Monthly Archives: June 2010

Kinubi texts

Kinubi texts. By Xavier Luffin. (Languages of the world/Text collections 21.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2004. Pp. 173. ISBN 9783895868351. $84.30.

Reviewed by Benji Wald, Los Angeles, CA

In anticipation of his Un créole arabe: Le kinubi de Mombasa (Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2005), and based on his 2004 dissertation at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, this volume offers a selection of texts and transcriptions collected by Xavier Luffin. An Arabic-based creole spoken by a Muslim community of southern Sudanese origin, Kinubi (or Nubi) originated during military service under the Egyptians in the nineteenth century and continued under the British in East Africa throughout the twentieth century. Kinubi is now spoken primarily in Uganda and Kenya. L’s texts, which include speakers of various ages from three different communities, comprise a variety of topic genres, such as narratives about the history of the community and individual members as well as general descriptive discourses about community customs and beliefs.

In ‘Preliminaries’, L briefly introduces the community and the nature of the data (6–7). He also provides a bibliography of Kinubi (8–9). Contrary to expectation—possibly due to editorial error—not all of the speakers are identified by age, although from the content it is possible to deduce the general age or generation of some of the speakers. The age differences of the speakers may have implications for observing changes in the creole over time: one of the most beneficial aspects of these texts. The residential communities of the speakers are also of great interest. The texts are organized into three communities: (i) Bombo, Uganda, represented by approximately eight speakers; (ii) Kibera, Uganda, two speakers; and (iii) Mombasa, Kenya, five speakers. In sum, the texts include approximately fifteen speakers, ranging over two to three generations, all male (judging by their Muslim names and the content of their speech samples).

The texts are provided in line triplets that consist of the Kinubi text, a morpheme gloss, and an English translation. In addition to speaking in Kinubi, most speakers show a number of switches to English and Swahili, most often for single words, but sometimes for a clause or more. This is valuable data because, for the most part, extended passages by all speakers are entirely in Kinubi, which indicates that there is no question about the integrity of the language or the complete fluency of each of the sampled speakers. The switches are simply according to the nature of multilingualism in East Africa.

Both the language and the content of the texts are wide ranging. The volume is of great value in documenting this creole in its full vigor.

The Silozi clause

The Silozi clause: A study of the structure and distribution of its constituents. By Kashina Kashina. Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2005. Pp. 367. ISBN 9783895867705. $126.10.

Reviewed by Benji Wald, Los Angeles, CA

With much detail and enthusiasm, this book addresses the functional motivation for the order of constituents (e.g. words, phrases, and clauses) in spoken and written Silozi (or Lozi), a Zambian Bantu language. The extensive discussion of prior literature on functional theories of word order includes the author’s dissertation (Silozi constituent ordering and the theory of end weight, University of Edinburgh, 2000), possibly one of the first investigations of its kind.

Ch. 1 (1–31) reviews previous studies of Silozi. Ch. 2, ‘Some terminological and theoretical considerations’ (32–60), surveys the general functional literature on constituent order and ultimately adopts Simon Dik’s (1986) language independent preferred order of constituents formulation, although other scholars’ perspectives are incorporated as well.

Ch. 3, ‘Word classes’ (61–138), sketches the morphological word structure of Silozi and introduces the types of word classes. Ch. 4, ‘The phrase’ (103–38), explores the structure of Silozi phrases, particularly noun, verb, adjective, and prepositional phrases, and presents the hypothesis that constituent order is determined by informational weight. Ch. 5, ‘Silozi clause and sentence’ (139–89) proceeds from the phrase to the clause level.

Ch. 6, ‘Discourse: Pragmatically determined structures’ (190–232), examines deviations from canonical clauses, including passives, left dislocations, clefts, fronting, and postposing. Ch. 7 (233–58) and Ch. 8 (259–91) analyze written and spoken Silozi samples, respectively. Ch. 9, ‘The distribution of adverbials in Silozi sentences’ (292–318), completes the analysis with an investigation of the respective ordering of subordinate and main clauses as well as clause embedding in larger discourse contexts.

Ch. 10 (319–23) presents the general conclusions, the most striking of which is that spoken syntax does not provide the contexts necessary to adequately test the functional hypotheses, as discussed in Ch. 8. Although his analysis works well on written Silozi discourse, which is greatly similar to written English discourse, the author stops short of investigating whether the Silozi data display a general difference between spoken and written linguistic organization or if there is a more specific effect of English writing on Silozi written language.

The book is a conscientious attempt to explore an important aspect of Silozi syntax. The inclusion of spoken discourse in particular uncovers features of Silozi that would not have been revealed by more scholastic approaches: in addition to the possible complications in the syntax of spoken Silozi, the author notes the inevitable code-switching to English. Although at first this code-switching appears to be a general practice of Silozi speakers (27), later it becomes clear that this sample was collected from university students in Edinburgh (263). It is therefore unclear how widespread English is among Silozi speakers with little formal education. In no way does this invalidate the author’s conclusions; rather it indicates that this book must be read carefully to fully understand the nature of the data and the basis for the conclusions.


Dik, Simon C. 1986. On the notion “functional explanation”. Belgian Journal of Linguistics 1.11–52.

Goals for academic writing

Goals for academic writing: ESL students and their instructors. Ed. by Alister Cumming. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006. Pp. vii, 203. ISBN 9789027219718. $54.

Reviewed by Sedef Uzuner, State University of New York at Albany

This volume documents the results of a meticulous multi-year study designed to investigate the types of writing goals second language (L2) students set for themselves in university settings, how these goals vary from the goals of their instructors, and how these goals change as students move from English as a second language (ESL) support courses to disciplinary subject courses (vii). With its clear and convincing argumentation, this volume offers a window into the complexities of writing instruction both in ESL support programs and in mainstream university courses.

In the introduction, Alister Cumming explains the rationale, purpose, and conceptual foundations of the study. This valuable introduction can serve as a reference for activity theory, goal theory, and various sociolinguistic concepts related to ESL writing. Following the introduction, the book is divided into three sections.

Section 1 consists of three contributions that discuss the methodology and major findings of the study. Here, the focus is on the experiences of the participants throughout their transition from ESL programs to university classes. Particular attention is given to the similarities and differences in the goals of the instruction in both settings.

Section 2 consists of five chapters (Chs. 5–9) that present case studies of particular groups of participants. Ch. 5 deals with Chinese students’ perceptions of their writing improvement from their studies in ESL programs through their courses at a Canadian university. Ch. 6 depicts ESL students’ and instructors’ assessments of the attainment of writing goals. Ch. 7 looks at the kinds of linguistic realizations expressed by ESL students about their intentions for writing improvement. Ch. 8 documents three Asian students’ writing goals as well as their expression of identity in their texts. Finally, Ch. 9 discusses variations in goal formation and achievement in ESL programs versus university courses.

Section 3 consists of a concluding chapter that describes the implications of this study for pedagogy, policy, and research.

In sum, this volume is a commendable addition to the existing literature on L2 writing at the college level. Unlike previous studies that documented the writing experiences of small groups of ESL learners, this study represents a valuable first step for researchers interested in investigating similar issues with a larger student sample. This volume not only provides instructors with insights into the complexities of writing instruction but also makes recommendations that may be useful for future instructional policies attempting to fill the gap between ESL preparatory programs and university writing courses.

An introduction to language policy

An introduction to language policy: Theory and method. Ed. by Thomas Ricento. (Language and social change 1.) Oxford: Blackwell, 2006. Pp. 384. ISBN 9781405114981. $46.95.

Reviewed by Marián Sloboda, Charles University, Prague

People not only produce discourse but they also manipulate or manage it. This behavior-toward-language can be either conscious or unconscious (Joshua Fishman). Moreover, in their language management theory, Jernudd and Neustupný (1987) distinguish between discourse-based management, which operates on discourse here and now, and organized management, which is a metalinguistic process spread throughout (non)institutionalized social networks. This volume explores the conscious and organized type of language management.

Several volumes on language policy (LP) have recently been published. Language policy: Hidden agendas and new approaches by Elana Shohamy (New York: Routledge, 2006) is a theoretical and socially engaged work; whereas Language policy by Bernard Spolsky (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) is predominantly a data survey. In contrast to these books, Ricento’s volume brings together the work of multiple authors. Each chapter is rather short, written in an accessible style by a prominent expert, and followed by an annotated bibliography of relevant basic works, discussion questions, and a rich list of references. The book will be particularly useful to university students and others who want to acquaint themselves with LP research and issues. However, some knowledge of sociolinguistics is assumed (e.g. familiarity with the concept of language shift).

LP is a complex topic: often a change can affect the entire social system, as is made clear from the wide thematic scope of the book. Some of the authors in this book distinguish LP from the traditional concept of language planning, which is as a rather technical, speaker-centered aspect of language management. However, because they are often difficult to tease apart, many of the authors treat LP and language planning together.

The volume is broken into three parts, each prefaced by the editor. Part 1 addresses theoretical perspectives, such as models of LP, critical theory, and postmodernism as well as economical, political, and cultural factors. Part 2 presents historical, ethnographical, linguistic, geolinguistic, and psycho-sociological methodological approaches. Finally, in Part 3, individual authors discuss topical areas of LP, including national identity, minority rights, linguistic human rights, education of linguistic minorities, language shift, and linguistic imperialism. Unfortunately, it is impossible to cover every topic of LP in a volume of this size. The editor explains that the topics that were included have been the focus of recent research, can be studied in diverse contexts, and have tended to generate controversies (x). Although the focus of much of the research is that of Western (i.e. West European and North American) sociolinguistics and applied linguistics, this book is overall very informative. It covers many topics and illuminates LP from a number of perspectives, thus successfully representing the intrinsic multidimensionality of LP.


Jernudd, Björn. H. and Jiri V. Neustupný. 1987. Language planning: For whom? Actes du colloque international sur l’aménagement linguistique/Proceedings of the international colloquium on language planning, ed. by Lorne Laforge. Quebec: Les Presses de L’Université Laval, 69–84.

Diccionario de perífrasis verbales

Diccionario de perífrasis verbales. Ed. by Luis García Fernández. Madrid: Gredos, 2006. Pp. 30. ISBN 9788424927943. $37.68.

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, University of Granada, Spain

Perhaps the first published lexicographic work of its type, this dictionary offers a theoretical overview of the structure, syntax, and semantic description of Spanish periphrastic verbs. Joining Ignacio Bosque’s Diccionario redes/network dictionary: Diccionario combinatorio del español contemporáneo (Madrid: Ediciones Sm, 2005), this volume supplements the current productive work on aspects of Spanish phraseology.

The volume begins with a comprehensive fifty-page introduction to Spanish periphrastic verbs, describing the theoretical framework within which the dictionary entries are analyzed and discussed. The introduction is divided into two sections: the first part discusses semantic and syntactic characteristics of these structures; the second identifies their syntactic restrictions.

In his outline of syntactic properties, the author discusses the types of syntactic operations that components may undergo within the generative framework of analysis. Regarding semantic characteristics, the author focuses on the auxiliary verb and discusses the types of verbs that lend themselves to this category (typically superordinates or hyperonyms), how the central meaning of the verb may restrict the types of nouns with which it combines, and the types of delexicalization that verbs typically undergo.

The second part of the introduction contains a description and illustration of the types of syntactic restrictions that apply to the periphrastic structures that contain a gerund, an infinitive, or a participle. The author also discusses the theoretical approach used to explain the concepts of mood, aspect, tense, (alethic, epistemic, and deontic) modality, and voice. Finally, the author briefly describes the potential for these structures to be used as discourse markers. The examples illustrate the apparently identical meaning and function expressed by llegar a and incluso, which can both be used in the sense of ‘even’ in English (e.g. llegó a proponernos que nos quedáramos en su casa ‘he even asked if we would like to stay at his house’).

The main content of the dictionary—the periphrastic verb entries—is arranged into several subsections. Subsection 1, ‘Meaning’, provides a brief description of the general meaning of each phrase as well as an account of regional distinctions and synonymous variants. For example, the dictionary opens with abrir a plus infinitive, common in Colombia and Puerto Rico, with synonymous variants including echar a plus infinitive and poner se plus infinitive, which are used in the sense of ‘begin to do something’ in English (e.g. Juan se echó a andar ‘Juan started walking’).

Subsection 2, ‘Structural definition’, examines the extent to which a periphrastic verb complies with the defining criteria outlined in the introduction. These criteria are illustrated with examples, some invented, while others are taken from the Corpus de Referencia del Español Actual (CREA corpus). The author indicates that the variety of periphrastic phrases suggests that not all criteria are necessarily fulfilled. Variant syntactic structures are also discussed here.

Subsection 3, ‘Syntactic definition’ considers in detail the idiosyncrasies of particular structures, investigating possible syntactic restrictions that affect the auxiliary verb, such as defectiveness in certain tenses, aspects, or moods. Further possible idiosyncrasies that may affect the structure in particular contexts involving negation, interrogation, and the passive voice are also examined.

Subsection 4, ‘Discussion’, provides an explanation for the syntactic idiosyncrasies outlined in the previous subsection. For example, it is noted that quedar(se) plus gerund, which can be used in the sense of ‘remain doing something’ in English (e.g. Juan se quedó pensando antes de responder ‘Juan thought for a while before answering’), does not combine with verbs that denote a change of state. This is explained by referring to the durative meaning of the verb itself.

The dictionary ends with an ample general bibliography and a variety of indexes that allow the reader to search for a particular periphrastic structure by focusing on either its semantic or syntactic characteristics.

Learners and teachers of Spanish will find this reference a tremendous addition to the various practical educational materials available.

Language, culture, and society

Language, culture, and society: Key topics in linguistic anthropology. Ed. by Christine Jourdan and Kevin Tuite. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Pp. xi, 310. ISBN 9780521614740. $46.

Reviewed by Marco Shappeck, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana

This volume addresses the contemporary issues of linguistic relativity, language contact, language socialization, hermeneutics, and language variation and change from an ethnolinguistic perspective.

In Ch. 1, ‘An issue about language’ (16–46), Charles Taylor examines the course of two early-modern language theories: the enframing theory (exemplified by the work of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Étienne Bonnot de Condillac) and the constitutive theory (which began with Johann Gottfried Herder’s critique of Condillac). The ethnolinguistic positions taken in this book owe many of their characterizations to the constitutive tradition, which interprets language for cultural understanding. In Ch. 2, ‘Linguistic relativities’ (47–81), John Leavitt follows Herder’s natural-scientific conceptions of language through the period from the neogrammarians to Noam Chomsky’s universalist application in generative grammar. Leavitt also includes a discussion of the program that emerged from the human sciences following Wilhelm von Humboldt, which focused on pluralism and later influenced the work of Franz Boas and Edward Sapir.

Ch. 3, ‘Benjamin Lee Whorf and the Boasian foundations of contemporary ethnolinguistics’ (82–95) by Regna Darnell, documents the life of Whorf, revisits his hypothesis on linguistic relativity, and encourages readers to relinquish the deterministic edge between linguistic categories and cognitive constraints. In Ch. 4, ‘Cognitive anthropology’ (96–114), Penny Brown reviews anthrolinguistic approaches that emphasize either universals of human cognition or cultural differences. She discusses different cultural models that have been developed, new angles on the issue of linguistic relativity, and finally, the direction this program may take.

Paul Kay, in Ch. 5, ‘Methodological issues in cross-language color naming’ (115–34), defends his position against the Whorfian hypothesis, which began with a crosslinguistic study of color terms in the late 1960’s. In Ch. 6, ‘Pidgins and creoles genesis: An anthropological offering’ (135–55), Christine Jourdan focuses on the cultural conditions that give rise to new languages, in particular, the work-practices in plantation societies during European colonialism.

In Ch. 7, ‘Bilingualism’ (156–67), Monica Heller, applies a constitutive-expressive approach to bilingual conceptualizations in which speakers develop new conventions and relations as opposed to meagerly replicating existing ones. In Ch. 8, ‘The impact of language socialization on grammatical development’ (168–89), Elinor Ochs and Bambi Schieffelin show how children are sensitive to linguistic forms that adhere to communal norms based on age, status, and gender in Samoa and New Guinea.

In Ch. 9, ‘Intimate grammars: Anthropological and psychoanalytic accounts of language, gender, and desire’ (190–206), Elizabeth Povinelli proposes that a child’s formation of grammar is accompanied by socially approved norms of speech, behavior, and presentation of self. In Ch. 10, ‘Maximizing ethnopoetics: Fine-tuning anthropological experience’ (207–28), Paul Friedrich discusses the development and interaction between poetic language (i.e. the structure of any language form), the social group, and the individual. Friedrich also describes the role linguaculture (i.e. language-culture symbiosis) plays in this relationship. Kevin Tuite, in Ch. 11, ‘Interpreting language variation and change’ (229–56), explores the choppy waters of communal versus individual language variation and suggests an ethnolinguistic alternative to the hypothesis provided by variationists in sociolinguistics.

Despite the lack of continuity between chapters, many of these articles will be beneficial to both anthropologists and linguists. Each contribution is a highly original and well-informed work, and this volume can function as a guide for the different approaches and topics in anthropological linguistics.

Approaches to discourse particles

Approaches to discourse particles, Vol. 1. Ed. by Kerstin Fischer. (Studies in pragmatics 1.) Oxford: Elsevier, 2006. Pp. viii, 498. ISBN 9780080447377. $104 (Hb).

Reviewed by Marco Shappeck, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana

The study of discourse particles (DPs) has moved from the periphery of linguistics to a position of intense focus and rigor. Recently, researchers have undertaken projects with unbridled—and refreshing—interdisciplinarism. This volume contains many of the major themes of the crosslinguistic study of DPs; each of the twenty-two articles exemplify that the theoretical study of DPs deserves serious consideration.

To allow for comparative objectives among the different research perspectives and methods, the editor of the volume, Kerstin Fischer, outlines the specific presentation format required of the contributors. Each paper is to (i) differentiate DPs from other particles; (ii) account for the different functional interpretations that DPs may support; (iii) provide support for different readings in relation to context, particle morphemes, and word classes; and (iv) relate descriptions of DPs to wider questions of general linguistics.

Maj-Britt Mosegaard Hansen proposes an interdisciplinary approach to the lexical semantics of discourse markers, focusing specifically on French toujours ‘always’. Diana M. Lewis shows how DPs in English have permeated written language to function as meta-textual comments about expressions. Richard Waltereit introduces a model that attempts to explain why certain lexemes develop diachronically into DPs and not into other categories.

Salvador Pons Bordería situates the study of DPs within the field of pragmatics, outlining the problems and directions of the DP word class. Addressing both theoretical and methodological issues, Karin Aijmer, Ad Foolen, and Anne-Marie Simon-Vandenbergen propose a model based on reflexivity, indexicality, and heteroglossia. Eddy Roulet puts forward a description of text relation markers and explains how they mediate text constituents to discourse memory.

Henk Zeevat explores DPs in the framework of speech act semantics, illustrating how some DPs function as context markers, while others serve as presupposition triggers. Ler Soon Lay Vivien’s relevance-theoretic approach considers how the cognitive economy of information storage applies to the process of utterance interpretation. Thanh Nyan joins argumentation theory to a coevolutionary perspective and describes the emergence of DPs as one of the language adaptations to brain systems.

Building a theory of DPs, Bruce Fraser provides a four-fold typological definition and presents the requisite linguistic properties of this class of pragmatic markers. Harald Weydt discusses the challenges for the crosslinguistic study of DPs, particularly in regard to patterns of face-threatening acts. Concerned with context, function, and meaning, Catherine E. Travis examines the Spanish bueno ‘good’ in Columbia and distinguishes between its semantic and pragmatic aspects.

Anthea Fraser Gupta explores the defining elements of functional and syntactic systems in Singapore Colloquial English. Li-Chiung Yang integrates prosodic and contextual cues in the interpretation of DPs by illustrating their role in coherence and discourse structure. Corinne Rossari discusses the formal properties and semantic constraints of connectives, a subclass of DPs.

Examining the functional spectrum of English and, Deborah Schiffrin situates the study of DPs into a more general model of functional layers. Gisela Redeker argues that DPs act as attentional cues for the listener during discourse transitions. Barbara Frank-Job proposes a concept of DPs that considers the emergence dynamism within their interactional functions and development.

François Nemo proposes a model for the semantic and pragmatic interpretation of DPs through the application of morphemic and constructional semantics. Gabriele Diewald examines present-day German DPs in light of word class membership, functional roles, and semantic content. Kertsin Fischer introduces a framework that connects the polyfunctionality of DPs to a linguistic theory of language development and shows how such a concept can contribute to context, common ground, and politeness. Finally, Carla Bazzanella analyzes Old Italian DPs from a prototypical-model framework, taking data from two computerized corpora.

Covering all of the subfields of linguistics, this volume unites revised and recent perspectives on the study of DPs, making it a reference point from which to challenge, support, integrate, and develop future research.

Demoting the agent

Demoting the agent: Passive, middle and other voice phenomena. Ed. by Benjamin Lyngfelt and Torgrim Solstad. (Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics today 96.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006. Pp. x, 333. ISBN 9789027233608. $188 (Hb).

Reviewed by Wolfgang Schulze, University of Munich

This volume brings together a selection of papers presented at a 2004 workshop at the University of Oslo. Demoting the agent refers to constructional techniques that manipulate the syntactic value of referents marked for an agent(ive) function, and other voice phenomena include reflexives and idiosyncratic patterns such as the locative-agent construction in Eastern Khanty. These underlying patterns are strongly related to accusativity, neglecting ergativity-based patterns such as antipassives. The volume includes data from roughly thirty languages, most spoken in Europe, although non-European languages such as Khanty, Hebrew, and Tucano are also included.

The book contains twelve papers, preceded by a preface and an introductory paper and followed by three indices (languages, names, subjects). In the introductory paper, ‘Perspectives on demotion: Introduction to the volume’ (1–20), the editors, Torgrin Solstad and Benjamin Lyngfelt, discuss the semantic and pragmatic value of passives. Elisabet Engdahl, ‘Semantic and syntactic patterns in Swedish passives’ (21–45), elaborates the two types of Swedish passivization alluded to in the introduction. A strong pragmatic perspective is taken in ‘The Eastern Khanty locative-agent constructions: A functional discourse-pragmatic perspective’ (47–82) by Andrey Filtchenko. Filtchenko claims that the locative-agent construction in Eastern Khanty manipulates degrees of agentivity, control, and volition in terms of a discourse status shift.

In ‘Agent back-grounding as a functional domain: Reflexivization and passivization in Czech and Russian’ (83–99), Mirjam Fried presents an interesting study of the constructional value of two types of voice, and in ‘Invisible arguments: Effects of demotion in Estonian and Finnish’ (111–41), Elsi Kaiser and Virve-Anneli Vihman submit a test-based study on impersonal and zero person passives. Dalina Kallulli, ‘Argument demotion as feature suppression’ (143–66), argues in favor of a unified, syntax-based account of passives and anticausatives.

Marika Lekakou’s contribution, ‘A comparative view of the requirement for adverbial modification in middles’ (167–96), addresses the question of why Germanic middles require adverbial modification. In ‘From passive to active: Syntactic change in progress in Icelandic’ (197–223), Joan Maling discusses the typologically well-known fact that in Icelandic the object(ive) in a passive construction can acquire accusative properties. Anneliese Pitz, ‘The relation between information structure, syntactic structure and passive’ (225–48), analyzes the translational processes related to passives in German and Norwegian.

‘Syntax and semantics of the deontic WANT-passive in Italo-Romance’ (249–74), by Eva-Maria Remberger, is a thoughtful study of constructions of deontic modality (i.e. necessivity) present in certain types of passives. In ‘Agentivity and the virtual reflexive construction’ (275–300), Nola M. Stephens turns to so-called virtual reflexives, arguing for a semantic interpretation. The last paper, ‘Arguments in middles’ (301–26) by Thomas Stroik, presents a syntax-based approach to thematic roles in middle constructions.

In sum, this volume is an important and highly welcomed contribution to the study of agent demotion strategies in (primarily) European languages.

Synchrone Analyse als Fenster zur Diachronie

Synchrone Analyse als Fenster zur Diachronie: Die Grammatikalisierung von werden + Infinitiv. By Sabine Krämer. (LINCOM studies in Germanic linguistics 23.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2005. Pp. 149. ISBN 9783895864643. $81.40.

Reviewed by Wolfgang Schulze, University of Munich

Probably the most interesting formation of analytic tense in German is the werden ‘will’ plus infinitive construction to encode the future tense. Sabine Krämer uses this construction to demonstrate how a synchronic analysis can contribute to the diachronic exploration of a construction. She argues for the primacy of comprehensive synchronic descriptions in diachronic studies, which can provide both an adequate formal representation and a functional explanation of the actual use of a construction. Accordingly, this book serves two purposes: first, it addresses questions of methodology, and second, it offers a new proposal to describe the grammaticalization of the German werden plus infinitive construction.

This book is the printed version of K’s 2004 doctoral dissertation (Humboldt University, Berlin). In the introduction (1–3), K briefly outlines her methodology, stressing the need for a formal approach to fully grasp the functional scope of constructional patterns. In Ch. 1, ‘Syntax und Semantik der Konstruktion werden + Infinitiv im Neuhochdeutschen’ (4–71), K investigates the future and modal readings of this construction, arguing that the modal value cannot be accounted for by referring to superficially analogous modal constructions such as müssen ‘must’ or können ‘can’ plus infinitive. Likewise, she rejects the assumption that the modal reading is more general. Instead, K argues that, from a synchronic perspective, the two readings reflect two different syntactic structures. These two structures are then comprehensively described in terms of formal syntax.

The two remaining chapters deal with the diachronics of the werden plus infinitive construction. Ch. 3 (72–89) presents a critical summary of previous proposals to explain its emergence. In Ch. 4, ‘Diachrone Entwicklung der Konstruktion werden + Infinitive: Ein alternativer Vorschlag’, (90–136), K refers to grammaticalization, analogy, and reanalysis to develop a new hypothesis. She argues that werden plus infinitive began as a participle-based construction (werden plus present participle), and, in analogy with Middle High German beginnen plus infinitive ‘start to X’, the present participle was later replaced by the infinitive. In a second step, the emerging copula construction was reanalyzed as a periphrastic future, which was later reanalyzed again to yield a modal reading (via some kind of covert inferential strategy).

K’s book is a pleasure to read. It nicely illustrates the explanatory power of synchronic data to account for diachronic processes. Although it neglects typological generalizations and hence is perhaps a bit too strongly biased towards formal syntax, this volume is an example of excellent linguistic argumentation.


Hindi. By Yamuna Kachru. (London Oriental and African language library 12.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006. Pp. xxi, 309. ISBN 9789027238122. $188 (Hb).

Reviewed by Wolfgang Schulze, University of Munich

This volume investigates Modern Standard Hindi (MSH): the official language of the Republic of India and the language of six states within India. Yamuna Kachru’s intention is to provide linguists and teachers with a systematic description of MSH by adopting a user-friendly, theory-neutral approach that incorporates the findings of modern Hindi linguistics. Thus, the foundations of this grammar approximate the basic linguistic theory proposed Robert Dixon (The rise and fall of languages, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

K begins with a brief but highly informative introduction that describes the basic sociolinguistic factors and the emergence of MSH. Ch. 2 turns to its sound system—specifically, vowels, consonants (including consonants borrowed from English and Perso-Arabic), stress, intonation, syllable structure, and the relationship between Devanagari script and pronunciation. The Devanagari writing system is also the subject of Ch. 3.

In Ch. 4, K describes a rather traditional classification of the parts of speech (ten classes in sum). Interestingly, zero postpositions (i.e. case marked nouns without a postposition) typically occur with verbs of motion and duration— reminiscent of the accusative of time and space in other Indo-European languages. This chapter also includes information on inflectional patterns (e.g. case with nouns and pronouns; tense, aspect, and mood with verbs).

Ch. 5 deals with the complex world of MSH ‘Word formation’, Ch. 6 illustrates the architecture of ‘The noun phrase’, and Ch. 7 turns to the ‘Verb and verb phrase’. This layout echoes the distinction between noun phrases and verb phrases in early syntactic theory. The chapter on verbs also includes information about degrees of transitivity and ends with an overview of verbal paradigms.

Ch. 8 explores syntactic issues, such as sentence structure, word order, agreement patterns, voice, and mood. Additionally, K discusses various semantic types of simple sentences (i.e. constructional patterns). The section on ergative constructions (a key issue in the syntactic typology of MSH) is amazingly short (just a half page). In Ch. 9, K turns to complex clauses and compound sentences.

Chs. 10–11 address pragmatic issues: ‘Information structure’ (i.e. topic, focus) and ‘Discourse structure’, respectively. K’s account of discourse strategies in MSH is much richer than that of comparable descriptive grammars. The book ends with two appendices: the first includes four fully glossed text samples followed by English translations and the second provides a brief list of adjectival forms. The function of this second appendix, however, is not fully transparent.

This grammar of MSH is presented in an easy-to-read format. The many examples are fully glossed and will be a valuable source for linguists. In sum, this grammar is an important and helpful contribution to the linguistics of Modern Hindi.