Monthly Archives: May 2011

Cookies, coleslaw, and stoops

Cookies, coleslaw, and stoops: The influence of Dutch on the North American languages. By Nicoline van der Sijs. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009. Pp. 320. ISBN 9789089641243. $32.50.

Reviewed by Marc Pierce, University of Texas at Austin

The Dutch language has a long history in North America. The first Dutch-speaking settlers arrived in 1609, and Dutch was soon widely spoken in the eastern part of what is now the United States. After the British annexation of the Dutch colony of New Netherland (now New York) in 1664, Dutch began to lose ground to English. A second wave of Dutch-speaking immigrants in the nineteenth century boosted the status of the language, especially in the American Midwest. Much like other immigrant languages in the United States, Dutch was ultimately almost completely abandoned in favor of English, although surviving for a surprising length of time in some areas: in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for instance, the Christian Reformed Church offered a weekly service in Dutch as late as 1958 (74). Given this long history, it is unsurprising that Dutch has left a number of traces in American English; common words like cookie and Santa Claus are all loanwords from Dutch, and there are also a number of Dutch place names in North America, e.g. Yonkers (New York) and Holland (Michigan). This book offers a thorough discussion of the effects of Dutch on American English; the influence of Dutch on Native American languages is treated in somewhat less detail.

The book consists of three chapters. Ch. 1, ‘The Dutch language in North America’ (17–111), concentrates largely on the historical and social aspects of Dutch in North America, e.g. settlement history and the current status of Dutch. Some linguistic issues are also examined, like structural characteristics of American Dutch. Ch. 2, ‘Dutch words that have left their mark on American English: A thematic glossary’ (113–281), discusses individual Dutch loanwords in American English. A typical entry describes the Dutch source word, looks at early attestations of the loanword in American English, and then reviews later developments. The entry on cookie, for instance, traces it to Dutch koekje, koekie ‘small cake’, cites a number of early examples of its use, and discusses the emergence of expressions like smart cookie and to toss one’s cookies ‘to vomit’, as well as the character of the Cookie Monster from the children’s television program Sesame Street (125–27). The final chapter, ‘Dutch influence on North American Indian languages’ (283–97), surveys Dutch loanwords in Native American languages, e.g. knoop ‘button’, which was borrowed into Delaware as kenóp. (The Native American name Seneca is also a borrowing from Dutch.) There is a brief preface by Ronald H.A. Plasterk (both English and Dutch versions of the preface are given; in fact, a Dutch version of the book is also available), an extensive bibliography, and an index of the American English words discussed in Ch. 2.

One wonders if all of the words treated in the book are really loanwords from Dutch, as some of them could well have been borrowed from German; there are some stylistic slips that should have been fixed; and a number of the maps are rather poorly produced. These objections aside, this very informative, readable, and entertaining book is a welcome addition to the literature on the subject.

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Dictionary of Louisiana French

Dictionary of Louisiana French: As spoken in Cajun, Creole, and American Indian communities. Ed. by Albert Valdman, Kevin J. Rottet, Barry Jean Ancelet, Richard Guidry, Thomas A. Klingler, Amanda LaFleur, Tamara Lindner, Michael D. Picone, and Dominique Ryon. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2010. Pp. xl, 892. ISBN  9781604734034. $38 (Hb).

Reviewed by Peter Freeouf, Chiang Mai University

French has long been spoken in the southern parts of the American state of Louisiana. Just as French Louisiana is known for its distinctive culture, music, and cuisine (a mixture of European, African, and Native American styles incorporating local ingredients), so these communities developed and maintained until recent years flourishing divergent dialects of the French language, commonly referred to as Cajun and Creole French, whose speakers now are dwindling in number. This massive dictionary seeks to encompass the rich lexical resources of Louisiana French (LF).

‘A user’s guide to the dictionary’, (xv–xvii) explains with the help of a series of diagrams (xv–xvii) how to read and make optimal use of the entries. A subsection, ‘Detailed discussion of the content and structure of entries’ (xix–xxv) provides further explanation and examples of entries in the Louisiana French-English portion of the dictionary. A detailed ‘References list’ (xxvii–xxix) gives a list of published sources, including radio stations and two periodicals published in Louisiana French. A ‘List of parish codes’ (xxxiii) is a list of the parishes in southern Louisiana where French has traditionally been spoken.

In the ‘Pronunciation guide’ (xxxvii–xl) the distinctive sounds of LF are listed in International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols, with one sample word for each phoneme given in IPA transcription, followed by the traditional French spelling and an English gloss. The list of phonemes and sample words is followed by a discussion of LF developments of specific French vowels and consonants in LF that distinguish it from standard French.

The bulk of the dictionary is the ‘Dictionary of Louisiana French’ proper (3–665). The entries in the LF-English section consist of a headword in traditional French spelling and its pronunciation (often including variants) in IPA transcription in brackets, followed by an indication of its word class and English equivalents. The majority of entries provide one or more example sentences for the headword in traditional French spelling (without transcription), followed by an English translation. Each full entry ends with the geographical source (parish) and other source information. Written variants are listed in the LF-English section and are cross-referenced to a form corresponding more closely to standard French spelling, which is of course helpful for those who will use French as a reference or starting point. An extensive and detailed ‘English-Louisiana French index’ (669–891) is helpful for finding the LF equivalents of English words and phrases.

This dictionary is a magnificent publication, destined to be the definitive lexicographical record of LF, an endangered language with a long and complex ethno-linguistic history of interest to linguists, ethnographers, and historians alike. Those responsible for producing this splendid work are to be commended for their hard work, obvious dedication, and a purchase price affordable to a very wide range of interested readers and users.

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Cognitive systems and the extended mind

Cognitive systems and the extended mind. By Robert D. Rupert. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pp. xvi, 268. ISBN 9780199767595. $29.95

Reviewed by Tommi Leung, United Arab Emirates University

Cognitive scientists have witnessed a paradigmatic shift in the theory of cognition from a classical symbol-based to an interactive ecological approach that focuses on the dynamics between mind, body, and external world. Robert D. Rupert’s Cognitive systems and the extended mind examines this theory of situated cognition. A number of variations on situated cognition are discussed: the extended view (cognition extends beyond the boundary of the organism), embedded mind (cognition depends on the organism’s use of external resources, while not extending into the environment), and embodied mind (no active role of the environment in cognition). R rejects the extended view of cognition and argues that the embedded and embodied views provide important understanding of cognition.

The book is divided into an introductory chapter and three major parts. Part 1, ‘The thinking organism’, presents arguments against the extended view based on problems of demarcation. A non-extended systems-based approach is proposed, claiming that a single cognitive process involves the interaction between various bodily concepts, whereas the external environment is not an integral part of cognition.

Part 2, ‘Arguments for the extended view’, examines previous arguments in support of the extended view. Ch. 5, ‘Functionalism and natural kinds’, argues that what is considered an extended cognitive process by proponents of extended mind can be accounted for by internal bodily concepts and mechanism. Ch. 6, ‘Developmental systems theory and the scaffolding of language’, describes the mismatch between extended mind and development systems theory in genetic biology. Ch. 7, ‘Dynamical systems theory’, points out that a version of extended mind that takes into account the interaction between organism and environment does not provide support for the extended mind.

Part 3, ‘The embedded and embodied mind’, discusses the embedded view of mind. In Ch. 9, ‘Embedded cognition and computation’, R claims that embedded models are not necessarily defined by explicit encoded rules. A non-computationalist approach is theoretically possible if it is ‘the structure of the environment that causes the developmentally flexible brain to implement some algorithms in the absence of explicitly encoded rules’ (186).

Ch. 10, ‘Embedded cognition and mental representation’, contends that the embedded approach supplements orthodox rule-based computationalism, and moreover that embedded representations are partial, context-dependent and action-oriented, relational and egocentric, and ‘fluidly guide our messy, real-time interaction with the world’ (193). Ch. 11, ‘The embodied view’, evaluates possible interpretations of the embodied mind, making sense of its conceptual relation with orthodox cognition. He points out that the potential disagreement between embodied and orthodox cognition is nonexistent and that embodied models exhibit properties compatible with the orthodox view. Ch. 12, ‘Summary and conclusions’, reiterates R’s rejection of the extended view of cognition and suggests that it is through the active design of experiments and models that the embedded and embodied models can best proceed.

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Language contact: New perspectives

Language contact: New perspectives. Ed. by Muriel Norde, Bob de Jonge, and Cornelius Hasselblatt. (IMPACT: Studies in language and society 28.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2010. Pp. vii, 225. ISBN 9789027218674. $149 (Hb).

Reviewed by Marc Pierce, University of Texas at Austin

This book contains ten papers addressing various aspects of language contact, as well as a brief introduction by the editors. The individual papers fall into three categories: language contact and migration, language contact in border areas, and language contact ‘without physical contact with speakers of another language’ (4). For reasons of space, I only discuss one paper from each category.

There are six papers in the first category. Pieter Muysken reviews two approaches to ethnolects in ‘Ethnolects as a multidimensional phenomenon’ (7–25). They are (i) the ‘shift perspective’, which focuses on ‘the approximation in the speech of ethnic groups to the dominant national target language’ (7); and (ii) the ‘multidimensional perspective’, which also looks at ‘the original languages of the ethnic group and processes of mutual convergence and simplification’ (7). Muysken argues that these two perspectives are ‘complementary rather than exclusive’ (23), illustrating his discussion with data drawn largely from the ‘language use of Moroccan and Turkish young people who actually speak Dutch fluently’ (17).

Two papers address language contact in border areas. ‘Detecting contact effects in pronunciation’ (131–53), by Wilbert Heeringa, John Nerbonne, and Petya Osenova, explores ‘language contact effects between Bulgarian dialects…and the languages of the countries bordering Bulgaria’ (131), specifically Macedonian, Serbian, Romanian, Greek, and Turkish. They hypothesize that ‘pronunciation influences should be strongest as one approaches the border of a country which speaks the putatively influential language’ (131). Interestingly, especially in light of ‘the large consensus among Balkanists that pronunciation plays a subordinate role in the Sprachbund’ (149), they found ‘clines of increasing similarity’ (148) with regard to Macedonian, Serbian, and Romanian. The results for Greek and Turkish, on the other hand, were negative, which may result from historical and/or sociolinguistic factors

The last two papers address language contact without contact between speakers. Jason Shaw and Rahul Balusu discuss ‘Language contact and phonological contrast: The case of coronal affricates in Japanese loans’ (155–80). The focus here is on the pronunciation of [tʃi] and [ti] by two generations of speakers with very low conversational proficiency in English. Shaw and Balusu note that there are some generational differences in this regard, and argue that ‘the first generation of borrowers mapped the foreign phonological contrast to an allophonic distinction in … Japanese and that the second generation of speakers promoted this weak phonetic distinction to phonemic status’ (155). Their results show that ‘phonological contrasts can be borrowed…by mature adult speakers even without substantial direct contact with the source language’ (177).

Other papers in the volume include ‘Personal pronoun variation in language contact: Estonian in the United States’ (63–86) by Piibi-Kai Kivik; ‘The reflection of historical language contact in present-day Dutch and Swedish’ (103–17) by Charlotte Gooskens, Renée van Bezooijen, and Sebastian Kürschner; and ‘The impact of German on Schleife Sorbian: The use of gor in the Eastern Sorbian border dialect’ (119–30) by Hélène B. Brijnen.

Most of the papers in the volume are quite good, some are first-rate, and the breadth and depth of coverage are both very welcome. A few of the papers do not quite rise to this level, but such papers are definitely in the minority.

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The age factor and early language learning

The age factor and early language learning. Ed. by Marianne Nikolov. (Studies on language acquisition 40.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2009. Pp. x, 424. ISBN 9783110218275. $140 (Hb).

Reviewed by Ingrid Pufahl, Center for Applied Linguistics

While foreign language instruction in U.S. elementary and middle schools has sharply declined over the past decade, countries abroad are introducing foreign languages to increasingly younger students. The seventeen articles in this volume provide important insights into how educational context contributes to early language learning (ELL) and much-needed information about how best to teach and learn foreign languages.

The first two chapters introduce the range of topics. The editor’s opening chapter, ‘The age factor in context’, discusses the critical period hypothesis, different ELL program models, their goals, and time frames, as well as recent themes, issues, and challenges in empirical ELL research. Peter Edelenbos and Angelika Kubanek, focusing on recent European research, identify pedagogical principles and good practices underlying ELL.

The subsequent four chapters discuss assessment. Helena Curtain provides a detailed account of proficiency-based assessment instruments and underlying performance guidelines used in U.S. programs. Ofra Inbar-Lourie and Elana Shohamy propose an assessment construct for meaningful language use embedded in relevant content, providing examples from young Israeli English learners. Joanne Jalkanen, revisiting the critical age hypothesis, reports how teaching and assessment are integrated in a total English immersion program for Finnish preschoolers/kindergarteners, while Andrea Haenni Hoti, Sybille Heinzmann, and Marianne M­üller describe how previous language knowledge, affective and attitudinal factors, and learning strategies affect young learners’ English oral proficiency in Switzerland.

The next two chapters address how age affects language proficiency. Carmen Muñoz compares the quantity, quality, and intensity of language input with long-term outcomes in formal and naturalistic language learning settings. She concludes that the extended and non-intensive language input, typical of formal language learning settings, favors older learners, who outperform younger learners in traditional foreign language classrooms. In contrast, Chise Kasai, comparing the sound acquisition of Japanese children and adults, confirms that a young age is advantageous when aiming for native-like pronunciation.

The subsequent three chapters address individual differences in ELL. Jelena Mihaljević Djigunović discusses how young learners’ attitudes and motivation, anxiety, and strategies affect learning outcomes. Marina Mattheoudakis and Thomaï Alexiou report how socio-economic factors affect English learners in Greece, while Csilla Kiss reports on the development of a foreign langauge aptitude test for young Hungarian students.

This is followed by three chapters focusing on Asian contexts. Qiang Wang reports on English in China, from policy to a large-scale teacher survey on implementation. Jayne Moon examines the teacher factor in ELL programs in Vietnam, and Jing Peng and Lili Zhang study interaction in English classrooms in China.

The last three chapters focus on the status of languages. John Harris discusses how insights from long-standing heritage language programs in Ireland can be applied to ELL programs. Janet Enever examines attitudes and language choice in primary foreign language education in the UK. Rivi Carmel’s critical discourse analysis examines the social, educational, and individual implications of the English for Young Learners program in Israel.

Overall, the book provides an interesting and useful overview of issues, research methods, and educational contexts of early language learning and teaching for both practitioners and researchers.

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Analysing sentences

Analysing sentences: An introduction to English syntax. 3rd edn. By Noel Burton-Roberts. New York: Pearson Longman, 2010. Pp. 296. ISBN 9781408233740. $33.

Reviewed by Sabina Halupka-Rešetar, University of Novi Sad

The third, revised edition of the coursebook entitled Analysing sentences offers an excellent introduction to English syntax. Writing in a very accessible and concise manner, Noel Burton-Roberts leads the reader through the essential concepts in syntax, illustrating the points explained in the book with many examples and tree diagrams. The book contains a multitude of exercises designed to check the reader’s acquisition of the concepts and structures discussed.

Chs. 1–3 examine phrase structure in English. Ch. 1, ‘Sentence structure: Constituents’ (1–23), introduces the reader to key concepts such as structure, constituent, and phrase. The terms category and function are presented in Ch. 2, ‘Sentence structure: Functions’ (24–45), in order to show how function (e.g. subject, predicate) relates to the phrasal category (e.g. NP, VP) and constituency (e.g. functional relations like subject-predicate, modifier-head). Ch. 3, ‘Sentence structure: Categories’ (46–66), introduces some lexical categories (e.g. N, A, and P) and, very briefly, the phrasal categories associated with them.

Chs. 4–7 introduce English phrase structure. In Ch. 4, ‘The basic verb phrase’ (67–86), B discusses the general structure of the verb phrase, emphasizing the functional relations between lexical verbs and their complements. B classifies lexical verbs in English into six classes. Ch. 5, ‘Adverbials and other matters’ (87–110), takes a closer look at the distinction between complements and modifiers in the VP and identifies two types of VP-modifiers: VP-adjuncts (e.g. He spotted the wildcats quite accidentally) and VP-adverbials (e.g. Buster admitted everything frankly). Ch. 6, ‘More on verbs: Auxiliary VPs’ (111–40), is divided into two parts: in the first part, the author explores the distinction between lexical and auxiliary verbs, while in the second part he examines constructions that depend on auxiliaries (e.g. passives, negative sentences, and do-support). Ch. 7, ‘The structure of noun phrases’ (141–70), focuses on the internal structure of NPs, taking into account the wide variety of categories that may precede or follow the head noun (e.g. determiners, adjectives, participles), as well as PPs and APs. An appendix to this chapter is devoted to the pro-form one.

Chs. 8–10 focus on more complex structures in English syntax. In Ch. 8, ‘Sentences within sentences’ (171–95), B introduces complex sentences and considers sentential recursion, paying due attention to the types and functions of complementizers (e.g. that, whether, unless, because). and introducing adverbial clauses. Ch. 9, ‘Wh-clauses’ (196–223), explores main and subordinate wh-interrogative clauses as well as relative clauses, pointing out the conditions under which the wh-phrase may be ellipted or replaced in the latter. Ch. 10, ‘Non-finite clauses’ (224–53), offers an account of both the form of non-finite clauses (infinitival and participial) and their function (subject, complement, adverbial).

B concludes this book with a general discussion of the background to and purpose of the analysis presented. The last chapter, ‘Languages, sentences and grammars’ (254–68), sets the analysis in the context of generative grammar by asking and attempting to answer the key question of what language really is and how we can gain new insights into what it is a speaker knows in knowing a language.

B’s clear, reader-friendly style, the numerous in-text exercises and their discussions, the further exercises sections, chapter summaries, and suggested reading list make this textbook interesting and available to anyone interested in exploring the syntactic structure of English.

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/s/ reduction in four dialects of Spanish

A usage-based account of syllable- and word-final /s/ reduction in four dialects of Spanish. By Earl K. Brown. (LINCOM studies in romance linguistics 62.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2009. Pp. iv, 236. ISBN 9783895865268. $91.28.

Reviewed by Delano Sydney Lamy, University of Florida

Earl K. Brown offers researchers a succinct and comprehensible analysis of one of the most-studied properties in Spanish linguistics, syllable- and word-final /s/ reduction. Utilizing a usage-based approach, he analyzes /s/ reduction in four Spanish-speaking areas: Cali, Colombia; Mérida, Venezuela; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. According to B, this study provides us with evidence that frequency factors significantly condition the reduction of syllable- and word-final /s/ (iv).

In Ch. 1, B discusses the variation of /s/ production in the Spanish-speaking world, identified as follows: (1i) maintenance [s], (ii) aspiration [h], and (iii) deletion [ø] (4). He also discusses the principle factors found in usage-based models and the exemplar theory of phonology, which are token frequency and frequency in a context favorable to reduction. In this model, sounds weaken as token frequency increases. As frequency increases in contexts favorable to reduction, the mental representation of these sounds is more likely to be the reduced variant. The author seeks to answer if the conditioning effects of frequency factors, along with others drawn from previous literature, change as the overall rate of reduction between dialects varies.

In Ch. 2, B describes the production of /s/ in the four dialects. The analysis shows that there is a hierarchy among the varieties in the overall rate of /s/ reduction, with Colombia exhibiting the lowest rate and Puerto Rico and Venezuela the highest. Later, he explains the variationist methodology employed for quantitative analysis, and states that ‘…this methodology can disentangle the influence of competing factors on a phenomenon of linguistic variation and change’ (31).

In Chs. 3–6, B presents the results, which show that the phonetic factors significantly constrain final /s/ reduction in the four dialects, with following phonological segments being the strongest factor group. He also finds that the usage-based factors have a significant influence. Frequency effects in the predicted direction rise in magnitude as overall /s/ reduction increases. However, at extremely high rates of reduction, these effects are lost, which he attributes to a ceiling effect.

In Ch. 7, B discusses the implications of the results, and concludes that the overall rate of /s/ reduction influences the magnitude of effect that the usage-based factors have on final /s/. That is, said factors lose strength as the rate of reduction increases. This supports the exemplar theory, in which we see that frequent reduction entails a stronger mental representation of the reduced variant, therefore minimizing any effect of contextual factors.

Despite using impressionistic coding as opposed to an instrumental analysis, this study succeeds in supporting usage-based models of phonology, and of language in general. The information presented on the theoretical framework is clear and concise and the application of it is complete. B makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the importance of frequency in phonetic production. I recommend this book to anyone interested in language use and variationist sociolinguistics.

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The intersubjective mirror in infant learning

The intersubjective mirror in infant learning and evolution of speech. By Stein Bråten. (Advances in consciousness research 76.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009. Pp. xxii, 351. ISBN 9789027252128. $149 (Hb).

Reviewed by Dennis Ryan, University Writing and Language Consultants

Recent research has led to a reassessment of human capacity beginning in infancy with ‘children’s [first] steps to speech’ (xiii). This, in turn, has spawned questions concerning the evolution of prespeech and proto-conversation. How do infants become so quickly adept at understanding speech in social contexts?  How do young children move so facilely from initial, nonverbal communication to an appreciation of narrative? How do children develop the ability to understand the minds of others? Stein Bråten entertains such questions in this book. B believes the answers to these questions are attributable to the existence of intersubjective states in young children and the recent discovery of mirror neurons that enable children to learn by imitation in face-to-face social interactions from the beginning of life.

Part 1, ‘Background for questions and findings inviting a paradigm shift’ (3–88), discusses how recent empirical infant research and the discovery of a mirror neuron system have resulted in a paradigm shift in the understanding of infant and child development. These findings have led B to formulate a complex theory of human development that views children’s private speech acts as altercentric problem-solving in the real world. He contends that this private speech is a dialogue with a virtual other that is an internalized mirror-reflection of the child’s all-encompassing sensory learning experiences with others.

Part 2, ‘On the origin of (pre)speech and efficient infant learners’ (91–162), speculates that bipedalism is crucial to the development of intersubjectivity because communication between hominid mothers and offspring first took place at a distance in face-to-face encounters. Language evolved from these first sound warnings and survival instructions. Empathy and altruism are viewed as integral to intersubjectivity. B draws parallels between his observations of chimpanzees feeding sugarcane to unrelated juveniles and consoling one another and an eleven-month old child spoon-feeding her mother and offering her juice. Imitating adult action in face-to-face encounters enabled the infant to take a virtual part in the other’s action (61). B uses the term vitality contours to describe this joint temporal sharing of emotion. This type of learning becomes a part of the infant’s procedural memory, to be recycled and re-enacted.

Part 3, ‘Intersubjective steps to speech and mind-reading in ontogeny’ (167–304), discusses the emergence and development of intersubjectivity in children. From birth, the child begins at a level of primary intersubjectivity with neonatal imitation. This develops into secondary intersubjectivity with shared attention to objects and tertiary intersubjectivity when the child engages in private speech and fantasy play. Between the ages of three to six, children begin to mirror the actions of the person they imitate in face-to-face learning situations, but children with autism cannot perform such tasks. This has been accounted for by motor-sensory impairment which leads B to conclude that children with autism do not possess functional mirror neuron systems; their mirrors have been biologically broken.

This book is theoretically and clinically relevant to the discussion of autism in children. .Overall, B’s argument is convincing and reinforces the views of Robert Trivers and Steven Pinker, who have written extensively on reciprocal altruism and language evolution.

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