Monthly Archives: November 2011

A dynamic approach to second language development

A dynamic approach to second language development: Methods and techniques. Ed. by Marjolijn H. Verspoor, Kees de Bot, and Wander Lowie. (Language Learning and Language Teaching 29.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. ix, 211.  ISBN 9789027219992. $49.95.

Reviewed by Nadia Mifka-Profizic, University of Auckland

The idea of change being central to the universe is not a new one. In ancient times, for example, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus argued that nothing endures but change. The idea has been present ever since, but it received a new impetus and theoretical elaboration in the development of dynamic or complex adaptive systems theory (DST). Recent years have seen strong support for DST in the field of applied linguistics.

This book is a logical continuation of proposals by a group of researchers who view language as a constantly changing, evolving complex system. The book is broadly organized into three parts. The first part is concerned with the theory, the second part considers case studies guided by DST, and the third part presents a detailed description of the methods and techniques used in empirical studies reported in previous chapters.

Ch. 1, contributed by Kees De Bot and Diane Larsen-Freeman, serves as an introduction to DST and explains the differences between research from a DST perspective and traditional accounts of language acquisition. In Ch. 2, Marjolijn H. Verspoor and Heike Behrens explore the compatibility of DST with the usage-based approaches, making a clear case for bottom-up processes and the non-linearity of language development.

Chs. 3 through 6 consider the application of DST in empirical research. Each chapter presents an exploratory study, with references to the final chapter, ‘How to sections’ so that interested researchers and students can immediately learn how particular data have been obtained and analyzed. In Ch. 3, Monika Schmid, Marjolijn H. Verspoor, and Brian MacWhinney explore the ways of coding and analyzing data with a focus on language development over time.

The following chapter, by Marijn van Dijk, Marjolijn H. Verspoor, and Wander Lowie, deals with variability both at the inter-learner and intra-learner levels. The authors emphasize the idea that developmental and longitudinal data can bring about clearer and more realistic patterns of individual language development. In Ch. 5, Marjolijn H. Verspoor and Marijn van Dijk explain the process of variable selection in order to submit data to a model simulation.

In Ch. 6, Wander Lowie, Tal Caspi, Paul van Geert, and Henderien Steenbeek consider the final stage in research from the DST perspective–the simulation of models used to test the theoretical hypotheses. In short, the models used in a DST approach are dynamic, non-linear, and stochastic, clearly distinguished from traditional static, linear, and deterministic models. The final chapter, ‘How to sections’, by Marjolijn H. Verspoor, Wander Lowie, Paul van Geert, Marijn van Dijk, and Monika S. Schmid provides detailed descriptions of each method, including step-by-step instructions related to the analyses and calculation, and references to the web page containing the files used in the analyses.

Overall, the book offers a comprehensive account of the concepts, empirical research, and practical advice on how to analyze the data from a dynamic perspective, and is a worthwhile contribution to language development research.

An introduction to English sociolinguistics

An introduction to English sociolinguistics. By Graeme Trousdale. (Edinburgh textbooks on the English language.) Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010. Pp. xiii, 152. ISBN 9780748623259. $24.50.

Reviewed by Irene Theodoropoulou, Qatar University

This textbook introduces topics concerning formal and functional variation in English. The first chapter discusses the notion ‘English’ and argues for a social rather than a mental treatment of the term, while underscoring the different degrees of standardizability between languages and dialects and between spoken and written language. Ch. 2 considers how speakers of English varieties can be categorized and claims that the only stable boundaries among communities, networks, and individuals are social (socially unique speakers) and linguistic (linguistically unique knowledge of language).

Ch. 3 focuses on the role of English in two types of language planning, status planning, and corpus planning, in England, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and the European Union, and it illustrates how some factors (e.g. prestige, power) remain constant, while some others (e.g. sociopolitical circumstances) vary. Regional and social variation in contemporary English are taken up in Ch. 4. The author maintains that these two types of variation go hand in hand when it comes to the emergence of new, non-local, non-standard forms of the language. In Ch. 5, the author looks into change in English and, through the consideration of studies from urban and rural contexts, makes the claim that a change in a particular variety materializes when used by particular speakers in specific contexts for particular communicative purposes.

Ch. 6 offers an overview of English historical sociolinguistics, whereby demythologizing the idea of pure English by illustrating how English is a mongrel language in all its historical periods up to date. Ch. 7 is concerned with English language contact with other languages. Along with coverage of English-lexifier pidgins and creoles and code-switching, the chapter also discusses English as a global language. Ch. 8 discusses dialect contact in and beyond Britain and argues that heterogeneity of speech communities entails the diffuseness of linguistic forms in contact, while their cohesion leads to levelling and standardization, and thus to the reduction of linguistic variation. In Ch. 9, the possibility of explaining sociolinguistic variation in English using the modular approach and the usage-based model, namely through analytical tools drawn from theoretical linguistics, is discussed.

Finally, Ch. 10 summarizes the main themes covered in the book by highlighting two significant issues: (i) the arbitrariness of the form-function distinction in variation in English, and (ii) the challenging need to think about potential (analytical) ways to link the sociolinguistics of contemporary English-speaking societies with the sociolinguistic state of affairs of those in the past and the ways that varieties of English are used in diverse contexts.

Due to the repetitiveness of the concluding chapter, it may have been more fitting for Chs. 9 and 10 to be clustered together as a concluding discussion of how theoretical linguistics can inform the description and interpretation of the topics covered in the book. Overall, however, the book is very accessible and offers a brief and concise introduction to the sociolinguistics of English, which will appeal to students and scholars alike who are interested in the sociolinguistics of the English language.

Corrective feedback and second language learning

Corrective feedback, individual differences and second language learning. By Younghee Sheen. (Educational linguistics 13.) Dordrecht: Springer, 2011. Pp. xvi, 199. ISBN 9789400705470. $139 (Hb).

Reviewed by Nadia Mifka-Profozic, University of Auckland

Corrective or negative feedback is, undoubtedly, a persisting concern of language teaching practitioners. The question of whether learner errors should be corrected or not has never been an easy one to answer. From a theoretical perspective, negative feedback has been discussed in relation to the ‘logical problem’ of language acquisition and the issue of positive and negative evidence in the process of acquiring language. In this book, the author explores the various aspects of corrective feedback (CF) in a classroom setting, aiming to reveal the complex relationships between individual learner characteristics and the interaction taking place in the classroom. The book draws on the author’s Ph.D. thesis but has outgrown the limits of its primary purpose with the addition of new chapters and with extended discussion. Particular attention is paid to two types of CF: recasts as implicit CF versus explicit correction in oral form, and direct correction versus metalinguistic explanation in written form.

The book consists of eight chapters, including discussion of both oral and written CF and a comparison between the two. The first chapter introduces the topic and explains the key terms and issues related to CF. Ch. 2, ‘Theoretical perspectives on CF’, provides an overview of theoretical accounts from which CF has been approached and discussed. The central part of the chapter introduces cognitive theories of oral CF, involving the interaction hypothesis and the noticing hypothesis, which explain some of the key constructs in language acquisition. Ch. 3, ‘Pedagogical perspectives on CF’, explores a range of pedagogical and methodological questions related to oral and written error correction. Some of the controversial issues concerning written grammar correction are discussed in this chapter. Pointing to the problem of overcorrection, the author aims at providing guidelines for teachers, drawing on a range of different sources, including methodologists’ recommendations and observed practices as well as teachers’ and students’ beliefs regarding error correction.

Ch. 4, ‘Oral corrective feedback research’, and Ch. 5, ‘Written corrective feedback research’ both deal with the author’s experimental work carried out in English as a second language (ESL) classrooms. This involves a brief review of most influential studies to date that have investigated the effectiveness of CF, including a detailed description of the author’s methodology and the results obtained in oral and written experimental studies. Ch. 6, ‘Comparing oral and written corrective feedback’, compares the effectiveness of CF in two different modes so that direct correction in writing and recasts are compared to metalinguistic explanation and explicit oral correction. Ch. 7, ‘Individual differences and corrective feedback’, investigates the role of individual factors in mediating the effects of CF. The author focuses on analytic ability as a component of language aptitude, on learner attitudes towards correction, and on language learning anxiety. In the concluding chapter, the significance of the book is emphasized and pedagogical recommendations are provided, so that research on CF can be made relevant for language teachers.

Vowel prosthesis in Romance

Vowel prosthesis in Romance: A diachronic study. By Rodney Sampson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pp. xii, 290. ISBN 9780199541157. $125 (Hb).

Reviewed by Douglas C. Walker, University of Calgary

Rodney Sampson, already well known for his work in comparative Romance linguistics (see his 1999 book Nasal vowel evolution in romance), here turns his attention to one of the less studied, but nonetheless fascinating, areas in the phonological history of the Romance family.

Prosthesis (or prothesis), the insertion of a non-etymological word-initial vowel, occurs sporadically in Romance, but, as a result of S’s extensive compilation of data, less sporadically than one might have thought. Nor is the process without considerable theoretical interest, especially in the area of syllable structure.

The book is organized as follows. The introduction (1–35) provides background, including a definition of prosthesis, a dissection of the problems of identification, and a review of synchronic and diachronic developments as well as of the various vowels involved. This is followed by an exploration of the potential phonological, morphophonological, lexical, morpholexical, and sociolinguistic causes of prosthesis. The chapter closes with two short sections: a survey of previous studies, which notes that the fullest discussion, by Hugo Schuchardt, surprisingly dates from the middle of the nineteenth century; and a review of data sources.

This introductory material is followed by two brief chapters, ‘Categories of prosthesis in the History of Romance’ (36–40) and ‘The Latin background’ (41–52). In the former, we meet the three main prosthetic vowels: I-, A- and U-, with initial I- (ultimately surfacing most commonly as /e/) constituting the most frequent and widespread variant.  Concerning the Latin background, we learn that little prosthesis occurred prior to the breakup of the Republic, but that massive simplifications of complex syllable onsets during the later stages, with the exception of word-initial /s/ + consonant clusters, provided the initial impetus for its development.

The core of the book lies in the next three long chapters, ‘I-prosthesis’ (53–145), ‘A-prosthesis’ (146–93), and U-prosthesis (194–232). In each, we find, in varying degrees, a number of common themes of both descriptive and analytical import. S appropriately raises the issue of the identification of a vowel as prosthetic or not, before describing the geographical distribution of the three types (in most detail for the widespread I-prosthesis) and the chronology of their appearance. More theoretical discussions deal with the causation of the phenomenon, the structural conditions necessary (or at least favorable) for its occurrence, the trajectory followed, and the ultimate outcomes of the vowels—persistence, integration, or disappearance. Unsurprisingly, syllable structure, both at the beginning of words and at the junction between words, is seen as the key factor in the development of prosthetic vowels.

The concluding chapter outlines S’s arguments for considering prosthesis as a regular rather than sporadic sound change and is followed by a useful set of maps showing the distribution of the various types of prosthesis (239–50), a detailed bibliography (251–80), and a subject index (281–90).

In this book, S again demonstrates his interest in and mastery of a complex and fascinating Romance domain, a comparative purview rare, at least in English, within scholarship that concentrates on the specifics of individual languages. This work should serve to reinvigorate study of an often misunderstood and theoretically relevant domain at a time when the role of syllable structure and prosody is increasingly important for our understanding of phonological phenomena.

Attitudes to language

Attitudes to language. By Peter Garrett. (Key topics in sociolinguistics.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. x, 257. ISBN 9780521 59175. $39.99.

Reviewed by Irene Theodoropoulou, Qatar University

This book delves into one of the most important aspects of the social life of language, which involves attitudes about language. Ch. 1 contextualizes attitudes by suggesting that they can be examined at all levels of linguistic analysis and in different contexts, including in words, accents, grammar, language, standardization of language, and code-switching.

Ch. 2 discusses the notion and structure of linguistic attitudes, which can be viewed as comprising cognition, affect, and behavior. This chapter introduces some major debates on the durability and stability of attitudes along with their relationship to interconnected terms, such as habits, values, beliefs, opinions, social stereotypes, and ideologies. Ch. 3 considers both strengths and weaknesses of and similarities and differences between three major approaches to the study of language attitudes: direct approach, indirect approach, and societal treatment studies.

Chs. 4 and 5 delve into the indirect measure of matched and verbal guise techniques. Ch. 4 focuses on research conducted on native varieties of English, primarily in Anglo-speaking countries, while Ch. 5 reports on attitudes about other languages, including French, varieties of Arabic, Japanese, varieties of Spanish, and Welsh. The main argument put forward is that attitudes are not monolithic but rather vary among social groups, localities, accent strength, interactional contexts, and ethnolinguistic vitality.

Ch. 6 reviews research on attitudes toward non-linguistic communicative features (e.g. lexical provenance, diversity, and speech rate), speaker variables (e.g. appearance, social class, sex, and age), hearer variables (e.g. ethnocentrism, mood, and expertise), and context (e.g. institutional, personal, and cultural). Ch. 7 discusses communication accommodation theory and takes the reader through its transformation from a sociopsychological model, aiming to analyze bilingual and accent shifts in interactions, to a more interdisciplinary model that can explain identity construction in interactions.

Ch. 8 considers research on language attitudes in legal, health, education, and employment contexts. Two important issues arising here are discrimination and social stereotyping being reproduced through these studies, coupled with issues of biased samples, which prevent researchers from getting an objective picture. Ch. 9 looks into societal treatment studies in consumer advertisements and linguistic landscapes, arguing that this type of study is far from being preliminary, contrary to what social psychological studies have claimed.

Ch. 10 discusses in detail three types of direct approaches: a discursive social constructionist approach, a comparative approach on language attitudes and issues of ethnicity in diasporic communities, and an online survey of language attitudes in the United Kingdom. Ch. 11 presents folk-linguistic attitudes to ‘inner circle’ English varieties, with a particular focus on keywords, illustrating how this research can provide useful insights into the stereotyping of attitudes. Ch. 12 argues for an integrated program of language attitudes research, encompassing a questionnaire and a verbal guise study, the combination of which can yield a fine-grained picture of language attitudes. Ch. 13 concludes the book by highlighting the pervasiveness of language attitudes in social life and the subsequent need to tackle them in the disambiguation of sociolinguistic complexity.

Despite some minor typos, the book is certainly a useful source for linguists and psychologists alike, who are interested in social aspects of language.

Metaphor and writing

Metaphor and writing: Figurative thought in the discourse of written communication. By Philip Eubanks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. x, 214. ISBN 9780521191029. $90 (Hb).

Reviewed by Siaw-Fong Chung, National Chengchi University

Philip Eubanks argues that the treatment of metaphor has not been given enough attention in writing, and this book calls attention to the importance of figurative language and thought in writing. In Ch. 1, E provides some examples of metaphors in writing. The kind of metaphors E refers to is conceptual, referring to the process or even to the conceptual manifestation of writing which may or may not reflect a particular linguistic phenomenon. For illustration, E explains that well-organized or well-structured are examples of metaphors used when describing the spatial organization of writing (20, citing Peter Elbow, The music of form: Rethinking organization in writing. College Composition and Communication, 57.4, 620–66, 2006).

In Chs. 2 and 3, E compares the meanings of writer versus to write. The prototype of writer, however, ‘is incompatible with and yet inseparable from the prototype of to write’ ( 40); that is, although writer and to write are both seen as basic-level categories, ‘writing cannot, in fact, occur at a general level’ (42). In Ch. 3, E further discusses the varying generality of writer and to write, which he calls ‘conflicting theories’ among ‘the general-ability view and the specific-expertise view’ (41). For example, prototypical writers usually possess non-prototypical writing ability.

In Ch. 4, E begins a discussion of metaphor and metonymy in writing. Three stories of writing are discussed, namely the literate-inscriber (e.g. lists, emails, notes), the good-writer (e.g. essays, workplace genres), and the author-writer (e.g. complex compelling texts) stories. These three stories generally ‘rely on two fundamental metonymies: Writing Is Thought and Writing Is Identity’ (63). In Ch. 5, E examines the figure of voice in writing. According to E, voice reflects a complex metonymy because writing involves not only the Writing Is Speech metonymy (e.g. personal voice, passive voice), but also can be broken down into Writing As Transcription (e.g. the text says, he or she says), Writing As Talk (i.e. to write like you talk), and the Discovered Voice (i.e. the underlying voice).

In Ch. 6, E discusses the conceptual blends among writing, speech, and the different selves (multiple voices), be they a singular self, multiple selves, or the core self (the real me). Nobody, however, is able to tell whether any of these selves are the writer’s true self as ‘all constructions of self potentially have sophisticated rhetorical motivations’ (141) and this explains why a complex conceptual blend is present. In Ch. 7, the conduit metaphor is discussed (e.g. putting thoughts into words, getting the message across). Although E mentions many weaknesses of the conduit metaphor, he claims that this type of metaphor reflects the Language is Power metonymy. One of the alignments between these two is that the latter involves a force model (direct force model) and a model which ‘retrains or moves any object in its field’ (159).

Ch. 8 provides examples that help to explain the conduit metaphor. E also discusses the conduit metaphor with regard to the three stories of writing. Ch. 9 contains a final note about other possible metaphors, such as Argument Is War, which may also exist in writing, and the book ends with a reminder to the readers that in writing the writer needs to determine which ‘choice of figures’ (197) one has to employ.

Linguistics at school

Linguistics at school: Language awareness in primary and secondary education. Ed. by Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. xv, 311. ISBN 9780521887014. $99 (Hb).

Reviewed by Lynn D. Sims, Austin Peay State University

This book successfully demonstrates how collaboration between linguists and educators helps shift the teaching of language in primary and secondary (K-12) classrooms from a traditional to a linguistically informed approach. The projects discussed are informative and, as a linguist who teaches linguistics to English education majors, I consider this book a must-read.

The book contains twenty-three chapters divided into three parts. Part 1, ‘Linguistics from the top down: Encouraging institutional change’, includes eight chapters highlighting projects that have integrated linguistics into K-12 education through changes to curricula and standards, teacher education, and linguist-teacher collaboration. Chs. 3, 4, and 5 address projects in England, Scotland, and Australia, respectively. The remaining chapters address projects in the United States. Each chapter is useful, three of them in particular. In his chapter, Wayne O’Neil summarizes the different outcomes of three separate linguistics integration projects, demonstrating why continued collaboration between linguists and teachers is crucial to curricular change. Richard Hudson outlines the process of integrating linguistics into the national curriculum and explains the successful outcomes of connecting knowledge about language to the teaching of literature, creative writing, and foreign languages. Jeffrey Reaser details the development of a high-school curriculum based around Do you speak American?, a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) series, and an eighth-grade social studies curriculum based on sociocultural and dialect patterns in North Carolina.

Part 2, ‘Linguistics from the bottom up: Encouraging classroom change’, contains seven chapters that include the insights gained by linguists working directly with K-12 students and teachers. One theme that emerges is the importance of connecting linguistics to the scientific method of discovery when working inside the K-12 classroom. Rebecca S. Wheeler discusses the use of contrastive analysis, the scientific method, and code-switching as metacognition when teaching academic writing. Maya Honda, Wayne O’Neil, and David Pippin provide a detailed explanation of how one fifth-grade English class approaches and solves morphophonological problem sets. Kristin Denham discusses the importance of integrating linguistics at the primary school level, of working closely with primary teachers and students, and of teaching future K-12 teachers how to incorporate their linguistics knowledge into their classrooms.

Part 3, ‘Vignettes: Voices from the classroom’, is an excellent conclusion to this text, containing eight chapters that relate strategies used by K-12 teachers to bring linguistics into their classrooms. Topics include using dialect/register and grammar/stylistic choice to analyze literature (Angela Roh), using code-switching to teach formal writing (Karren Mayer and Kirstin New), and using contrastive analysis to teach grammar (Deidre Carlson). Caroline Thomas and Sara Wawer discuss the integration of linguistics into an Australian curriculum, and Athena McNulty discusses collaborating with a linguist to produce successful, linguistically informed lessons. David Pippin explains the use of a unique literary text to illustrate the rhetorical effects of grammatical choices. Leatha Fields-Carey and Suzanne Sweat discuss the use of the Voices of North Carolina curriculum to teach dialect awareness. Dan Clayton discusses innovative ways to use slang as a springboard for teaching grammar, variation, and change.

Fostering language teaching efficiency

Fostering language teaching efficiency through cognitive linguistics. Ed. by Sabine De Knop, Frank Boers, and Antoon De Rycker. (Applications of cognitive linguistics 17.) Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2010. Pp. xiii, 388. ISBN 9783110245820. $150 (Hb).

By Nadia Mifka Profozic, University of Auckland

This book is a collection of state-of-the-art articles that aim to promote insights from cognitive linguistics (CL) in language teaching. As emphasized in the introduction, the focus of the volume is on instructed language learning which differs substantially from incidental learning in immersion situations. The book consists of three parts, each dealing with an aspect of the relationship between CL and language instruction. The first part points to the relevance and significance of teaching approaches informed by CL. The second part focuses on the content of teaching from CL perspective, and the third part considers methods of teaching that use insights from CL.

Part 1 begins with an article by John Taylor, addressing the issue of I(internal)-language and E(external)-language and exploring the differences between the generative and usage-based approaches. The following article by Rafael Alejo Gonzales, Ana Piquer Piriz, and Guadalupe Reveriego, examines the treatment of English phrasal verbs in Spanish course books, demonstrating that these books do not reflect the actual use of phrasal verbs as evident from corpus analysis. Xiaoyan Xia and Hans-Georg Wolf explore the psychological phenomenon in first language (L1) acquisition that a basic level of categorization is learned prior to higher levels of learning, and show that this finding is equally valid in second language (L2) acquisition. Helene Stengers, Frank Boers, Alex Housen, and June Eyckmans investigate the effects of pedagogically directed awareness of multi-word lexical ‘chunks’ in English and Spanish L2 classrooms. Their results indicate that activities that raise awareness alone may not be sufficient for acquisition.

In Part 2, JoAnne Neff-van Aertselaer, and Caroline Bunce report on a comparative crosslinguistic corpus analysis of the use of the verb have in advanced English as a foreign language (EFL) writing classes. Zhuo Jing-Schmidt argues for the use of concept explication in foreign language teaching, comparing three languages: Mandarin, German, and English. In their analysis of business press headlines, Honesto Herrera and Michael White argue for more efficient use of idioms in language courses. The article by Jeannette Littlemore, Phyllis Chen, Polly Liyen Tang, Almut Koester, and John Barnden examines the use of metaphor and metonymy in English discourse communities, and their relevance for English for specific purposes (ESP) teaching courses. David Eddington and Francisco Ruiz de Mendoza explore the relationship between argument construction and language processing, based on a priming experiment. The following article by Frank Boers, Julie Deconinck, and Seth Lindstromberg is concerned with the nature of ‘chunks’ and the phonological motivation they can have in assisting L2 instruction.

In Part 3, Kanako Cho reports the results of two studies that applied a cognitive approach in teaching English prepositions to Japanese learners. Phillip Hamrick and Salvatore Attardo focus on auxiliary selection in teaching the Italian passato prossimo. Based on their experiment, they discuss the pros and cons of CL and the traditional grammar approach. Ying-Hsueh Hu and Yu-Ying Fong explore obstacles that L2 learners may encounter when interpreting idioms based on conceptual metaphors. An article by Constanze Juchem-Grundmann and Tina Krennmayr looks at the ways of corpus analysis–based integration of metaphor into the business teaching materials. Christina Sanchez-Stockhammer explores the potential of lexical decomposition in teaching and learning English and German, and the final article of the book, by Helen Fraser, examines the application of CL in teaching pronunciation.

Burushaski as an Indo-European ‘kentum’ language

Burushaski as an Indo-European ‘kentum’ language. (Languages of the world 38.) By Ilija Čašule. Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2010. Pp. 109. ISBN 9783895865947. $91.66.

Reviewed by Edward Vajda, Western Washington University

Burushaski is a language spoken in three closely related dialectal forms in the valleys of Northern Pakistan. It is generally regarded as an isolate, despite many attempts to link it with other Eurasian language families. The present monograph, unfortunately, does not evaluate these earlier hypotheses. It analyzes 150 Burushaski lexical items and their derivatives to argue that the velar consonants in these words show systematic sound correspondences with the reflexes of proto–Indo-European (PIE) velars, labiovelars, and palatovelars found in non-satem Indo-European languages. Burushaski vocabulary items with obvious Indo-Aryan parallels that likely arose through borrowing are omitted from the investigation. The conclusion argued for is that Burushaski shows a genealogical relationship with kentum Indo-European languages such as Albanian, ancient Thracian, and Phrygian, as well as Balto-Slavic. Because the book focuses on a single group of putative sound correspondences (the dorsal plosives), its claims should be evaluated together with the author’s previous investigations of Burushaski/Indo-European lexical relations (particularly, Basic Burushaski etymologies, 1998), where a total of nearly 600 cognates are proposed involving proposed sound correspondences in vowels as well as non-guttural consonants (69).

While the book represents a conscientious attempt to apply the traditional comparative method to a language whose position among the world’s language families remains without consensus, the data assembled do not support the conclusion that Burushaski belongs within a sub-branch of Indo-European. The core thesis is summarized in a chart (64), illustrating how PIE plain velars, labiovelars, and palatovelars have fallen together to yield plain velars in Burushaski. While the 150 stems investigated here would appear to support this correlation, most of these items also contain exceptions to other aspects of the broader system of sound correspondences argued for. Comparanda show unique segment deletions or additions of various kinds. One example is PIE *dṇĝhuha ‘tongue’, which is compared to Yasin Burushaski –yúṅus ‘tongue’ (58), though only the nasal segment appears to be shared. Another is PIE *h1ogʷis- ‘snake’ and Burushaski –ġusánus ‘snake’ (39), where only the PIE second syllable gʷis and the Burushaski initial syllable ġus appear directly comparable. Most of the 150 lexical correspondences have been supplied with copious additional commentary to explain significant phonological, morphological, or semantic incongruities.

This study is, nevertheless, valuable for its careful consideration of Burushaski-internal phonological variation and morphological processes, based on the author’s familiarity with earlier sources, notably Hermann Berger’s three-volume Die Burushaski-Sprache von Hunza und Nager (1998). Certain lexical parallels, notably those dealing with Neolithic farming or herding, should be reexamined in light of potential language contact, a possibility the author himself seriously considered in his earlier work (Basic Burushaski etymologies, 1998) but has now abandoned in favor of a genealogical explanation. Future investigations of Burushaski historical linguistics might benefit most from an etymological dictionary that more fundamentally treats the divergences between Yasin (Werchikwar) Burushaski and the more closely related Hunza and Nager dialects.

An introduction to regional Englishes

An introduction to regional Englishes: Dialect variation in England. By Joan C. Beal. (Edinburgh textbooks on the English language.) New York: Edinburgh University Press, 2010. Pp. xi, 122. 9780748621170. $25.

Reviewed by Susanne Wagner, Chemnitz University of Technology

This short volume serves as an excellent introduction to dialect variation in England. Given the wide range of variation in the English-speaking world as well as in the accompanying research, such a narrow focus is almost inevitable in the field today. Joan C. Beal states on the very first page that the book will be limited to variation in England and elaborates later on her major reason for doing so.  In the context of the United Kingdom, issues of national identity, which often play a role in language variation, differ vastly.

The first chapter offers a comprehensive introduction to the topic, including a historical overview of dialectology and treatment of dialects. B focuses on such popular issues as the question of whether regional dialects are disappearing, emphasizing that while change is more rapid than ever before, new differences are emerging at the same time.

Chs. 2 through 4 follow a typical order of discussion in a book on regional variation, beginning with accent variation (Ch. 2), followed by a chapter on dialect variation (i.e. variation in morphology and syntax) and a chapter on lexical variation. All chapters focus not only on ‘old’ variables but also on current trends such as happy-tensing and l-vocalization, which—in terms of their regional distribution—defy traditional beliefs of language change and spread of features. The chapter on morphosyntax contains two main subsections, each focusing on one main constituent of the clause: the noun phrase and the verb phrase. While the restriction to England has been made explicit from the start, an occasional reference to parallels in other varieties of English—particularly to features that American English ‘inherited’ from English dialects—would have been helpful.

The hallmarks of the book are Chs. 5 and 6. In Ch. 5, two major patterns of language change, levelling and diffusion, are discussed. Importantly, B also includes a discussion on resistance and divergence, showing that levelling is not the only possibility. Ch. 6 introduces one of the current trends in studies on variation, namely its relation to identity. A theoretical introduction helps inexperienced readers in particular to put things into perspective and includes a discussion of William Labov’s Martha’s Vineyard study, today widely regarded as the first study to show the construction of identity through language. With the help of three case studies, B further elaborates on possible effects that identity can have on language (variation and change). Each of the three studies uses different methods and arrives at different conclusions, which nicely exemplifies the broad range of research conducted in the field.

Overall, this book is highly recommended for undergraduate students who want a quick overview of a small part of a large field. The book includes numerous ideas for further research and reading, and the exercises offer additional food for thought.