Monthly Archives: August 2010

Spanish in contact

Spanish in contact: Policy, social and linguistic inquiries. Ed. by Kim Potowski and Richard Cameron. (IMPACT: Studies in language and society 22.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2007. Pp. 397. ISBN 9789027218612. $165 (Hb).

Reviewed by Isabel Álvarez, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

This volume includes twenty-one papers on the topic of Spanish in contact with other languages. These papers were presented at the XX Conference on Spanish and Portuguese in Contact with Other Languages, which took place in Chicago in March of 2005.

Part 1, which focuses on ‘Heritage Spanish in the United States’, includes three papers. Carmen Silva-Corvalán and Noelia Sánchez-Walker show the development of autonomous syntactic systems in bilingual first language acquisition. Silvina A. Montrul discusses mood distinctions and concludes that second generation speakers may not have the ability to discriminate semantically between the subjunctive and the indicative. Francisco Moreno Fernández studies the lexicon of Hispanic teenagers in Chicago.

Part 2 is devoted to ‘Education and policy issues’. Maria M. Carreira offers different strategies to support instruction in mixed-ability classes. Lourdes Torres discusses ways of enhancing bilingualism in both island and stateside Puerto Ricans. The last two papers are devoted to policy issues in Spain: Manuel Triano-López studies the de-Castilianization of Valencian, and Verónica Loureiro-Rodríguez examines the nature of the standardized form of Galician and its role in Galician society.

The papers in Part 3 deal with ‘Pragmatics and contact’. Janet M. Fuller, Minta Elsman, and  Kevan Self shed light on the conversational structure of bilingual discourse. Ana Sánchez-Muñoz examines the style and register of college heritage speakers of Spanish. Linda Ohlson uses the Spanish-English lyrics of bachata songs to show that codeswitching may be used as a stylistic tool. Marilyn S. Manley discusses the semantics and pragmatics of epistemic markers in Quechua and the influence these markers have on Andean Spanish. Luis A. Ortiz López investigates double negation along the Dominican Republic/Haitian border and concludes that the presence of double negation in Dominican Spanish is not the result of contact with Haitian Creole.

Part 4, the largest in this volume, is devoted to ‘Variation and contact’. Anna María Escobar shows that colonial bilingual documents cannot be used as evidence of early stages in the formation of the Andean Spanish dialect. Kimberly L. Geeslin and Pedro Guijarro-Fuentes examine copula use in Galician Spanish. They conclude that copula use across the Spanish-speaking world is constrained by similar linguistic features. The next three articles focus on the Spanish spoken in New York City: Ricardo Otheguy and Ana Celia Zentella discuss possible reasons for the increasing use of overt subject pronouns in second generation speakers, Nydia Flores-Ferrán shows how tense and aspect are conditioned by the segment of the narrative being recounted, and Rafael Orozco studies the factors that constrain the expression of futurity in the Spanish of New York Colombians. The last two chapters look at two contact situations in the south: Jessi Elena Aaron and José Esteban Hernández show how contact between Salvadoran and Mexican Spanish in Houston has affected the /s/ reduction distribution in Salvadorans, and Michelle L. Salazar shows that the northern New Mexico/southern Colorado variety of Spanish exhibits the same innovative uses of estar ‘to be’ found in other Spanish dialects.

Part 5, which includes the last two chapters of this volume, is devoted to ‘Bozal Spanish’, a pidginized language used by African slaves. John M. Lipski reviews four sources of authentic data that allow a more realistic reconstruction of bozal Spanish. William M. Megenney analyzes the language used in some Cuban and Brazilian neo-African literature and demonstrates how bozal was incorporated into these writings.

English phraseology

English phraseology: A coursebook. By Sabine Fiedler. Tübingen: Gunter Narr, 2007. Pp. 198. IBSN 9783823363385. €19.90.

Reviewed by Kon Kuiper, University of Canterbury

One can find out a good deal about a field and the predilections of an author by looking at a text for the field written by that author. This short text is a fine way to find out about phraseology as a continental European discipline. Phraseology is the study of the items in the phrasal lexicon and their use, and Fiedler provides a useful overview of some of the topics that phraseologists research.

Ch. 1 deals with the properties of phrasal lexical items: their stability over time, the processes of lexicalization, idiomaticity as a graded property, the connotations of phrasal lexical items, their resistance or otherwise to syntactic movement rules and other idiosyncratic behavior. The chapter illustrates properties typical of lexical items in that they are concerned with idiosyncrasies of kinds that one might expect given that these are lexical items with phrase structure. They can thus have phonological, syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic idiosyncrasies.

Ch. 2 provides a taxonomy of types of phrasal lexical items based on a number of their properties. For example, irreversible binomials of various kinds are illustrated as are lexicalized comparatives. Here the classification is one based on syntactic structure.  Proverbs, winged words, and routine formulae are distinguished on the basis of their associated conditions of use. In other sections phrasal-lexical items are distinguished on the basis of having particular constituents such as color words, body part names, or proper names. Such taxonomies are typical of standard European treatments of phraseology in being atheoretical.

Ch. 3 looks at the use of phrasal lexical items in various text types such as newspapers, magazines, and literary texts, and it illustrates how they can be played with in various forms of lexical deformation for stylistic and humorous effect. This chapter and the next are full of well-chosen examples, some of them illustrated.

Ch. 4 examines the problems that translators face in translating phrasal lexical items. The first significant problem is recognizing the item. Even native speakers often do not recognize a phrasal-lexical item in varieties of their language with which they are not familiar. This is so much more problematic for speakers who are not native speakers. If one supposes that a native speaker knows some hundreds of thousands of phrasal lexical items in his or her own language, then it is not surprising that a nonnative speaker would know a great many fewer and thus not be able to recognize them in a text that he or she is translating. Even with restricted collocations that are fully compositional, picking the equivalent collocation in a language one knows well but not very well can lead to a characteristic lack of native-like texture. F is very helpful in showing how different translators have different ways of dealing with phrasal lexical items when these have been accurately identified. Workarounds are almost always compromises.

Each chapter in this course text is accompanied by exercises of varying difficulty, ranging from Ph.D.-level topics to simple dictionary-based tasks. Answers are given at the end of the book. The exercises are thought-provoking and are not graded. One can imagine students finding some very difficult indeed. The book is written in English but is used in the German market as a course book.  It is now one of a handful of such texts written in both English and German for phraseology courses.

For those in Anglophone linguistics this is a useful book to begin the exploration of Continental phraseology.

Structure and variation in language contact

Structure and variation in language contact. Ed. by Ana Deumert and Stephanie Durrleman-Tame. (Creole language library 29.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006. Pp. viii, 376. ISBN 9789027252517. $188 (Hb).

Reviewed by Anastassia Zabrodskaja, Tallinn University

The focus of this volume is the synchronic and diachronic interplay of structure and variation in contact languages. The contributors provide data from the creoles of Suriname, Chinook Jargon, Sri Lankan Malay, Yiddish, African American Vernacular English (AAVE), Bahamian Creole English, Nigerian Pidgin, Afro-Hispanic and Afro-Portuguese, Papiamentu, and Haitian Creole.

Jeff Good, in ‘The phonetics of tone in Saramaccan’, focuses on the phonetic manifestation of a phonological split between pitch accent and tone. ‘Tracing the origin of modality in the creoles of Suriname’, by Bettina Migge, examines the origin and development of two subsystems of modality. In ‘Modeling creole genesis: Headedness in morphology’, Tonjes Veenstra argues that it is impossible to derive all the properties of creoles from the properties of their source languages. In ‘The restructuring of tense/aspect systems in creole formation’, Donald Winford attempts to reconcile the superstratist and substratist views of creole formation, focusing on the emergence of tense and aspect systems. Marvin Kramer, in ‘The late transfer of serial verb constructions as stylistic variants in Saramaccan creole’, concentrates on verb serialization and argues that each type of serial verb construction is marked by being constrained (e.g. by semantics or tense marking).

Zvjezdana Vrzić, in ‘Syntactic properties of negation in Chinook Jargon, with a comparison to two source languages’, analyzes the syntactic features of sentential negation in Chinook Jargon and compares them with the features of Lower Chinook and Upper Chehalis. In ‘Sri Lankan Malay morphosyntax: Lankan or Malay?’, Peter Slomanson scrutinizes the convergence of Sri Lankan Malay towards the grammars of Muslim Tamil and colloquial Sinhala. Ian R. Smith and Scott Paauw, in ‘Sri Lankan Malay: Creole or convert?’, state that for Sri Lankan Malay, Tamil is the main source of tense, mood, and aspect. In ‘The advantages of a blockage-based etymological dictionary for proven or putative relexified languages: (Extrapolating from the Yiddish experience)’, Paul Wexler describes Yiddish as a mixed Slavic language.

Chris Collins, in ‘A fresh look at habitual be in AAVE’, explores the use of agentive be in informal American English. ‘Oral narrative and tense in urban Bahamian Creole English’, by Stephanie Hackert, provides a quantitative analysis of past inflection. In ‘Aspects of variation in educated Nigerian Pidgin: Verbal structures’, Dagmar Deuber investigates variation in tense and aspect marking, copula forms, and verbal negation. Fernanda L. Ferreira, in ‘A linguistic time-capsule: Plural /s/ reduction in Afro-Portuguese and Afro-Hispanic historical texts’, analyzes the pluralization patterns found in historical texts covering five centuries. In ‘The progressive in the spoken Papiamentu of Aruba’, Tara Sanchez studies the progressive morpheme, –ndo, using a variationist method. Finally, Mikael Parkvall, in ‘Was Haitian ever more like French?’, offers a new approach to research on Haitian structure.

This volume provides an excellent introduction to the complexities of creole studies.

Default semantics

Default semantics: Foundations of a compositional theory of acts of communication. By K. M. Jaszczolt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp. 279. ISBN 0199261989. $49.95.

Reviewed by Michael Haugh, Griffith University

The issue of how we understand what speakers mean when communicating is central to the field of pragmatics, but has increasingly been adopted as also being crucial to the field of semantics. In this volume, Jaszczolt argues that insights from truth-conditional pragmatics should be combined with discourse representation theory to yield an account of meaning as constituting dynamic, compositional, and truth-conditional merger representations of word meaning, sentence structure (semantic information), default meanings, and conscious inference (pragmatic information).

The book is divided into two main parts.  Part 1, ‘Foundations’, consists of three chapters that outline J’s theory of default semantics. In Ch. 1, ‘Meaning representation: Setting the scene’ (3– 39), J argues that the various levels of meaning representation proposed in semantics and pragmatics can be superseded by a single level of ‘merger representation’. Ch. 2, ‘Default meanings’ (40–69), then outlines previous approaches to the place of defaults in communicating meaning, before introducing J’s important distinction between ‘cognitive defaults’ and ‘sociocultural defaults’. In Ch. 3, ‘Compositionality and merger representations’ (70–102), J goes on to outline another core proposal in her theory of default semantics, namely, that compositionality is best understood at the level of (dynamic) merger representations.

In Part 2, ‘Some applications’, the theory of default semantics is applied to a number of semantic phenomena and expression in English. Chs. 4–6 focus on phenomena traditionally analyzed in semantics, while Chs. 7–9 discuss phenomena that have traditionally been of concern in pragmatics. Ch. 10, ‘Concluding remarks and future prospects’ (239–42), briefly summarizes the key features of default semantics and some of the possible limitations of such an approach.

Ch. 4, ‘Defaults for definite descriptions’ (105–19), focuses on expressions involving the + nominal that are used about objects. J moves from a discussion of previous approaches to definite descriptions to outlining how default semantics can be utilized in explicating referential and attributive interpretations. In Ch. 5, ‘Default semantics for propositional attitude reports’ (120–46), J focuses on how default semantics applies to the analysis of how speakers represent the state of mind of other people, in particular, belief reports involving expressions such as believe and think. Ch. 6, ‘Futurity and English will’ (147–86), goes on to discuss future tense/aspect in English, with a particular focus on the use of the modal will. It is proposed by J that time and modality are closely connected, so that the semantic category of temporality may be a misnomer.

Ch. 7, ‘Default semantics for presupposition as anaphora’ (187–204), builds on previous proposals that presuppositions be analyzed as anaphoric expressions rather than pragmatic phenomena, while Ch. 8, ‘The myth of sentential connectives?’ (205–21), argues that the apparent controversy surrounding sentential connectives such as and in neo-Gricean and relevance theoretic pragmatics is based on the (misleading) assumption that such connectives form a natural category. Finally, in Ch. 9, ‘Default semantics for number terms’ (222–38), J outlines how default semantics produces a punctual ‘exactly’ semantics of number terms that obviates the complications of neo-Gricean approaches to cardinals.

J’s study contains important insights for researchers in the fields of semantics and pragmatics, and an interesting proposal for how many of the ‘border disputes’ between semantics and pragmatics might be resolved.

Functional approaches to culture and translation

Functional approaches to culture and translation: Selected papers by José Lambert. Ed. by Dirk Delabastita, Lieven D’hulst, and Reine Meylaerts. (Benjamins translation library 69.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006. Pp. xxviii, 226. ISBN 9789027216779. $165 (Hb).

Reviewed by Anastassia Zabrodskaja, Tallinn University

Thirteen contributions by José Lambert, one of the most influential figures in translation studies, are comprised in this volume. The first article, ‘Traduction et technique romanesque (1977)’, discusses linguistic and literary approaches to translation, proposes a new analytical model for translated texts, and observes French translations of Flemish and German prose from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. ‘Production, tradition et importation: Une clef pour la description de la littérature et de la littérature en traduction (1980)’, states that translation is a cross-cutting discursive procedure that establishes relations and defines configurations between the categories of production, tradition, and import. In ‘L’éternelle question des frontières: Littératures nationales et systèmes littéraires (1983)’, the tenacious equation of production and national literature is critically reviewed.

‘On describing translations (with Hendrik Van Gorp, 1985)’ replaces an atomistic approach to translation research with a functional and semiotic one. ‘Twenty years of research on literary translation at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (1988)’ is dedicated to historical research on translation. It provides an excellent methodological discussion on the principles and aim of the descriptive approach to translation.

Taking into account the mobility of nations, the languages and traditions idea of a new ‘cartography’ of cultures was one of Lambert’s favorite themes. Concerning microcosms and macrocosms, ‘In quest of literary world maps (1991)’ develops the idea of linguistic and literary maps from a fundamental and conceptual point of view. Focusing on descriptive studies, ‘Shifts, oppositions and goals in translation studies: Towards a genealogy of concepts (1991)’ discusses translation theoreticians’ debates on the tasks of the discipline.

‘Literatures, translation and (de)colonization (1995)’ integrates the question of translation into the question of literatures and cultures and formulates a number of basic import/export rules for the exchange of cultural traditions. ‘Translation, systems and research: The contribution of polysystem studies to translation studies (1995)’ offers the pros and cons of the polysystem approach. Distinguishing between translation as skill, art, science, and object of research, in ‘Problems and challenges of translation in an age of new media and competing models (1997)’, Lambert discusses the future of translation studies along with media translation and internationalization.

‘From translation markets to language management: The implications of translation services (with Johan Hermans, 1998)’, reports an investigation into the translation market in Belgium. ‘Cultural studies, the study of cultures and the question of language: Facing/excluding the new millennium (2000)’ introduces Lambert’s view on the cultural and societal importance of language and translation. Finally, ‘La traduction littérature comme problème belge, ou la littérature comme traduction (CETRA, 2004)’ raises fundamental questions about literature in a mixed culture.

This volume represents an extraordinary opportunity to become familiar with the history of translation studies and with Lambert’s research.

The minimalist syntax of defective domains

The minimalist syntax of defective domains: Gerunds and infinitives. By Acrisio Pires. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006. Pp. xiv, 188. ISBN 9789027233622. $158 (Hb).

Reviewed by Jim Paul Wood, New York University

Acrisio Pires presents a theory of nonfinite clauses couched within the minimalist program but discusses the phenomena such that practitioners of other theories may also benefit from his analyses. To this end, P often makes generalizations in a framework-neutral way and offers less formal versions of his hypotheses before moving into the technical analysis.

P takes a movement approach to obligatory control and analyzes clausal gerunds as tense phrases (TPs) with an unvalued case feature on tense (T°). The subject determiner phrase (DP) of the embedded clausal gerund gets its theta-role and moves to the specifier of TP (Spec,TP) to value T°’s phi and extended projection principle (EPP) features. At this point, T°’s unvalued case feature, by hypothesis, prevents T° from valuing case on the DP. The matrix little-v merges and attracts the DP, assigning its second theta-role. The second T° merges, attracts the DP, and finally values its case.

When the clausal gerund’s subject is overt, the derivation proceeds similarly until the matrix verb merges. It brings its own external argument, so the clausal gerund’s subject stays put. Little-v values case on T°, at which point T° values case on the DP in its Spec, preventing further movement of the clausal gerund’s subject. The matrix verb’s external argument then moves to Spec,TP. P argues that there are, in addition to the canonical cases, TP-defective gerunds (complements of verbs such as try) that either do not project a TP or project a TP whose head is [- tense].

P proposes a similar account for obligatory control infinitives in Portuguese. He takes a comparative approach, discussing European Portuguese, Standard Brazilian Portuguese, and Colloquial Brazilian Portuguese. He observes that English does not allow obligatory control with complements of believe-type verbs, whereas French and Standard Brazilian Portuguese do. P considers and rejects two approaches to the difference: that it follows from whether the complement is [+/- eventive] or [+/- tense]. Neither approach explains all the facts, especially observing that Standard Brazilian Portuguese, contrary to French, requires an auxiliary in the complement of believe-type verbs to license an eventive interpretation, although obligatory control is allowed in these contexts. P also discusses the relationship between nonobligatory control and inflected infinitives in Portuguese.

In the final chapter, P adopts a cue-based historical perspective and analyzes the rise and fall of inflected infinitives in Standard Brazilian Portuguese. He proposes a series of cues that children of various generations had available during acquisition. For example, the loss of inflected infinitives resulted from a weakening of the inflectional system in general, along with the replacement of first-person plural pronouns with third-person singular a gente ‘people’. The cues available to children do not license inflected infinitives or nonobligatory control in infinitival complements, although Standard Brazilian Portuguese, contrary to European Portuguese, allows overt subjects of noninflected infinitives.

P does the syntactic community a service with this book. He covers often overlooked empirical data and takes a comparative and historical approach in his analyses. He clearly explicates the empirical phenomena and demonstrates the strengths and limits of his analysis. Furthermore, his historical, acquisition-based approach punctuates the need for linguistic theory to account for how children so easily acquire a complex system as human language.

Standard Breton

Standard Breton. By Ian Press. (Languages of the world/materials 440). Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2004. Pp. iv, 77. ISBN 3895868345. $46.80.

Reviewed by Joseph F. Eska, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

Ian Press’s short guide to ‘standard’ Breton begins with a history of the language (3–11). A member of the Brittonic subgroup of the Insular Celtic languages, the language came to Brittany from southwestern Great Britain starting in the fifth century ce. Four dialects—Kerneveg, Leoneg, Tregerieg, and the quite distinctive Gweneveg—evolved over time. In western Brittany, the language was the principal one spoken until ca. 1990, though it has been in decline since 1789 when a strongly centralized French state was established. P goes into some detail about the repression of Breton, but finishes this section with some positive remarks about the revitalization of the language.

The grammatical description is very simple and depends heavily on several previously published works that are acknowledged in the preface (i).  Despite the term ‘standard’ in his title, P is usually content to provide an array of variants found across the dialects in his discussion of the phonology. For the dialectologist, this could be most useful, but for the nonspecialist attempting to learn something of the phonological component of the grammar for the first time, considerable frustration likely awaits.

The linguistic reader is best served by the nonphonological portions of the volume, in which one learns of the use of the morphophonemic initial mutations so characteristic of the Insular Celtic languages and a sizeable number of details about nominal, adjectival, pronominal, and verbal formation and syntax. Considerable information can be gleaned from these pages, but the sparse number of examples places a substantial burden on the reader to access it.  The often anecdotal flavor of the presentation reminds one of phrase books intended for the traveler with a casual interest in the language. P’s volume is a quick read and provides some interesting bits of information, but the professional linguist interested in a formal and more complete presentation of Breton grammar should look elsewhere. A useful bibliography at the end of the volume will help the reader to do this.

Comparative studies in Germanic syntax

Comparative studies in Germanic syntax: From Afrikaans to Zurich German. Ed. By Jutta M. Hartmann and László Molnárfi. (Linguistik aktuell/Linguistics today 97.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006. Pp. vi, 332. ISBN 9789027233615. $188 (Hb).

Reviewed by Jim Paul Wood, University of New Hampshire

A collection of papers from the Twentieth Comparative Germanic Syntax Workshop in Tilburg, June 2005, this volume contains ten papers divided into three thematic parts: predication, the (pro)nominal system, and diachrony. The editors make their commitment to the comparative approach explicit by requiring each paper to study at least two Germanic languages in detail.

Part 1 presents studies of predication. In ‘The Nom/Acc alternation in Germanic’ (13–50), Halldór Ármann Sigurðsson observes that relatively case-poor languages tend to assign accusative case to objects in predicative constructions, whereas relatively case-rich languages assign nominative case in the same situation. He defends a view in which the difference between, for example, English and Icelandic is whether case marking differentiates between determiner phrases (DPs) or arguments, respectively.

In ‘Shape conservation, Holmberg’s generalization and predication’ (51–87), Olaf Koeneman argues that Anders Holmberg’s generalization (i.e. that object shift is fed by verb-raising) is best accounted for in narrow syntax as shape conservation, ensuring a linear uniformity between phonological form (PF) and logical form (LF).

Mark de Vos’s ‘Quirky verb-second in Afrikaans: Complex predicates and head movement’ (89–114) focuses on a construction in which a conjoined verb string occupies the verb second position in Afrikaans. He concludes that some instances of head movement cannot be reduced to remnant or phonological movement.

Marit Julien closes out the predication section with ‘Nominal arguments and nominal predicates’ (115–40). Julien demonstrates that the nominal predicate/argument distinction is not a structural difference, as predicative and argumental nominal phrases can be equally large or small. The difference, he proposes, must be in the semantics.

Part 2 contains three papers on pronominals. Dorian Roehrs’s ‘Pronominal noun phrases, number specifications, and null nouns’ (143–80) analyzes pronominal noun phrases in which the pronoun and head noun disagree semantically but agree morphologically (e.g. German Sie verrotztes Nichts ‘you snotty nothing’ with plural morphology and singular semantics) and vice versa. He argues that the apparently disagreeing head nouns are actually in a specifier position, while the pronoun agrees with a null noun in a head position.

In ‘Toward a syntactic theory of number neutralization: The Dutch pronouns je ‘you’ and ze ‘them’’ (181–200), Gertjan Postma extends Richard Kayne’s theory of number neutralization to Dutch third-person pronouns. Postma argues that two syntactic distributors, one taking an A-antecedent and the other an A’-antecedent, are responsible for apparent plural use of singular pronouns.

In ‘Long relativization in Zurich German as resumptive prolepsis’ (201–34), Martin Salzmann proposes an analysis for resumptive pronouns in Zurich German long-distance relative clauses that parallels English tough-movement.

Part 3 includes three historical studies. In ‘Auxiliary selection and counterfactuality in the history of English and Germanic’ (237–62), Thomas McFadden and Artemis Alexiadou present convincing evidence that the appearance of have in English perfects was directly related to a rise in the use of counterfactuals in perfect constructions. Be is shown to be incompatible with past-tense counterfactual semantics.

Theresa Biberauer and Ian Roberts, in ‘Loss of residual “head-final” orders and remnant fronting in Late Middle English: Causes and consequences’ (263–97), analyze head-final word orders in Middle English as instances of optional pied piping of the verb phrase rather than the DP to the specifier of inflection (Spec,Infl°). Carola Trips concludes with ‘Syntactic sources of word-formation processes: Evidence from Old English and Old High German’ (299–329). She analyzes word formation in English and German diachronically, focusing on how formerly syntactic processes can eventually be reanalyzed by language-acquirers as morphological and arguing that syntax and morphology build structure differently.

The papers are well chosen, often presenting previously un- or underdiscussed data from a variety of perspectives. The contributors illustrate the usefulness of the comparative approach to reach a deeper understanding of natural language syntax in general and Germanic languages in particular.


Manx. By John D. Phillips. (Languages of the world/materials 434.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2004. Pp. v, 134. ISBN 3895867659. $55.

Reviewed by Joseph F. Eska, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

Manx is a member—with Irish and Scottish Gaelic—of the Goidelic branch of the Insular Celtic languages spoken on the Isle of Man. Its written records date from the 1610 translation of the Book of Common Prayer and Psalter. It was spoken by the large majority of inhabitants of the island through the eighteenth century. Its last native speaker died in 1974. The language has been revived by enthusiasts and it is now possible for children to progress through primary level education via the medium of Manx. The goal of the present work is to provide a synchronic description of the spontaneous spoken language of the last native speakers.

Phillips’s ‘Introduction’ (1–6) sets Manx in historical context, describes the corpus of the language (including its English-based orthographic system), briefly goes into changes in the language during its history, discusses the (limited) previous scholarship on the language, and sets out the objectives of his work.

The following chapters on ‘Phonology’ (7–14), ‘Morphology’ (15–51), and ‘Syntax’ (52–118) admirably set out the facts of these components of the grammar of the last generation of native speakers. In the phonology and morphology, in particular, but also the syntax, one finds numerous phenomena associated with language death. The realization of all segments, but vowels especially, can be very variable. The system of initial morphophonemic mutations that characterizes the Insular Celtic languages has broken down to the extent that no mutation is obligatory and those that exist may be variably realized. In certain specific syntactic contexts, they may occur up to half of the time that they would be expected, but otherwise their occurrence is rare. The nominal case and gender system has been eliminated. Derivational morphology is no longer productive and lexis and the variety of syntactic constructions have been reduced from earlier times.

The volume is completed by a sample text in broad phonemic transcription, which illustrates many of the variations in the language described above, a lexicon of 100 words that provides forms in Manx orthography along with a transcription into the IPA and an English gloss, a bibliography, and thorough indices of Manx words and subjects discussed.

This slim volume packs an enormous amount of information into its pages. The chapters are very usefully subcategorized so that the reader may easily locate subjects of interest. Everyone who is interested in the last natively-spoken phase of this much understudied language and/or language death phenomena, in general, would be well advised to consult this fine addition to the LINCOM Europa series of descriptive grammar.

Studies in African linguistic typology

Studies in African linguistic typology. Ed. by F. K. Erhard Voeltz. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2006. Pp. 426. ISBN 9789027229755. $218 (Hb).

Reviewed by Benji Wald, New York City

The product of a symposium on African language typology sponsored by the Institut für Afrikanistik, Universität zu Köln, this volume continues work pioneered by Bernd Heine in the 1970s. The volume is dedicated to Joseph H. Greenberg, the original impetus and continuing inspiration for the field. Erhard Voeltz’s introduction briefly describes the twenty-one papers that comprise the volume. Each paper is headed by an abstract and ends with a list of references.

Following Greenberg’s original work on typology and Heine’s exploration of grammaticalization in African languages, there is a general—although not exclusive—tendency for the papers to focus on typological comparisons of diachronic change rather than on static universals. Thus, quite a few of the papers focus on  genetically related languages—for example Herman M. Batibo examines Southern Bantu future marking (1–12), Philippe Bourdin investigates Somali directional deixis (13–42), Axel Fleisch discusses Bantu passivization (93–130), Amina Mettouchi explores Kabyle negation (263–76), Maarten Mous focuses on (East) Cushitic selectors (303–26), Brigitte Reineke and Gudrun Miehe examine Gur verb valency (337–60), and H. Ekkehard Wolff contrasts focus in two Hausa dialects (397–416).

As Voeltz notes in his introduction, focusing on a particular language family allows for the detailed examination of linguistic phenomena before it is compared to apparently similar phenomena in other, unrelated languages. This avoids premature generalizations about language universals that may be based on inadequate analysis of one or several of the compared languages. As implied, there is much work to be done in the careful analysis of languages in many parts of the world, and Africa is no exception. In fact, several of the papers detail languages and groups for which data have been previously limited, inaccessible, or nonexistent. One such paper is Gerrit J. Dimmendaal’s comparison of the Surmic languages of Nilo-Saharan to the better documented Nilotic languages with which Surmic is in contact (71–92).

The scope of some papers is broader than others. One way to judge the generality of a paper is by whether it mentions a Khoisan language. Such mention is restricted to Tania Kuteva and Bernard Comrie (209–28), who discuss  relative clause formation across Africa, and Claudia Maria Riehl and Christa Kilian-Hatz (361–76), who explore nominal compounding. Otherwise, Denia Creissel’s paper is quite wide in scope she indicates that in some families, obligatory subject and object marking are more common than not. Unfortunately, no paper focuses specifically on Khoisan, perhaps because for most languages, especially in the San group, full description is a matter of great urgency, so the relatively few firsthand investigators might see typologizing as a premature distraction at present.

One of the great virtues of the volume is the presentation of data on languages not previously available. African languages are diverse in that description in one language group can have fresh typological implications for languages in general, as in the particular devices for marking various constituents for focus, or, as in Mous’s paper, the grammatical category he calls selector, which varies its grammatical properties in different Cushitic languages. Indeed, data from new languages can simply provide insight into perennial problems with accepted linguistic categories, such as the word, as discussed by Larry M. Hyman and Francis X. Katamba in regard to Luganda (171–94).

This volume is of sufficient scope and high analytic quality to serve as a new standard text in African language typology.