Monthly Archives: February 2012

Technology enhanced learning and cognition

Technology enhanced learning and cognition. Ed. by Itiel E. Dror. (Benjamins current topics 27.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. ix, 265. ISBN 9789027222572. $143 (Hb).

Reviewed by Ferit Kılıçkaya, Middle East Technical University

This book, originally published in issues of Pragmatics & cognition (2008, 16:2) and (2009, 17:1), aims to explore the research in cognition and language learning, putting forward that technology enhanced learning should  benefit from effective mental representations that will work in line with the human cognitive system to help learners to acquire and remember information more efficiently.

The book is divided into seven parts and opens with the editor’s very concise and efficient introduction to brain-friendly technology, discussing how it affects cognitive load and the human user and providing reasons why brain-friendly technology is needed. The second part deals with whether cognitive technologies can be adapted so as to benefit learning and, based on the experiments done, suggests that computer-based simulations can be effective to transfer learning when they are created with an understanding of concreteness and idealization and supported with a graphical interface. The third part provides interesting insight into dynamic and adaptive scaffolding which benefits from learners’ attentional states and interventions, rather than implementing a static and generic manner ignoring attention-related, finely-tuned aspects such as timeliness and fitness.

The fourth part discusses the role of wikis and blogs in teaching and learning with case studies of the two courses at the Open University, reporting on several aspects of these technologies such as usability and pedagogical features and the key success criteria to infuse wikis and blogs outside the walls of the classroom. The very detailed discussion in this section is worth noting. The fifth part, through discipline-specific strategic support (DSS), aims to figure out how DSS and software representations can be used to increase the efficacy of learning technology at the navigation and disciplinary-signification levels.

The sixth part examines how principles of perceptual learning can be combined with computer technology to address problems in fraction learning and algebra, through experiments conducted by developing and testing perceptual learning modules. The findings show learning gains, especially in pattern recognition, structural intuition, and fluency. The last chapter is devoted to an experiment carried out through two software systems, SIMCARS and SHADE, to bridge the design-science gap and overcome time and material constraints. As in the second part, to achieve this, scaffolding was integrated with modeling and simulation, showing that the technology applied improved the quality of collaborative understanding and social construction.

This is an excellent collection of articles on the use of efficient technology use, taking the human learner and cognitive load into consideration. The editor’s contribution, which deals with brain-friendly technology, is especially valuable. However, this section could have been developed and discussed in more detail with more concrete examples since it sets up the focus of the book. Overall, this book achieved its aim that technology should not shape the learning process but rather should serve the cognitive system.

Korean honorifics and politeness in second language learning

Korean honorifics and politeness in second language learning. By Lucien Brown. (Pragmatics and beyond new series 206.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. xiv, 311. ISBN 9789027256102. $149 (Hb).

Reviewed by Sofia Rüdiger, University of Bayreuth

One of the newest additions to John Benjamin’s Pragmatics and beyond new series, this monograph investigates the acquisition of honorifics and politeness by second-language (L2) learners of Korean. Using a variety of research methods, the author describes and analyzes differences between honorifics and politeness usage of native speakers and advanced learners of Korean as a second language.

The nine chapters of the book can be divided into two parts. The first part consists of the introductory chapter and three chapters providing theoretical background relevant to the study. Ch. 2 introduces the complex Korean honorifics system to the reader. After explaining the different components of the system in separation (i.e. hearer honorifics, referent honorifics, and forms of address), the author also demonstrates how these components work together to form the distinct Korean honorifics system. The description of the factors influencing native speakers’ usage of honorifics is important for the later discussion of data. This is followed by a comprehensive overview of politeness theories and honorifics in general in Ch. 3. The author adopts a frame-based approach to politeness and differentiates between ‘indexical politeness’ and ‘modulation politeness’. The chapter is concluded by a description of politeness ideologies pertaining to Korean society and culture. The last theoretical section of the book, Ch. 4, deals with honorifics and pragmatic development in a second language.

The second part of the book contains analyses of a significant amount of data obtained by the author using different data gathering methods. In Ch. 5 the author analyzes the results of a discourse completion test. Using data obtained from L2 speakers as well as native speakers of Korean allows the author to directly compare the performance of both groups regarding the different components of the Korean honorifics system. Ch. 6 is concerned with the usage of honorifics in two different role-plays (i.e. ‘the professor role-play’ with a superior status and ‘the friend role-play’ with an intimate, equal status). This dual distinction between interactions between L2 speakers and people with superior status and new acquaintances, on the one hand, and people with intimate, equal status and subordinates, on the other hand, also functions as framework for the analysis of recordings of natural interactions in Ch. 7. An analysis of honorific-sensitive incidents as reported by the L2 speakers in the introspective interviews in Ch. 8 is followed by the discussion and conclusion in Ch. 9. The use of tables and figures in the data analysis chapters is favorable, and a mix of in-depth qualitative and quantitative analysis make this study highly comprehensive and insightful.

L2 learners of Korean apply honorifics differently than native speaker norms prescribe. The author found patterns of under-generalization of honorific forms indexing ‘separation’ and non-honorific speech styles indexing ’connection’. He connects this more egalitarian use of language, besides other factors, mainly to the politeness ideologies of the L2 speakers pertaining to Western societies and cultures. As a result, this study has implications for politeness research, interlanguage pragmatics, and language pedagogy.

Language, space, and social relationships

Language, space, and social relationships: A foundational cultural model in Polynesia. By Giovanni Bennardo. (Language culture and cognition 9.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Pp. 371. ISBN 9780521883122. $144.

Reviewed by Muhammad Aurang Zeb Mughal, University of Durham

In this book, Giovanni Bennardo explains the foundational cultural model of the cognitive aspects of language and socio-spatial organization in Polynesia, which is based on fieldwork having been carried out in the Kingdom of Tonga. Not only about the linguistic anthropology and the cultural model of space in Tonga, the book is also a rich description of Tongan culture, the human-nature relationship, power hierarchies, and interpersonal and social relationships.

In the first two chapters, to introduce cultural-linguistic characteristics of Tonga, B describes the linguistic and cognitive uniqueness of the Tongan language when compared with the English language. B compares some of the conceptual analyses of spatial preposition from his earlier works on English with the Tongan language. Comparison of the cognitive aspects of two languages of fairly remote cultures is a task to be handled with care, which the author was able to do successfully with his personal command of the Tongan language and his ability to accurately portray cultural context through detailed ethnographic analysis.

The book is divided into three sections with three chapters in the first two sections and four in the third. The first section explains the concept of space in the Tongan language, cognition, and culture. Discussing the rootedness of language and culture in the human mind, this book deals with topics such as how Tongans perceive space and how their social relationships are shaped by their perception of space. Some of the cognitive data was collected using frame-of-reference tasks, through which B elaborates on the cognitive dimensions of space as they are expressed in language and represented in Tongan culture. The second section deals with the foundational cultural model, ‘radiality’. B explains radiality as a structural organization and a ‘preferred mental organization of knowledge’, in which relationships are defined through a ‘point in the field of ego’. B stresses that since the mental construction is essentially spatial, there is a need to study the cognitive aspects of social relationships through radiality, which he discusses further in the third section. In the third and final section radiality is explained with respect to speech and mental representations in social networks and social relationships.

B has furnished this book with rich linguistic and cognitive data along with a detailed explanation of methodology, which will help other researchers to apply and test the methods in different settings. Free listing, frame-of-reference tasks, memory tasks, pile sorting, discourse structure and metaphor analysis, and cognitive mapping are some of the techniques used innovatively by B to express the cognitive framework of spatial organization in Tongan language and culture. These methodologies fit very well into B’s architectural and computational approach to cognition.

Due to its detailed analysis of cognitive models and theories, the book can serve well as a textbook and as useful reading for advanced-level students in cognitive anthropology, cognitive linguistics, and linguistic psychology. Although the book is not primarily written for geographers, many human geographers, those interested in psychology, and linguists with geographic interests will find this book particularly interesting. Although the language used in the book is clear and straightforward, technical terms from cognitive psychology and linguistics may make the book’s complicated ideas difficult for general readers, who are not the intended audience, to grasp.


English prepositions explained

English prepositions explained. Revised edition. By Seth Lindstromberg. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2010. Pp. xiii, 273. ISBN 9789027211743. $149.

Reviewed by Natalia Levshina, University of Leuven

The goal of this large-scale study of ninety English prepositions is to explain the semantics of these small but tricky words by establishing the functional and image-schematic similarities between different usages, meanings, and senses. As a useful addition to the information provided in dictionaries and reference grammars, the book should help teachers of English to explain, and learners of English to grasp and remember the subtleties of, prepositional use, for instance, in notoriously difficult idiomatic expressions. In comparison with the first edition of 1998, this revised edition contains more prepositions, more examples from corpora, and more illustrations. The book also deals with some of the adverbial modifiers and particles that are homonymous with prepositions (e.g. up, to) or are commonly used with them, such as away (from).

The book comprises twenty-one chapters, a list of references, a glossary of the basic concepts, and the general index with the prepositions and terms. The first chapter describes the structure, scope, and aims of the book and introduces key semantic notions, such as the ‘subject’ (in the meaning of the trajector) and the ‘landmark’, which are used in semantic explanations throughout the book. The subsequent nineteen chapters focus on the functionally determined ‘clusters’ of prepositions, which have the core and the periphery. For instance, Ch. 9 describes in detail the prepositions above and over, and also briefly considers across, through, via, during, and throughout, which partly overlap with over.

The structure of the chapters is centrifugal. Every chapter begins with a description of the basic meaning of the core preposition(s). Moving further from the semantic core of the cluster, the author investigates the extensions from the basic meaning and describes the differences between the near-synonymous prepositions. The book covers the most common metaphorical usages and abstract meanings. For instance, temporal expressions (e.g. over a month) are traced systematically throughout the book as a special type of extension. Many idiomatic and set expressions are discussed as well. The final chapter of the book is purely concept-based, or onomasiological. It contains a list of important abstract concepts and functions, such as agentivity, repetition, and comparison. For every function, there is a list of corresponding prepositions with comments on their meaning and usage.

The book is a true encyclopedia of prepositions, impressive in scope and rich in detail. The author uses figures, schemas, and corpus examples to illustrate the similarities and differences between prepositions or their senses. Although the cognitive reality of the basic meanings still needs to be supported empirically, as the author honestly admits himself, this does not undermine the pedagogical value of the descriptions or the synthesizing power of the book.

Transcription of intonation of the Spanish language

Transcription of intonation of the Spanish language. Ed. by Pilar Prieto and Paolo Roseano. (LINCOM studies in phonetics 6.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2010. Pp. 363. ISBN 9783862901845. $210 (Hb).

Reviewed by Nicholas Henriksen, Northern Illinois University

This book contains ten chapters on the intonation of ten dialects of Spanish within the tone and break indices (ToBI) framework of the autosegmental-metrical approach to intonational phonology. The majority of the chapters are based on presentations from the Fourth SpanishTone and Break Indices Workshop in 2009 in which the authors presented their acoustic findings and participated in an open discussion of Spanish ToBI labels so that a consensus could be reached for the dialectal data. Specifically, the dialects under investigation include Castilian, Cantabrian, Canarian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan Andean, Ecuadorian Andean, Chilean, Argentinean, and Mexican Spanish. The data elicitation protocol was uniform throughout, and all chapters are based on a common data collection protocol in which informants responded verbally to a series of controlled situations designed to elicit a wide range of intonational contours in a naturalistic setting. As a result, this book allows for a principled and well-organized cross-dialectal comparison of the intonational features of a variety of sentence types in Spanish, including statements, yes/no questions, wh-questions, echo questions, imperatives, and vocatives.

The introduction provides a brief history of the Spanish ToBI labeling system, a summary of each chapter, and an especially informative cross-dialectal comparison based on the results of the individual chapters. The subsequent ten chapters follow the same general structure. After providing relevant background information on the dialect in question, each author presents the full inventory of intonational units (i.e. pitch accents and boundary tones) with corresponding schematics. The acoustic findings for the various sentence types are then presented with clear figures showing the spectrogram, fundamental frequency output, orthographic transcription, and tone labels and break indices. The acoustic data and intonational analysis are presented in uniform order based on sentence type, facilitating easy reference from one chapter to the next.

The findings in this book are many, and a consistent result is that the revised ToBI for Spanish (Eva Estebas-Vilaplana and Pilar Prieto, La notación prosódica del español: Una revisión del Sp_ToBI, 2008) appropriately accounts for the wide array of intonational data that are presented. Specifically, the authors demonstrate at multiple points the need for a three-way contrast of rising accents (i.e. L*+H, L+H*, and L+>H*) and also the need for bitonal and tritonal boundary tones (i.e. LH%, HL%, HH%, and LM%). One finding worthy of mention is the evidence presented by Christoph Gabriel et al. on the tritonal L+H*+L nuclear accent in Argentinean Spanish, used in narrow focus and exclamative statements (293). An advantage of this book is that readers can access the actual sound files that were used for analysis at the website of the Interactive online atlas of Spanish intonation (

Many authors conclude their chapters by acknowledging that work still remains, especially in the area of perception, to determine whether the proposed phonological contrasts are borne out in the mind of the listener. Other dialectal areas (Andalusian, Cuban, or Central American  Spanish, i.e. non-Mexican Spanish) may be worth pursuing as well. Nonetheless, this book stands to serve as the empirical reference point from which a comprehensive intonational transcription system may be advanced in Spanish. Finally, this book’s very transparent effort to maintain uniformity in data elicitation, tone labeling, and expository style offers a clear publication model for intonation researchers in other languages who seek a common ground for amending and disseminating their current transcription systems.

Discursive approaches to politeness

Discursive approaches to politeness. Ed. by Linguistic Politeness Research Group. (Mouton series in pragmatics 8.) Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2011. Pp. xii, 272. ISBN 9783110238662. $150.

Reviewed by Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini, University of Warwick

This is a commemorative book for a research group which, based in Europe but with an international mailing list of over 200 members, has been discussing, publishing, and contributing to politeness research for over a decade. It is also a landmark publication for a multidisciplinary field of studies that has commanded constant interest since the 1980s, and has grown ostensibly more vivacious and argumentative—not only in the Anglophone world.

As one of the founding members of the Linguistic Politeness Research Group (LPRG, in 1998, I inevitably hold an insider’s perspective on this volume, the group’s first collective effort and one that also marks a turning point in the evolution of Western politeness research. I should probably add that I was not involved in planning or reviewing the contents, and only read an early draft of the introduction; therefore I can look at this work with some detachment while still offering insights that are informed by a long-standing involvement in both the field and the group’s activities.

This volume is a timely, representative collection of advances in a field that has responded only quite recently to the ‘discursive turn’ of the 1980s in the social sciences but that in the last decade or so has striven to incorporate the best of the discursive analytic tradition into the interpretation of the elusive phenomenon of politeness.

Taken together, the introduction and the first chapter provide a lucid and comprehensive framing of Anglophone politeness research in its evolution towards embracing discursivity, its implications, and challenges. The influence of Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of habitus and Etienne Wenger’s communities of practice are acknowledged tools in the theoretical baggage of politeness research, which also includes relevance theory, framework analysis, conversation analysis, and discursive psychology. The relationship between politeness and impoliteness is discussed, the latter now increasingly recognized as a distinct field.

The remaining seven chapters, authored by founding LPRG members as well as newer members, articulate recent debates within the field through the analysis of interactions in a range of social contexts and engage with contested notions such as first- and second-order politeness, listener’s evaluation, order and civility, and the universality of politeness. A reader new to the field will find in these essays cogently argued and illuminating examples of state of the art politeness research. Finally, neither bland nor self-congratulatory, these essays boldly confront the consequences of the discursive turn in politeness research, the ideological import of a widely used vocabulary that is too often taken for granted, and the unconscious debt to the universalism of current research, and urges self-reflexive reevaluation.

All in all, this is a collection of high-quality essays that reflect the maturity of the field without shying from past and recent theoretical and methodological challenges, especially those raised by the new discursive approaches to the analysis of polite behavior.

Introduction to linguistics from a global perspective

Introduction to linguistics from a global perspective: An alternative approach to language and languages. By Joachim Grzega. (LINCOM coursebooks in linguistics 19.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2011. Pp. 248, ISBN 9783862880669. $83.

Reviewed by Josep Soler-Carbonell, University of Oxford

Pedagogically oriented, this book is a useful tool for both teachers and students of general and introductory courses to linguistics. It contains eleven chapters, with each of the first ten dealing with a particular branch of linguistics, and the eleventh containing a special summary focusing on Eurolinguistics. The first chapter is preceded by a preface, a table of contents, and preliminary remarks on how to use the book, with clear explanations of what to find in each chapter and how to most effectively use its contents. The book concludes with two indexes: an index of names that lists all of the linguists mentioned in the book, and an index of technical terms.

Ch. 1 is dedicated to the field of semiotics, Ch. 2 to lexicology, Ch. 3 to phonology, Ch. 4 to morphology and syntax, Ch. 5 to pragmatics and text linguistics, Ch. 6 to non-verbal communication, Ch. 7 to psycholinguistics, Ch. 8 to sociolinguistics and the sociology of languages, Ch. 9 to historical linguistics, and Ch. 10 to the history of linguistics. Ch. 11 underlines and gathers the most important aspects mentioned throughout the book that hold a close relation with the languages of Europe, and responds to the spread and rise of  ‘European studies’ programs.

The material in each of the chapters is neatly presented, with tangible and illustrative examples. It is clear from reported class results and comments that the material has been tested and improved empirically, which necessarily has a positive impact in the final result. Although the work of relevant linguistic anthropologists is discussed throughout the text, such as Franz Boas, Edward Sapir, Benjamin Lee Whorf, and Dell Hymes, a separate chapter could have been devoted to anthropological linguistics Nevertheless, this do-it-yourself-then-do-it-in-class book, as defined by the author himself, should be positively welcomed by students majoring in linguistics, as well as those who are not, and their tutors, because it is thought-provoking and encourages the learning of the most basic and key linguistic concepts in a friendly manner. In addition to figures, illustrations, and examples, each chapter contains wrap-up riddles for concepts to be more easily memorized, and classroom activities, which are helpful for group discussions of those concepts. All in all, this book is highly recommended for both teachers and students alike.

Structuring the lexicon

Structuring the lexicon: A clustered model for near-synonymy. By Dagmar Divjak. (Cognitive linguistics research 43.) Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2010. Pp. xii, 278. ISBN 9783110220582. $150 (Hb).

Reviewed by Natalia Levshina, University of Leuven

Dagmar Divjak’s monograph is a fascinating attempt to disentangle the complexity of verb synonymy in Russian with the help of cutting-edge quantitative methods. It sheds light on fundamental semantic issues, such as external delineation and internal organization of near-synonyms, relationships between lexical and constructional meaning, and cognitive reality of corpus-based models.

The book comprises six chapters and a large appendix with detailed information about the sample of Russian verbs. In the first chapter, D introduces the key concepts of her study and outlines the methodology applied in the book. She shows how the cognitive-linguistic notions of construal, linguistic category, and prototype can be operationalized with the help of the corpus-based behavioral profiles approach, which is based on a large number of contextual features identified in a corpus.

Ch. 2 presents an impressive typology of 289 Russian verbs that require an infinitival complement, which reflects a continuum of event integration. The typology was created on the basis of native speakers’ judgments about a few coarse-grained constructional features of verbs. As Ch. 3 demonstrates, these constructional features can also be useful in the identification of near-synonyms in a group of semantically related verbs.

In Chs. 4 and 5, D zooms in on nine near-synonymous Russian verbs of trying. She finds three main clusters in this group of near-synonyms (Ch. 4) and examines the prototypicality structure of each cluster individually (Ch. 5). Here the behavioral profiles method is thrown into action. D employs hierarchical cluster analysis to visualize and explore the multivariate data.

Ch. 6 is the most heterogeneous in the book, where D aims to validate her results. First, she tests the hypotheses presented in Chs. 4 and 5, with the help of confirmatory techniques. Next, she interprets the role of morphology in the construction-lexeme interaction, with the focus on the verbs of contriving or managing. She also compares the results of her corpus-based analyses (verbs of intending) with existing lexicographic descriptions. Finally, she finds converging experimental evidence of the lexical relationships captured with the help of behavioral profiles. The results show that D’s corpus-driven approach yields trustworthy and theoretically meaningful results at a high level of precision.

To sum up, the book provides a revealing and innovative approach to lexical synonymy. It is abundant in semantic and quantitative details, and the scope of analysis is impressive. It succeeds in bridging the gap between the theory and corpus data, on the one hand, and between lexicographers’ intuitions and objective evidence, on the other hand. All of this should guarantee that the book will be of great interest to anyone in the field of usage-based cognitive semantics.

Studies in the history of the English language V

Studies in the history of the English language V: Variation and change in English grammar and lexicon: Contemporary approaches. Ed. by Robert A. Cloutier, Anne Marie Hamilton-Brehm, and William Kretzschmar, Jr. (Topics in English linguistics.) Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2010. Pp. vii, 329.

Reviewed by Elly van Gelderen, Arizona State University

This book contains six articles on English grammar and six on the English lexicon. Each article is followed by a commentary from one of the other authors in the volume and accompanied by a response by the original author. These twelve chapters are thus ‘conversations’ that ‘demonstrate the state of the art’ in the history of English.

The first part, on English grammar, contains contributions by Elizabeth Closs Traugott, Joanna Nykiel, Olga Thomason, Sherrylyn Branshaw, Akiko Nagano, and Don Chapman. The second part, on the English Lexicon, contains articles by Anatoly Liberman, Ann-Marie Svensson and Jürgen Hering, Markku Filppula, and Juhani Klemola, Elizabeth Tacho, Emily Runde, and Stefanie Kuzmack. The topics vary from dialogic contexts, sluicing, strong verb inflection, compounding, Celtic influence, the use of the word fence, and changes in the verb arrive, to name a few. I will concentrate on two, namely Joanna Nykiel’s article on sluicing and Markku Filppula and Juhani Klemola’s article on Celtic influence.

Nykiel’s study is the first I know on sluicing in the history of English. She provides examples and statistics, distinguishing between merger and sprouting. A sluice is a stranded wh-element, as in I want to read something but I don’t know what. If the deleted words after the wh-element correspond exactly to previous, overt material, as they do in the example, Nykiel calls it a merger; if they do not, it is called sprouting and the sluice builds on the argument structure of the overt predicate, as in Tell me! What? In Old English, the structural identity between the deleted and overt material is high (i.e. over 80%). An example is butan nettum huntian ic mæg. Hu? ‘Without a net I can hunt. How?’, but this changes dramatically in Middle English in favor of sprouting. Nykiel makes use of The dictionary of Old English corpus and the Middle English Compendium and various later corpora, although it is not clear how she found the sluices.

Filppula and Klemola’s work on the influence of Celtic is well-known by now, and it is hoped that all histories of English acknowledge the unlikelihood that the Celtic-speaking population was completely replaced by a Germanic-speaking one. The authors review archeological, demographic, historical, and genetic background as well as contact-linguistic and areal-typological evidence for the hypothesis that Celtic had a significant influence on English, and they provide a case study on the dummy do. The do used in questions and negatives has been claimed to arise from the use of a causative light verb. The problem with this analysis is that causative do was more prevalent in the Southeast and the dummy do was introduced in the Southwest. This argument confirms work by Walther Preusler in the late 1930s, who made a similar claim that was discarded by Alvar Ellegård in the 1950s and by subsequent researchers because the appearance in Middle English would have been too late to show earlier Celtic influence. The authors here make clear that delayed appearance is no longer a problem, using sociolinguistic insights, and is actually expected.

In conclusion, this book, with its emphasis on empirical studies, contains engaging articles that use a variety of frameworks and methodologies for people interested in the history of English.