Escudero, David Martínez, and German Rigau (167–216), including such algorithms as Naïve Bayes and Support Vector Machines. Each of these chapters covers the history of the approach, state-of-the-art research, and future directions for the methodology. Additionally, the strengths and weaknesses of each approach are explored.

Researchers have hoped to increase the performance of WSD systems with the addition of various linguistic features. Eneko Agirre and Mark Stevenson (217–52) identify and evaluate linguistic knowledge that could be helpful in the task and match these to concrete features available from lexical resources. Given the enormous task of gathering such features by hand, Julio Gonzalo and Felisa Verdejo (253–74) explore methods for automatically acquiring lexical information. Paul Buitelaar, Bernardo Magnini, Carlo Strapparava, and Piek Vossen (275–98) discuss using domain-specific information, such as subject codes or topic signatures.

Philip Resnik (299–338) concludes the book with an excellent discussion of the ultimate goal of creating WSD systems: improvement of actual natural language processing applications. He critiques some of the usual arguments for WSD, asserting that the only true test of WSD is assessing a system’s benefit to actual applications. He describes the level of success in current NLP applications and considers emerging applications and potential reformulations for the WSD task.

Lecturers, researchers, and students will benefit from this well-organized and highly informative book. Whether looking for an introduction to the field, an extension of their knowledge of methods and resources, or insight into future approaches, readers will be satisfied with this book.

Modality in Hindi

Modality in Hindi. By Shlomper Genady. (LINCOM studies in Indo-European linguistics 32.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2005. Pp. 175. ISBN 9783895867699. $103.20 (Hb).

Reviewed by Sharbani Banerji, Ghaziabad, India

Adopting the principles for the classification of modality proposed by Frank Robert Palmer (Mood and modality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), Shlomper Genady details the system of modality in Hindi, supporting his claims at every step with helpful examples. G’s aim is to define the modal resources of Hindi and to detect their interrelations based on semantic classification and nuances. The grammatical tools most often used for expressing modality are mood, modal verbs, modal adjectives, modal adverbials, sentential adverbials, special syntactic constructions, particles, clitics, interjections, conjunctions, parentheticals, word order, and question words. The past and future tenses can also have strong modal connotations. Among these modal devices, moods are broadly interpreted as basic. G divides modality into three subclasses: inherent, deontic, and epistemic, each with primary and secondary expressive means.

This book contains six chapters. In the introduction, Ch. 1 (1–13), G defines modality as ‘a feature of a language that serves for expressing the attitudes and opinions of the speaker to the propositional content of the sentence’ (7). Individual speech is exclusively subjective. For example, whereas The flowers are red and blue expresses a minimum degree of subjectivity, Perhaps they will come tomorrow shows a higher degree of subjective attitude (6–7). Excluded from the analysis is neutral modality, which is a mere statement of fact.

In Ch. 2, ‘Some previous works on modality in Hindi’ (14–20), G points out that not much work has been done on modality in Hindi. Here, G designates cases of the subjunctive for a deontic function as optative and the subjunctive used for an epistemic function as potential. Furthermore, G demonstrates that, although the temporal characteristics of a proposition do not depend on the choice of mood, past indefinites and the future have modal characteristics.

Ch. 3, ‘Inherent modality’ (21–45), discusses the agent-oriented notion of inherent modality, which represents the ability or the desire of an agent to fulfill an action. Ability can be inner/innate, acquired, or circumstantial. Desire can be classified as a wish or an intent. Intention can also have various shades of meaning. The role of tenses in expressing intention is also discussed.

Ch. 4, ‘Deontic modality’ (46–104), deals with possible worlds that are consistent with social regulations and requirements. Deontic modality reflects an attempt by the speaker to influence the addressee’s behavior, known as a directive. Directives are classified into mands, which include commands, demands, requests, and exhortatives, which in turn include invitations and recommendations. Among deontic subordinations are complement, purpose, and relative purpose clauses. Deontics also include permissives and prohibitives.

In Ch. 5, ‘Epistemic modality’ (105–56), G demonstrates that a speaker’s evaluation of reality can be factual or imagined. An imagined state of affairs, can be nonfactual (possible or probable) or counterfactual. Evidential information can be obtained from (i) sensory evidence, (ii) experience or general knowledge, (iii) personal confidence, (iv) reported evidence (i.e. reportatives), or (v) inferential evidence. Guesses include speculatives, deductives, and counterfactuals. Conditional clauses and concessive clauses also fall under the discussion of epistemics.

In Ch. 6, ‘Summary and conclusions’ (157–60), G admits that the correlation of modality with negation and interrogation—the discourse properties of modality—as well as the compatibility of different kinds of modality have been touched upon only lightly.

Europe and the politics of language

Europe and the politics of language: Citizens, migrants and outsiders. By Máiréad Nic Craith. (Palgrave studies in minority languages and communities.) New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Pp. xii, 217. ISBN 9781403918338. $100 (Hb).

Reviewed by Madeleine Adkins, University of California, Santa Barbara

Those interested in language and politics in Europe would be wise to start with Máiréad Nic Craith’s book, Europe and the politics of language. From the historical origins of Europe, to the transnational linguistic communities of nomads, to the vagaries of the European Union’s (EU) policies and practices, this volume provides an overview of language and politics in Europe that covers a generous swath of territory in a relatively slim tome. In its range of chapter topics and its detailed case studies, this book provides a multifaceted overview of the issues, perspectives, and realities of the politics of language in Europe today, in particular, the policy challenges faced by the growing EU.

A whirlwind tour of European history, Ch. 1 (1–19) provides the historical context for the issues, exploring the conceptual perspectives and the political realities of Europe in addition to defining the key issues of inclusion, exclusion, and citizenship. Ch. 2 (20–39) examines the ideologies implicit in the concepts of language and statehood and how these ideas play into the politics of national identity and citizenship.

Ch. 3 (40–56) turns the focus to the EU, examining its official languages and the privileges these languages are accorded as well as the day-to-day realities that often trump their official status. Ch. 4 (57–80) discusses the complex range of linguistic and political situations that lead to a language receiving the inferior status of a minority language within its own country. This chapter also discusses the status of such languages within the EU as well as the various studies, proposals, and efforts of support that the EU and other European agencies have made on the behalf of minority languages.

In Ch. 5 (81–105), the author explores the issues unique to languages that are spoken in two or more nation states and provides examples of the challenges and accomplishments of cross-national efforts to support language groups. The challenges and realities of language varieties that have not been accorded recognition as languages are explored in Ch. 6 (106–25). Ch. 7 (126–46) rounds out the discussion of language within Europe, examining the unique challenges of people who have lived on the continent as nomads of one sort or another and are therefore lacking historic ties between their languages and specific territories.

Ch. 8 (147–67) lays out globalization as an issue in modern Europe by exploring the linguistic status, within Europe and the EU, of the languages of non-European immigrants. Ch. 9 (168–87) concludes the book with an evaluation of EU language policy, a discussion of the underlying challenges of the conflicting definitions of linguistic equality, and recommendations for future directions in language policy for Europe.

One of the highlights of the book is the author’s use of case studies and examples to illustrate the key issues. By focusing on specific linguistic cases, she illustrates her points and provides in-depth examples. However, given the length of the book, the author does not (and cannot) provide an exhaustive coverage of the topic; those readers who are seeking information on a particular language and its community within Europe, or on a particular language issue, may or may not find what they are looking for. This book should be viewed as an introduction to the broader issues, with occasional detailed analyses. It should also be used as a point of departure for more detailed study of specific language issues, and its generous bibliography is a useful reference for this purpose.

Given the book’s breadth, linguists may find that some statements about particular languages or linguistic analyses seem to be either misleading or simplifications. This is perhaps inevitable, in light of the fact that the book covers a wide range of topics and that its target audience is quite diverse.

For those new to the sizeable collection of abbreviations used to refer to European governmental bodies and their documents and declarations, the free usage of such abbreviations in the text can be disconcerting and confusing at times; however, the author provides a website list that will be an invaluable reference for those seeking clarification.

The author positions her book as a call to academic institutions for a greater focus on the issues of language policy as a means to improve the status of minority and immigrant languages and their communities. By laying out the many complex language policy issues faced by the EU, the author succeeds in demonstrating the varied—and extremely difficult—challenges for language communities and political leadership in Europe.

Split possession

Split possession: An areal-linguistic study of the alienability correlation and related phenomena in the languages of Europe. By Thomas Stolz, Sonja Kettler, Cornelia Stroh, and Aina Urdze. (Studies in language companion series 101.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2008. Pp. x, 546. ISBN 978902720568. $195 (Hb).

Reviewed by Giorgio Iemmolo, University of Pavia

This book  is a valuable typological-funtionalist insight into the domain of possession. It reveals new facts about possession in European languages to linguists interested in typology, areal linguistics, and language universals.

The authors focus on the existence of possession splits in European languages, which are usually considered to lack this feature. Therefore, the authors dispute Johanna Nichols’ (1992) position (among others) that European languages do not allow possession splits.

Possession splits can be realized not only with overt marking, as observed in many non-European languages, but also by means of a variety of factors that affect obligatoriness, such as the systematical blocking of overt marking in a particular context.

The results from the fifty language sample demonstrate that possession splits are caused by both genetic and geographical factors, even though these criteria do not sufficiently explain the phenomenon. The areal distribution of posession splits reflects the European isogloss in which the core (i.e. Standard Average European) represents an innovative pattern that lacks split possession. Additionally, European languages show a general tendency to realize pronominal possession splits in cases in which at least two syntactic areas are subject to split possession. However, in cases in which a pronominal split is not allowed, a general dispreference for the splits to occur at the same time in genitive and predicative constructions has been demonstrated.

European languages show similarities in the distribution of splits—that is, in pronominal possession the split occurs between kinship terms and body-part posession, whereas in predicative possession the split divides psycho-mental states from other concepts. Additionally, languages differ according to the number of splits allowed in any syntactic area. Accordingly, polysplits are predominantly found in pronominal possession, expecially in languages spoken in the Northwest and  the Southeast of Europe.

Furthermore, the authors demonstrate that the kind of possession splits that affect European languages are determined  by inalienability in only a few cases, whereas the majority of splits are brought about by other semantic distinctions such as the reference to the ego. Nevertheless, the role played by semantic factors in defining the occurrence of possession splits is narrowed by the presence of other stronger factors governed by syntax and pragmatics (e.g. definiteness, animacy, time individuation, syntactic weight), whereas typological parameters do not rule possession splits.

Possession splits are determined by three parameters—namely, the possessor, the possessee, and the relationship between them. This tripartition is a useful tool for classifying the types of splits found in language. Accordingly, splits determined by the possessor are strongly bound to empathy, whereas possessee-determined splits rely on the control of the possessor over the possessee. Finally, the possession splits triggered by the relation itself are ruled by time and manner distinctions.


Nichols, Johanna. 1992. Linguistic diversity in space and time. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Origins: An etymological dictionary of modern English

Origins: An etymological dictionary of modern English. 4th edn. By Eric Partridge. New York: Routledge, 2009. Pp. 972. ISBN 9780415474337. $79.95.

Reviewed by Peter Freeouf, Chiang Mai University

Now available to new generations of readers and lovers of the history and etymology of English, this paperback reprint of a dictionary that first appeared in 1958 (a reproduction of the fourth edition from 1966) will be a source of information for scholars and students for decades to come.

This edition begins with a forward by Philip Howard, which is a tribute to Eric Partridge’s career of more than five decades as an independent scholar who researched and wrote his numerous scholarly works in the reading-room of the British Museum. The subsequent sections include a short preface, directions on how to use the dictionary; a list of abbreviations; the dictionary, which makes up  the bulk of the volume (1–819); a short commentary (820–21), which is a list of notes to twenty-nine of the entries in the dictionary; ‘A list of prefixes’ (822–34); ‘A list of suffixes’ (835–66); ‘A list of learned compound-forming elements’ (867–970); and finally ‘Addenda to dictionary’ (970–72).

P states in the preface that his intent is to provide etymological information on ‘non-specialized words […] the 10,000 or so used by every intelligent person’ (xii). Separate lists catalogue the recurrent prefixes and suffixes that are part of English word-forming processes. Their origins and comparative forms in other languages are provided as well, along with examples. A striking feature of this dictionary is the wealth of literary and historical linguistic references in the main body of the work. For instance, in the entry for man, there are references to Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus (Germania), to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and to Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (Zarathustra, which we are informed ‘appeared in 1883-85’ [375]). In the commentary, a note on the form am provides references to the Oxford English Dictionary, Eduard Prokosch’s Comparative Germanic grammar (1939, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), and to Verner’s Law (820). An interesting illustration of the depth and range of P’s scholarship is his citation for the suffix -er. There are seventeen separate entries for this suffix, which is not surprising upon examination of the entries on its complex origins and meanings (845).

The section on ‘Learned compound-forming elements’ provides similar information on the (primarily) Greek and Latin roots and stems used in English to form scientific and scholarly words that do not appear in the body of the dictionary but can assist in deciphering  the meaning of a ‘vast number of erudite terms’ (867). Common well-known roots and stems, for instance -onym, -onyma, -onymic, -onymous, -onymy are listed with a brief summary of origin and representative examples in English usage (924). Roots and stems that are less widely known and used are also listed, such as leio-/-lio, from Greek leios ‘smooth’, used in leiodermatous ‘smooth-skinned’ (909), a word which admittedly may not be often needed but is nice to know that it exists. A number of common compounding prefixes and suffixes are included in this section on elements, such as bi-, hemi-, -fer, and -scope, which have more or less specific lexical meanings in addition to their morphological word-forming functions.

In short, this dictionary is a delight to explore at leisure, wandering from one entry to another, or to use for the more directed pursuit of discovering a word’s origin.

Gramática de la lengua guaymí (ngäbe)

Gramática de la lengua guaymí (ngäbe). By Miguel Angel Quesada Pacheco. (Languages of the world/materials 474.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2008. Pp. 190. ISBN 9783895861239. $90 (Hb).

Reviewed by Peter Freeouf, Chiang Mai University

Guaymi, a member of the Chibcha family, is spoken natively by around 165,000 people in Panama and by another 2,500 in neighboring Costa Rica. The data for this grammar was collected from one village in the district of San Felix de Chiriqui in Panama.

Following a short introduction, which provides a brief summary of the basic ethnographic details of the Guaymi-speaking community and of previous studies of this language, the book is divided into four sections: phonology, nominal morphology, verbal morphology, and syntax. A three-page bibliography completes the volume. Numerous tables and charts throughout this book provide convenient overviews and summaries of the basic facts of the phonology, morphology, and syntax of Guaymi.

The discussion of phonology (23–48) includes a delineation of the segmental phonemes. Guaymi has a rich vowel system, which consists of eight oral and eight nasal vowels as well as several diphthongs. Morphologically conditioned vowel harmony is a prominent feature of this language, and word stress is phonemic. The author maintains that lexical tone is not a phonemic feature of the language, contrary to what earlier studies have suggested.

The chapter on nominal morphology (49–98) discusses word classes such as nouns, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, postpositions, and quantifiers. Interrogative and negative particles are also included here. Plurality may be indicated by the particle tre, but this overt marker is omitted when other quantifying words are present. Nouns are divided into fifteen semantically-based classes, each of which has a specific classifier to which cardinal numerals are suffixed. These classifiers are used only to enumerate entities. An interrogative suffix, –bi, can also be added to the base forms of classifiers to form interrogative quantifiers (e.g. ‘how much’, ‘how many’). These classifiers, with a suffixed numeral or interrogative particle, occur to the right of the noun.

The section on verbal morphology (99–145) discusses the formal features of the verb system. The Guaymi verb lacks morphological marking of person. Plurality can be optionally indicated by the use of the plural particle tre, which occurs to the right of the verb. Verb forms are categorized along two intersecting axes: realis/irrealis and tense. The realis includes events that the speaker considers as realized or as in the process of being realized. The irrealis indicates events that may potentially be realized. The realis and irrealis categories are further divided in terms of time: atemporal (i.e. indefinite time and aspect) and temporal. In the realis category, the temporal forms include the recent past tense, the remote past tense, the perfect tense, and the testimonial past tense. The irrealis includes an immediate future tense and a remote future tense. Lexical verbs are divided into three classes, or conjugations, based on the form of the indefinite realis.

The section on verbal morphology also discusses the relative frequency of the various verb forms in a narrative corpus gathered by the author. Together, the recent past and the indefinite realis account for over two thirds of all verb forms that occur in the corpus. Other topics in this section include verb derivation, verb compounds, passives and mediopassives, Aktionsart (modality), subjectless verbs, copulative verbs, intransitive verbs, and verbs with dative subjects (i.e. experiencer or beneficiary subjects).

The section on syntax (147–85) concludes the grammar. Word order is underlyingly subject-object-verb, with noun phrases characterized by adjectives that occur to the right of nouns (NA) and demonstratives that occur to the right of nouns and adjectives (NA Dem) as well as to the right of nouns and numerals (N Num Dem). Guaymi follows an ergative-absolutive pattern. The author, however, characterizes this ergativity as ‘restricted’ (160) because verbs of perception (as well as some others) take dative subjects. Coordination and clausal subordination are discussed in the final section of this chapter.

This book is a detailed and well-organized descriptive grammar of Guaymi. Providing a wealth of examples, it is well-written and easy to follow, with a minimum of theoretical jargon.