Monthly Archives: November 2010

Courtroom interpreting

Courtroom interpreting. By Marianne Mason. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2008. Pp. xiv, 212. ISBN 9780761840732. $28.59.

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, Sabanci University

This monograph investigates cognitive and linguistic challenges faced by court interpreters based on authentic Spanish-English data from the records of a US courtroom. Marianne Mason analyzes the quality of interpreting from a discourse perspective, focusing on both semantic (word) and pragmatic equivalence (e.g. the correct rendition of discourse markers, discourse organization, and terms of address). The author notes that the quality of interpreting can influence jurors’ and attorneys’ impressions of a witness or defendant, as well as affect the witness’s perception of the connotations conveyed by the attorney through stylistic or syntactic choices. An underperforming interpreter potentially puts the defendant at a disadvantage. M considers why interpreters may struggle to convey the defendant’s message adequately and identifies consequences that cognitive overload might have upon an interpreter’s performance.

Comprising six chapters and appendices, the main content of the book is found within the first 100 pages. The first two chapters (1–18) provide an overview of US court interpreting from a human rights perspective and describe the fieldwork procedures M employed. Ch. 3, ‘A linguistic and cognitive view of interpreter-induced errors’ (19–40), considers the effects of turn length on the interpreter’s performance and discusses variables that affect style, such as speech disfluencies, discourse markers ‘well’ and ‘now’, politeness markers, syntax, semantic equivalence at word level, and implicatures. In each case, the author provides bilingual examples from her data to illustrate each point and discusses the implications of additions and omissions. The error rate for each variable relative to the length of an utterance is calculated using regression analysis, and the results indicate that utterance length affects error rates for additions and omissions differently.

In Ch. 4, ‘Counteracting the effects of cognitive overload’ (41–59), M examines two strategies employed by interpreters to reduce cognitive overload: interrupting and semi-consecutive interpreting. Although M evaluates semi-consecutive interpreting positively, especially during more challenging parts of a trial (e.g. cross-examination), she notes that interpreters have little control over this technique as it requires attorneys to self-segment their turns.

In Ch. 5, ‘On using note taking techniques in the bilingual courtroom’ (61–74), M examines the use of note-taking to assist in managing cognitive overload. She laments insufficient provision for training in note-taking and points out the need for more research on this technique. Finally, in Ch. 6, ‘Gender differences in the management of cognitive overload’ (75–93), the author considers gender in the management of cognitive overload. Similar to previous research into gender and language, M’s findings suggest that the correct rendering of politeness markers and signals of deference in the target language depends on the interpreter’s gender, at least in turns above a certain length.

This book will greatly interest scholars and interpreters, and will doubtlessly encourage further investigation into professional interpreting. The book does not assume knowledge of Spanish; and the data, discussions, and findings are equally relevant to interpreting between other languages.

Man-bear travels to hell

Man-bear travels to hell: Aspects of the phonological description of a Cahuilla narrative. By Ingo Mamet (Languages of the world/text collections 27.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2008. Pp. 142. ISBN 9783895867866. $77.

Reviewed by Jason D. Haugen, Williams College

This wonderful new book makes available previously unpublished linguistic documentation conducted by one of the most important Americanists of the twentieth century, J.P. Harrington (1884–1961), a prolific documenter of endangered Native American languages. Unfortunately, much of his work is not accessible to modern scholars or to the modern-day members of the communities whose languages he documented. This book helps rectify this situation for Cahuilla, a nearly-extinct Uto-Aztecan language of the Takic sub-group in southern California. Harrington worked with speakers of Cahuilla for many years and left thousands of pages of notes on the language.

This book presents one of thirty full texts that Harrington collected: ‘Man-Bear Travels to Hell’. The story was originally told by Adam Castillo (1885–1953), one of Harrington’s primary Cahuilla language consultants, probably at some point between 1935 and 1937. Ingo Mamet’s presentation includes Harrington’s original phonetic transcription from his hand-written notes, a phonemic transcription with morpheme boundaries indicated, and morpheme-by-morpheme glosses. These additions make the text useful for non-specialists. Following a brief forward by Berthold Riese that contextualizes M’s work within German scholarship following up on Harrington’s work on Cahuilla, the book is divided into three chapters and two appendices.

Ch. 1 contains introductions to the Cahuilla language, Harrington’s notes, and the technical aspects of M’s adaptation and transcription conventions. Most of the chapter is devoted to a painstaking phonological description and analysis to address the issues involved in adapting Harrington’s phonetic transcription to a phonemic transcription. Incorporating a comprehensive review of the literature, this chapter constitutes the most up-to-date phonological description of Cahuilla.

Ch. 2 presents the analyzed text, which at 245 lines is quite extensive. The book maintains Harrington’s use of both English and Spanish translations, which do not seem to serve any obvious differentiating function (e.g. in expressing different voices among different characters or indexing different aspects of particular scenes). There are clear reasons for having a trilingual text (Cahuilla with English and Spanish translations), and it seems reasonable not to have altered Harrington’s original translations. However, perhaps in future editions additional glosses could be given to make the entire text fully trilingual. This chapter also contains extensive endnotes discussing many particular aspects of the transcription and analysis.

Ch. 3 presents a modern re-narration of the story by Mascha N. Gemein, which serves as a kind of free translation of the analyzed text. Two appendices provide very useful indexes of grammatical and lexical morphemes.

In sum, M’s work provides modern scholars with a wealth of information about this fascinating yet under-studied language. I look forward to similar works in the future that will make Harrington’s linguistic documentation available to all.

Cultures, contexts, and world Englishes

Cultures, contexts, and world Englishes. By Yamuna Kachru and Larry E. Smith. (ESL and applied linguistics professional series.) New York: Routledge, 2008. Pp. xxii, 234. ISBN 9780805847338. $43.95.

Reviewed by Richard W. Hallett, Northeastern Illinois University

The major objective of this book is ‘to sensitize users of English to its varieties across cultures, and to emphasize that effective communication among users of different Englishes is possible by cultivating an awareness of the variation in Englishes and their cultural, social, and ideational functions’ (xiii).

In ‘Introduction: World Englishes and cultural contexts’ (1–13), the authors begin with the claim that English is the most widespread international language ever. After describing the four diasporas of English, they provide a table of the functions of the language in what they term (following Braj Kachru) the inner, outer, and expanding circles (4) of world Englishes.

The authors claim that the goal of Part 1 ‘is to focus on the interaction of cultural assumptions, social configurations, and linguistic resources’ (15) of various users of English. In Ch. 1, ‘Interaction as cooperation’ (19–29), they provide a general overview of the concepts of speech acts, conversational implicature, and face, among other pragmatic concerns. Based on these concepts, Ch. 2, ‘Context of culture’ (31–39), explains why defining culture and its contexts can be difficult. Ch. 3, ‘Parameters of politeness’ (41–58), discusses twelve parameters of politeness (e.g. values and group membership) and twelve devices that serve as instruments of politeness (e.g. pronouns of address and honorifics). In Ch. 4, ‘Intelligibility and interlocutors’ (59–70), the authors define and exemplify the notions of intelligibility, comprehensibility, and interpretability.

Part 2 introduces three chapters. Ch. 5, ‘Sounds and rhythm’ (77–84), discusses variations and innovations in the phonetics and phonology of varieties of English. Ch. 6, ‘Phrases and sentences’ (85–101), examines syntactic variation in World Englishes, focusing on nouns, verbs, select syntactic patterns, and thematic information. Ch. 7 ‘Words and collocations’ (103–11) presents issues in compiling regional dictionaries, with a special emphasis on Asian Englishes.

Three chapters are included in Part 3. Ch. 8, ‘Conversational interaction’ (119–34), provides an in-depth discussion of cross-cultural differences in conversation styles, such as turn-taking, backchannels, and simultaneous talk. Similarly, Ch. 9, ‘Interaction in writing’ (135–63), gives examples of cross-cultural differences in letter writing, academic writing, and argumentative text construction. Ch. 10, ‘Contextualizing world Englishes literatures’ (165–76), argues for the examination of literary texts and the teaching of English literatures in various contexts. In ‘Conclusion: World Englishes: Legacy and relevance’ (177–84), the authors briefly present attitudes and ideologies concerning varieties of English, and their implications for sociology and pedagogy.

This book is of great value to researchers in the areas of sociolinguistics, language variation, discourse/conversational analysis, and of course world Englishes. Moreover, the book can easily serve as a textbook for a course in any of these areas.

Gossip and the everyday production of politics

Gossip and the everyday production of politics. By Niko Besnier. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2009. Pp. xiv, 243. ISBN 9780824833572. $25.

Reviewed by Chad Nilep, University of Colorado

Language use is always embedded in systems of human interaction. With this in mind, Niko Besnier, a cultural anthropologist from the University of Amsterdam, presents an analysis of gossip in the Nukulaelae Atoll, spoken on the islands of Tuvalu. His focus is not only on this form of talk and its relationship with other conversational genres, but also on the use of gossip within the lives of the Nukulaelae people.

Ch. 1, ‘Gossip, hegemony, agency’ (1–28) outlines gossip as a practice that  despite its ubiquity, remains under-studied since it requires complex theory and a linguistic fluency that is beyond the capabilities of many fieldworkers. Chs. 2 and 3 provide a wide-ranging description of life on the Nukulaelae Atoll and of B’s relationship with his subjects since his arrival there in 1980. In Ch. 2, ‘The world from a cooking hut’ (29–63), B provides a description of the history, geography, and economy of Tuvalu and of the atoll, as well as details of family and community life among the 350 or so residents. Ch. 3, ‘Hierarchy and egalitarianism’ (64–93), gives particular detail of the social and political system, analyzing how residents balance a preference for egalitarianism on one hand, and hierarchical ordering of age, gender, and family positions on the other.

While there is some discourse data in the earlier chapters, a complete discourse analysis is principally presented in Chs. 4–7. Ch. 4, ‘Morality and the structure of gossip’ (94–119), examines ways of mitigating responsibility for gossiping, including the joint construction of narratives, use of reported speech, and information withholding to encourage listeners to ask clarification questions. Ch. 5, ‘The twenty-dollar piglets’ (120–42), presents a close reading of a single gossip text to explore relationships among gossiping and oratory, capitalism and gift-giving, and religion, family, and politics on the atoll. In Ch. 6, ‘The two widows’ (143–65), B explores the connections between face-to-face talk and the broader world by analyzing accusations, circulated and constructed largely through gossip, that two sisters who had lived away from the atoll might be involved in sorcery. Ch. 7, ‘Sorcery and ambition’ (166–88), returns to these issues, this time examined through the treatment of sorcery charges at a Council of Elders meeting and continued gossip even after the formal dismissal of the charges. Finally, Ch. 8, ‘Gossip and everyday production of politics’ (189–94), provides a brief conclusion, summarizing how social institutions operate both in formal public discourses and in private face-to-face gossip.

The book may be criticized on two points. First, though he claims to use the tools of conversation analysis, B’s appeal to broader sociological context is very different from a typical conversation analysis—a difference that he acknowledges. Second, transcriptions in the book can be difficult to read. Tuvaluan speech is presented in a simplified Jefferson transcription, but the free English translations that are often interleaved within the transcript do not mark intonation and pauses, among others. This and the lack of glossing of individual words make it difficult to follow arguments that relate to formal linguistic elements.

As B puts it, ‘analyzing the formal structure of gossip talk is not an end, but a means of apprehending issues of a more general import’ (120). Criticisms notwithstanding, I found the balance between discourse analysis and ethnography in the book particularly enriching.

Locative alternation

Locative alternation: A lexical-constructional approach. By Seizi Iwata. (Constructional approaches to language 6.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2008. Pp. xiv, 239. ISBN 9789027218285. $149 (Hb).

Reviewed by Florian Haas, Freie Universität Berlin

The locative alternation, commonly exemplified with sentences like Jack sprayed paint on the wall as opposed to Jack sprayed the wall with paint, has been widely discussed for at least two decades. In the present book, Seizi Iwatare visits the locative alternation from the perspective of (usage-based) construction grammar and complements it with a detailed discussion of the corresponding Japanese structures. His main thesis is that alternation variants should be analyzed as verb-(class) specific constructions. In this way he contradicts the lexicalist analysis advocated by Steven Pinker (Learnability and cognition: The acquisition of argument structure, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989) and others, as well as Adele Goldberg’s more classical constructional analysis in Constructions: A construction grammar approach to argument structure (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), in which stable verb meanings combine with relatively abstract constructions.

The book has twelve chapters. Chs. 1 and 2 introduce the topic and give an overview of the aforementioned alternative analyses. Chs. 3 to 7 present his ‘lexical-constructional account’ of the locative alternation, making reference to other studies and criticizing them in several respects. For instance, he considers whether the location-as-object variant (Jack sprayed the wall with paint) necessarily involves a holistic effect (the entire wall is covered with paint). Another issue that comes up repeatedly is that of allegedly non-alternating verbs, i.e. verbs that seem to occur only in one of the two variants, and explanations for their behavior. For a number of such verbs, I presents corpus and Internet data in which the putatively non-existent variants appear.

Ch. 8 (‘Further issues’) relates the analysis to usage-based theories of language acquisition and deals with the degree of granularity constructions should have from a more general point of view. Ch. 9 (‘The locative alternation with verbs of removal’) and Ch. 10 (‘Morphologically complex cases’) return to the discussion of more specific types of alternating verbs, including a section on the morphologically marked German counterpart of the English alternation. Ch. 11 is an extensive discussion of the locative alternation in Japanese. In Ch. 12 the main theses are summarized.

The book provides a good overview of a complex topic and puts forward a constructional analysis that is intuitively plausible. It is arguable, however, whether the application of verb-(class) specific constructions introduced in William Croft’s Radical construction grammar (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) to the locative alternation really constitutes a new constructional theory, as I repeatedly claims. Moreover, the author fervently expounds his commitment to the usage-based approach but does not strictly follow its methodological tenets; in many cases he resorts to made-up examples from the literature, including doubtful grammaticality judgments, particularly in the case of the German data in Ch. 10. Apart from this, his somewhat repetitive criticism of alternative models seems inappropriately harsh. The readability of the book, moreover, would profit from a more careful editing of example sentences and a more transparent structuring.

Accentuation and interpretation

Accentuation and interpretation. By Hans-Christian Schmitz. (Palgrave studies in pragmatics, language, and cognition.) New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. Pp. 260. ISBN 9780230002531. $90 (Hb).

Reviewed by Daniel Gutzmann, University of Frankfurt

Hans-Christian Schmitz develops a theory of accentuation and its effects on utterance interpretation. The core idea of this book is the hypothesis of optimal accentuation (HOA) according to which a cooperative speaker accentuates only the i-critical words, i.e. the words that are sufficient for the recipient to understand the entire meaning of the utterance in the discourse context. For instance, given the question Which student talked to Jane?, the i-critical word in the answer Jane talked to the French student is French. According to the HOA, the speaker accentuates French and nothing else.

After introducing semantic and pragmatic effects of accentuation, S develops and defends the HOA in Ch. 2, ‘Optimal accentuation’. In order to increase the probability of being properly understood, a cooperative speaker accentuates all the i-critical words that are sufficient given the discourse context to enable the recipient to reconstruct the intended message in case it is recognized incompletely.

Chs. 3 and 4 contain a formal model for reconstructing and interpreting incompletely recognized utterances in discourse. Ch. 3, ‘Cooperative information exchange’,  provides formal definitions for a model of cooperative information exchange (limited to complete sentences) as well as adequacy criteria for evaluating non-equivalent reconstructions that are defined on the basis of Gricean conversational maxims using a dynamic update system.

In Ch. 4, ‘Reconstruction of messages,’ S extends the model to natural language and the interpretation of incomplete utterances. The model hearer extends an incompletely recognized utterance into a full proposition or question by first translating the recognized expression into an expression of the logical language, and then applying formally defined operations of semantic enrichment to reconstruct the utterance. If there is more than one possible reconstruction, the adequacy criteria and the discourse context can guide the recipient to exclude non-adequate reconstructions and derive the intended message. If there are no adequate reconstructions, the hearer can accommodate her representation of the common ground to render the message adequate. The function of accentuation is thus claimed to consist solely in making the i-critical words of an utterance more likely to be recognized correctly, and its semantic and pragmatic effects are a side effect arising from the hearer’s attempt to relate the i-critical (and therefore accentuated) words to an utterance context and the question under discussion.

In Ch. 5, ‘Optimal accentuation vs. focus accentuation’, S compares his approach with two dominant approaches to focus interpretation: alternative semantics for focus and the structured meaning approach. Theoretically, there is no need for the term focus as used in focus theories. Empirically, his approach makes different predictions about stress patterns, particularly as to which elements of a constituent are to be stressed. He presents experiments to support this approach.

The book should be of interest not only to linguists working on focus phenomena and accentuation, but also to scholars with an interest in the formal implementation of pragmatic reasoning in discourse context. Many summaries, clear and explicit argumentation, and the critical evaluation of possible objections make the book very accessible to a broad readership despite its high degree of formalization.

A língua do povo matis

A língua do povo matis: Uma visão gramatical. By Rogério Vicente Ferreira. (Lincom studies in Native American linguistics 60.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2008. Pp. 307. ISBN 9783895863400. $104.30 (Hb).

Reviewed by Carolina González, Florida State University

Matis is a Panoan language spoken by 262 speakers in the Brazilian Amazon. This book provides a concise account of its morpho-syntactic characteristics following a descriptive and functional approach, and it updates some of the phonological information available for the language.

The book is organized in twelve chapters. Ch. 1 describes the situation of the Matis people and some sociolinguistic aspects. It refines Loos’ (1999) classification of Panoan by proposing a Mayoruna subgroup that includes Matis, Matsés, and other languages. The following chapter details the procedure of data collection and the analytical methodology employed. Ch. 3 consists of a brief overview of the phonology, taking Spanghero Ferreira (2000) as a point of departure. Most notably, it updates the number and type of phonemic contrasts for some consonants and vowels, provides more details about the stress system, and briefly covers some of the most common morpho-phonological processes.

Ch. 4 previews the morphology of Matisand introduces the phenomena of affixation, lexicalization, neologism formation, and suppletion. Ch. 5 covers nominal morphology and nominalization, while Ch. 6 focuses on verbs. Like other Panoan languages Matis is ergative, and transitivity conditions the distribution of several verbal morphemes. Intransitive verbs have one or two arguments in the absolutive, while transitive verbs have one ergative argument, two if they are ditransitive. The ergative-absolutive system of Matis is explored further in Ch. 10: nouns, numerals, and quantifiers take ergative suffixes, while the absolutive remains unmarked. In pronouns, the ergative-absolutive distinction is marked only in the singular form.

Adverbs and adverbials are the subject of Ch. 7, while the following two chapters discuss adjectives and the closed classes of pronouns, quantifiers, numerals, and interjections. Ch. 9 provides a general overview of the complex system of switch-reference, which is with the case system the central part of this study. At least eleven switch-reference morphemes that occur in simultaneous or sequential contexts are identified. The final chapter provides an overview of simple and complex sentences. F shows that the most common word order in Matis is agent-object-verb for transitive sentences and subject-verb for intransitives. The book closes with a brief summary of the main characteristics of Matis, a list of references, and two appendixes (a short lexicon and a transcribed text).

This volume is based on the author’s doctoral dissertation. Clearly written, it focuses primarily on the morphology of Matis and includes a wealth of examples. While the discussion of similarities with other Panoan languages, especially Matsés and Shipibo-Conibo, will interest researchers on Panoan languages and other indigenous languages of Brazil, the book will be of wider interest to typologists in general.


LOOS, EUGENE. 1999. Pano. The Amazonian languages, ed by R.M.W. Dixon and Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald, 227–50. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

SPANGHERO FERREIRA, VITÓRIA REGINA. 2000. Lingua matis (pano): Uma análise fonológica. Munich: Lincom Europa.

Incomplete acquisition in bilingualism

Incomplete acquisition in bilingualism: Re-examining the age factor. (Studies in bilingualism 39.) By Silvina A. Montrul. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2008. Pp. x, 312. ISBN 9789027241801. $54.

Reviewed by Martin R. Gitterman, The City University of New York

This book provides an in-depth look at the issue of age in language learning that extends well beyond traditional treatments of the critical period hypothesis. In Ch.1 ‘Foundations’, Silvina

Montrul states that ‘[t]his book is about non-native like attainment, and its purpose is to re-examine age as a determining factor in non-native outcomes’ (1). The age factor is addressed with a focus on the incomplete acquisition of a first language in children raised in a bilingual setting. The chapters that follow not only provide a detailed and cohesive review of relevant research but suggest areas in need of additional study.

In Ch. 2, ‘Second language acquisition’, second language (L2) acquisition in adults is contrasted with first language (L1) acquisition in children. Issues touched on include fossilization, developmental vs. transfer errors, and the overarching critical period hypothesis in second language acquisition (about which, M notes, much remains to be learned). Central to Ch. 3, ‘First language attrition in adults’, is the assertion that once there is complete acquisition of a L1 (which is the case with adults), any eventual attrition in that language will be performance-based, not competence-based. In Ch. 4, ‘Bilingualism in early childhood’, it is asserted that insufficient input in one of a child’s languages can lead to incomplete acquisition as well as competence-based attrition. In Ch. 5, ‘Bilingualism in middle and late childhood’, it is suggested that those exposed to two languages at an earlier age (seemingly before ages 8–10) are more likely to develop incomplete first language acquisition (that is, in the weaker/minority language).

Ch. 6, ‘Incomplete L1 acquisition in adults’, reports on the characteristics of incomplete L1 acquisition found in adults. Addressed are various domains of language (e.g. phonology, morphology) and reference is made to similarities in the incomplete acquisition found in the L2 of adult learners and that evident in the L1 of adults who were early bilinguals as children. These similarities are expanded on in Ch. 7, ‘Incomplete L1 and L2 acquisition in adults’, and differences in the two populations are postulated as well. In Ch. 8, ‘Implications’, which reinforces the material presented in the previous chapters, M states that ‘[m]y main claim in this book is that a critical period is also relevant for L1 loss in a dual language environment’ (249). Suggestions for additional research are made.

This book is a valuable addition to the scholarly literature on age-related factors in language acquisition. It provides a very thorough and insightful overview of the current literature, suggests ways of ‘re-examining’ the issue of age that are well motivated (based on a solid rationale), and helps set a direction for further research.

English as a lingua franca

English as a lingua franca: A corpus-based analysis. By Luke Prodromou. London: Continuum, 2008. Pp. xiv, 295. ISBN 0826497756, ISBN13: 9780826425850. $44.95.

Reviewed by Madalena Cruz-Ferreira

This book draws on his doctoral research to offer the first account of idiomaticity among successful users of English as a lingua franca (ELF).

In Part 1, ‘Background’, Ch. 1 addresses the usability of corpora in studies of authentic language use, particularly interaction in a lingua franca in culturally diverse settings. Ch. 2 analyzes six articles by Jennifer Jenkins and Barbara Seidlhofer that provide a ‘representative “ELF-writers’ corpus”’ (16) to uncover semantic prosodies of the term ELF. Ch. 3 discusses idiomaticity from diverse perspectives (cognitive, pragmatic, phonological) and in Ch. 4 P relates it to differential fluency in first language (L1) and second language (L2). Ch. 5 surveys studies of non-native competence, which is typically viewed as deficient native competence, to argue for an approach to ELF interactions on their own terms. Ch. 6 then outlines in Bakhtinian terms the dialogic framework of the analysis that follows.

In Part 2, ‘Foreground’, Ch. 7 presents the study’s database, 160,000 words of spontaneous L2 conversations involving forty-two speakers from twenty-four countries that were analyzed through ‘discourse analysis in an ethnographic framework’ (107). The next six chapters compare idiomatic uses in this corpus to different L1 corpora. Ch. 8 identifies the most common two-word lexical phrases in the L2 corpus. Noting that sort of occurs less frequently than in L1, P investigates uses of this phrase in each corpus in Chs. 9 and 10. Ch. 11 compares you see across corpora and Ch. 12 accounts for its use in L2 terms.

Ch. 13 focuses on longer idioms, e.g. back to the drawing board, for which two types of idiomaticity are typically distinguished. As ‘unilateral idiomaticity’ (misunderstanding by L2 users, p.215) is unattested in the L2 corpus, discussion draws on data from other sources. ‘Creative idiomaticity’—‘non-canonical versions of idiomatic phraseology’ (221)—prompts an informal matched-guises experiment (236) that reveals that acceptability judgements decrease with assumed non-native authorship. Ch. 14 provides a summation and argues for the teaching of English as ‘a process of acquiring maximum “linguistic capital”’ (254) rather than as a ‘model’.

P’s case for a focus shift towards authentic, flexible ELF uses is forceful and timely. Careful account of methodological choices and assumptions facilitates replication and expansion of results, although P’s analyses appear contrived at times. For example, it is unclear why the idiomatic ‘ripple effect’—‘collocations and prosodies’ (45–46)—attributed to ‘sort of’ cannot be argued for its collocates instead (e.g. thing).

Idiomaticity in ELF is the topic of the book, which neither its title nor subtitle makes clear. P’s thesis that competent idiomaticity hinges on socio-cultural values explains differential uses of one language as (presumably monolingual) L1 vs. lingua franca. Analysis is native-centered, despite well-founded criticism of this practice in Part 1: the core research questions concern misuse/avoidance of idiomaticity (241), that is, deviation from a norm. The related assumption that idiomaticity ‘facilitat[es] rapport’ (97) might apply to L1 interactants or to their views of interaction with L2 users, but whether it extends to ELF contexts is moot: several informants expressed unwillingness to emulate L1 users. Whether idiomaticity is a feature of authentic ELF and its socio-cultural correlates, are empirical issues whose investigation this book encourages.

Reversing language shift

Reversing language shift: The social identity and role of adult learners of Scottish Gaelic. (Belfast studies in language, culture, and politics 17.) By Alasdair MacCaluim. Belfast: Cló Ollscoil na Banríona, 2007. Pp. xvi, 280. ISBN 9780853898979. $55.98 (Hb).

Reviewed by Maria Teresa Agozzino, The Ohio State University

With a title that intentionally evokes Joshua A. Fishman’s 1991 reversing language shift theory (RLS), Alasdair MacCaluim presents a thorough and realistic analysis and assessment of Scottish Gaelic (Gaidhlig) language learning at the beginning of the new millennium. Although M is primarily concerned with the role of adult learners in RLS, he considers all speakers and his data are drawn from several media.

In the introduction and following three chapters, M lays out his methodology and discusses the sociolinguistic context of Gaelic language use and learning infrastructure: social status, identity, motivation, political and social impact, and language stigma and regeneration. M tackles such issues as the relationship between language, culture and nationalism, native speakers and learners, and the effects of migration. The remainder of the book presents the empirical data from which he draws his conclusions: surveys, appendices, and questionnaire results, followed by a brief conclusion and an impressive bibliography.

M clearly understands the enormity and complexities of the project and admirably identifies many nuances within the general picture. Distinctions and classification can all too often depend on subjective attitudes and expectations, thus such terms as ‘Gaelic learner’ have multiple senses, while the label of fluency may mask limitations in literacy, register, and context and ignore dialectal considerations. Furthermore, M points out that many of these phenomena are not exclusive to Gaelic and cites several parallels in the experiences of adult learners of Welsh. Neither insiders (fluent speaker) nor outsiders (non-speaker), learners have an ambiguous and transitional identity either in the middle or on the margins of the target speech community. While language acquisition can be a long process, linguistic competency does not ensure cultural acceptance, and in some cases adult learners will be less integrated than non-speakers, whose acceptance may be due to their personality and community service alone. Moreover, the nomenclature that has emerged to categorize Gaelic language learners can reinforce divisions. (Curiously absent from this study is the term ‘on-comer,’ commonly used on the Western Isles to describe non-Hebridean settlers.) A future study might map the influence of music sung in Gaelic in attracting learners.

In this book M presents a compelling scientific and social study that should be read by linguists, educators, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, politicians, Celtic studies scholars (particularly those of Scottish studies), and all native speakers and learners of the Gaelic Language.