Monthly Archives: May 2012

Structural nativization in Indian English lexicogrammar

Structural nativization in Indian English lexicogrammar. By Marco Schilk. (Studies in corpus linguistics 46.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. xiii, 182. ISBN 9789027203519. $135 (Hb).

Reviewed by Kanavillil Rajagopalan, State University at Campinas

In sharp contrast with most previous treatments of the topic that focus on lexical peculiarities of Indian English and other second-language varieties of English, Marco Schilk looks at structural nativization at the lexis-grammar interface. The objective is eminently fact-finding and exploratory. S’s approach is based on a detailed comparison of the Indian and the British components of the International Corpus of English and also the 100-million-word web-derived corpus of acrolectal Indian newspaper English, viewed against its British counterpart.

The book is presented in nine chapters. Following an introductory first chapter, Chs. 2 and 3 explore aspects of structural nativization and of lexicogrammar, and Ch. 4 spells out the methodology of corpus linguistics. Chs. 5, 6, and 7 deal with three ditransitive verbs, give, send, and offer, and subject them to thorough scrutiny. The three verbs, though all ditransitive, are graded according to their degree of ditransitivity:  give is characterized as prototypically ditransitive, send less so, and offer is ranked as ‘low-frequency’. Ch. 8 is comprised of an evaluation and discussion of this topic, and Ch. 9 wraps up the book’s material on the whole and suggests some prospects for future research.

S begins the book by reviewing the history of the English language in India in its early (1579–1834) phase and its more robust (1835–1947) phase, dominated by the British Raj. The year 1579 is when Thomas Stephens, an English missionary, arrived in India, and the year 1835 marks the approval of Thomas Babington Macaulay’s Minute on Indian education by the British parliament, which formally introduced English into India, its coveted ‘jewel in the crown’. He traces the fortunes of English in India though the Orientalist-Anglist controversy of the 1780s through the 1840s and in post-independence India, when the country considered replacing English with Hindi after a transitional period. He also briefly weighs in on different models of conceptualizing World Englishes.

S discusses structural nativization, which he nicely sums up as a transition from ‘English in India’ to ‘Indian English’ (5) with its own ‘characteristic features, which in turn may be [viewed as] endonormatively stabilized and institutionalized’ (16). In raising the issue of lexicogrammar, S has recourse to the writings of British linguists like J.R. Firth, M.A.K. Halliday, and John McHardy Sinclair in addition to work in phraseology by Russian linguists, especially from the Soviet days.

S establishes his thesis of progressive nativization of Indian English along two levels of analysis, namely collocational profiles and verb-complementational profiles of ditransitive verbs. He argues that English-language Indian newspapers, such as the Times of India, play a key role in propagating ‘the multiplying effect of the nativization of Indian English’ (172).

In the final chapter of the book, S underscores the importance of corpus-based research and the need for amassing even larger corpora to broaden the scope of research.

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Conversation and gender

Conversation and gender. Ed. by Susan A. Speer and Elizabeth Stokoe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. 360. ISBN 9780521696036. $37.19.

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, University of Nizwa

This monograph contains fourteen chapters and covers four main topics relating to the construction and performance of gender identity through conversation. The first topic concerns the use of gendered terms to refer to the self and other. Even the gender-neutral pronoun ‘I’ is shown to convey gendered identity in some contexts. Gender may also be relevant to how speakers use terms of reference to categorize themselves as belonging to a social group, and in conversational storytelling.

The second topic addressed in this book covers aspects of conversational practices, such as repair moves and ways in which speakers orient their speech toward their interlocutors (termed here ‘recipient design’). The author of the first contribution examines how speakers initiate repair moves to remedy the perceived inappropriate categorization of a person during conversation through the use of the terms ‘girl’, ‘lady’, or ‘woman’. In the following contribution, the adaptation of pre-fabricated talk to the gender of the interlocutor in the context of calls to a help-line is examined. The author discusses clues provided to the advice-provider, which indicate the caller’s gender and subsequently trigger the appropriate gender-oriented pre-fabricated talk. The final contribution in this section concerns the use of question tags in conversational exchanges. The authors’ findings challenge an earlier understanding of the use of question tags as a symptom of relative powerlessness; rather, the authors posit that question tags are often employed as a strategy to induce the interlocutor toward a particular response or behavior. As a result, the authors provide an alternatively de-gendered perspective in contrast with an over-gendered analysis of the linguistic aspects of conversation.

The third topic covered in this book examines the role of gender in performing particular social actions, such as complimenting or joke-telling. The first contribution in this section investigates the function of reported compliments in the construction of the gendered self-identity of transsexual patients. Reported compliments that refer to gender-specific features of the receiver’s attributes are used to strengthen the speaker’s self-identification as a ‘real’ man or woman during telephone assessment sessions with a psychiatrist. The contribution that follows considers the role of gender in joke-telling in social settings. The author analyzes both speech and body language of the communicative event to determine how the joke-telling act can be identified as a male in-group event. The final chapter in this section considers how storytelling among family members may involve gendered features, which contribute to building intimacy between interlocutors.

The final section of the book concerns the construction of gender identities through membership categorization practices. One contribution examines children’s use of language to construct or evoke gendered identities, and another examines how assumptions of gender roles contribute to the construction of arguments during divorce mediation sessions.

All contributions contain excerpts from audio or video recordings of conversations to illustrate issues discussed, drawn from a broad range of social contexts and institutional settings (e.g. help-lines, everyday telephone conversations, children’s play activities, police-suspect interviews, psychiatric assessments, and mediation sessions). The book has a strong methodological component and will offer insight to postgraduate students and researchers about how a gender-related analysis of conversational interaction may be undertaken.

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New horizons in the neuroscience of consciousness

New horizons in the neuroscience of consciousness. Ed. by Elain K. Perry, Daniel Collerton, Fiona E. N. LeBeau, and Heather Ashton. (Advances in consciousness research 79.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2010. Pp. xxv, 330. ISBN 9789027252159. $149 (Hb).

Reviewed by Peter Tunstall, Chicago

This collection offers a rich, multidisciplinary cross-section of current thinking on the notoriously elusive subject of consciousness, with a particular focus on conscious/non-conscious interactions.

Contributions are distributed among four sections: ‘Neuronal mechanisms’, ‘Psychological processes’, ‘Psychopathologies and therapies’, and ‘Expanding boundaries’. The first deals with brain chemistry and anatomy, connections, and synchronization; topics include gamma oscillations, general anesthesia, and the role of the endocannabinoid system in mediating the unconscious processes that underlie conscious moods. The second contains discussions of memory (implicit and explicit), social consciousness, lucid dreaming, and what magicians can teach us about attention and visual awareness. The third includes chapters on depression, dementia, schizophrenia, 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA) use, and the placebo effect, and the final part explores creativity, psi phenomena, and self-induced altered states of consciousness, such as those induced by meditation and the use of entheogens. The emphasis is toward the empirical rather than the philosophical strand of consciousness studies.

Two chapters deal explicitly with linguistic issues. In ‘Consciousness and language: A processing perspective’, Michael Sharwood Smith and John Truscott propose that ‘some linguistic processes are inherently unconscious while others can be conscious or not’ (129). Drawing on Bernard J. Baars’s global workspace model of consciousness and Ray Jackendoff’s intermediate-level theory, they contrast functions of the language module itself, which never reach activation levels sufficient for consciousness, with on extramodular linguistic knowledge, which includes conceptual representations (unconscious) and perceptual representations (conscious): ‘processing within the language module is entirely unconscious but nevertheless relies on conscious perceptual processes to provide its input and leaves conscious footprints in the form of the voice in the head’ (135). While much of this is plausible, one may question whether linguistic consciousness is wholly accounted for as a ‘set of perceptual blackboards, each representing the ultimate output of a sensory system’ (133). There is more to conscious thought than subvocalization.

In ‘Consciousness as the spin-off and schizophrenia as the price of language’, Timothy J. Crow attributes schizophrenia to developmental defects associated with hemispheric asymmetry. These defects, he proposes, lead to a kind of ‘aberrant transmission (backflow)’ (193) between the four quadrants of the cortex, resulting in pathologies of language and self-awareness. While the link between schizophrenia and lateralization abnormalities is supported by post-mortem studies (194), it seems something of a leap to identify the right hemisphere as the seat of reflexive consciousness. Because pre-psychotic children show language impairments (195), and schizophrenia is seen as an ‘illness of the self’ (197, quoting Maxim I. Stamenov), he concludes that language is crucial to a sense of self: ‘the components of language fall apart, and consciousness fragments’ (197). Some acknowledgement of non-psychotic aphasias would be in order here; how are we to account for the apparent persistence of self-awareness in these cases?

It is impossible to do justice in so small a space to the range of topics covered here and to the inventiveness of ideas displayed. While this book offers neither consensus nor closure on the nature of consciousness, it provides much food for thought.

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Intercultural communication: A critical introduction

Intercultural communication: A critical introduction. By Ingrid Piller. New York: Edinburgh University Press, 2011. Pp. ix, 197. ISBN 9780748632848. $45.

Reviewed by Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini, University of Warwick

Since having seen a draft of the first chapter of this book, I have been waiting for its publication with keen expectation. At the time of reading the draft, I was teaching intercultural communication to final-year undergraduate students and thought: ‘I could do with this textbook, and so could my students’. This is not just another textbook in intercultural communication. It is a personal and accessible invitation to consider some of the dimensions of the intercultural, with emphasis on communication but also with a sharp eye on the unresolved contradictions, the ideological subtexts, the political import, and the deeply human involvement and costs involved with interculturality.

From the outset, Ingrid Piller aims to establish a conversation with her readers, to entice and implicate them personally in her own journey of discovery as an international, travelling academic, a speaker of many languages, and an active member of multicultural networks. The author’s genealogy of intercultural communication (Ch. 2) is refreshingly informative and revealing. The historical perspective she offers facilitates the comprehension of certain enduring aspects of the field, some of which are less attractive than others, such as the prevailing ethnocentrism manifested in the dominance of Anglophone conceptualizations and United States-Eurocentric worldviews. The author does not spare balanced criticism of the key concepts of culture and nation, exposing the dangers of essentialisms and stereotyping (Chs. 4 and 5). The somewhat more technical treatment of linguistic and cultural relativity will be useful for readers who are unfamiliar with anthropology or linguistics, but who might be interested in a gentle introduction to some of the theoretical baggage in the field of intercultural communication (Ch. 4).

After offering the reader a select introduction to conceptual and academic resources, the author provides in the following chapters engaging illustrations of the intercultural-in-action: in the workplace, in advertising and commercial discourses, and in interpersonal relations (Chs. 6–8). A critical approach is in evidence in all chapters, but the last two are especially directed to answering some of the most disconcerting issues raised by the core question of this book: ‘how culture is made relevant by whom in which context for which purposes’ (128). This includes the racism and discrimination perpetrated under the guise of the language proficiency or cultural competence agendas (Ch. 9), and the practical and political consequences of language choice in multilingual environments or situations (Ch. 10). For progress to be made toward a non-essentialist, non-ethnocentric study and practice of intercultural communication, we need to better understand ourselves, as well as others (171). Looking at intercultural communication as a social practice, deeply embedded in the material and in its inequalities, is also mandatory (Ch. 10).

These reflections are a good starting point for any course in intercultural communication that embraces a critical perspective, and this is a suitable book to accompany such a course.

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Controversy spaces: A model of scientific and philosophical change

Controversy spaces: A model of scientific and philosophical change. Ed. by Oscar Nudler. (Controversies 10.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. vi, 187. ISBN 9789027218902. $158 (Hb).

Reviewed by Kanavillil Rajagopalan, State University at Campinas

This book is a revised version of an earlier printing originally published in Spanish. It is composed of eight chapters, divided into three parts. Part 1, ‘The model of controversy spaces’, contains a single chapter by the editor, following a six-page introduction, also by the editor, to the overall theme of the book. Part 2 contains two chapters under the rubric ‘Controversy spaces in the history of philosophy’. Part 3, ‘Controversy spaces in the history of science’, contains the remaining five chapters.

In his introduction, Oscar Nudler claims that there are three possible answers to the question of whether or not there can be progress in science: ‘the Scientific Method’ (1), the negation of any universal method, and the rejection of any regular pattern in the history of science. The first of these is not associated with anyone in particular, but the second and third are credited to Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend, respectively.

In philosophy, Nudler tells us, the debate is not about how it progresses, but whether it does it at all. Once again, three positions are identified: one is optimistic, another is pessimistic, and a third holds that progress has to do with, not the solution, but rather the dissolution of problems by means of unending controversies.

However, Nudler adds in Ch. 1 that all of that changed in the second half of the twentieth century when the cognitive significance of controversies took center stage. Dating back to the Sophists, controversies are today studied under two opposing models: one, inspired by René Descartes and Francis Bacon, which views controversies as two-player games where the attitude toward dialectics is essentially negative and has the sole purpose of ‘interroga[ing] nature following the right method’ (10); and the other that, drawing its inspiration from Plato, views dialectics as ‘being superior in the hierarchy of knowledge’ (11).

Comprising Part 2, Ch. 2, by Francisco Naishtat reviews three controversies in historiography, and Ch. 3, by Diana Pérez, tracks the fortunes of the concept of supervenience in recent thought on the philosophy of mind. Part 3, which contains five chapters, by Olimpia Lombardi, Martin Labarca, Laura Benítez Grobet, Eleonora Cresto, and José María Gil, addresses themes as varied as the problem of irreversibility, the relation between chemistry and physics, Jacques Rohault’s system of natural philosophy, the notion of DNA in molecular biology, and the development of linguistic thought in the twentieth-century in the United States, respectively.

The contributors converge on the unifying idea of a ‘controversy space’, which is defined by Nudler as ‘a structure which usually has as elements, at any given point in time, some controversy which is central and other peripheral controversies related to it’ (18). This book is impressive in terms of both its scope and the number of different academic fields it surveys on its topic.

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Motivation in grammar and the lexicon

Motivation in grammar and the lexicon. Ed. by Klaus-Uwe Panther and Günter Radden. (Human cognitive processing 27.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. vii, 306. ISBN 9789027223814. $135 (Hb).

Reviewed by Ferit Kılıçkaya, Middle East Technical University

This book, comprised of articles mostly originating from the themed session ‘Motivation in language’ at the 10th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference in Krakow, Poland, 2007, aims to explore motivation in grammar and the lexicon through cognition. The book is structured according to the linguistics components impacted by language-independent factors and divided into two parts: motivation in grammar and motivation in the lexicon.

The book opens with a very concise introduction to motivation written by the editors, providing an overall framework of the interaction between human systems and of the interaction between language and cognition, in addition to brief summaries of the chapters.

The first part of the book opens with a chapter that focuses on cognitive and communicative motivation, proposing a semantically motivated grammar to apply to English auxiliaries. The following chapter, ‘The mind as ground: A study of the English existential construction’, analyzes subject and lexical verb inversion. Based on Ronald W. Langacker’s cognitive grammar framework, the following chapter, ‘Motivating the flexibility of oriented –ly adverbs’, examines participant-oriented use of adverbs through cognitive and perceptual motivation. In the chapter, ‘The cognitive motivation for the use of dangling participles in English’, the way that participial construction is motivated in the English grammatical system is examined.

Inference is examined in a chapter that presents semantic change from the concrete meanings of temporal/spatial overlap to abstract meanings of contrast/concessive constructions, through experimental methods. In the chapter ‘The conceptual motivation of aspect’ inferences having emerged from past events are investigated in experiments that focus on imperfective and perfective sentence pairs. The following chapter identifies metaphorical motivation based on conceptual metaphor theory and the lexical-constructional model, with a focus on non-motion verbs. The next chapter focuses on the use of obligation models in English and Hungarian through exemplary cases and proposes a conceptual structure of modals in relation to grammatical construals. The final chapter of the first part of the book compares systems of referent honorifics available in both Korean and Japanese.

The second part begins with a chapter that deals with the semantics of dimensional adjectives in English and Russian, indicating that dimensional adjectives are not always used with a norm as a reference point. The next chapter examines the role of the sociocultural motivation in the metonymic use of ‘capital’ for ‘government’ in Croatian and Hungarian newspapers, showing that this usage is more frequent in languages such as English and German. The following chapter “investigates judgments of native speakers of Italian with respect to intrinsic and extrinsic motivational relations in the lexicon. The chapter ‘Motivational networks: An empirically supported cognitive phenomenon’ proposes a multidirectional network of motivated relations, rather than viewing motivation as a unidirectional process as done in the traditional studies. The last chapter of the second part of the book analyzes 2,500 frequently used words in English and German in terms of motivatability and determines that German vocabulary is more motivatable than the English vocabulary.

The editors and the authors successfully provide anyone working in human cognitive processing with in-depth analysis and discussion of motivation in grammar and the lexicon. The structure of this book will encourage readers to revive their knowledge of cognition and its place in motivation and to make a connection between the chapters in the book and the framework outlined in the introduction.

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Ethics and politics of translating

Ethics and politics of translating. By Henri Meschonnic. (Benjamins translation library 91; European society for translation studies subseries 7.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. vi, 178. ISBN 9789027224392. $135 (Hb).

Reviewed by Kanavillil Rajagopalan, State University at Campinas

This book is a celebration of a work by the late Henri Meschonnic, originally written in French and translated and edited by Pier-Pascale Boulanger. It is presented in sixteen short chapters but is billed as an essay by the editor, who writes: ‘In his essay Éthique et politique du traduire […], published in 2007, M deals concisely with the core issues he had been tackling since the 1970s […]’. He adds that ‘the present book follows up on Poétique du traduire, published in 1999, but focuses more intensely on the topic of rhythm and ethics in translation’ (11). In this regard, the title and the contents of the book do not match.

Preceding an introduction by the translator-cum-editor is a preface by Alexis Nouss, entitled ‘A life in translation’, which is essentially a eulogy. Nouss notes that M proposes no ‘new arguments on translation’, nor on ‘the dynamics of subjectivity and historicity’ (7). The all-encompassing theme is ‘poetics’, which ‘concerns the totality of human constructions’ and as such covers ‘any human relation [which] has to take place through language’ (7).

In his twenty-two–page long introduction, Pier-Pascale Boulanger begins by assessing M’s stature as an original thinker and his trail-blazing role in denouncing some grave misinterpretations of Ferdinand Saussure’s work, especially with regard to the distinction between meaning and form which, he says, Saussure never claimed was ‘the true nature of language’ (12). M was also profoundly disturbed by the way linguistics had parted company with literature, except for glorious exceptions like Roman Jakobson, who was a formative influence on M’s own thought.

Boulanger admits frankly that ‘reading M in French is trying even for native French speakers’ (29). Many English-speaking readers would readily agree. This also invites inevitable comparison with Jacques Derrida, M’s more well-known compatriot and contemporary. For Boulanger, Derrida’s style was ‘catchy’ (19) and his trademark deconstruction in tune with the dernier cri of his times. M’s work, by contrast, had no such political appeal, and it did not have ‘the seductive powers of Derrida’s writing and [the] infatuation of deconstructionists’, which M dismissed as the ‘Derrida effect’ (20).

With regard to M’s own writing, its aphoristic, and often epigrammatic, style may make it difficult for the average reader to comprehend his message, as Boulanger rightly warns. Equally challenging is his somewhat meandering way of exposing ideas. The sixteen  chapters of this book have headings like ‘Faithful, unfaithful, just more of the same, I think thee O sign’, ‘Sourcerer [sic], targeteer [sic], the same thing’, ‘Embiblicizing the voice’, and so forth, which are more enigmatic than user-friendly. Additionally, neologisms like ‘decurrentfrechify’ and ‘unthought’ may fluster a reader.

M exhorts translators to pay more attention to the materiality of their source text and its native rhythm, therein lay his ethics of translating.

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Compound words in Spanish: Theory and history

Compound words in Spanish: Theory and history. By Maria Irene Moyna. (Current issues in linguistic theory 316.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp.  xxv, 451. ISBN 9789027248343. $158 (Hb).

Reviewed by Mark J. Elson, University of Virginia

This book by Maria Irene Moyna comprises an introduction followed by nine chapters of which the first three treat preliminaries, the next five introduce and discuss data, and the last contextualizes the data historically. References, an appendix, subject index, and word index, conclude the book.

There is much to praise in this book. It is a comprehensive survey of its subject in clear, easily accessible terms. Each analytic chapter focuses on a different non-head,  and each is subdivided according to the head constituent and discussed in terms of synchrony (e.g. constituents, compound meaning) and diachrony (e.g. frequency and productivity, evolution of meaning, orthographic representation). The appendix, containing a dataset of the compounds found in the lexicographical sources, adds greatly to the value of the book as a reference. The relationship of constituents is exemplified and clarified in terms of X-bar syntax, not the traditional phrase structure that often characterizes older studies of compounds.

Some may question the author’s view (23) that she has gone beyond description and synthesis by presenting a theory of compounds. The focus of the theory she proposes takes it point of departure (15) in her attempt to predict the morphological constituents which may enter into composition, and the related observation that the well-established opposition, lexical versus functional, is not fully predictive in this regard. This leads to the lexical/functional feature hypothesis (23), which bears the assumption of two binary primitives, L (lexical) and F (functional), yielding four designations ([+L,+F], [+L,-F], [-L,+F], and [-L,-F]). Only items designated [+L] units can participate in composition. The first three designations add little to our present knowledge. They add an intermediate level (i.e. [+L,+F]) between lexical and functional  meaning, incorporating the view that the boundary between them is not discrete, but gradient, with languages differing in the details of its location.

In contrast, the remaining designation, [-L,-F], defines a new type of constituent, one which is neither lexical nor functional. It is not clear, however, that those constituents which M claims it subsumes are defensible as such. Case constituents, for example, have semantic content, at least according to Roman Jakobson, whose contributions to our understanding of grammatical meaning are regrettably not included in the references. Semantic content can also be argued for inflectional constituents expressing person/number. This is especially obvious in languages like Spanish in which personal pronouns are normally absent, leaving the constituents in question to convey their contribution to the message, at least in surface structures. M prefers to view such constituents as ‘un-interpretable functional units’ (23), but her use of ‘functional’ in this designation seems odd in view of the designation [-F]. Since M did not argue the existence of [-L,-F], but found herself confronted with it as a result of the prior assumption of [L] and [F] as binary primitives, one wonders the extent to which [-L,-F] implies a class that calls for membership rather than a label designating a naturally definable constituent set.

These comments aside, especially in view of the fact that the feature framework proposed by M has little effect on the presentation and discussion of the corpus, the exposition is lucid and detailed, rendering the result not merely a description and, for those who find the feature framework convincing, source of theory, but a significant reference.

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The typology of Asian Englishes

The typology of Asian Englishes. Ed. by Lisa Lim and Nikolas Gisborne. (Benjamins current topics 33.)Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. vii, 120. ISBN 9789027202529. $120 (Hb).

Reviewed by Gabriela Brozbă, Romanian-American University

This slim book collects six articles which constituted the substance of a workshop of the same name organized by Lisa Lim at the First International Conference for the Linguistics of English. The book gathers analyses on four Asian varieties of English: Singapore English (SgE), Indian English (IndE), Hong Kong English (HKE), and Thai English (ThaiE), in which some similarities and dissimilarities are delineated from a clearly typological perspective, based on judicious and well-argued assessments of quantitative and qualitative data.

In the opening chapter, Lisa Lim and Nikolas Gisborne explain the need for a typological approach in assessing the state and features of the New Englishes by looking at the structural features of the substrate languages and the ecologies from which they emerged. Additionally, the editors of the book bring forward some of the reasons why Asian Englishes should be treated as a challenging topic for research.

In his chapter, Umberto Ansaldo underlines the importance of an evolutionary approach to language change rather than treating it as a departure from the norm or as a result of system-internal processes, especially when one deals with contact language formation. Such delimitations become clear when the focus shifts to grammatical features of SgE (e.g. zero copula, predicative adjectives, and topic prominence), whose selection is based on their numerical and typological frequency in the dominant substrate languages (e.g. Sinitic and Malay).

The third article, contributed by Nikolas Gisborne, covers a central aspect of HKE morphosyntax, namely finiteness, in relation to the absence of copula and the blurred lexical boundaries between verbs and adjectives. The claim for non-finiteness in HKE is not absolute. HKE is at the third stage of its developmental cycle (nativization), according to Edgar Schneider’s dynamic model, and there is some degree of variability.

Addressing diversity, Devyani Sharma looks into the behavior of three of the so-called ‘angloversals’ in IndE and SgE. A closer analysis of past-tense omission, over-extension of the progressive, and copula omission reveals that in most cases one deals only with surface similarities, because there are systemic differences in imperfectivity-marking (substrate-sensitive) and copula omission (grammatically conditioned by the substrate languages as well).

In the instrumental study by Priyankoo Sarmah, Divya Verma Gogoi, and Caroline Wiltshire, the authors highlight the distinctiveness of ThaiE. Segmental and suprasegmental phonological aspects are compared with those of the substrate language (Thai), British English (BrE), and two other Asian Englishes (e.g. HKE and SgE). At the prosodic level, the rhythm of ThaiE closely resembles BrE when compared to that of SgE (as a transfer of the peculiar rhythmic characteristics of Thai), whereas in terms of vowel systems the Asian varieties at issue are more alike, as a reflex of the typological commonalities in their substrates.

In the final article, Lisa Lim approaches a topic that has seldom been touched upon in research on Asian Englishes: the inappropriateness of treating Asian varieties of English from a stress/intonation traditional viewpoint, and a shift to their interpretation as tone languages, given the structural features of the substrate languages. This claim is supported by evidence from SgE, where both the internal ecology (dominance of tone substrate languages) and the external ecology (high proportion of first-language users of such languages) favor such an interpretation.

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Genres on the web: Computational models and empirical studies

Genres on the web: Computational models and empirical studies. Ed. by Alexander Mehler, Serge Sharoff, and Marina Santini. (Text, speech and language technology 42.) Dordrecht: Springer, 2011. Pp. xiv, 362. ISBN 9789048191772. $189 (Hb).

Reviewed by Daria Dayter, University of Bayreuth

The present collection consists of six parts devoted to the exploration of the fluid concept of genre in the environment of the Internet. In Ch. 1, the editors discuss the practical potential of the notion of genre for empirical and computational fields. They introduce three open issues that are dealt with in this volume: the nature of web documents, the construction and use of web-based corpora, and the design of computational models.

The second part of the volume opens with a chapter by Jussi Karlgren, who takes a reader-oriented approach to genre and finds that web users perceive two new types of genre: one, based on new technology; and another, significantly more specialized in terms of content. In Ch. 3, Mark A. Rosso and Stephanie W. Haas concentrate on methodological issues in operationalizing genre theory for the enhancement of web search. Ch. 4, by Kevin Crowston, Barbara Kwasnick, and Joseph Rubleske, reports on a field study that attempts a bottom-up approach to building a taxonomy of web genres.

The third and fourth parts of this collection adopt an applied perspective by tackling various problems of automatic web genre identification (AGI) and developing structure-based approaches to genre classification. Marina Santini explores the cross-testing method to evaluate genre models. Yunhyong Kim and Seamus Ross examine the role of word distribution patterns in the classification of documents. Serge Sharoff proposes a function-based typology of web pages and tests it on two Internet corpora. Among other problems of the existing AGI models, Benno Stein, Sven Meyer zu Eissen, and Nedim Lipka suggest a method to overcome the insufficient generalization capability of these models. In the final contribution, Pavel Braslavski reports an experiment that involves merging genre-related and text-relevance rankings, with moderate improvement in search results.

As Christoph Lindemann and Lars Littig establish in Ch. 10, a twofold approach to the classification of web pages using structural and content features significantly improves the overall accuracy of classification at the super-genre level. An alternative approach is exemplified in Ch. 11 by Matthias Dehmer and Frank Emmert-Streib, who analyze web genre data by applying a graph-based representation model. In Lennart Björneborn’s contribution, an analysis of patterns of interconnectedness between genres in academic web space reveals a dynamic web of genres.

Finally, the fifth part of the book comprises three case studies of emerging web genres. An amateur Flash exchange website is the focus of attention in the chapter by John Paolillo, Jonathan Warren, and Breanne Kunz. The principal dimensions of linguistic variation in blogs are identified by Jack Grieve et al. in Ch. 14, and in Ch. 15, Ian Bruce combines social and cognitive perspectives on genre in analyzing a sample of participatory news texts.

This collection concludes with a call for further research in developing a characterization of web genres, drawing up annotation guidelines, and creating genre benchmarks in different languages.

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