Monthly Archives: March 2012

How to understand language

How to understand language: A philosophical inquiry. By Bernhard Weiss. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 2010. Pp. 271. ISBN 9780773537354. $27.95.

Reviewed by Muhammad Aurang Zeb Mughal, University of Durham

How to Understand Language by Bernard Weiss, professor at the University of Cape Town, is a study of language and its complications, using analytic philosophy to take a broad approach to language. Reviewing theories of meaning, translation, and interpretation, the book mainly presents a dialogue on the views of radical translation and interpretation, introduced by Donald Davidson.

The book is divided into fourteen chapters. The first chapter highlights the relationships between language, thoughts, and social life, while explaining why language has been a difficult object of study in analytic philosophy. Topics like language acquisition and the role and status of language in human society are also covered. In the next three chapters, a conceptual framework to understand language is given by analyzing different theories and paradigms on language, including the Fregean distinctions, the Russellian descriptivism along with the Kripkean scruples, and the Austinian and Gricean speech acts theory. W starts by asking basic questions toward understanding the meaning of sentences and synonymies, leading the discussion to the Quinean rejection of analytic or synthetic distinction in order to make ground for the radical translation and interpretation in the Davidsonian approach to language in the following chapters.

Chs. 5–10 comprise the core chapters of the book, and provide an overview of Quinean thought experiment with radical translation, use-conditional versus truth-conditional foundations of a theory of meaning, and the construction of the theory of meaning. The radical interpretation is dealt with in greater detail with reference to communication and public expression of language in Chs. 7–10. Although W is also not convinced entirely by a philosophical interpretation of language, he appreciates Donald Davidson’s approach towards a theory of meaning with reference to normativity as an essential element of language. W also criticizes the truth theory and radical interpretations, including Donald Davidson’s theory of interpretation, to some extent supporting Michael Dummett’s critique of Davidsonian radical interpretation while discussing a ‘robust’, as W describes it, theory of meaning.

In the final two chapters, W explains how the character of language is constructed by community. He discusses issues with rules and privacy with respect to language in the community and the communication of language at the public level.

Although at various points W presents his own ideas, this book reads like a literature review on theory of meaning and radical interpretation posing language as a crucial issue in philosophy. This book will be helpful for philosophers who are interested in understanding language and its basic concepts as well as linguists who wish to analyze language from a philosophical perspective. The book targets scholars and advanced-level students in linguistics and linguistic philosophy, and offers a critique of theories within philosophy of language studies.

Key terms in second language acquisition

Key terms in second language acquisition. By Bill Van Patten and Alessandro G. Benati.  New York: Continuum, 2010. Pp. viii, 184. ISBN 9780826499158. $24.95.

Reviewed by Richard W. Hallett, Northeastern Illinois University

In the introduction (1–8), the authors define second language acquisition (SLA) as ‘a research field that focuses on learners and learning rather than teachers and teaching’ (1). They then guide the reader through the historical development of SLA studies beginning with the 1970s and moving through the 2000s ‘and beyond’ (5). Following this condensed history, there is a short section on SLA and second language (L2) teaching. The introduction concludes with a short description of the book’s contents.

Following the introduction is a section titled ‘Key issues in second language acquisition’ (9–57). The nine questions the authors briefly answer include ‘What is the initial state?’ (11–15), ‘Can L2 learners become native-like?’ (16–21), ‘Is there a critical period?’ (22–26), ‘What does development look like?’ (27–31), ‘What are the roles of explicit and implicit learning in SLA?’ (32–35), ‘What are the roles of input and output in SLA?’ (36–41), ‘What are individual differences and how do they affect acquisition?’ (42–46), ‘Does instruction make a difference?’ (47–52), and ‘What constraints are there on acquisition?’ (53–57).

The bulk of the text is found in the subsequent section, ‘Key terms in SLA’ (58–167). One hundred twenty-one entries for SLA terminology are provided in alphabetical order from accessibility hierarchy/noun phrase accessibility hierarchy (58) to working memory (167). All of the terms are defined and exemplified; several include the names of key SLA researchers associated with their development. The book concludes with a bibliography (168–84), which lists many seminal works in SLA studies.

As SLA is a field of linguistics prolific in terminology, this small book could be a very beneficial supplement in an SLA course.

Ein Leben für die Wissenschaft

Ein Leben für die Wissenschaft / A lifetime of achievement: Wissenschaftliche Aufsätze aus sechs Jahrzehnten / Six decades of scholarly articles. Von Salomo A. Birnbaum/ By Solomon A. Birnbaum. Ed. by Erika Timm, Eleazar Birnbaum, and David Birnbaum. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2011. Vol. 1. Pp. L, 540. ISBN 9783110251944. $225 (Hb). Vol. 2. Pp. xxvii, 458. ISBN 9783110252279. $225 (Hb).

Reviewed by David Elton Gay, Bloomington, IN

Solomon Birnbaum was one of the most important scholars of Jewish languages in the twentieth century: in fact, as Erika Timm notes in her essay, ‘Solomon Birnbaum’s life and work’, Birnbaum ‘is the undisputed pioneer in two major, closely related fields of research: in historic Yiddish linguistics and in the palaeography of Hebrew and other Jewish languages’ (ix).

Volume 1, Linguistics, contains twenty-seven of Birnbaum’s articles and notes on the linguistics of Jewish languages, primarily Yiddish, Judeo-Spanish, and Judeo-Persian. Erika Timm opens the volume with a survey, in German, of Birnbaum’s life and work and a bibliography of his writings. The first article in this volume is a survey of Jewish languages, which Birnbaum wrote for Encyclopedia Judaica in 1970. This is followed by a twelve-page table of Jewish languages and scripts. An essay on the pronunciation of the Talmud by the Ashkenazi Jews follows these two pieces. Eighteen of Birnbaum’s articles on the history and sociolinguistics of Yiddish come next. They cover a very wide range of topics about Yiddish, from historical ones, as in ‘Old Yiddish or Middle High German?’ and ‘The age of the Yiddish language’, to questions of linguistic influence, as in ‘Hebräisch und Jiddisch’, as well as etymological studies of Yiddish words. The final seven articles of the first volume examine Judeo-Spanish and Judeo-Persian, offering useful surveys and analyses of these languages along with specimen texts and a Judeo-Persian vocabulary.

Volume 2, Palaeography, begins with an English translation of Erika Timm’s essay. The first section of this volume consists of six essays that examine the Palaeo-Hebrew script. The second section of the volume contains twenty-nine essays and notes covering the paleography of the Hebrew script from its beginnings through to the modern period. After a general article ‘The development of the Hebrew scripts’, which includes a long section of sample texts of the script from its various periods and an article entitled ‘Methodology in Hebrew palaeography’, the articles and notes in this section turn to the paleography of the Dead Sea Scrolls and later Hebrew texts, then to Yiddish paleography, and, finally, to three more articles on Hebrew paleography.

This is a very good collection of Birnbaum’s writings. One quirky aspect of Birnbaum’s work that is worth noting was his effort to rename some of the Jewish languages. He disliked the prefix ‘Judeo-’, but none of his proposed new names for the languages has taken. However, the continued importance of Birnbaum’s work is undeniable, and it deserves the attention of linguists interested in Jewish languages, Hebrew and Yiddish paleography, or the relationship between Yiddish and German.

New adventures in language and interaction

New adventures in language and interaction. Ed. by Jürgen Streeck. (Pragmatics and beyond new series 196.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2010. Pp. vi, 275. ISBN 9789027256003. $135 (Hb).

Reviewed by Lucas Bietti, Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen

Jürgen Streeck’s edited book is a continuation of ‘the Pragmatics and beyond and its companion series’ and is a success at all levels. The contributors cover an extensive range of topics in pragmatics and interaction studies: conversation analysis, systemic-functional linguistics, dialogue studies, gesture studies, and distributed cognition. Each contribution provides a coherent argument on the state of the art in its respective field, integrated methodology, and empirical analyses that illuminate their reflections.

The book begins with a chapter by Alain Trognon and Martine Batt where the model of ‘interlocutory logic’ which the authors employ to describe the ‘occurrence and the outcome of cognitions during talk-in-interaction’ (19) is introduced. This model relies on four basic phenomenological properties: illocutionarity, successiveness, dialogicity, and recursiveness. In the next chapter, Stephen J. Cowley claims that language and interaction can be considered a form of distributed cognition which is grounded in full-body activity where brains, bodies, and the material environment are coupled, constituting distributed systems across different space-time scales. Catherine Kerbrat-Orecchioni proposes an eclectic approach to discourse in social interaction. Her synthetic perspective combines pragmatics and speech act theory with interactional sociolinguistics and is grounded in hybrid methods commonly used in the fields that the author is trying to integrate.

In the next chapter, Peter Muntigl and Eija Ventola present a systemic functional linguistic approach to explore social interaction in order to show how language users rely on grammatical resources in situations of meaning-making. Angel Lin looks at discourse tactics in intercultural communication in non-egalitarian contexts. Karen Tracy and Robert T. Craig introduce an ethnographically oriented discourse-analytic perspective that they call action-implicative discourse analysis. In the next chapter, Srikant Sarangi presents an activity analysis approach to analyze cases of genetic counseling.

Elizabeth Armstrong and Alison Ferguson explore the ways in which conversation analysis and systemic functional linguistics have contributed to understanding better how aphasic patients perform in situated communicative interactions. The next chapter points out the key role that hand-gesture plays in communicative interactions. Jürgen Streeck introduces an ecological approach to human multimodal interaction in which he combines phenomenological perspectives to embodied human experience, distributed cognition, and dynamic system theory in order to argue that ‘gesture is symbolic, body action evolved from body’s practical engagement with the world’ (237). Frederick Erickson looks at the ways in which transcription systems can be significantly improved by incorporating musical scores. Finally, the last chapter by John Shotter gives a dialogical and philosophical account of what living in the world means for humans and, thus, serves as an outstanding concluding chapter for the volume.

This book is recommended for anyone interested in conversation analysis, interactional sociolinguistics, pragmatics, distributed cognition, and (multimodal) discourse analysis.

Cultural conceptualisations and language

Cultural conceptualisations and language: Theoretical framework and applications. By Farzad Sharifian. (Cognitive linguistic studies in cultural contexts 1.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. xvii, 238. ISBN 9789027204042. $135 (Hb).

Reviewed by Lucas Bietti, Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen

This book begins with a comprehensive preface, in which, besides providing a brief summary of the contributions that will follow, the author presents a helpful and clarifying chart that summarizes the sources of his synthetic and multidisciplinary model of cultural conceptualizations and language in situated social practices. The book is organized into six major sections: (i) theoretical framework, (ii) case studies, (iii) intercultural communication, (iv) cross-cultural pragmatics, (v) culture, body, self, and language, and (vi) political discourse.

In the first section, Ch. 1 presents the notion of cultural conceptualization using a distributed approach to social cognition in cultural groups. Ch. 2 looks at how emergent cultural cognition in cultural groups across different time scales develops and forms the basis for event/action-planning and strategic thinking in cultural experience. The following chapter explains the idea of cultural cognition as a sort of collective cognition in which micro (individual) and macro (group) cognitive structures are coupled.

The second section of the book begins with an empirical analysis of the ways in which a number of Aboriginal languages and the varieties of English their speakers employ reflect cultural conceptualizations of kinship. Ch. 5 presents a case study in which Aboriginal and Anglo-Australian students, who were speakers of Aboriginal and Australian English, respectively, participated in word association task with English words. The first chapter of the third section shows the importance of cultural conceptualization in the inquiry of intercultural communication between Aboriginal and non-aboriginal English speakers in Australia. Ch. 7 illustrates the extent to which non-native English speakers rely on their first-language systems of cultural conceptualization, assuming that their interlocutors, English native-speakers, will be able to automatically assign meaning to such descriptions that emerge from the blend of conceptual systems in non-native English speakers. Ch. 8 provides further empirical evidence from Persian to illustrate the key role that cultural schemas play in the use of formulaic expressions by Iranians.

The first chapter of the fourth section looks at the instantiations of the specific Persian cultural schema of ‘modesty’ in Persian and Anglo-Australian speakers. Ch. 10 explores the ways in which the study of cultural schemas instantiated in Persian English can work as a first step towards a better understanding of how non-native English speakers would be able to develop their ‘metacultural competence’ when communicating in English with other native and non-native English speakers. The next section begins with a chapter that examines the cultural conceptualizations of ‘self’ and ‘spiritual heart’ in Persian. Ch. 12 looks at the role of the body parts in perceptually related metaphors in Persian.

The first chapter of the final section examines the use of cultural metaphors in political discourse in Iran and demonstrates how English translations of these ideologically loaded metaphors have changed their original meanings. Ch. 14 provides further evidence about problems found in translating politically and ideologically loaded concepts (e.g. ‘jihad’) from Persian into English in the discourse of international politics. The book ends with a short afterword, which the author uses to create explicit bridges between the book’s thematically distinct sections.

A short reference grammar of Slovene

A short reference grammar of Slovene. By Marc L. Greenberg. (LINCOM studies in Slavic linguistics 30.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2008. Pp. 160. ISBN 9783895869655. $140 (Hb).

Reviewed by Tijmen Pronk, Leiden University

Marc L. Greenberg’s A short reference grammar of Slovene offers exactly what its title promises: a concise overview of all aspects of Slovene grammar, sometimes expanding on interesting details, sometimes only providing the most important facts. It describes the phonology (Ch. 3), nominal and verbal inflectional morphology (Ch. 4), derivational morphology (Ch. 5), syntax (Ch. 6), and discourse markers (Ch. 7) of the standard Slovene language. In addition, G includes examples of substandard and dialectal use (especially the city dialect of Ljubljana) throughout the work, which is important in view of the substantial differences between the strata.

After providing some general introductory remarks about Slovene, its history, and its dialects, G gives a brief overview of Slovene phonology, with phonetic remarks when necessary. An extensive section is devoted to the prosody of the language. Ch. 3 gives a forty-seven page overview of the morphology of the language. The pronoun and present tense of the verb receive ample attention; the nominal and adjectival declensions are treated more broadly.

The following fifteen-page chapter on derivational morphology discusses all common derivational suffixes in a structured way and contains many examples. The chapter on syntax occupies roughly a quarter of the book and discusses a range of topics, including the use of prepositions, numerals, and conjunctions, and also the structure of main and subordinate clauses. Ch. 7 deals with a number of discourse markers and their use. The book concludes with two texts with interlinear transcription and translation, one in standard Slovene and one in the Ljubljana city dialect, followed by a bibliography.

The practical approach G has chosen by using examples from a number of existing texts and databases is instructive and makes the language come alive. This approach, complemented by clear presentation throughout, makes this book a valuable contribution to the field. G’s decision to indicate the pitch of a word accent (‘rising’ or ‘falling’) throughout the book, a feature that is usually omitted, is praiseworthy. The way that vowel timbre and pitch-accent are indicated is, however, unfortunate. G’s notation is a mix of the ‘tonemic’ notation used in larger dictionaries and the ‘non-tonemic’ notation used in other grammars. As a consequence, the notation is clear and consistent in isolation but could be confusing for someone who also consults other linguistic works on Slovene.

Summarizing, G’s book is an excellent reference book for Slavicists and general linguists alike. The book is not exhaustive, and the author does not claim it to be; not all subjects are discussed in the same amount of detail, but the subjects that G focuses on are instructive indeed. The large number of examples provided throughout makes this book a valuable resource for learners of Slovene.

Nominalization in Asian languages

Nominalization in Asian languages: Diachronic and typological perspectives. Ed. by Foong Ha Yap, Karen Grunow-Hårsta, and Janick Wrona. (Typological studies in language 96.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. xvii, 796. ISBN 9789027206770. $158 (Hb).

Reviewed by Linda Konnerth, University of Oregon

This volume includes twenty-six articles on various aspects of nominalization in languages of greater Asia. The first chapter (Foong Ha Yap, Karen Grunow-Hårsta, and Janick Wrona) introduces the comparative and diachronic perspective of the volume. Research questions revolve around the recurrent nominalization-relativization-genitivization syncretism and the directionality of grammaticalization, the reanalysis of nominalizers as finite markers of tense-aspect-mood, standalone nominalization functioning as stance constructions (i.e. marking the speaker’s attitude towards the respective utterance), the relationship between nominalization and focus marking, and the development of nominalizers to clausal subordinators (often marking conditionals). Noun phrase markers functioning as nominalizers are also discussed, as well as the grammaticalization from light nouns to nominalizers, and demonstratives functioning as referentiality markers.

Four chapters deal with Sinitic languages. Foong Ha Yap and Jiao Wang provide a diachronic study of two light nouns developing into nominalizers between Old and Modern Chinese. Hui Ling Xu and Stephen Matthews and Joanna Ut-Seong Sio discuss the polyfunctionality of kai in Chaozhou (Min) and of ge3 in Cantonese, respectively. Sze-Wing Tang argues for the less grammaticalized status of the Cantonese ge3 compared to the Mandarin de.

A substantial section on Tibeto-Burman (TB) starts off with a typological summary of the structure of TB nominalization by Carol Genetti. Michael Noonan discusses diachronic developments of nominalizing constructions in Tamangic languages, while Karen Grunow-Hårsta focuses on further developments of nominalization constructions in Magar. Mark W. Post offers a structural and diachronic analysis of nominalization-based constructions in Galo. Stephen Morey shows how clausal nominalization in Numhpuk Singpho lacks the diversity in form and function often found in TB. Hongyong Liu and Yang Gu discuss two nominalization constructions in Nuosu Yi. Finally, Scott DeLancey argues that recurring grammaticalization of nominalization-based constructions into new finite constructions is the major source of synchronic finite constructions, including sentence-final particles, in TB.

For Iranian, Geoffrey Haig revisits the ‘Ezafe’ or linker particle in West Iranian, and suggests a nominalization-based construction as the original source. In a section on Korean and Japanese, Seongha Rhee contributes a semanto-pragmatic investigation of nominalization-based stance-marking constructions in Korean. With diachronic Japanese and crosslinguistic data, Janick Wrona argues that standalone-nominalization constructions are not necessarily preceded by nominalization-plus-copula constructions, but may develop independently. Rumiko Shinzato traces the development of a versatile nominalization construction in Okinawan. Kaoru Horie compares the relative versatility of the main Japanese and Korean nominalizers.

The Austronesian articles begin with Fuhui Hsieh’s discussion of two functionally overlapping nominalization constructions in Kavalan. Li-May Sung and Marie Mei-li Yeh discuss the syntax and semantics including the nominal and verbal features of nominalization constructions in Budai Rukai and Saisiyat, respectively. Naonori Nagaya argues for a recurrent grammaticalization path from referential to non-referential, less nominal constructions in Tagalog and related languages. Foong Ha Yap offers an analysis of the slightly overlapping functional and structural landscape of three nominalizers in Malay. The nominal basis of exclamative constructions is analyzed by Eric Potsdam with Malagasy data and by Daniel Kaufman with his study of exclamatives and temporal subordinate clauses across Austronesian. Frantisek Lichtenberk provides an overview of nominalization in Oceanic and discusses two nominalization constructions in Toqabaqita. The book’s concluding article is by František Kratochvíl on the grammaticalization of ‘say’ and demonstratives to markers of evidentiality and assertion in Abui (Papuan).

Chomskyan linguistics and its competitors

Chomskyan linguistics and its competitors. By Pius ten Hacken. London: Equinox, 2007. Pp. 366. ISBN 9781845535544. $ 35.

Reviewed by Roberta D’AlessandroLeiden University

This volume is at the same time a thorough introduction and a detailed discussion of Chomskyan generative linguistics. It outlines the main ideas and comments on the common objections to generative linguistics, while introducing a comparison between this framework and other contemporary frameworks such as lexical functional grammar (LFG), generalized phrase structure grammar (GPSG), head-driven phrase structure grammar (HPSG), and Ray Jackendoff’s model. Each subpart is conveniently summarized by means of an itemized list reporting the main concepts introduced.

After a very brief introduction, the first chapter presents a general discussion on what a research program should look like and how linguistic theories are meant to develop. This chapter has little to do with the topic of the book, but it introduces the criteria used to ascertain which of the theories discussed in the rest of the volume is more convincing. Ch. 2 discusses the main lines of the Chomskyan approach to language. The author reports the difference between competence and performance, drawing a distinction between grammatical and pragmatic competence. The discussion then moves to the nature of linguistic data and the methodology of data collection of generative grammarians. The chapter briefly tackles language acquisition and the possible definitions of the language acquisition device (LAD). The author also discusses the different stages of generative grammar, from the early period up to the minimalist program, which is presented in detail.

Ch. 3 maintains a focus on Chomskyan linguistics, introducing it here as a term of comparison with post-Bloomfieldian linguistics. The chapter reflects on the effectiveness of the two research programs and closes by stating that Noam Chomsky launched a true revolution in linguistics.

Ch. 4 is dedicated to ‘the competitors’ It begins with a section on LFG, which is then compared to Chomskyan grammar, underlining the similarities between the two (e.g. that competence should be the focus of linguistic inquiry) as well as their differences (e.g. the role attributed to learnability and language processing). The author then introduces GPSG, which, like LFG, also emerged in response to Chomskyan generativism because of its lack of formalization. Once again, the similarities (e.g. rewrite rules) and the differences (e.g. role of explanation) are underlined. As for HPSG, the author explains how this theory emerged as a sociological, inner-circle response to Chomsky’s lack of consideration for the criticism against his theory. This alternative, very common in computational linguistics, does not have explanatory aims and as such lies outside the discussions on language which entertain the competing theories. Finally, the Jackendovian model of parallel architecture is discussed at length. The author concludes that this is the most incompatible of the theories competing with Chomsky’s generative grammar.

The final chapter is devoted to language acquisition (first and second) and learnability issues, as well as to language change.

This book is a must-read for philosophers of language, as well as for anyone desiring a thorough outline of the main contemporary syntactic theories.

Causal categories in discourse and cognition

Causal categories in discourse and cognition. Ed. by Ted Sanders and Eve Sweetser. (Cognitive linguistics research 44.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2009. Pp. x, 249. ISBN 9783110224412. $150 (Hb).

Reviewed by Natalia Levshina, University of Leuven

Languages have vast inventories of constructions that highlight different aspects of causal relationships. This volume focuses on causal connectives and causative auxiliaries in English, Dutch, and Polish. In addition to detailed linguistic descriptions, it also offers fundamental theoretical insights (e.g. how one can integrate mental spaces and subjectivity) and raises a number of vital methodological issues, such as converging evidence and linguistic hypothesis testing.

The volume contains an introduction from the editors and six articles. In the introduction, the editors present the basic concepts that account for variation found in most of the subsequent case studies, such as subjectivity, perspective, domains of use, and mental spaces.

The chapter, ‘Causality, cognition and communication: A mental space analysis of subjectivity in causal connectives’, by Ted Sanders, José Sanders, and Eve Sweetser, introduces the theoretical concept of the basic communicative spaces network, which integrates the mental space theory by Gilles Fauconnier with the contemporary models of subjectivity and discourse perspective. This framework is employed by the authors to explain the contrasts between several causal connectives in Dutch.

In the chapter, ‘Causal connectives in Dutch Biblical translations’, José Sanders explores the diachronic dimension of causality. Using a parallel corpus of five Old Testament narratives translated into English and Dutch in the seventeenth century and recently, the author finds that the level of the speaker’s subjectivity is higher in the contemporary translations, where the narrator has ‘entrance to the character’s consciousness’ (77).

Barbara Dancygier’s contribution, ‘Causes and consequences: Evidence from Polish, English, and Dutch’, investigates the Polish connectives to and bo (markers of the construed result and cause, respectively). The study explores the role of subjectivity and intersubjectivity in the semantics of the connectives, which help the speaker ‘manage argumentation and inferencing across different subjectivities’ (96).

The chapter, ‘Categories of subjectivity in Dutch causal connectives: A usage-based analysis’, by Ninke Stukker, Ted Sanders, and Arie Verhagen, studies the interplay of conceptual and usage factors in the use of the Dutch causal connectives daardoor, daarom, and dus ‘so, therefore’. The authors also test the hypotheses about the prototypical and non-prototypical usages of the connectives.

The chapter by Dirk Speelman and Dirk Geeraerts, ‘Causes for causatives: The case of Dutch doen and laten’, focuses on the Dutch causative auxiliaries doen ‘do’ and laten ‘let’. Applying advanced multivariate statistical techniques, the authors show that lectal and collocational variables co-determine the speaker’s choice between the auxiliaries together with semantic factors. They also argue for a rigorous quantitative approach to linguistic hypothesis testing.

The final article in the volume is ‘Causal categories in discourse—Converging evidence from language use’ by Ted Sanders and Wilbert Spooren. The authors present a number of case studies, which provide different ‘windows’ into the conceptualization of causal relationships in language—from elicited judgments in categorization tasks and eye tracking to language acquisition data.

To summarize, the volume will give readers an idea of the complex interplay of conceptual, processing, cultural, and other factors in the use of causal constructions in different languages. This complexity requires diverse and sophisticated methodological tools. A valuable contribution to the existing research on linguistic expression of causality, the volume should be of interest to anyone concerned with the conceptual and experiential foundations of language.

Creoles, their substrates, and language typology

Creoles, their substrates, and language typology. Ed. by Claire Lefebvre. (Typological studies in language 95.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. ix, 626. ISBN 9789027206763. $158 (Hb).

Reviewed by David Elton Gay, Bloomington, IN

As Claire Lefebvre, the editor of this book, , writes, because ‘creole languages draw their properties from both their substrate and superstrate sources, the typological classification of creoles has long been a major issue for creolists, typologists, and linguists in general’(3). The authors of the chapters in this volume explore both the problem of substrate influence on creoles and the question of whether or not creoles form a typologically distinct group of languages.

The book is divided into five parts. The first is comprised of a long introduction by the editor, in which she outlines the specific problems that the contributors will be addressing. The introduction is followed by three sections on creoles: the first looks at the influence of African languages on Santome, Portuguese Creole, Kriyol, St. Lucian and Haitian Creole, Saramaccan, Papiamentu, Belizean Creole, Nicaraguan, Providence and San André Creole Englishes, and Palenque; the second section looks at creoles in Asia, which includes Singapore English, China Coast Pidgin, Chabacano, Kupang Malay, and Sri Lankan Malay; the third section examines creoles in the Pacific, with essays on Papuan Malay, Central Australian Aboriginal English, Australian Kriol, New South Wales Pidgin, Solomon Islands Pijin, and Tayo. An essay by Bernard Comrie, ‘Creoles and language typology’,concludes the book. .

Although the evidence for substrate influence is occasionally stretched further than it should be, and the authors occasionally have less knowledge of the dialects, colloquial languages, and standard languages that form the superstrate languages, and of other creoles and pidgins, than might be expected, the essays ultimately present an intriguing look at just how the substrate languages influence the creoles.

Do the creole languages form a typologically distinct group? As the editor notes, ‘creoles manifest a great deal of variation among themselves [and] thus they cannot be claimed to be “alike” in any sense of the word, nor to constitute a typological class as such’ (30). However, even if one of the conclusions of the volume is negative, this still remains an important work on the influence of substrate languages on pidgins and creoles. As such, it should be on the reading list of anyone interested in pidgins and creoles, language contact, and language typology.