Monthly Archives: February 2011

Funktionsverbgefüge und automatische Sprachverarbeitung

Funktionsverbgefüge und automatische Sprachverarbeitung. By Stefan Langer. (Linguistic resources for natural language processing 3.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2009. Pp. 207. ISBN 9783929075649. $87.64.

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, Sabanci University Writing Center, Turkey

This monograph investigates how Funktionsverbgefüge, commonly known as support verb constructions (SVC) in English (verb-noun combinations with a delexicalized verb), can be identified in electronic corpora by automatic language processing. The book is the product of Stefan Langer’s Habilitationsarbeit at the Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich, Germany. Consisting of six chapters, the main body of L’s investigation is found in Chs. 3–4. In the introductory chapter, L outlines the importance of morphological, syntactic, and semantic characteristics of these constructions in the context of automatic language processing, and goes on to discuss the position of SVCs in machine translation as well as automatic text creation and retrieval.

Ch. 2 is dedicated to an overview of the variation in terminology used to refer to SVCs. For scholars with a general interest in this construction, L’s summary of the reasoning behind each of the terms used to refer to SVC is both useful and illuminating. He offers a coherent explanation for the differences in the conceptualization of closely related phenomena, specifically Funktionsverbgefüge, Stüzverbkonstruktion, complex predicates, and light verbs. His explanation of Funktionsverbgefüge and Stüzverbkonstruktion is of great importance for his analysis of SVC in the remaining sections of the book. He essentially distinguishes between two types of SVC; those with a nominal complement in accusative case and those with a prepositional phrase complement. L demonstrates these nominales Funktionsverbgefüge (e.g. Kritik üben ‘criticize’) and adverbiales Funktionsverbgefüge (e.g. in Beziehung stehen ‘either’) respectively.

In Ch. 3, L discusses the degree to which the extraction of SVC through statistical methods from electronic corpora is effective. He concludes that although such methods may be used to identify word combinations, they are unable to distinguish between different types of combinations, such as idioms, semi-formulaic expressions, and free combinations. Statistical methods are more equipped at eliminating semantically meaningless combinations than as an aid for the classification of word combinations. In light of this, the author examines the effectiveness of linguistic criteria to identify SVC in Ch. 4. The twenty-two test criteria he applies (only some of which are able to be used in automatic language processing) consist of the most common characteristics used to define SVC, focusing in turn on the nominal phrase, the support verb, and the degree of compositionality of the SVC.  L demonstrates their application on two SVCs: nominales Funktionsverbgefüge (Vorlesung halten) and adverbiales Funktionsverbgefüge (in Schwerigkeiten stecken). The author concludes that purely automated methods are not sufficient to identify SVCs and a manual analysis is still required. In the final chapter, the author briefly considers the analysis of SVCs from a frame semantic perspective.

The book is unusual for its breadth of treatment of SVCs. The author addresses general concerns, such as the validity of the concept of SVCs (the question has received some attention in recent publications in German), the methods used to investigate SVCs in corpora, and the relative difficulties involved in working with electronic corpora comprised of texts from the internet.  Additionally, L examines specific questions regarding SVC structure and how these combinations have been conceptualized in different languages. This work will appeal to students and scholars of syntax and phraseology, specifically those conducting research on SVCs in German and other languages.

Annual review of cognitive linguistics

Annual review of cognitive linguistics: Volume 7. Ed. by Francisco José Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009. Pp. iv, 356. ISBN 9789027254870. $164.

Reviewed by Engin Arik, Purdue University

This volume consists of articles, a special section, interviews, and book reviews. The first section, ‘Articles’, consists of four papers written specifically for this volume. In ‘Serializing languages as satellite-framed: The case of Fon’ (1–29), Renée Lambert-Brétière argues that Fon is a satellite-framed language with respect to Leonard Talmy’s typology. In ‘English posture verbs: An experientially grounded approach’ (30–57), John Newman examines frequently found posture verbs in English, such as sit, stand, and lie. Mario Brdar focuses on linguistic forms for animals, trees, and wood(s) in Slavic languages to investigate metonymy avoidance strategies in ‘Metonymy-induced polysemy and the role of suffixation in its resolution in some Slavic languages’ (58–88). ‘Symbol and symptom: Routes from gesture to sign language’ (89–110) by Sherman Wilcox shows how the Italian gesture meaning ‘impossible’ is grammaticalized in Italian Sign Language.

The volume also has a ‘Special section: Constructing a second language’. There are seven articles in this section, starting with ‘Constructing a second language: Introduction to the special section’ (111–39) by Nick C. Ellis and Teresa Cadierno, which summarizes the articles in this section. In ‘The inseparability of lexis and grammar: Corpus linguistic perspectives’ (140–62), Ute Römer provides an overview of corpus linguistic research on the lexis-grammar interface. Stefan Th. Gries and Stefanie Wulff examine whether German speakers of English as a second language (L2) store gerund and infinitival complement constructions separately in ‘Psycholinguistic and corpus-linguistic evidence for L2 constructions’ (163–86). ‘Constructions and their acquisition: Islands and the distinctiveness of their occupancy’ (188–221), written by Nick C. Ellis and Fernando Ferreira-Junior, investigates the effects of naturalistic L2 acquisition of type/token distributions in verb-argument constructions.

In ‘Reconstructing verb meaning in a second language: How English speakers of L2 Dutch talk and gesture about placement’ (221–44), Marianne Gullberg explores how English speakers of Dutch as a second language express placement events (e.g. English put versus Dutch leggen ‘lay’ and zetten ‘set’). Teresa Cadierno and Peter Robinson investigate the acquisition of L2 constructions in ‘Language typology, task complexity and the development of L2 lexicalization patterns for describing motion events’ (245–76), with a particular focus on Danish and Japanese speakers learning English. This section concludes with the article, ‘Constructing a second language: Some final thoughts’ (277–90), by Ewa Dąbrowska. She investigates how cognitive linguistics can provide an appropriate model for second language research and can make larger contributions to both first language acquisition/learning and theoretical linguistics.

The volume includes two interviews. In ‘Meaning making: The bigger picture: An interview with Zoltán Kövecses’ (291–300), Réka Benczes interviews with Zoltán Kövecses to get his thoughts on the main topics of cognitive linguistics and personal story to become a cognitive linguist. In ‘A psycholinguist’s view on cognitive linguistics: An interview with Ray W. Gibbs’ (302–18),  Javier Valenzuela discusses Gibbs’ own thoughts about cognitive linguistics, advocating for empirical research to further explore the main topics. The volume also presents four book reviews.

In sum, this volume presents highly authentic overview articles and research papers as well as a wonderful special section on L2 and cognitive linguistics.

Discourses on language and integration

Discourses on language and integration: Critical perspectives on language testing regimes in Europe. Ed. by Gabrielle Hogan-Brun, Clare Mar-Molinero, and Patrick Stevenson. (Discourse approaches to politics, society and culture 33.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009. Pp. xiv, 170. ISBN 9789027206237. $135 (Hb).

Reviewed by Esther Núñez Villanueva, Bangor University

Europe is reinforcing its defenses with a new tool: the national language. Language and culture tests are spreading across the European Union (EU) as the compulsory requirements to enter, reside in, or become a citizen of some of its countries are becoming stricter.

One of the problems surrounding language tests in Europe is that there is no pan-European consensus on the policies to govern their content and administration, which vary wildly from country to country. In contrast, this volume seeks a cross-national perspective, helping to identify the trends spreading through Europe. The editors discuss the goals of the volume and the current European political trends in their introductory chapter, Ch. 1 ‘Testing regime: Introducing cross-national perspectives on language, migration, and citizenship’ (1–14). In Ch. 2, ‘Fortress Europe? Language policy regimes for immigration and citizenship’ (15–44), Piet Van Avermaet’s comprehensive comparison of the different entry requirements highlights the striking differences in language level thresholds and the price of tests across EU member states.

Elana Shohamy argues that language tests for obtaining citizenship represent a discriminating and arbitrary strategy used by states to exert control over the composition of the population in Ch. 3 ‘Language tests for immigrants: Why language? Why tests? Why citizenship?’ (45–60). Ch. 4, ‘Language, migration and citizenship: A case study on testing regimes in the Netherlands’ (61–82), by Guus Extra and Massimiliano Spotti evaluates the three types of tests designed to attain admission, integration, and citizenship in the Netherlands, one of the strictest testing regimes in Europe. The authors then question the rationale and validity of the Dutch culture test after administering the test to native-born Dutch citizens.

Chs. 5–6 focus on the discourse analysis of political texts about immigration. In Ch. 5, ‘Being English, speaking English: Extension to English language testing legislation and the future of multicultural Britain’ (83–108), Adrian Blackledge discusses how the discourse about diversity and integration in Britain has started to associate the use of minority languages as a threat to social cohesion. Kristine Horner focuses on the vagueness of the concept of integration in the current politics of Luxembourg in Ch. 6, ‘Language, citizenship and Europeanization: Unpacking the discourse of integration’ (109–28). In both cases, it seems that integration is simultaneously understood as a common supra-identity at the EU-level and as a means of assimilating non-EU citizens.

Brigitta Busch, in Ch. 7 ‘Local actors in promoting multilingualism’ (129–52), analyzes the role of local institutions as unofficial language policy-makers when deciding their approach to a multilingual society. According to the author, institutions such as the Vienna public library can adapt inclusive language policies that foster social cohesion even when the political discourse is of an exclusive nature.

The concluding chapter by Tim McNamara, ‘Language tests and social policy: A commentary’ (153–64), is a thought-provoking commentary on the other contributions, relating them to second language teaching and testing in the context of immigration and citizenship.

There are serious ethical issues surrounding the use of language and culture tests for citizenship in relation to the nature, quality, and purpose of these assessments. Linguists and educational experts are urged to be aware of these issues and to promote a more realistic approach to second language learning, language tests, and citizenship requirements.