Monthly Archives: January 2012

On the death and life of languages

On the death and life of languages. By Claude Hagège (translated by Jody Gladding). New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009. Pp. ix, 364. ISBN 9780300167870. $20.

Reviewed by Josep Soler-Carbonell, University of Oxford

This revised translation of the original 2000 edition in French is a masterpiece in the available literature regarding the threats and consequences of language homogenization and loss. It contains a wealth of information and illustrative examples from a vast range of languages from all parts of the world and from different historical periods, an unmistakable sign of the top-notch linguist that the reader is being guided by. The writing style is clear and easy to follow, for which the translator deserves credit; the book is accessible, in general terms, for a broad audience and not only for experts on the topic.

The book is divided into three parts: ‘Languages and life’, ‘Languages and death’, and ‘Languages and resurrection’. It contains eleven chapters and a final conclusion. In the first part, comprising Chs. 1–4, the running argument is the link that exists between languages and human life, touching upon the notion of language as a living species, with regard to how they are similar and how they differ. The second part (Chs. 5–9) explores in depth the link between languages and death, analyzing what we mean by a ‘dead’ language, what constitute possible ways (‘paths’) that a language becomes extinct, and what the potential causes are. Ch. 8 provides a general overview of the language situation across the world and makes explicit the link between language and culture, as well as the loss that the extinction of a language implies for all of humanity.

From the many examples that the book provides, the following one can be highlighted. In Pomo, spoken by a few people 160 kilometers north of San Francisco, the notion of ‘running’ can be expressed in five different verbal forms that combine affixes and radicals in different ways in order to convey five different meanings: (i) if the running is performed by a single individual, (ii) if the running is performed by a group, (iii) if the runner has four feet, (iv) if there are many runners of this type, and (v) if those referred to are a group of humans in a car.

The third and final part, including Chs. 10 and 11 and the conclusion, comprises the climax of the book. Ch. 10 describes the history of Hebrew in full detail, from ancient times until the present day, with a focus on the nineteenth century and on Ben-Yehuda. The optimistic message of this chapter, and of the book in general, is that reviving a language is not easy. It is a difficult undertaking, demanding a lot of effort and a very specific and favorable context, but if a group of resolved individuals are determined to persevere and carry on that aim, it can be achieved.

The post-communist condition

The post-communist condition: Public and private discourses of transformation. Ed. by Aleksandra Galasińska and Dariusz Galasiński. (Discourse approaches to politics, society and culture  37.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2010. Pp. xi, 264. ISBN 9789027206282. $143 (Hb).

Reviewed by Richard W. Hallett, Northeastern Illinois University

Noting the ‘significant paucity of research into the discourses of and within postcommunism’ (4), the editors state that the chapters in this volume focus on various levels of discourse within post-communist Poland. In their first chapter, ‘Living between history and the present: The Polish post-communist condition’ (1–20), they present a short overview of Polish history and of the chapters that follow. The remainder of the book is divided into three main sections.

Part 1 contains four chapters. The Polish in the title ‘Nie rzucim ziemi skąd nasz ród: Polish contemporary discourses about soil and nation’ (23–45) translates into English as ‘We’ll not abandon the land of our kin’. In this chapter, Michał Buchowski provides a case study of ‘blood’ and ‘soil’ metaphors used in the discussion of the possible purchase of Polish land by foreigners after Poland’s accession to the European Union. In the following chapter, ‘Collective memory in transition: Commemorating the end of the Second World War in Poland’ (47–65), Anna Horolets provides a critical discourse analysis of the discourse of Victory Day in Europe before and after 1989. In the following chapter (67–87), Imke Hansen offers a historical discourse analysis of the public debate in the Polish press concerning the ‘Cross Conflict’ near Auschwitz primarily between 1997 and 1999. Noting the dearth of literature on International Workers’ Day (May 1) festivities in Poland, Dariusz Galasiński presents a study of the narrated experiences of three different generations in the remaining chapter (89–102).

Four chapters comprise Part 2, beginning with ‘Denying the right to speak in public: Sexist and homophobic discourses in post-1989 Poland’ (105–29), in which Natalia Krzyżanowska offers a discourse historical approach to her analysis of the coverage of a sex affair/scandal in Samoobrona in late 2006 by three different Polish newspapers. Katarzyna Skowronek provides a ‘functionally-oriented discourse analysis’ (132) of pastoral letters and sermons by Polish clergy in her chapter (131–50). In ‘Fashioning a post-communist political identity: The case of Poland’s Democratic Left Alliance’ (151–66), Robert Brier analyzes how Poland’s main post-communist political party legitimized its ‘pragmatic identity’ (159). In the remaining chapter (167–87), Marta Kurkowska-Budzan studies the publications of the Institute of National Remembrance to reconstruct its objectives, values, and historical themes, inter alia.

Part 3 contains four chapters, led by a chapter (191–209) from Aleksandra Galasińska.  Beginning with a definition of ‘work’, she shows ‘how work is constructed as a dominant subject in the discussion about the post-communist transformation’ (192) in her interviews in a neighborhood in a large city in southern Poland and a rural community in southeastern Poland.  In the following chapter, ‘Transition to nowhere: Homelessness in post-communist Poland as the hand of fate’ (211–27), Maria Mendel and Tomasz Szkudlarek present seven biographical narratives from homeless people in Gdańsk. Through interviews with Polish migrants to Britain and Ireland after Poland’s accession to the European Union, Małgorzata Fabiszak discovers two conceptual metaphors in their narratives in her chapter (229–45). Lastly, based on twenty-one interviews, Dariusz Galasiński investigates men’s constructions of their masculine identities in their post-communist narratives in the final chapter, ‘Post-communist masculinities’ (247–62).

This book is a welcome addition to courses on discourse analysis, identity studies, and post-communist studies.

Fonética do português europeu

Fonética do português europeu: Descrição e transcrição. By António Emiliano. Lisbon: Guimarães Editores, 2009. Pp. xviii, 388. ISBN 9789726656142. $53.

Reviewed by Jason Doroga, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The author, António Emiliano, motivated by a lack of consistency and clarity of terms in the bibliography on the description of the sound system of Standard European Portuguese (SEP), states that the main objectives of his book are to provide clear definitions of the main concepts of articulatory phonetics and to provide a standard transcription of the sounds of European Portuguese using the normalized guidelines of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

Ch. 1 (3–84) presents an overview of critical terms relevant to the analysis and transcription of the sounds of SEP. E demonstrates the need to use a standardized formula to describe SEP consonants and vowels and provides a complete articulatory description for each phoneme. He discusses the IPA system of transcription and the various problems with previous attempts to codify SEP pronunciation using an international system. Specifically, E focuses on the inconsistency of previous attempts to transcribe SEP atonic vowel reduction, metaphony, and diphthongs, concluding with a chapter discussing the relationship between orthography and speech in which he demonstrates that the pronunciation of SEP presents peculiarities that cannot be codified in the orthography.
The bulk of the lengthy Ch. 2 (85–246) comprises an encyclopedic inventory of the sounds of SEP, accompanied by a list of lexical items with a phonetic transcription for each word. The lists also present the various possible orthographic representations for each phone. It is not explicitly stated who the intended audience is for such a comprehensive listing of transcriptions; however, for the non-native SEP speaker, access to an audio recording of the words would enhance the utility of these transcriptions.

The most interesting section of the book is found in Ch. 3 (248–90). Though not a main focus, E discusses the major phonetic differences between SEP and other varieties of Ibero-Romance, including Galician and Castilian. Also included is a cursory glance at the differences between Brazilian Portuguese and SEP. Additionally, E occasionally explains the historical development of the sound system. For example, he understands the vowel reduction in modern SEP to be a continuation of the reduction of atonic vocalic distinctions made in Vulgar Latin.

A comprehensive topographical index of geographical names (with accompanying phonetic transcriptions) comprises the last chapter (291–365). There is no introductory text or commentary for this chapter to justify its inclusion in the book, although the reader may assume that the author uses it to attempt to clarify lingering doubt on the standard pronunciation of the toponyms.

E acknowledges that his transcriptions represent the pronunciation of an educated speaker of the prestigious variety of Lisbon and, for the most part, the book overlooks the issue of allophonic variation socially or geographically. Additionally, the book does not include a subject index or a glossary of the many phonetic terms discussed in the main body of the text. Since this is not a phonetic manual of SEP, a discussion of important topics such as accentuation and syllabic divisions is not included; however, E’s contribution specifically addresses the need for monographs that provide consistent phonetic transcriptions for the sounds of SEP.

The pronunciation of English around the world

The pronunciation of English around the world: Geo-social applications of the natural phonetics and tonetics method. By Luciano Canepari. (LINCOM studies in English linguistics 16.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2010. Pp. 700. ISBN 9783929075755. $217 (Hb).

Reviewed by Stephen Laker, Kyushu University

This volume by Luciano Canepari describes over 200 accents of English, including approximately 120 native-speaker accents (mainly from North America and the British Isles), sixty-one bilingual accents (e.g. from the Philippines, India, and Malta), and twenty foreign accents (e.g. from France, Turkey, and Japan).

The first half of the book (13–249) outlines the aims of the volume and introduces the author’s phonotonetic transcription system. The author argues that his Canepari International Phonetic Alphabet (canIPA) has several advantages over the official International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For example, it indicates more phonetic differences with distinct symbols, thus doing away with an array of diacritics (as used in, which relativize existing consonant and vowel symbols rather than specifying core qualities. With canIPA it is also unnecessary to use phonetic symbols for purposes for which they were not intended (e.g. the official IPA front open vowel symbol [a] is often used to designate a central open vowel instead, because an open vowel symbol is wanting). Indeed the clear distinction of sounds through specific symbols becomes vitally important when comparing and contrasting many different languages and dialects.

The author proceeds to use canIPA to describe three standard or neutral accents: British English, American English, and International English (IE). Interestingly, C’s main accent of reference throughout the book is IE, a term used in different ways by different linguists. C thinks of it as an accent ‘somehow intermediate’ between the neutral British and American accents (13) though ‘slightly more American-like’ (29). He goes on to note that it is ‘mainly based on CNN pronunciation […] of newsreaders, not local correspondents’ (29). C’s discussion of IE is long, but since this is not yet a generally recognized accent type, recordings of IE or the names of some CNN anchors who use it ought to have been provided, so they could be listened to. Discussion is no substitute for authentic data.

The second half of the volume (250–651) surveys about 200 so-called territorial accents (i.e. regionally-colored bilingual and foreign accents) from around the world. The range and number of accents covered is impressive and includes many lesser-known varieties, such as provincial Native-American, Celtic, South African, and foreign-accented Englishes. Yet many of these reports are very short, sometimes only one page, and no information is given about the speakers of the accents described, so the reader has no contact with or control over the primary data (unlike with other available handbooks). Furthermore, no reader-friendly lexical phoneme sets or transcriptions of a set passage are offered to illustrate the accents in context. These absences could yet be remedied if sound files were made available, either on an accompanying CD-ROM or online. Without sound files, the intonation patterns—something that other handbooks often ignore altogether—are particularly difficult to assess.

Foundations of pragmatics

Foundations of pragmatics. Ed. by Wolfram Bublitz and Neal R. Norrick. (Handbooks of pragmatics 1.) Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2011. Pp. xiv, 710. ISBN 9783110214253. $299 (Hb).

Reviewed by Eric A. Anchimbe, University of Bayreuth

After the resounding success of the Handbooks of applied linguistics series, De Gruyter Mouton is publishing a new nine-volume series, Handbooks of pragmatics, which like the earlier series is a solid mix of traditional and innovative approaches to, and investigations of, both old and contemporary topics in pragmatics. With most of the nine volumes already published, these self-contained collections promise to supplement and add new directions to existing handbooks of pragmatics in the market and to a field of linguistics that is exceptionally heterogeneous, constantly expanding, and progressively multilingual.

The volume under review here is the first in the series and as the editors write, it ‘provides a comprehensive overview of the foundations of pragmatics…the roots and evolution of those central theories and approaches as well as key concepts and topics that are characteristic of twenty-first century pragmatics as an approach to the means and ways of using language in authentic social contexts’ (1). In addition to covering twenty-first century pragmatics, the contributions in this volume also focus on topics that emerged earlier, for example, the ‘Semiotic foundations of pragmatics’ (Winfried Nöth), ‘Pragmatics in Habermas’ critical social theory’ (Maeve Cooke), and ‘Foundations: Ethnomethodolgy and Erving Goffman’ (Christine Domke and Werner Holly), among others.

This handbook consists of twenty-three articles divided into five thematic parts:  conceptual foundations, theoretical foundations, key topics in pragmatic description, the place of pragmatics in the description of discourse, and methods and tools. The articles are written by experts not only in pragmatics but also in adjacent fields and sub-disciplines that lend themselves to pragmatic interpretations, such as semiotics, sociolinguistics, philosophy of language, functional linguistics, critical social theory, and literature. The handbook traces the long journey of the evolution of the field of pragmatics from its early beginnings (see ‘Pragmatics as a linguistic concept’ by Anita Fetzer and ‘The rise of pragmatics: A historiographic overview’ by Wataru Koyama) through its struggles to establish itself as an independent field (see ‘Pragmalinguistics and sociopragmatics’ by Sophia Marmaridou).

This journey continues with the theoretical frameworks that shaped pragmatics (e.g. ‘Pragmatics in modern philosophy of language’ by Nikola Kompa and George Meggle and ‘Foundations of pragmatics in functional linguistics’ by Saskia Daalder and Andreas Musolff), as well as traditional key topics in pragmatics (e.g. ‘Deixis and indexicality’ by William F. Hanks and ‘Speech acts’ by Elena Collavin). A rather recent phase in this evolution is the pragmatic focus on discourse (see ‘Pragmatics and literature’ by Jacob L. Mey and ‘Pragmatics and prosody: Prosody as social action’ by Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen). An even more recent phase is the application of corpus-based and experimental tools to pragmatic analysis (see ‘Experimental pragmatics’ by Richard Brehneyand ‘Corpus-based pragmatics: Quantitative studies II’ by Christoph Rühlemann).

What makes this handbook different from many others is the expanse of the topics covered, especially the inclusion of a whole section on methods and tools. We are presented innovative and scientific methods and tools designed to facilitate data collection and processing, for instance, experiment-based tools as well as qualitative and quantitative corpus-based methods. With these methods, our study of pragmatics as intentional social interactional behavior in context across time and cultures will benefit from optimal and reliable findings that reflect authentic human behavior. This volume is, therefore, relevant to pragmaticians from both the traditional theoretical background and the modern, machine-mediated, corpus-based inclination.