Monthly Archives: April 2010

Forensic linguistics

Forensic linguistics: An introduction to the study of language and the law (Linguistics edition 71.) By Farinde Raifu Olanrewaju. Munich: Lincom Europa, 2009. Pp. 313. ISBN 9783895861925. €74.

Reviewed by Mark J. Elson, University of Virginia

Although there is no indication of it in the title, in addition to being an introduction to forensic linguistics, this book is a case study of the use of English as the legal language of Nigeria—that is, the language of the Nigerian court. The linguistic focus of the book includes speech acts, discourse, and syntax, with an emphasis on questions; the nonlinguistic focus appears to be power and the role language plays in instantiating and maintaining an inherently unequal relationship between representatives of the law in various forensic contexts (e.g. the courtroom) and defendants (i.e. those suspected or accused of illegal activities). Each context, as it interacts with power and/or language, may be viewed as a domain of forensic linguistics. This book is comprised of ten chapters (7–163) followed by six additional units (164–303) and concludes with a list of references (304–13).

Ch. 1 introduces the domains of forensic linguistics (e.g. legal interpreting, courtroom interaction, child witnesses, speaker identification) and provides a preliminary survey of the relevant literature. Ch. 2 introduces the nonlinguistic focus, power and asymmetrical relationships, and discusses these concepts with respect to forensic (e.g. suspect interrogation) as well as nonforensic (e.g. casual conversation, family discourse) domains.

Chs. 3, 6, and 9 present details of the Nigerian legal system. Ch. 3 concentrates on the police force, Ch. 6 on the law and issues of power in the Nigerian courtroom, and Ch. 9 on interpreting and the role of English as an instrument of power with respect to the indigenous languages of the country, the most important of which are Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba.

Chs. 5 and 8 concentrate on questions as instruments of power, with Ch. 8 providing different typologies of questions. Chs. 4 and 7 treat power in the courtroom and other contexts more generally. The book concludes with Ch. 10, which surveys speech acts.

This book has two weaknesses. The first weakness is its somewhat inconvenient organization: the components of the discussion, which I identified above as the linguistic and nonlinguistic foci, are nowhere specified as such. The relevant facts about the Nigerian legal system and the discussion of power are the contents of nonconsecutive chapters, as is the discussion of questions. The basics of pragmatics are provided in the final chapter, rather than the first chapter, as would be expected. Finally, much of the author’s original contribution is not highlighted in the central part of the book but instead is relegated to a subsidiary position. A second weakness of this book is the author’s English, which is inadequately edited. As a result, errors are relatively frequent.

Despite these weaknesses, I found this to be a valuable book: the analyses are especially interesting as is the case study of English as the legal language in a multilingual country in which English is not one of the indigenous languages. Although these shortcomings do not detract from its contribution they make the book more difficult to appreciate.

A grammar of Toqabaqita

A grammar of Toqabaqita. 2 vols. By Frantisek Lichtenberk. (Mouton grammar library 42.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2008. Pp. 1356. ISBN 9783110195873. $158 (Hb).

Reviewed by Peter Freeouf, Chiang Mai University

This is a massive and detailed two hardback volume grammar of Toqabaqita, which is spoken by around 12,500 people at the northern end of Malaita Island in the central Solomon Islands. Toqabaqita is a member of the Southeast Solomonic branch of Oceanic, a subgroup of the widespread Austronesian family. Toqabaqita shares a number of the characteristic phonological and morphosyntactic features common to many Oceanic languages. These features include a relatively simple phonological system; a complex pronominal system, with an inclusive/exclusive distinction in the nonsingular first person pronominals; three numbers  (i.e. singular, dual, plural) in all three persons; obligatory expression of alienable and inalienable possession; object-indexing suffixes with transitive verbs; and a complex system of subject markers fused with markers of nonfuture tense, future tense with imperfective aspect, sequentiality, negation, and dehortative markers, each with a distinct paradigm of forms (143–44).

The grammar consists of forty chapters and an appendix (1331–45) that contains two recorded, interlinearly glossed texts with translation. The grammar contains twenty tables, three maps, and two charts showing the genetic relationship of Toqabaqita. Vol. 1 contains Chs. 1–14, which consists of a brief overview of the language and its genetic affiliation. This is followed by Ch. 2, ‘Phonology’, which contains a comprehensive survey of the phoneme inventory, phonological processes, and orthographic conventions used in the grammar. Ch 3, ‘Grammatical profile’, provides a short overview of the principal morphosyntactic patterns and word classes. The remaining chapters in vol. 1 examine the verbal morphology (Chs. 4–5), nominal morphology and noun phrases, including pronominals (Chs. 6–9), prepositional phrases (Ch. 10), coordination of noun and prepositional phrases (Ch. 11), nominal and verbal compounding (Ch. 12), demonstratives (Ch. 13), and ‘Constructions with inclusory pronominals’ (Ch. 14).

Vol. 2 consists of chapters 15–40. ‘Tense and aspect’ are dealt with in Ch. 15, the function of subject markers in Ch. 16, ‘Negation’ in Ch. 17, ‘Mood’ in Ch. 18, ‘Interrogatives’ in Ch. 19, and ‘Imperatives’ in Ch. 20. The following chapters (Chs. 21–39) explore various morphosyntactic issues, including clausal syntax. Ch. 40, the final chapter, describes the sociolinguistic relationship between Toqabaqita, Solomon Islands Pijin, and English. Each volume has a short section of notes at or near the end of the volume. References (1333–43) and a detailed grammar topic index (1345–56) complete vol. 2.

As an example of the linguistic detail characteristic of the work, this grammar presents an interesting discussion of whether the possible consonants that form the first sound of the short and long transitive suffixes are best analyzed as part of the underlying stem, as a feature of a conjugation, or, as the author proposes, are best understood with a morpho-lexemic analysis, in which the initial consonants of the transitive suffixes are analyzed as separate but ‘semantically empty’ morphs (90–97).

This grammar must be one of the most comprehensive and detailed grammars ever written for an Austronesian language. It is truly monumental in scope and depth and is written lucidly in the contemporary style of language description without a heavy theoretical orientation. As such, it will be very accessible and useful to linguists with various interests.

Daughters of Esperanto

Daughters of Esperanto. By Alan Reed Libert. (Languages of the world 33.) Munich: LINCOM Europa. 2008. Pp. 166. ISBN 9783895867484. $87.70.

Reviewed by Peter Freeouf, Chiang Mai University

This volume presents an overview of thirty constructed (i.e. artificial) languages that are based on or derived from Esperanto. The best known of these is Ido. Many of the other languages have not achieved much recognition or attention. Most, if not all, of these languages are seen by their authors as reformed or improved versions of Esperanto, which was originally proposed and developed as an international language. Here, Alan Libert surveys various proposals that have appeared over the past 100 years, the earliest of which date from the first decade of the twentieth century (e.g. Reformed Esperanto in 1902 and 1907, Perio in 1904, and Ido in 1907). Esperanto itself dates from Ludwig Zamenhoff’s first publication in 1887, after which a movement to propagate it as the international—or world auxiliary—language rapidly developed, especially in Europe. However, from early on there was occasional dissension in the ranks of Esperantists, and out of this dissatisfaction with particular aspects of Esperanto new proposals for a successor began to appear. The past decade has witnessed a proliferation of such proposals thanks to the widespread access and availability of the Internet.

L’s study, which assumes the ability to read Esperanto (quotes in Esperanto are not translated into English) is divided into five parts. The introduction (1–19) introduces the thirty proposed languages and provides a short account of the sources for each one. Several of the names of these languages are interesting in themselves: Arlipo, Ekselsioro, Farlingo, Hom-Idyomo, Linguna, Olingo, Virgoranto, and my favorite, Snifferanto, which, as Libert points out, is a serious proposal despite its name.

The following chapter, ‘Phonetics and phonology’ (21–39), deals primarily with the various orthographies and their proposed sound values. Ch. 3, ‘Lexicon’ (41–57), discusses the sources of the vocabulary of the proposed languages. The vocabulary of Esperanto is based almost exclusively on Romance and Germanic languages, with a smattering of Slavic and Greek. Some of the languages discussed here have expanded the Latinate portion of their vocabulary. Several tables provide comparative lists of words in a number of the languages to their counterparts in Esperanto.

The longest chapter in this book is Ch. 4, ‘Morphology’ (59–153). One morphological feature in Esperanto is that the direct object is obligatorily marked by the suffix –n on nouns, pronouns, and nominal modifiers but not on the definite article or on cardinal numerals. Noun-modifier agreement is also marked by the plural suffix -j on attributive and predicative modifiers. Similar to Esperanto, some of the proposed languages mark the accusative, others do not. In two or three of these languages this marking is apparently optional. One of the languages, Linguna, has expanded the system of case forms to seven distinctly marked cases. The issue of noun and modifier agreement (i.e. case and number) is resolved in differing ways in the languages discussed here.

The final chapter, ‘Semantics’ (155–57), is the shortest and deals very briefly with homonyms, synonyms, and idioms. The book concludes with an extensive list of references (159–66), which will be of use to those who wish to search out the sources of the proposed languages. Many of these sources are websites that are immediately accessible.

Constructed, artificial languages have often been neglected by linguists. L is an exception to this rule. As a linguist, he treats all of these proposals with respect and seriousness. However, it is not difficult to imagine the exasperation he must feel at the deficiencies in competent linguistic analyses and even logical coherence demonstrated by some of these languages. This comes across when he makes such comments as: ‘Given this, I do not understand why […]’ (37), ‘It is not clear to me what it means’ (43), ‘It is not clear to me what the difference between “indefinite” and “completely indefinite” is’ (91), ‘One might be surprised at these examples […]’ (108), ‘Presumably this is an error […]’ (140), and ‘I am uncertain of the meaning of occase here’ (153). However, most of these expressions of puzzlement or incomprehension are discreetly put in footnotes. Even more telling are many of the numerous quotes from several of the proposals themselves.

L is to be commended for dealing with these proposals in an objective manner. Constructed, artificial languages, including the well-established Esperanto and its unrelated predecessor, Volapuk, deserve serious scholarly treatment. They are, after all, examples of human language. And to quote Roman Jakobson’s version of Terence’s famous saying: ‘linguista sum, linguistici nihil a me alienum puto.’ (I am a linguist; I consider nothing linguistic foreign to me.)

Text, discourse and corpora: Theory and analysis

Text, discourse and corpora: Theory and analysis. By Michael Hoey, Michaela Mahlberg, Michael Stubbs, and Wolfgang Teubert. New York: Continuum, 2008. Pp. 253. ISBN 9780826491718. $150 (Hb).

Reviewed by Sandra Becker, São Carlos, SP, Brazil

Empirical linguistics the center of Text, discourse and corpora: Theory and analysis. It is discussed on a new level because the interpretation and data analysis were carried out using cutting edge protocols. Books as brave, instructive, and graceful as this do not spring from idle natures. The papers gathered here are from an event that took place at The Tuscan Word Centre, at the University of Saarbrücken in 2004, when attention was turned to corpus linguistics on Teachers’ Day. It is clear that the provocative and stimulating talks given and the participants’ contributions greatly influenced this eloquent and enriching volume.

This book presents eight well-organized and compellingly written chapters that mingle case studies with valuable accounts of language theory and research. Each author contributed two articles, and John Sinclair provides a brilliant introduction.

To demonstrate how literary creativity may be handled and described through a corpus-based theory, Michael Hoey examines fragments of three literary texts in Ch. 1. He explains that we are primed to recognize and replicate a number of language phenomena. Before exploring literary language, H highlights the uniqueness of lexical priming, demonstrating how priming cannot be directly inferred from the corpus evidence. He also suggests that every genre, style, domain, and social situation in which a word occurs is part of the priming process. H’s second contribution uses concrete evidence to investigate the relationship between lexis and grammar. H considers grammar to be a product of priming and cites the numeral system as well as data from books written for very young children as evidence.

Ch. 3 addresses the social dimensions of discourse. After analyzing discourse as Michel Foucault understands it—and showing how controversial it can be—Wolfgang Teubert discusses his own view of discourse, which allows the researcher to define the parameters that build the singularity and complexity of discourse analysis. T then turns his attention to hermeneutics and its impact on what he calls parole-linguistics. In his second contribution, Ch. 4, T presents a case study that illustrates a work grounded in parole-linguistics. Because diachronic corpus linguistics is less interested in regularities—and has its focus turned to the socially constructed change that discourse objects undergo—T analyzes the meaning of work and property within Catholic social encyclicals from a social constructivist perspective, based on the hermeneutical approach described in Ch. 3.

Ch. 5 returns to the classroom, as Michael Stubbs discusses his views on Ferdinand De Saussure, René Decartes, David Hume, Leonard Bloomfield, Eugene Halliday, John Searle, and Karl Popper’s distinct ways of understanding language. This section is remarkably instructive. S explores the rationalist deductive and the empiricist inductive views of language and describes how corpus studies may benefit from the use of concordance tools. In Ch. 6, S illustrates how quantitative data can help to identify phrasal constructions in the language system.

Michaela Mahlberg offers a resonant account of the relationship between lexis and text in Ch. 7. She explores how meanings can be analyzed through concordance lines and textual features. By focusing on corpus stylistics in Ch. 8, M succeeds in showing a complex network of clusters in literary texts. These clusters are mapped, and their functions are explored.

This compelling book leaves no stone unturned in addressing a variety of methods for the empirical observation of data. Students, academics, and researchers will benefit greatly by reading this work about the field of empirical linguistics.

Studies in voice and transitivity (Estudios de voz y transitividad)

Studies in voice and transitivity (Estudios de voz y transitividad). Ed. by Zarina Estrada Fernández, Søren Wichmann, Claudine Chamoreau, and Albert Álvarez González. (Studies in theoretical linguistics 39.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2007. Pp. 242. ISBN 9783895861000. $135.20 (Hb).

Reviewed by Giorgio Iemmolo, University of Pavia.

This collection of papers deals with valency changing devices, such as passivization, causativization, and antipassivization, from both theoretical and empirical perspectives. The volume is divided into two parts. Part 1, which consists of three papers, is devoted to general issues of passives. Part 2 examines a number of case studies in individual languages or groups of languages that mainly belong to the Uto-Aztecan family.

In the first paper appropriately entitled ‘What is a passive?’, Bernard Comrie provides some parameters, such as markedness and agent- versus patient-orientation, for determining a passive prototype as a morphosyntactic category.

The second paper, by Talmy Givón, ‘On the relational properties of passive clauses: A diachronic perspective’ convincingly discusses the sources of the grammaticalization of passive clauses and shows that the similarities between the relational properties of passive clauses and their sources are motivated by a functional overlap between the different constructions.

Søren Wichmann, ‘Valency-reduction in event-oriented languages’, discusses valency-decreasing strategies based on semantically aligned languages (i.e. active-stative). Wichmann introduces the concepts of event- and participant-orientation to account for the rarity of passives in semantically aligned languages: in his analysis, these languages exhibit a strong tendency towards event-orientation, since argument structure is also primarily event-oriented.

Part 2, ‘Case studies in Uto-Aztecan and other languages’, begins with ‘Participios estativos en yaqui y mecanismos de detransitivización’ in which Albert Álvarez González analyzes the morphology and syntax of stative participles in Yaqui, a Uto-Aztecan language. Specifically, he examines their derivation mechanisms and the syntax of the stative/resultative constructions in which stative participles can be used. Finally, these constructions and other valency-decreasing devices (e.g. the passive) are compared and three different kinds of passive constructions are identified in Yaqui.

In ‘Antipasivas en español: Forma y función’, Sergio Bogard argues for the presence of antipassive constructions in Spanish in which the direct object is suppressed and the verb becomes intransitive. Bogard considers instances of antipassive predicates that express atelic activity, such as Maria cultivó flores ‘Maria grew flowers’.

The paper by Marisa Censabella, ‘Derivación causativa en toba’, provides an analysis of causativity in the Guacaran language Toba. Censabella identifies seven types of causative constructions, describing them with reference to semantics (e.g. direct vs. indirect causation), morphological productivity, and grammaticalization.

In ‘Looking for a new participant: The Purepecha passive’, Claudine Chamoreau focuses on the passive in the isolate language Purepecha. Chamoreau compares the morphosyntactic properties of passive and active subjects and studies strategies used to introduce a new participant in passive constructions.

The paper by Zarina Estrada Fernández, ‘The interplay of the causative and the applicative in sociative causation’, discusses causative and applicative strategies in the Uto-Aztecan language Pima Bajo. She describes the use of the causative and applicative morphemes in direct and sociative causative situations, showing some interesting features of the sociative causation.

In ‘The passive in the Taracahitic languages Yaqui, Warihio and Tarahumara’, Rolando Félix Armendáriz describes, based on Givón’s approach, passives in three closely related Uto-Aztecan languages: Yaqui, Warihio, and Tarahumara. He shows the differences and the similarities of the different types of passive found in these languages.

Ana Fernández Garay, ‘La voz media en la lengua mapuche’, discusses middle verbs in Mapudungun, especially those borrowed from Spanish. Middle verbs are marked by the same suffix of passive and reciprocal. The author demonstrates, through an analysis of old dictionaries, that the middle meaning of the suffix did not occur prior to the twentieth century.

The last paper, by Lilián Guerrero, ‘Yaqui causation: Its form-function interface’, describes in detail the morphosyntactic means and the semantic differences of the causative constructions in the Uto-Aztecan language Yaqui in the framework of role and reference grammar.

This rich collection of papers is informative and full of details from both a theoretical and a typological point of view. It will be of great value to researchers who are interested in valency-changing mechanisms, transitivity, and detailed analyses of Uto-Aztecan languages.

Modern Russian grammar

Modern Russian grammar: A practical guide. By John Dunne and Shamil Khairiv. New York: Routledge, 2009. Pp. 469. ISBN 9780415397506. $33.95.

Reviewed by Peter Freeouf, Chiang Mai University

This detailed, densely packed reference grammar of contemporary standard Russian is appropriate for advanced students as well as for general readers and linguists looking for information about how Russian morphology and syntax are actually used. Numerous realistic example sentences that reflect contemporary life are provided to illustrate grammatical and syntactic points.

The introduction (xi–xii) is followed by a section on how to use the book (xiii–xiv) and a glossary of grammatical terms (xv–xx), which will be useful for those not familiar with basic linguistic terminology.

The grammar is divided into two parts: ‘Structures’ and ‘Functions.’ ‘Part A: Structures’ (3–255) has eleven chapters that cover the sounds and the writing system, word classes, inflectional morphology, and syntax. The spelling system and pronunciation as well as issues such as the standard transliteration used by the Library of Congress are presented in detail in Ch. 1, ‘Sounds and spelling’. Ch. 2, ‘Nouns’, discusses gender and provides reference lists and paradigm charts. Ch. 3 deals with nominal ‘Case’. Verb conjugations are the subject of Ch. 4, ‘Verbs’, and the topic of verb aspect is treated in detail in Ch. 5, ‘Aspects of the verb’. The following three chapters examine ‘Adjectives’ (Ch. 6), ‘Pronouns’ (Ch. 7), and ‘Numerals and other quantity words’ (Ch. 8). Ch. 9, ‘Uninflected parts of speech’, includes adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and sentence particles. ‘Word formation’ (Ch. 10) discusses the formation of nouns and adjectives as well as the usage and semantics of verb prefixes. The final chapter of the first part of the book, Ch. 11, examines agreement in the noun phrase as well as subject-verb agreement.

‘Part B: Functions’ (257–459) contains twelve chapters that deal with communicative functions and various syntactic topics of language usage. Ch. 12, ‘Establishing identity’, discusses the complex matter of Russian names, especially patronymics and surnames; ways of discussing a person’s age; asking and giving directions; postal addresses; official registration; nationality; occupation; and marital status. Ch. 13, ‘Establishing contact’, is on greetings, leave-taking, introductions, letter-writing, and talking on the telephone. The next two chapters, Chs. 14 and 15, cover expressions of ‘Being, becoming and possession’ and ‘Negation’. Ch. 16 provides a useful summary of the linguistic expression of attitude and opinion. Ch. 17 examines interrogative sentences of various types. Ch. 18 focuses on ‘Obligation, instructions, requests, advice and permission’. Ch. 19, ‘Using numbers; talking about times, dates and quantities’, is the functional counterpart to Ch. 8, ‘Numerals and other quantity words’. Ch. 20, ‘Focus and emphasis’, discusses word order, the use of active and passive verbs, and definiteness and indefiniteness. Ch. 21, ‘Establishing contexts and connections’, deals with expressing time and place at the phrase and clause level, conditions and concessions, and other adverbial clauses. Ch. 22 is on verbs of motion, a difficult and complex area of Russian grammar for English speakers. The final chapter, ‘Communication strategies’, deals with formal and informal language usage and discourse expressions. The book concludes with an index that lists topics in English (461–67) and a smaller number in Russian (467–69).

The division into structures and functions is an innovative approach that represents modern developments in second-language textbooks, hence the doubly appropriate use of the word modern in the title. This is a comprehensive reference grammar, which goes beyond traditional presentations of the complex morphology and syntax of Russian. It is excellent in every respect, up-to-date, and packed full of information in a very clear and reader-friendly format.

Second language learning and language teaching

Second language learning and language teaching. 4th edn. By Vivian Cook. London: Hodder Education, 2008. Pp. 306. ISBN 978-0-340-95876-6. £19.99.

Reviewed by Sandra Becker, São Carlos, SP, Brazil

Although recent years have witnessed an exponential growth in the literature on second language teaching and learning, Vivian Cook’s investigations remain an important source of research on this field.

The organization of this book should be applauded. First, each chapter establishes questions that will be addressed. Each chapter is then divided into two equally important sections: discussion topics, in which new specific questions are proposed and theses are considered, and further reading in which websites, articles, and books on the topic are listed. Some chapters also contain sections such as answers to questions, glosses, grammatical terms, and keywords. Another remarkable feature is the extensive website linked to the ideas and contributions, which can help foster a relationship between the reader and the topics discussed.

This book contains thirteen chapters that offer well-prepared summaries of the field and related applications. The sections that deal with language learning are particularly illuminating, which makes the reading even more compelling. Ch. 1 focuses on the general background of language acquisition research and language teaching. Since this book is concerned with how people acquire second languages and, consequently, with second language acquisition research, applied linguistics is focused on. Beliefs and myths are briefly discussed, which provides an introduction for more in-depth issues.

Ch. 2 addresses distinct types of grammar. Controversial subjects are debated, shedding light to what should be taught and how effective different teaching approaches can be. Special attention is given to the role of explicit grammar in language teaching.

Semantics is the concern of Ch. 3. Learning new words consists of developing vocabulary strategies and organizing the words into groups in our minds. Memory systems, previous knowledge, and deductions are some of the aspects considered as the meaning of a word is acquired.

Phonology and phonetics are the focus of Ch. 4. According to the author, ‘Learning to pronounce a second language means building up new pronunciation habits and overcoming the bias of the first language’ (70). The complexity of this process is illustrated by the stages learners go through. The role of transfer from one language to another in acquiring pronunciation and the controversies around teaching intonation are also discussed in Ch. 4.

Ch. 5 explores writing systems in a discussion of punctuation, spelling, and different learning techniques. Curious learning strategies are reported, such as those that involve distinct alphabets, scripts, or meaning and sound based writing systems. However, C does not discuss her perspective when it comes to writing as whole. It would be interesting to learn her opinion about writing essays, articles, text organization, and the second language learning research on this topic.

The spotlight turns to specific aspects of the learner and the learning processes in Ch. 6. When it comes to investigating learning strategies, one of the primary difficulties is methodological. Misinterpretations and subconscious language behavior may limit investigative methods. Learning about students’ minds is an ambitious endeavor, and Ch. 6 looks at cognition with a magnifying lens.

Effective reading relies on mastering certain abilities that can be explained by schema and script theories, which are discussed in Ch. 7. Here the roles of background knowledge, memory, and script in reading are explored in detail. When the focus turns to listening, bottom-up and top-down strategies are discussed. Because scripts and schemas are equally involved in listening, a brief debate on cognition also takes place here. Reflections on teaching reading and listening close this chapter.

Ch. 8 attempts to answer why some students learn almost effortlessly and others struggle to learn at all. The many facets and roles of motivation are also explored, as is aptitude, another controversial issue. Different abilities and the role of age and personality traces on second language learning are also described in this chapter.

Ch. 9 compares the classroom environment and the so-called real word. The language used in both contexts seems to have differences that may promote or compromise the learning process on some levels. C provides information on how teachers can profit from conversation analysis to encourage their students’ progress.

Ch. 10 covers the mythicizing of native speakers. Since multiple language varieties make it difficult to establish what a native speaker profile consists of, C focuses on the advantages of bilingual and multilingual modes. Another controversial belief is brought to light in this chapter: the use of first language in the classroom.

In Ch. 11 the reasons why people learn a second language are investigated. The impact that language has on our lives cannot be measured. However, C explores the nature of bilingualism and its controversies as well as the communities created when groups decide to learn a new language. If people learn a language while aiming for a distinct target, their teachers should have distinct goals as well. C provides a rich discussion on the goals of language teaching that cover social, cognitive, individual aspects of this venture.

Ch. 12 describes the Chomskyan approach to language learning and its recent developments. Other models and theories are also depicted in detail. While in Ch. 12 the analysis is directed from learning to teaching, this dynamic is reversed in Ch. 13. One of the most important sections of this volume, Ch. 13 covers six teaching styles. Each approach is extensively described along with its related techniques, keywords, and relevant questions for discussion.

Undoubtedly, the fourth edition of this volume will provide a useful set of tools for students, teachers, linguists, and literary scholars who concern themselves with the complexities of language learning.

A reference grammar of Egyptian Arabic

A reference grammar of Egyptian Arabic. By Ernest T. Abdel-Massih, Zaki N. Abdel-Malek, El-Said M. Badawi, with Ernest N. McCarus. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2009. Pp. 337. ISBN 9781589012608. $29.95.

Reviewed by Peter Freeouf, Chiang Mai University

Organized in the fashion of Paul Newman’s monumental grammar of another Afroasiatic language, Hausa (The Hausa language: An encyclopedic reference grammar, New Haven: Yale, 2000), with topics arranged in English alphabetic order, this reference grammar is much shorter, less extensive, and less detailed than Newman’s work. From the preface it appears that this grammar was originally conceived as the third of four volumes of a wider study of Egyptian Arabic and was designed to be an explanatory glossary of grammatical terminology for the language. As a reference grammar, this volume stands on it own quite well. In the forward it is claimed that this work is the only reference grammar of this variety of spoken Arabic that is described in English; the only other reference grammar of Egyptian Arabic written in a Western language is in German and has not been translated into English.

This type of format, an alphabetical arrangement according to grammatical topic, requires some getting used to. It is not organized in the traditional order of phonology/orthography, morphology, and syntax, as is the case for William Wright’s grammar of the classical language (A grammar of the Arabic language, Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 1967) or other reference grammars of Arabic, written or spoken, such as Mark W. Cowell’s Reference grammar of Syrian Arabic (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1964). The first topic is active participles (3–15), and the final topic is a very short one, writing system (329–30). An index (331–35) follows the final grammar topic. This index is very helpful since it lists all the topics and subtopics and takes the place of a comprehensive table of contents, which is of course impossible in a grammar organized in this way. A very short bibliography (337) with only nine entries finishes the volume.

Some topics are cross-referenced; for example, under manner adverbs and Masdar (125) the reader is referred to adverbs of manner and verbal noun, respectively. The entries range from the simple, such as velum and velar (261), to those with much more detailed coverage, such as the various subcategories of verbs, which are listed alphabetically (261–98). The verbs are followed by verbal nouns, which are similarly categorized with various subtopics (299–314). This specific arrangement of verbs followed by verbal nouns matches more or less the traditional arrangement. However, these topics are followed by vocative particles (315), voicing (315–16), and vowels (316–27), each with several subtopics. The entry under passive (189–95) contains subtopics that vary from the morphological (e.g. verb formation; 194–95), to the syntactic (e.g. meaning; 189–90 and syntax; 193–94). This works out fairly well but requires some familiarity with the layout and organization.

Egyptian Arabic is geographically central in the Arabic-speaking world and has by far the largest number of speakers of any variety of spoken Arabic; therefore, it occupies a preeminent position culturally and politically. The Arabic examples, which are provided in a standard transcription, nicely illustrate each topic. This grammar provides a good summary of the main points of spoken Egyptian Arabic.

Culturally speaking, culture, communication and politeness theory

Culturally speaking, culture, communication and politeness theory. 2nd edn. Ed. by Helen Spencer-Oatey. New York: Continuum, 2008. Pp. xii, 372 ISBN 9780826493101. $39.95.

Reviewed by Carol Myers-Scotton, Michigan State University

This edited volume contains sixteen chapters that discuss how cultural differences can affect the management of social relations in conversation. Five chapters are authored or coauthored by the editor, Helen Spencer-Oatey. Most chapters deal with what she calls intercultural communication—that is, ‘data obtained when members of two different cultural groups interact with each other’ (6); however, some authors refer to cross-cultural data, or ‘data obtained independently from two different cultural groups’ (6). Five of the chapters provide different theoretical frameworks.

In Ch. 2, ‘Face, (im)politeness and rapport’ (11–47), Spencer-Oatey outlines her revision of politeness theory (Brown & Levinson 1987) to emphasize that rapport management should involve not only face sensitivities but also ‘fundamental social entitlements that a person claims […] in his/her interactions with others’ (13).

In Ch. 3, ‘Culture and communication’ (48–72), Vladimir Žegarac stresses the cognitive aspects of communication that figure into ‘the systematic dependence of meaning on context (where the context is the set of assumptions used in interpreting a communicative act)’ (56). Among other approaches, Žegarac discusses relevance theory (Sperber & Wilson 1986/1995) and ‘the orientation of human cognition and communication towards relevant information’ (48).

In Ch. 7, ‘Pragmatic transfer’ (141–63), Vladimir Žegarac and Martha Pennington present another cognitive-based framework relevant to intercultural communication. They suggest that misunderstandings may arise in intercultural communication because of pragmatic transfer; in other words, the tendency to apply to new situations an existing mental set that has been determined by culture-specific knowledge. The problem is that ‘if interactants from different cultural backgrounds are unaware of the differences in their respective mental sets, misunderstandings are likely to occur’ (142).

In Ch. 8, ‘Communication accommodation theory’ (164–86), Virpi Ylänne suggests that communication accommodation theory (Giles, Coupland, & Coupland 1991) might be modified to reflect such recent arguments as that ‘social realities are only fixed through discourse’ and that  ‘the old, structured certainties of class and ethnic self-definition have lapsed’ (179).

In Ch. 9, ‘Adaptation and identity’ (187–203), Martin Fougère explores the idea of place—that is, how living in a different culture can affect a person’s sense of identity.

This volume is designed as a textbook, concluding with two chapters on data gathering, and another chapter that contains ideas for projects. Each chapter (except for the introduction) contains lists of key points for study purposes, questions for discussion, and references for further reading. However, there is much that makes this volume more than just a textbook, notably the depth of discussion in the theoretical chapters. My only real complaint is that most of the authors of the seven more data-based chapters do not noticeably make use of the frameworks discussed. The range of communities considered is great, but most authors simply point out evidence of cultural differences in conversational style in the communities discussed.


Brown, Penelope, and STEPHEN C. LEVINSON. 1987. Politeness: Some

universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Giles, Howard; justine coupland; and NIKOLAS COUPLAND. 1991. Contexts of accommodation: Developments in applied sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sperber, Dan, and Deirdre Wilson. 1986/1995. Relevance: Communication and cognition. 2nd edn. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Dependency in linguistic description

Dependency in linguistic description. Ed. by Alain Polguère and Igor A. Mel’čuk. (Studies in language companion series 111.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009. Pp. xxii, 281. ISBN 9789027205780. $158 (Hb).

Reviewed by Haitao Liu, Communication University of China

Although the literature on phrase structure is much larger than that on dependency relations, the discussion of dependency relations predates generative grammar. This book adds to the much needed literature on dependency relations. In the foreword, the editors define a dependency grammar as ‘A sentence […] associated with a formal object depicting its internal organization called the syntactic structure [which is] a set of lexical units of this sentence linked together by syntactic relations’ (xiii). It is on the basis of this definition that this volume investigates several important topics of contemporary syntactic research.

In the forward, Igor A. Mel’čuk and Alain Polguère introduce dependency syntax and present the four articles contained in this volume. They argue that the syntactic structure of a sentence has four defining properties: (i) connectedness of the syntactic structure, (ii) directedness of syntactic relations, (iii) strict hierarchical organization of the syntactic structure, and (iv) meaningfulness of syntactic relations. This preparatory knowledge is helpful to understand the other articles in this volume.

After introducing some basic concepts, Igor A. Mel’čuk sketches dependency theory with a demonstration of the existence of three types of dependency relations between two wordforms (xix): (i) semantic dependency; (ii) syntactic dependency, which controls the passive valence of the phrase as well as the mutual linear positioning of its wordforms; and (iii) morphological dependency, in which one wordform controls the inflectional values of the other. Focusing on the syntactic level, M proposes three criteria for establishing a syntactic dependency between two wordforms (word 1 and word 2) in a sentence: the first of these three criteria establishes the presence of a syntactic link between word 1 and word 2, based on determining their mutual linear arrangement and possible prosodic unity; the second establishes the direction of the syntactic link, based on the passive syntactic valence of the phrase word 1-word 2, its external morphological links, and its semantic content; and the third establishes the specific type of the surface-syntactic relation r that holds between two wordforms based on semantic contrast, syntactic substitutability of the dependent subtree, and repeatability of r. These criteria are necessary for a deeper characterization of syntactic dependency and for building a dependency syntax for a language. This article also proposes an illustrative list of surface-syntactic relations for English.

Bridging the gap between dependency and a phrase structure approach to syntax, Sylvain Kahane presents a formal dependency grammar compared with a head-driven phrase structure grammar (HPSG). K provides a lexicalist model of extraction, in which HPSG formalism is used to implement a pure dependency interpretation of this phenomenon. The author argues that the modeling of extraction belongs to the syntax-semantic interface, whereas phrases are only entities of syntax, and therefore, a lexical-based approach to extraction is more economical than a phrase-based approach. K’s study also demonstrates that HPSG formalism can support a dependency approach to syntax very well.

Lidija Iordanskaja and Igor A. Mel’čuk investigate how to establish an inventory of surface-syntactic relations (in general) and valence-controlled surface-syntactic dependents of the verb in French (in particular). The central idea of this article is to fit the techniques for establishing surface-syntactic relations (SSyntRels) in a language into the accepted theoretical and typological frame, which is used for establishing the inventories of other linguistic units. Based on the commonality of the syntactic properties of dependents and three tests, the authors list sixteen SSyntRels. For each SSyntRel described, the authors also supply: (i) the properties of the SSyntRel, (ii) formal types of its dependents, (iii) linguistic comments, and (iv) a justification in the form of a comparison with other SSyntRels.

Jasmina Milićević describes a well-known word order problem of Serbian syntax: the linear placement of clitics. After introducing this syntactic phenomenon, the author proposes a set of rules that allow for synthesizing Serbian sentences that contain clitics within the meaning-text model. Linear positioning of a clitic cluster is carried out by first establishing the linear order of all the constituents of the clause and then processing of all the constituents to determine which ones can or must host the cluster.