Monthly Archives: April 2012

The bishop’s grammar: Robert Lowth and the rise of prescriptivism

The bishop’s grammar: Robert Lowth and the rise of prescriptivism. By Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. 352. ISBN 9780199579273. $110 (Hb).

Reviewed by Julie M. Winter, Gonzaga University

Ingrid Tieken-Boon von Ostade has long been fascinated by Robert Lowth and his A short introduction to English grammar, first published in 1762. In this book, she explores Lowth’s work in depth and ascertains its true place in the codification and standardization process of English. The author wants to set the record straight and give Lowth his proper due for the novel work he created and absolve him of the role he has come to inhabit in modern linguistics—that of the stern bishop who tried to prescribe the rules of English.

One of the many strengths of this undertaking is its reliance on a newly available database containing a large number of letters and other materials written by and to Lowth These documents give insight into the person of Lowth and his social milieu, thus enabling an understanding of his real motivation for writing the grammar and of what happened to the work after it was published. These materials furthermore demonstrate how Lowth and the people he corresponded with actually used language and are, therefore, important documents in tracing the socio-historical development of English.

According to the author, Lowth never intended to write a prescriptive grammar; rather, he wrote the book for his son who was about to enter school and start a formal study of Latin. Lowth thought that by describing the rules of English, he would give his son a foundation for learning Latin grammar. It was natural that the grammar was written using Latin terminology and parts of speech, as this was the only model available at the time. Lowth’s publisher then promoted and marketed the book, causing it to become enormously popular. It went through several editions and was copied, pirated, and plagiarized by other writers. One main reason for the grammar’s success was that people who were climbing the socio-economic ladder during the Industrial Revolution put great value on speaking ‘correct’ and ‘polite’ English, thereby distinguishing themselves from the lower classes.

In particular, Lindley Murray copied extensively from Lowth, but phrased the rules and strictures in such a way as to make them prescriptive in nature, rather than descriptive as Lowth intended. It is true that Lowth gave numerous examples of usage mistakes by English authors in his footnotes, but these were not intended to be the main focus of his grammar. The prescriptive use of Lowth’s work instigated a long line of prescriptive grammars up to the present day, including Henry Watson Fowler’s Modern English usage, reissued in a new edition in 1996.

This book is a remarkable work, solidly researched and written with finesse and attention to detail. The results of the author’s exploration of Lowth’s life and work with respect to the codification and standardization of English should cause scholars to take note and re-evaluate the judgment that the bishop was personally responsible for the rise of prescriptivism.

Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Rom-Sprache

Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Rom-Sprache. By Friedrich Müller. (LINCOM facscimile collection 1.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2011. Pp. 58. ISBN 9783862901135. $43.

Reviewed by Ariana Bancu Palazzolo, Northeastern Illinois Univeristy

Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Rom-Sprache, translated Contributions to the knowledge of the Romani language, is a collection of five folk tales, twenty-nine songs, and a letter written in either a Hungarian or Serbo-Croatian dialect, which were collected by several individuals. Each is presented in a two-line format: the original language in which they were written appears on the first line and a word-by-word translation into German on the second line. All five tales and the songs numbered 15–23 were collected by Janos Sipos, in a dialect of the Hungarian Gypsies. The tales comprise the first part of the book, followed by the songs/poems and, lastly, the one letter. This collection of texts can be approached in two ways: for extracting sociological and cultural facts about the life of the Romani, and for use as a research tool for the Romani language.

The stories reveal various aspects from the lives of the Gypsies, including the way they regard family life, their trades, their beliefs, and their rituals. Some of the themes repeat themselves. The contrast between poverty and richness is presented through stories of characters who lose everything then come into fortune either through marriage or by performing favors for very rich people, and then lose it all again. There is a specific scenario characteristic of marriage: men leave their wives and children in search for fortune and remarry, without any mention of the termination of the previous marriage. The fairy tales make use of some fantastic elements. In addition to the presence of kings and castles, people turn into plants or animals after they die, and the performance of a ritual returns them to their human bodies; the devil talks to a girl; a magic ring transforms body parts; potions and balms lead to miraculous healings; animals talk; and men fight dragons. The most common themes of the songs are seduction and loss of love. Usually, the songs are sung by men observing and seducing one or more women. There is one song about a boy who seduces three women, one of whom is his mother.

If this text is to be used for linguistic research, there are a few facts that need to be considered. First, this text was originally published in 1869, and the variety of German used in the translations is slightly different from the German spoken today. Second, Hungarian is an agglutinative language (i.e. prepositions and case markers are affixed to the root words), so one word is often translated with up to three German words in the text. Morpheme boundaries are not marked in the word-by-word translation so extra work is required to identify word roots and other lexical elements.

First and second language acquisition: Parallels and differences

First and second language acquisition: Parallels and differences. By Jürgen M. Meisel. (Cambridge textbooks in linguistics.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. 320. ISBN 052155764X. $40.

Reviewed by Alejandrina Cristia, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

Language comes effortlessly to the great majority of children, while adults must struggle to learn a new language. This everyday fact has inspired many fundamental scientific questions: how exactly does the process of acquisition differ over the course of the lifespan? How do first and second language acquisition occur when they are simultaneous or sequential, and does this vary depending on the onset age of acquisition? What exactly changes with development and experience that has such a profound impact on language acquisition? All of these questions are broached in this book.

In Ch. 1, ‘The quest for LAD [language acquisition device]’ (1–12), a brief history of early perspectives on second language acquisition brings to the foreground basic questions and concepts, including the conceptual differences between first language (L1), second language (L2), and bilingual (2L1) acquisition. Unless otherwise noted, in this book, L1 is operationalized as monolingual children’s acquisition, L2 as adult learners exposed to a second language, and 2L1 as simultaneous acquisition of two languages from birth or shortly thereafter. Ch. 2, ‘First language development’ (13–61), gives an overview of children’s acquisition of syntax and morphology, summarizing the key questions that have faced the field, such as whether there is a strong continuity between child and adult grammar. Ch. 3, ‘Obvious (observable) similarities and differences between first and second language acquisition’ (62–89), uses the example of acquisition of negation to underline general differences between L1 and L2, which are more carefully inspected in the two chapters that follow.

Ch. 4, ‘The initial state and beyond’ (90–138), presents an example of German verb placement, which serves to illustrate that the starting point of L2 cannot be reduced to either the L1 grammar or the putative initial state of the universal grammar (UG). In Ch. 5, ‘Developing grammatical knowledge’ (139–201), the author summarizes some fundamental differences in the developmental stages exhibited by L1 compared to L2 learners, and argues that L2 acquisition is affected by UG to a lesser extent than L1 acquisition. In Ch. 6, ‘Neural maturation and age’ (202–39), it is proposed that maturation likely explains some of those fundamental acquisition differences, based on the comparison between child L2, adult L2, and 2L1 acquisition. The final chapter, ‘A (tentative) theory of language acquisition’ (240–55), summarizes the author’s perspective on the contents of the language acquisition device, comprised of both grammatical/representational and processing mechanisms, and including both domain-specific and domain-general components.

All chapters include a list of suggested readings and topics for further discussion. There is also a glossary with brief definitions for concepts used throughout the book. Both classical and recent data are thoroughly dissected in the evaluation of carefully articulated arguments. This textbook will be most useful for courses centered on second language morphosyntactic acquisition, particularly if students have a background in generative grammar. Additionally, this book stands alone in its attempt to bring together evidence from monolingual and bilingual acquisition, and child and adult L2, constituting an intriguing read for anyone interested in language development.

Studies in ditransitive constructions: A comparative handbook

Studies in ditransitive constructions: A comparative handbook. Ed. by Andrej Malchukov, Martin Haspelmath, and Bernard Comrie. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2010. Pp. xviii, 772. ISBN 9783110220377. $300 (Hb).

Reviewed by Elly van Gelderen, Arizona State University

This wonderfully complex handbook examines crosslinguistic differences in ditransitive constructions. It also provides a general framework for the typology of ditransitive constructions, including two general chapters, six on the languages of Africa, seven on those of Eurasia, four on the languages of New Guinea and Australia, and seven on the languages of the Americas. The book is supplemented by author, language, and subject indexes.

The first chapter, written by the three editors and that on which I will mainly focus, defines a ditransitive construction as having an agent, recipient, and theme as arguments (to be abbreviated here as A, R, and T). In addition to verbs that have physical recipients, they include verbs such as ‘show’ and ‘tell’ because one of the arguments is recipient-like. As is usual for talking about alignment in transitives, the authors use A (agent), S (subject), and P (patient) to distinguish accusative, ergative, and neutral alignment. In ditransitives, they divide the P into T (theme) and R (recipient). Three alignment types are then distinguished: indirect object, secondary object, and neutral. In indirect object alignment, the scheme is T = P ≠ R, and the R is not marked the same as the T. This means the T in a ditransitive is marked like the P in a transitive construction, but the R is different. In secondary object alignment, the scheme is T ≠ P = R, and the P in transitives is treated the same as the R in ditransitives. In neutral alignment, all three are encoded the same way.

The picture is of course a lot more complex than just sketched if one takes into account ergative and accusative languages, mixed markings between constructions, and various other phenomena. The authors do all of this with ample examples from many languages in a sixty-four–page overview. Predominant word orders, variation in serial verb constructions used for ditransitives, alternations (e.g. as in English), and the split (e.g. between full nouns and pronouns) are discussed. Interesting are the suppletive forms of the verb ‘give’ that depend on the person, and sometimes number, of the R. A major section of the book examines the ‘behavioral’ properties of the objects (e.g. which of the two passivize, relativize, and incorporate).

The second chapter is comprised of a questionnaire on ditransitive constructions and follows the sections of the introduction. The remainder of the book consists of chapters written by experts on various languages, who discuss the ditransitive in their respective languages. The languages examined are primarily lesser known (at least to general linguists), which increases the value of this book. For instance, the languages of Africa represented include !Xun, Emai, Yorùbá, Baule, Joola Banjal, and Tima. Typological diversity is evident in the selection of the Eurasian languages: Telkepe (a Neo-Aramaic dialect), Vafsi, East-Caucasian and Tungusic overviews, Ket, Chintand and Belhare, and Thai.

This book is an impressive crosslinguistic resource on ditransitives, and it will be the major reference work on ditransitives for years to come.

Linguistic variation and change

Linguistic variation and change. By Scott F. Kiesling. (Edinburgh sociolinguistics.) Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011. Pp. xii, 200. ISBN 9780748637621. $36.

Reviewed by Susanne Wagner, Chemnitz University of Technology

It is remarkable that despite an abundance of introductory textbooks on sociolinguistics in general and language variation and change (LVC) in particular, there is still ample space for new and delightful fresh perspectives. The current volume provides such a perspective by uniting major historical findings and methods with state-of-the-art research. In ten chapters, K manages to come full circle, covering ‘old-fashioned’ questions and methods originating in nineteenth century comparative philology just as naturally as issues of enregistering identity that appear in ongoing research. This broad sweep must be seen as the hallmark of the book. Through a focus on contemporary methods, students are often only marginally aware of the historical link between comparative philology and (variationist) sociolinguistics, something K nicely counteracts here.

Part 1 (Chs. 1–3) covers questions and methods of LVC, including theoretical discussions, such as the problematic nature of the linguistic variable as well as hands-on advice on conducting fieldwork. Part 2 (Chs. 4–7) delves into the relationship between variation and social factors, tackling such different issues as inter- and intraspeaker variation (Chs. 4 and 5), meaning and social patterns (Ch. 6), and the acquisition of variation (Ch. 7). Part 3 (Chs. 8 and 9) shifts the perspective to individual structures and their variability. Phonology and morphosyntax are the focus of Ch. 8, while Ch. 9 looks at variation on a syntactic, lexical, and suprasegmental level.

The book includes a number of very concise but yet comprehensive tables that summarize (sometimes decades of) research on particular variables. One such table, for example, provides a summary of canonical variation patterns (78, table 4.3), another looks at the order of indexicality and Labovian variable types (108, table 6.1). The book’s breadth and coverage is amazing for a volume of this size. The reader is familiarized with basic concepts, as is fitting for an introductory textbook, but also introduced to advanced concepts, including instruction for how to measure perception with matched-guise scales, the effects of frequency, and the role of priming. A very accessible style makes this book a fun read, which is notable for a book of this scope.

English in Europe today

English in Europe today: Sociocultural and educational perspectives. By Annick De Hower and Antje Wilton. (AILA applied linguistics series 8.) Amsterdam: John Benajmins, 2011.  Pp. xi, 170. ISBN 9789027205247. $128 (Hb).

Reviewed by I. M. Laversuch Nick, University of Cologne

The work under review is the eighth volume in the AILA applied linguistic series, AILA being the acronym for the International Association of Applied Linguistics. The goal of this series, as stated in the series description, is to ‘break new ground and stimulate further research in applied linguistics’.  This collection was published in honor of Karlfried Knapp upon his retirement from the University of Erfurt in 2011. In certain respects, this dedication is the strongest tie that binds together the articles in this rather eclectic collection of works. The diverse array of contributions, however, can be divided into two basic groups.

The first group is comprised of contributions which provide a general, broad-based discussion of the many roles that English plays in the European ‘linguascape’ today. Two excellent examples here can be found in Ch. 1, ‘The dynamics of English in a multilingual Europe’, and in Barbara Seidhofer’s contribution ‘Conceptualizing “English” for a multilingual Europe’. Taken together, these chapters discuss the supranational advantages and disadvantages that may accompany the use of English as Europe’s unofficial lingua franca.

Such macro-investigations provide an interesting contrast to the second group of articles in the book, namely, small-scale case studies investigating the impact that English has had upon Europe’s ‘linguacultural heterogeneity’ (138). For example, in Ch. 6 (95–112), Li Wei explores the acquisition of English as an additional language (EAL) among three Chinese-born immigrant children in Britain. Despite the exceedingly small sample size, this investigation successfully highlights the importance of social networks in negotiating the tightrope between acquiring English and maintaining a heritage language. The other end of the age spectrum is found in Ch. 4, ‘When comprehension is crucial” (51–70). Contributed by Annelie Knapp, this chapter examines English-medium instruction discourse in university-level natural science courses. Although native speakers may well wince at the grammatical gaffes produced by the instructors that are featured, the lesson which ultimately emerges is that linguistic proficiency is just one of many factors determining successful communication.

It is questionable, however, whether the reader wants to go so far as Kurt Kohn in the assertion that ‘communication comes before form’ (77) and ‘the entire heterogeneous range of non-native speaker manifestations of English, including ELF manifestations by speakers with an EFL background’ (79) is to be embraced. While this position is open to debate, it can be readily agreed that the question of linguistic ownership is central to the future of English in Europe. This fact is brought into sharp yet humorous relief in Ch. 3, where Susan M. Gass and Daniel Reed describe how cultural clashes affected the bi-national implementation and promotion of an English language test in Greece. This chapter is one of the few which focuses on a country outside of Western Europe. This imbalance is unfortunate. If the scope of this book included a greater geographical diversity, its overall value would be far greater.

Variation in the Caribbean

Variation in the Caribbean: From creole continua to individual agency. Ed. by Lars Hinrichs and Joseph T. Farquharson. (Creole language library 37.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. vi, 276. ISBN 9789027252593. $149 (Hb).

Reviewed by Eric A. Anchimbe, University of Bayreuth

Although contention over the creole continuum is no longer topical in research today, this book offers a smooth transition from creole continuum-based approaches to individual agency (sociolinguistic) approaches in the emergence and evolution of creoles, through its focus on variation both in the Caribbean and its diaspora. As the editors explain, the volume is ‘intended as a place for Caribbean data to meet with the broadest possible range of sociolinguistic approaches to variation, which includes a chance to introduce recent sociolinguistic thinking’ (3). The huge data sets and divergent corpora used here effectively offer authors the right platform to apply quantitative sociolinguistic methods to studying creole speakers’ individual and group identities, speech communities, and diaspora communities.

In three parts, the book addresses variation at the level of linguistic systems, identity, and the community. At the level of linguistic systems, Donald Winford investigates morphosyntactic variation between sa and o as futurity markers in Sranan; James A. Walker and Jack Sidnell describe negation in Bequia (St. Vincent and the Grenadines); and Ulrike Gut explores the use of relative markers in Standard Jamaican English. In the second part, three papers establish the link between variation and identity by investigating voices, genres, and orthographies in Barbadian Creole (Janina Fenigsen); stylistic variation at the morphological and syntactic levels in Jamaica (Dagmar Deuber); and language attitudes and linguistic awareness in Jamaican English (Andre Sand). Also premised on sociolinguistic variables, the papers in the third part articulate individual agency and choices in creole evolution, precisely, the varilingual repertoire of Tobagonian speakers (Valerie Youssef) and the emergence of the (new) Eastern Maroon Creole in French Guiana (Bettina Migge and Isabelle Léglise). The volume’s focus on individual agency in the Caribbean is extended to Caribbean diaspora communities in the United Kingdom (i.e. accommodation strategies by Barbadians in Ipswich) (Michelle C. Braña-Straw) and ‘creole’ and youth language in the Caribbean community in the inner-city area of Manchester (Susan Dray and Mark Sebba). A free-standing paper, which nevertheless also revisits variation, is John R. Rickford’s discussion of Robert Le Page’s theoretical and applied legacy in sociolinguistics and creole studies.

This volume is certainly innovative in the way it unites quantitative sociolinguistic methods and creolistics in projecting the current states of creole languages in the Caribbean. With two case studies of diaspora Caribbean Creoles in the United Kingdom, the authors further put to question assumptions of creole evolution based only on the creole continuum. The book is timely in shifting the research focus on Caribbean Creoles from system-based explorations to variational and usage-based descriptions that prioritize their existence as codes for normal daily human interaction and social and linguistic identification. With its strong focus on the linguistic systems of creoles, the first part seems a bit distant from the other two parts. This does not affect the quality of the volume in any significant way. Anyone interested in the sociolinguistics of creoles will find the book an important asset both for teaching and research. Scholars of pidgin and creole languages, also, stand to benefit from the book’s extensive empirical analyses.

Critical discourse studies in context and cognition

Critical discourse studies in context and cognition. Ed. by Christopher Hart. (Discourse approaches to politics, society and culture 43.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. vii, 231. ISBN 9789027206343. $135 (Hb).

Reviewed by Fan Zhen-qiang, Zhejiang Gongshang University

In view of the fact that in critical discourse studies (CDS), current pragmatic and cognitive linguistic approaches to meaning construction in discourse are yet to march from the ‘description stage’ to ‘interpretation stage’ (1), this volume brings together articles, contributed by leading scholars in the field, offering interdisciplinary approaches and models to CDS on a basis broader than current cognitive-pragmatic and cognitive-semantic models. The editor’s introduction sets the scene for and offers a snapshot of the chapters that follow.

In his chapter, Martin Reisigl presents a diachronic and synchronic analysis of the relationship between pragmatics and discourse analysis, arguing for a holistic approach and a family-resemblance relationship between them, as well as other branches of linguistics. Focusing on the relationship between knowledge, discourse, and power, Teun A. van Dijk introduces his model of ‘critical epistemic discourse analysis’ through which he conducts a detailed analysis of Tony Blair’s speech in the British House of Commons concerning sanctions for the Iraq war. Didier Maillat and Steve Oswald approach manipulative communication from the perspective of relevance theory, concluding that manipulation lies in the speaker controlling the hearer’s context selection by making certain assumptions so salient that they are cognitively inescapable. The authors further explain how salience is achieved on the basis of argumentation theory. Piotr Cap presents his proximization-based model for interpreting legitimization effects in CDS. He particularly elaborates and refines axiological proximization and verifies the model by analyzing United States presidential speeches on the Iraq War.

Integrating tools from cognitive linguistics (CL) and Teun A. van Dijk’s sociocognitive framework of critical discourse analysis (CDA), Begoña Núñez-Perucha presents a diachronic investigation of political speeches on feminism, aiming to reveal how women conceptualize their unequal status in relation to men in the last three centuries. Another integrated model is proposed and applied in Veronika Koller’s chapter. Her framework combines the discourse-historical and the sociocognitive approaches and, through a sample analysis of 1970s lesbian identity in discourse, proves to be capable of handling ‘the complexity of collective identity both at a given historical moment and throughout time’ (120). Like Núñez-Perucha, Christine S. Sing also incorporates tools from CL in her discussion of the discursive construction of European identity. The difference is that the former relies mainly on image-schema theory while Sing draws on conceptual metaphor theory (CMT) and categorization theory. She also uses corpus-linguistic methods to support her analysis.

Christopher Hart reaches beyond CMT and explores more tools from CL in his examination of immigration discourse, adding to the inventory of analytic tools of CDA in general and bringing new perspective to the study of immigration discourse. The new tools introduced include construal operations, profiling/backgrounding, metonymy, categorization, scalar adjustment, metaphor, deixis, and epistemic modality. Employing notions from cognitive grammarian Ronald Langacker (i.e. his distinction between the effective and the epistemic level), Juana I. Marín Arrese builds a new model, which she uses to characterize speakers’ expressions of stance and subjectivity in discourse by conducting a comparative corpus study of political discourse in English and Spanish.

Talking politics in broadcast media

Talking politics in broadcast media: Cross-cultural perspectives on political interviewing, journalism and accountability. Ed. by Mats Ekström and Marianna Patrona. (Discourse approaches to politics, society and culture 42.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. ix, 248. ISBN 9789027206336. $143 (Hb).

Reviewed by Eric A. Anchimbe, University of Bayreuth

The approaches used to investigate political discourse have increased and expanded in scope in recent times. The contexts of political activities and the medium through which they are produced or broadcast have also increased. Today, political discourse is no longer produced only by politicians who wield political power (i.e. from above) but also by the common people at the receiving end of political power (i.e. from below). Using interaction-based approaches like discourse analysis, conversational analysis, interactional sociolinguistics, pragmatics, and social semiotics, this book studies political interaction and discourse in a number of broadcast media and across cultures and countries. Focusing on talk, the authors portray different forms of participatory media broadcasts which, besides the traditional format of interviewer (journalist) and interviewee (politician), also involve audiences or what Nuria Lorenzo-Dus (Ch. 10) refers to as ‘citizen interviewers’. The overall aim of the book is to explore ‘how activities of talk and interaction are mutually related to current trends in the media and political discourse’ (3).

The eleven chapters of this book are grouped into three thematic parts: conversational strategies in political interviewing and political news discourse, neutralism and hybridity in contemporary broadcast journalism, and discourse patterns for displaying accountability in citizen participation programs. Even though the idea of conversation or talk as ‘the soul of democracy’ (1) remains contentiously similar throughout the book, the individual chapters use authentic data that situate political processes within specific cultural contexts, which account for the differences in interviewer and interviewee behavior.

The issues investigated include questioning presidential candidates (Steven E. Clayman and Tanya Romaniuk) and doing non-neutral belligerent interaction in hybrid political interviews (Ian Hutchby) in the United States; the politics of ‘trust’ in political discourse in television news (Andrew Tolson) and politics and change in the accountability interview (Martin Montgomery) in the United Kingdom; accountability performance on talk radio in Hong Kong (Francis L.F. Lee and Angel M.Y. Lin); doing accountability in citizen interviews in Spain (Nuria Lorenzo-Dus); pre-election debates in Belgium (Eva De Smedt and Kristel Vandenbrande); address terms in political news interviews in Australia (Johanna Rendle-Short); hybridity in talk show political interviews in Sweden (Mats Ekström); new journalistic rules in political news discourse in Greece (Marianna Patrona); and journalists insulting politicians on air in Israel (Zohar Kampf and Efrat Daskal). These lucidly written chapters challenge given notions in political discourse research, such as roles and identity in interviews, interviewer neutrality or impartiality, and audience (non)-participation in interviews.

This volume offers a good mix of interactional political practices in different media formats across a broad range of cultures and languages. The political interview or talk, the authors illustrate, is rapidly losing its traditional division-of-labor structure for a more participatory, non-neutral, hybrid, opinion-driven structure, made relevant by the inclusion of audiences and common citizens (e.g. through phone-in, video-in, mail-in programs) in the production of political discourse. This gives the volume its place in the contemporary world characterized by fast-evolving communication technologies. However, a chapter on computer-mediated political talk online would have given the volume an additional innovative thrust. As the editors clearly state, however, this was beyond the scope of the volume (1). Scholars in the social and linguistic sciences will find the book an interesting read.

Language use and language learning in CLIL Classrooms

Language use and language learning in CLIL Classrooms. Ed. by Christiane Dalton-Puffer, Tarja Nikula, and Ute Smit. (AILA applied linguistics series 7.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2010. Pp. ix, 295. ISBN 9789027205230. $143 (Hb).

Reviewed by I. M. Laversuch Nick, University of Cologne

Not surprisingly, perhaps, some of the best chapters in this volume are offered by the editors themselves. The introduction, for example, ‘Charting policies, premises, and research on content and language integrated learning’, is superbly written, highly intelligent, and thought-provoking. Its uncommonly well-organized structure provides an excellent framework for the entire volume. Similarly impressive is the editors’ conclusion, ‘Language use and language learning in CLIL’. It draws attention to issues that remain contentious in the field; offers useful recommendations for language policy and planning; and suggests many new, much needed areas of future research. One such area is content and language integrated learning (CLIL), which utilizes languages other than English. As the editors warn: ‘CLIL in multiple languages is unrepresentative of the European student population and their language success; […] CLIL in English has too narrow a language base from which to extrapolate findings to language more generally’ (287).

Ironically, as the editors admit themselves, all of the contributions in this volume fall within the category of content and English integrated learning (CEIL). Nevertheless, several of the chapters also take non-English languages into consideration. For instance, in Ch. 2, Francisco Lorenzo and Pat Moore compare the Spanish and English writing skills of Andalusian school children in two different curricula types: (i) CEIL courses in social and natural sciences; and (ii) traditional English as a foreign language (EFL) courses. Ch. 8 presents another study that compares student skills in a non-English language. Using a systemic functional framework, Heini Marja Järvinen compared the syntactic intricacy and thematic organization in secondary student essays written in both English and their native/first language, Finnish. Taken together, these comparative investigations come to a similar conclusion: the medium of instruction alone does not determine students’ level of linguistic attainment. The method of instruction also plays a crucial role.

This being the case, one of the highlights of the present volume is its emphasis on the communicative relationship between the CLIL instructor and student. Two outstanding examples of this appear in Chs. 6 and 12 by Tarja Nikula and Glenn Ole Hellkjaer, respectively. Importantly, the focus of these investigations was not to assess whether the participants used English ‘correctly’, but to determine if using a foreign language significantly altered in-class interaction. The short answer to this question was ‘yes’. However, as these and other researchers in this volume stress, these changes were not entirely negative. In fact, communication in CLIL environments was often found to be far more creative and cooperative. To uncover how these potential benefits of CLIL can best be maximized, it is imperative that future research consider the effects of language choice, teaching methodology, course level, and subject area. This work is an excellent first step.