Monthly Archives: November 2010

Relative tense and aspectual values in Tibetan languages

Relative tense and aspectual values in Tibetan languages. By Bettina Zeisler. (Trends in linguistics: Studies and monographs 150.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2004. Pp. xxv, 986. ISBN 9783110178685. $217 (Hb).

Reviewed by Ellen Bartee, University of California, Santa Barbara

Bettina Zeisler’s work presents ‘a comparative approach to a universal theory of TENSE, ASPECT, and MOOD’ (1). To Classical Tibetan philologists, she promises ‘a detailed functional description of the Classical Tibetan verb forms in their discourse context’ (1). To Tibetan dialectologists, she offers an extensive diachronic and synchronic comparison of West, Central (including Exile Koiné), and Amdo and Kham varieties of Tibetan. To comparative linguists, she addresses the basic concepts of absolute tense and aspect, and challenges the notion that absolute tense is more basic than relative tense.

The book is arranged into four parts. Part 1 (21–214) is a theoretical account of tense and aspect (TAM) distinctions, defining and illustrating the concepts basic to the functions and meanings of verbal structures crosslinguistically. In the first section, Z examines the theory of markedness, one of the underlying principles of her study. After a few introductory remarks on the relationship of verb forms to the conceptualization of events in the second section, Z presents the concepts that she will use to analyze Tibetan verbs in the third section. These include type of event, phase, quantification, absolute and relative tense, aspect, and framing. Section 4 examines case studies of languages, or language groups, that exemplify functional encoding of the concepts discussed in Section 3. Section 5 summarizes some pragmatic functions of TAM concepts, particularly as they are found in narrative discourse. Section 6 attempts to unify the TAM concepts under discussion, highlighting their distinctiveness and interrelatedness as well as their multifunctionality.

Drawing on data from a variety of Tibetan dialects, Part 2 (215–594) delves into the Tibetan verbal system, using concepts delineated in Part 1 as tools for semantic analysis. After an overview of the classification of Tibetan languages, transcription and transliteration schemes, and phonological comments on a few modern Tibetan varieties, the general features of the Tibetan verb are introduced. These include the four verb stems of Old and Classical Tibetan and concepts of control, valency and case relations, as well as evidentiality and negation. Attempting to tease out discourse functional oppositions among the four traditional verb stem categories, the author finds that a functional analysis ‘cannot establish a basically aspectual opposition of the verb stems’ and suggests that relative tense and mood provide the best conceptual bases for delineating the discourse functions of the verb stems (463). Sections 4 and 5 examine verb forms in Lhasa, Amdo and Kham varieties. Various attempts to analyze certain elements in terms of aspect are critiqued, and the relationships of non-finite verb functions with relative tense and of split ergativity with aspect and tense are discussed.

Part 3 (595–846) represents the author’s original fieldwork on Ladakhi, supplemented by data from other linguists and written Ladakhi. Sections 1 and 2 describe features of Ladakhi such as the phonology, morphology, dative subject, split ergativity, negation, evidentiality, distance, probability, and estimation. Section 3 deals with some temporal aspects of West Tibetan. Of particular interest are innovations in past tense constructions, including the development of remoteness markers and passive perfect constructions. Section 4 describes the unmarked narrational imperfect and the marked narrative present and perfect in Ladakhi narrative texts. The last section summarizes the functional oppositions among West Tibetan verb constructions.

Part 4 (847–954) attempts to tie together the information presented in the book from a mostly diachronic comparativist perspective. Section 1 suggests some developments of verb stems from Archaic Tibetan to Old and Classical Tibetan, reconstructions compatible with the control/non-control distinctions found in all Tibetan varieties. Section 2 traces the development of some complex verb forms found in modern Tibetan languages. One of the main themes is restated in the conclusion: the most relevant functional concepts for the comparative analysis of verb forms in Tibetan languages are relative tense and mood.

This is a comprehensive work with extensive data from many varieties of written and spoken Tibetan. In spite of the complicated tables and lack of a general index, this book will prove valuable to researchers interested in Tibetan languages and/or issues surrounding TAM.

Studien zur historischen Grammatik des Tschechischen

Studien zur historischen Grammatik des Tschechischen: Bohemistische Beiträge zur Kontaktlinguistik. By Tilman Berger. (Travaux linguistiques de Brno 02.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2008. Pp. 92. ISBN 9783895860478. $67.90.

Reviewed by Marc Pierce, University of Texas at Austin

This slim volume contains five previously published papers on the history of Czech, mostly on aspects of Czech-German language contact, that have been updated for this collection (e.g. bibliographical references and cross-references have been added).

The first paper, ‘Überlegungen zur Geschichte des festen Akzents im Westslavischen’ (‘Thoughts on the history of the fixed accent in West Slavic’) (7–19), tackles the problem of why the West Slavic languages have a fixed initial accent, while languages like Polish accentuate the penultimate syllable, and ultimately traces it to the effects of contact with German and Hungarian. The second paper, ‘Nové cesty k bádání česko-německých jazykových vztahů (na příkladu hláskosloví)’ (‘New methods in the study of Czech-German linguistic relationships (examples from phonology)’ (21–28), concentrates on issues like monophthongization and diphthongization, while also giving an overview of the relevant literature.

The next paper, ‘Der alttschechische “Umlaut”—ein slavisch-deutsches Kontaktphänomen’ (‘The Old Czech “Umlaut”—a Slavic-German contact phenomenon?’) (29–35), explores the possibility that certain vowel changes in the history of Czech—traditionally referred to as přehláska—can be connected to parallel developments in the history of German. The fourth paper, ‘Gibt es Alternativen zur herkömmlichen Beschreibung der tschechischen Lautgeschichte?’ (‘Are there alternatives to the traditional description of Czech historical phonology?’) (37–55), offers such an alternative, suggesting that it is possible to treat Czech historical phonology as the result of a complex combination of factors, including language contact with German. The final thematic paper in the volume, ‘Deutsche Einflüsse auf das grammatische System des Tschechischen’ (‘German influences on the Czech grammatical system’) (57–69), discusses issues like Germanisms in Czech and presents criteria to evaluate possible results of German influence in Czech. The volume concludes with a brief afterword, ‘Nachwort: Bohemistik, Sprachkontakt, Prager Schule’ (‘Afterword: Bohemian studies, language contact, the Prague School’) (71–74), by Bohumil Vykypěl on connections between contact linguistics and the Prague School of linguistics.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it reads easily and well, and the individual papers are certainly interesting; however, there is some overlap between the individual papers and the price is very high for so slim a volume. Perhaps the subject would have been better served if the author had written a monograph on the topic rather than reprinting various earlier papers, which would have eliminated the overlap and merited the price. Be that as it may, we can be grateful that these papers are now gathered in one place and made much more accessible to scholars.

Pedagogical specialised lexicography

Pedagogical specialised lexicography: The representation of meaning in English and Spanish business dictionaries. By Pedro A. Fuertes-Olivera and Ascensión Arribas-Baño. (Terminology and lexicography research and practice 11.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2008. Pp. ix, 165. ISBN 9789027223357. $135 (Hb).

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, Sabanci University

This monograph investigates how selected language for specific purposes (LSP) dictionaries of English and Spanish treat the representation of meaning. Taking the monolingual learner’s English dictionary as the forefront of lexicographical practice, the authors explore the possibilities of similar practices for LSP monolingual and bilingual dictionaries of business English or Spanish. Additional research questions that the work addresses are the lexicographical treatment of key aspects of meaning (macrostructure, mediostructure, access structure, and microstructure), and the suitability to reception, production, and translation of the different models employed for students of English/Spanish. The dictionaries selected for analysis are English and Spanish monolingual dictionaries for native speakers, English monolingual pedagogical dictionaries, and English/Spanish bilingual dictionaries that are described as very popular on the Spanish market. Due to the prevalence of nouns in LSP, the authors centre their analysis on noun entries for the letter P.

Comprising six chapters, the book commences with a theoretical introduction and an outline of methods used. Ch. 2 examines how business dictionaries approach homonymy and polysemy in the context of the representation of meaning. Ch. 3 discusses the formulation of definitions. The authors challenge commonly held beliefs regarding terminological, encyclopedic, and semantic definitions and conclude with recommendations for the formulation of definitions that meet the needs of second language learners. In Ch. 4, the notion of equivalence is considered, first from the perspective of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis and then from the perspective of a conceptual framework: the authors note that there are no accepted conceptual taxonomies in business and economics. Ch. 5 examines the use of examples in business dictionaries, which the authors consider to limited and unsystematic. In light of the importance of dictionary examples in second language study, the authors offer a series of concrete recommendations, from example types and typography to the lexicographical functions examples serve. The final chapter, beyond providing the study’s principal conclusion, gives recommendations with respect to improving how LSP dictionaries can assist learning, the representation of meaning, and general points regarding layout and typography. The section ends with a model lexicographic entry for a bilingual dictionary.

The strengths of the book lie in its clarity of organization and layout and its breadth of discussion. It incorporates illuminative excerpts from all dictionaries studied, complemented by a comparative analysis of the approaches of these dictionaries to the points under discussion. Finally, the authors clearly identify specific methods by which LSP dictionaries can better respond to the pedagogical requirements of second language learners. The study will doubtlessly be well received by students and teachers of lexicography and translation.

A grammar of Makwe

A grammar of Makwe. By Maud Devos. (Lincom studies in African linguistics 71.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2008. Pp. 533. ISBN 9783895861079. $118.30 (Hb).

Reviewed by Iván Ortega-Santos, University of Memphis

This book includes a detailed synchronic description of Makwe, an understudied Bantu language spoken along the coast of the Palma district in the Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique. Ch. 1 features an introduction on this language, e.g. the area where the language is spoken, the population, and an overview of previous literature. Ch. 2 deals with the phonology: the phonemic inventory, syllabic structure, tone, and various phenomena including palatalization. Ch. 3 focuses on a wide variety of issues concerning nominals: e.g. noun classes, prefixes, genders and agreement, the tonal profiles of nouns, derivational processes, reduplication, adjectives, and compounds. Ch. 4 discusses minor word categories, particularly numerals, possessives, interrogatives, and demonstratives.

Ch. 5, which concentrates on verbs with an emphasis on morphology, discusses issues such as concord and derivational extensions (e.g. causatives and applicatives). Chs. 6 and 7 are devoted to the tenses. Ch. 6 includes a description of verbal tone and the semantics of each tense, whereas Ch. 7 discusses the properties of independent and dependent tenses. This is primarily a morphologically motivated distinction: independent tenses have a negative counterpart with a pre-initial negative marker. Furthermore, there is a strong tendency for independent tenses to be used as the only tense in a sentence or as the main tense of a complex sentence. In turn, dependent tenses show either no grammaticalized negative counterpart or a negative counterpart involving a post-initial negative marker. Furthermore, Ch. 7 relates the semantics of the tenses, especially of the independent tenses, to the lexical meaning of the verbs.

Ch. 8 is concerned with non-verbal predication (e.g. predication with invariant copulas instead of an inflected verb form), relatives and infinitives. The book ends with a collection of texts intended to provide actual language samples and an overview of the culture, as the samples are divided into greetings, food and recipes, proverbs, and riddles, among others. Given that Makwe is a hitherto under-documented language, this grammar is a welcome addition to the literature on Bantu languages.

Access Spanish 2

Access Spanish 2: An intermediate language course. By María Utrera Cejudo. London: Hodder Arnold, 2007. Pp. vii, 224. ISBN 9780340916889. $35.

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, University of Granada

This textbook complements Access Spanish: Student book (London: Hodder Arnold, 2004) and is intended for adult pre-intermediate to low intermediate learners. The textbook consists of ten units (each about twenty pages), with an English-Spanish bilingual glossary at the end of each unit and a grammar supplement and bilingual glossary at the end of the book. While the content of the chapters is theme-based (health, past life events, moving house, free time activities), each chapter has a clear focus on grammar points necessary for its topic, with grammar points identified in the chapter’s initial learning objectives (‘By the end of this unit you will be able to…’) and explained in English in the various ‘Language use’ boxes throughout the chapter. Additional language points concerning grammar, dialectal differences, useful phrases, and cultural information from the Hispanic world can be found in the ‘Learning tips’ likewise distributed throughout the chapters.

Although the text begins using English for all instructions, by the second chapter both languages are used and by the third chapter primarily Spanish is used for instructions; English appears in the grammar, vocabulary, and cultural explanations. Each chapter reinforces all four language skills through individual, pair, and group work. Reinforcement and continuity are provided by brief revision spots (‘¿Qué recuerdas?’ What do you remember?) that appear at the beginning of each chapter, and a preview of key vocabulary items from the following unit (‘Looking forward’) appears at the end.

Although the text principally uses the Spanish Peninsular dialect, there are references to corresponding Latin American lexical items and grammatical forms where relevant. The themes do not favor one geographical area (i.e. Spain or Latin America), which is likely to appeal to learners with a more international focus.

Learners will be able to move fairly quickly through this text: themes are introduced in a lively manner, reading texts are of modest length, and exercises are not extensive. Reference to internet resources (e.g. sites where more information about a certain topic may be found) is commendable and may motivate some instructors to make greater use of the web as a learning tool.

This book may be used with additional student exercises freely accessible online. These are, however, of limited value, for some are not particularly suited to adult internet usage, occasional spelling mistakes occur, and answers are not provided. Simple teaching materials for classroom activities included in the text are also available online.

Standard Basque

Standard Basque: A progressive grammar. By Rudolf P. G. de Rijk. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008. Pp. xxvi, 1344. ISBN 9780262042420. $100 (Hb).

Reviewed by Iván Ortega-Santos, University of Memphis

In the late 1960’s the Royal Academy of the Basque Language, Euskaltzaindia, created a unified literary variety of Basque, a pre-Indo-European typologically isolate language spoken in the Basque area of Spain and France. This variety, commonly referred to as standard Basque or Euskara Batua, plays a central role in the survival of the language and is currently used in teaching, the media, and literature. This book is remarkable in that it is the first modern pedagogically oriented reference grammar for standard Basque written in English. Rudolf P. G. de Rijk, a highly respected expert on this language, focuses on a variety of topics ranging from orthography and pronunciation to the grammar of case and agreement, personal pronouns, information structure and constituent order, adverbs, ergativity, transitivity, causatives, conditionals, relative clauses, the subjunctive, imperatives, comparatives, coordination, compounds, and reduplication.

In addition to presenting standard Basque, the author enriches the volume by sharing his extensive knowledge in modern linguistics, Basque dialectology, and the history of Basque, without distracting the reader. Apart from the customary references to other sources included in the course of the presentation, he added a number of bibliographical notes commenting on previous works on specific grammar points. The volume assumes a certain degree of familiarity with linguistic terminology (e.g. terms like plosive, apico-alveolar, and sandhi-rules are used without explanation), but the presentation stands out for its clarity and depth nonetheless.

Chapters include translation exercises whose answer key is provided. In addition to the vocabulary sections included throughout the book, there is a small Basque-English and English-Basque dictionary that includes the vocabulary relevant to the translation exercises. As a result, this book bridges the gap between a reference grammar and a language textbook, although clearly the emphasis is on the former. The linguistic examples used to illustrate the presentation are taken from literary works in many cases. A subject index, an index of personal names, and a selected index of Basque formatives and words are also included.

As a whole, this book is a great resource for students of Basque and researchers alike. Given that the book is the first of its kind to become available in English, it is bound to have great importance in the field of linguistics.

Linguistic competence across learner varieties of Spanish

Linguistic competence across learner varieties of Spanish. By Arnulfo G. Ramírez. (LINCOM studies in language acquisition 22.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2008. Pp. vii, 189. ISBN 9783895867903. $93.10.

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, University of Granada

This study establishes learner language profiles for learners of Spanish of different levels at a US tertiary institution. Comprising eight chapters, the book begins with a broad introduction to linguistic competence that takes into account such aspects as learner styles, learner strategies, and language attitudes. For this study, Ramírez has divided linguistic competence into two domains: language knowledge (lexical and syntactic competence, metalinguistic judgements) and language use (conversational acts, and descriptive and narrative discourse).

For the study, R selected twenty-five university students of Spanish, who were evenly distributed across five competence levels: basic, intermediate, advanced, superior, native speaker. To assess the learners’ relative levels of competence in each domain, R devised tasks similar to those used in second language courses. Progressing from controlled to freer exercises, the tasks include gap-fill exercises, dehydrated sentences, sentence reorganization, dialogue completion, as well as picture description and picture sequence tasks. Although the results from all tasks show incremental gains in learners’ linguistic competency from the basic to the superior levels, the nature of these gains is often of interest. For instance, results from the verb lexical task (gap-fill) show that the most substantial increase of ‘depth knowledge’ (the application of verb inflectional markers) is found between basic to intermediate levels and appears to level off at higher levels. In the exercise involving sentence formation, the basic and intermediate level learners experienced syntactic problems more frequently than morphological problems, whereas advanced and superior level learners made more morphological than syntactic mistakes.

The freer practice activity of constructing a dialogue provides the opportunity to observe pragmatic conversational features across learner levels. For example, the use of discourse markers becomes more widespread at the upper levels, as does the number of co-referential chains serving to maintain textual connectivity. The results from the final three exercises, which require a considerable degree of text production from the learners, are of greatest interest. The author cites excerpts from the learners’ texts to illustrate varying levels of competence and to shed light on strategies to which learners at different levels resort to meet the demands of particular language tasks.

This study will appeal to researchers and students of second language acquisition (not only of Spanish). Its attraction is its breadth. Rather than concentrating on the acquisition of a particular linguistic feature, the wide variety of linguistic tasks used for testing purposes produced a broad array of linguistic data. The small pool of participants from which data were collected may inspire other researchers to undertake a similar study with a learner group of different characteristics. Unfortunately, while this study is of wide interest, the frequency of errata throughout the text is disappointing.

The western classical tradition in linguistics

The western classical tradition in linguistics. By Keith Allan. (Equinox textbooks and surveys in linguistics.) London: Equinox, 2007. Pp. xiii, 351. ISBN 9781904768968. $29.95.

Reviewed by András Kertész, University of Debrecen

Keith Allan’s central claim is that the development of Western linguistics has been, from its beginnings to current trends (such as generative grammar, cognitive linguistics, and pragmatics), substantially influenced by different components of the ancient Greek tradition.

Ch. 1, ‘Linguistics and the Western classical tradition’, introduces the central thesis of the book and traces back the origins of linguistics to the earliest writing systems. In Ch. 2, ‘Plato on language’, A summarizes Plato’s ideas on meaning, grammar, particulars, universals, and abstract objects. Ch. 3, ‘Aristotle’s legacy’, besides discussing Aristotle’s thoughts on language, also reveals the relationship between the latter and the Gricean maxims. In Ch. 4, ‘The Stoics and Varro’, A argues that the Stoics significantly contributed to the analysis of propositional types, propositional structure, and valid inferences from propositions. Ch. 5, ‘Quintilian, Dionysios, and Donatus: The start of a pedagogic tradition’, deals with the prescriptive nature of pedagogic grammars. In Ch. 6, ‘Apollonius and Priscian, the great grammarians among the ancients’, it is demonstrated how syntactic analysis emerged in ancient linguistic thought.

From Ch. 7 on, the main organizing principle of the book is thematic rather than chronological. It means that certain topics are dealt with in several overlapping chapters, thus revealing the coherent networks of ideas shaping the history of linguistics. In Ch. 7, ‘Prescriptivism from the early Middle Ages on’, A’s main claim is that prescriptivism, although often questioned from a scientific point of view, should be dealt with as an integral component of the history of linguistics. Ch. 8, ‘“General” or “universal” grammar: From the modistae to Chomsky’, overviews the search for the common core of different languages. Ch. 9, ‘Phonetics, phonology, and comparative philology’, starts with a brief history of phonetics and phonology and then outlines the development of comparative linguistics in the nineteenth century. In Ch. 10, ‘Language and thought: From Epicuros until after Whorf’, the author traces back the origin of the Sapir-Whorf-Hypothesis, among others, to classic and eighteenth century philosophers, while its present-day representatives such as cognitive grammarians are also identified. Ch. 11, ‘Saussurean and functionalist linguistics: The study of language as human communication’, focuses on Saussure’s impact, which is not restricted to structuralism. Finally, in Ch. 12, ‘Paradigms for linguistic analysis: Bloomfieldian linguistics and the Chomsky revolution’, A argues for the fruitful combination of the inductive and the deductive method. The book also includes the ‘References’, a ‘List of figures, a ‘List of tables’ and an ‘Index’.

A’s monograph is an impressive scholarly achievement with many new insights and re-evaluations of known facts. It goes far beyond usual textbooks, although its clarity, originality, and readability will certainly make it a standard work on the student’s shelf.

En una palabra, Córdoba, Argentina

En una palabra, Córdoba, Argentina: A CD-ROM for exploring culture in Spanish. By Emmanuel Paris-Bouvret and Ana Pérez-Gironés. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2007. ISBN 9781589011861. $29.95.

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, Sabanci University

This CD-Rom promotes both Spanish language learning (primarily listening comprehension) and second language cultural awareness. Fifteen Argentines resident in Córdoba are prompted to define ten concepts (e.g. friends, family, work, country, liberty, success, pride), providing 150 brief film clips (each lasting between ten seconds and one minute, approximately). The monologues have a spontaneous feel (they include pauses, reformulations, and hedges) and are representative of authentic everyday language.

The material may be incorporated into Spanish language courses from basic to advanced levels. Suggestions for classroom use are provided in an accompanying booklet, freely available online ( The CD-ROM also includes a full set of transcripts (these can be viewed when watching each film clip or copied and printed), a brief glossary of terms (according to the Real Academía Española), information about the city of Córdoba, and a summary of the main features of the Córdoba accent (most of which are true of the Argentine dialect in general).

The film clips may be chosen by topic or speaker characteristics (e.g. age, profession, family ties, occupation), with the help of the accompanying brief biographical data. The speakers come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and divergent world views. For lower levels, shorter film clips may be watched individually, while in higher levels several recordings may be used to contrast speakers’ views and to analyze how particular discursive moves are performed linguistically (e.g. to commence or to end a ‘turn’, to agree or disagree to add emphasis). The cultural content may also be exploited. As one may expect, explanations of concepts such as individualism, egoism, family, or success reflect the speakers’ own cultural backgrounds.

The recorded material may be supplemented in class. For instance, monolingual Spanish dictionaries may be used to compare recorded definitions with dictionary definitions. Furthermore, one of the other two CD-ROMs in this series, filmed in Seville (Spain) and Puebla (Mexico), may be used to contrast dialects and/or cultural characteristics.

This CD-ROM provides engaging authentic listening material in an attractive, user-friendly format. Perhaps its only deficiency is the absence of autodidactic tasks. As it stands, its target market is primarily Spanish language teachers, but with the addition of learner tasks for self-directed instruction (with a key), the CD-ROM could greatly appeal to individual learners, especially considering its reasonable price. There are few options on the market for learners seeking authentic listening material for didactic purposes (perhaps the closest comparison would be with Como Suena, published by Editorial Difusión in 1991).

Early language development

Early language development: Bridging brain and behaviour. Ed. by Angela D. Friederici and Guillaume Thierry. (Trends in language acquisition research 5.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2008. Pp. xiv, 263. ISBN 9789027234759. $128 (Hb).

Reviewed by Julia Herschensohn, University of Washington

This volume, an official publication of the International Association for the Study of Child Language that aims to ‘present cutting edge work which is likely to stimulate further research’ (ix), explores the use of behavioral and neurological approaches to study early language processing. The ten articles provide comparisons of more traditional paradigms such as high amplitude sucking and head turn to the recent neurological technique involving event related potentials (ERPs), showing how the two approaches complement each other in describing young children’s acquisition of phonemic discrimination, prosodic boundaries, lexical recognition, and morphosyntax.

Claudia Männel’s introductory tutorial sets the frame for subsequent chapters by describing the physiology, methodology, advantages, and disadvantages of ERPs for studying early language.  Language processing induces neurological electrical impulses that can be recorded in ERP measures derived from electroencephalography (EEG); ERPs document the brain’s electrical activity from scalp-attached electrodes that record neurons responding en masse to a given stimulus. Responses are measured in terms of positivity/negativity, latency (measured in milliseconds), hemispheric location in the brain, and functional significance. Distinct responses mark different components of language processing, e.g. mismatch negativity (MMN, 100-250 ms) to phonetic distinction, the N400 (400 ms) to lexico-semantic properties; and the P600 (600-1000 ms) to syntactic anomalies. Männel notes that while ERPs are difficult to record from young children because of limited attention, stamina, and verbal skills, ERPs are advantageous in not requiring instructions or motor responses—the children passively take in the stimuli while their brain activity is recorded.

The remaining articles document ERP research on early language, showing how it provides additional evidence for the developmental stages identified by behavioral methods: establishment of the native phonemic inventory and prosodic patterns in year one, word segmentation and linking of form and meaning in year two, and mastery of phrase structure and morphology in years three and four. The studies covering English, French, Welsh, Spanish, Dutch, and German provide evidence for finer tuning of developmental chronology and for emergence of adult-like neural responses. For example, Manuela Friedrich documents a convergence of fast mapping (the vocabulary spurt of toddlers) with the appearance of the N400 neural response, leading her to suggest ‘the maturation of the N400 and the development of the fast mapping ability might reflect a causal relationship between N400 neural mechanisms and children’s word learning capacity’ (157).

The final chapter by David Poeppel and Akira Amaki gives an excellent summary of the findings presented in the volume, but it also warns of challenges accompanying the benefits of ERP research. They point out that much neurocognitive work is correlative with behavioral studies, but may not enrich our understanding of how development and cognition work. They note that interpretation of child ERP data is particularly problematic since its deviance from well-documented adult patterns is not easily explained. They conclude, however, that the ‘much richer information about the time course and distribution of neural activities’ (245) allows better comparisons of adult and child processing and hence of language development.