Monthly Archives: October 2012

Multilingual discourse production

Multilingual discourse production: Diachronic and synchronic perspectives. Ed. by Svenja Kranich, Viktor Becher, Steffen Höder, and Juliane House. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. 320. ISBN 9789027219329. $113 (Hb).

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, University of Nizwa

This monograph containing twelve articles focuses on the effect of language contact, particularly through translation, on language variation and change. Bringing together insights from historical linguistics, corpus linguistics, and translation studies, the book comprises three sections: the first two address diachronic perspectives considering both long-term and recent changes, and the third focuses on synchronic perspectives.

The first chapter outlines a typology for translation-induced language change, which serves as a framework for a subsequent analysis of Latin–Old Swedish language contact. It acknowledges the importance of sociopolitical, cultural, and linguistic factors in translation-induced change and recognizes different linguistic manifestations of change.

The subsequent four chapters discuss aspects of historical language change involving Latin, French, English, and German. These include the role of translation in lexical innovation and grammatical constructions in English that reveal evidence of the influence of Latin/French in the genre of parliamentary rolls, which were written trilingually.

The following chapter examines particular stylistic changes with regard to the formulation of directives in German made by translators of French cookbooks published from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. The author notes an increased level of formality in the formulations found in later texts which, according to the author, subsequently influenced the textual conventions of German cookbooks.

In the second section of the book, dedicated to investigations of recent linguistic changes, two studies consider the extent to which English lexico-grammatical features typical of a certain text type occur in German translations and in German parallel texts. The final chapter examines non-translated written discourse of bilingual speakers of Faroe and Danish for the transfer of communicative conventions.

Encompassing synchronic studies, the final section looks at how contact with English has induced lexico-grammatical or textual changes in particular text types in Japanese, German, Spanish, and the Salish languages. The discourse genres studied include corporate reports, newspapers, and oral language. Specifically, one study examines the use of personal pronouns as a variable to indicate the application of a ‘cultural filter’ in Japanese and English translated corporate reports. Another study investigates the infiltration of English lexico-grammatical features in a major United States–based Spanish newspaper and concludes that, contrary to expectations, it is not lexical items but the diffusion of particular morphosyntactic items typical of English that can be found in Spanish journalistic writing in the United States.

One study on oral language is included in this compilation. Looking at variations on the conventional verb-initial word order of Salish languages, the author refutes earlier claims that instances of subject-initial word order arose through language contact with English, postulating rather that this variation was pragmatically motivated.

This collection of corpus-based studies documents contact-induced lexico-grammatical and textual influence on a target language, in terms of either translation or discourse conventions in a second language with prestigious status within a given discourse community. Owing to the book’s strong empirical approach, the studies avoid the prescriptive and normative tendency common in the translation field. This book is a suitable companion to studies in translation and language variation at graduate level.

The phraseological view of language

The phraseological view of language: A tribute to John Sinclair. Ed. by Thomas Herbst, Susen Faulhaber, Peter Uhrig. Berlin: De Grutyer Mouton, 2011. Pp. 324. ISBN 9783110256888. $140 (Hb).

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, University of Nizwa

This monograph of sixteen original papers is the product of workshop held at the University of Erlangen (Germany) in 2007, shortly after the death of John Sinclair. Comprising four sections, this book unites theoretical and applied studies on phraseology. The initial two chapters provide an insightful synthesis of Sinclair’s professional life and his contribution to linguistics. The subsequent sections focus on theoretical and pedagogical aspects of collocation studies, variation in phraseological language, and computational studies.

The second section comprises studies on Sinclair’s idiom principle. Several authors extend the original concept by distinguishing different types of idiomatic combinations. The first chapter introduces the term ‘probabeme’ to refer to combinations perceived as semantically transparent units of meaning but which involve an element of unpredictability in combination. The following chapter introduces the principle of creativity, in recognition of the semantic unpredictability of much descriptive language in the literary genre. Another chapter describes an analytical model to identify ‘second order collocations’, that is, the occurrence of combinations which depend on the presence or absence of other lexical items.

Other chapters in this section focus on pedagogical aspects of multiple-word combinations. Sylviane Granger provides a critical overview of the lexical approach, noting how the approach has developed over the decades to reach a relatively comfortable co-existence in the classroom with the grammatical syllabus and has led to a gradual lexicalization of language teaching materials. This is followed by observations on learning collocational chunks in a foreign language, and suggestions regarding lexicographical entries for such collocations. In the final chapter of this section, Nadja Nesselhauf compares variation in collocations and prepositional verbs in a corpus of texts of English as a second language (ESL) with results from English as a foreign language (EFL) and native language corpora; she finds numerous similarities in the variations used by ESL and EFL users.

Studies in the third section of the book focus on aspects of change. Christian Mair describes the use of spoken and written corpora to trace changes over time in morphosyntactic features of English and suggests that linguistic changes in spoken or written language may occur relatively autonomously. The following chapter focuses on variation in multi-word units in British and American dialects. Ute Römer investigates the phraseology of evaluative utterances in a book review corpus, ultimately concluding that both the phraseological structures and the meanings they express were particular to this genre. The section’s final chapter uses native speaker and EFL corpora to investigate the relation between the degree of collocational density and perceived level of difficulty of the texts. In the final section, Ulrich Heid’s corpus study of German verb-noun collocations concludes that besides morphosyntactic features, semantic, and pragmatic features of these multi-word units need to be considered.

The methodology used in many studies of these studies is not always straightforward, underscoring the fact that arriving at appropriate procedures to investigate phraseology still requires some inventiveness on behalf of the researcher. This text will be of great interest to graduate-level students of semantics, phraseology, and translation studies.

Leadership, discourse and ethnicity

Leadership, discourse and ethnicity. By Janet Holmes, Meredith Marra, and Bernadette Vine. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. 194. ISBN 9780199730742. $99 (Hb).

Reviewed by Louisa Buckingham, University of Nizwa

This monograph of eight chapters is the result of collaborative research by the Wellington Language of the Workplace project, led by the coauthors. The book investigates the discourse of leadership in four New Zealand private sector workplaces, which reflect, either Maori or Pākehā (New Zealanders of European ethnic descent) cultural values and norms. Using the social constructionist framework, this discourse analysis study investigates the negotiation of meaning and the maintenance of social relationships through talk, using data compiled from observations of workplace meetings, interviews, and discussions. The main findings are discussed in Chs. 3–7. Each chapter contains numerous excerpts of workplace conversations or narratives from both Maori and Pākehā organizations, which illustrate but also contrast the discursive and social norms of these two ethnic communities.

Ch. 3 analyzes how leadership is constructed and enacted during various workplace communicative events and begins to introduce the discursive and relational aspects of leadership enactment that distinguish Pākehā from Maori norms. One such difference is the Maori tendency toward self-deprecation and the avoidance of self-promotional behavior. This is contrasted with a tendency displayed by New Zealander workplace leaders of European descent to assert their leadership role through self-oriented, self-promotional talk.

Ch. 4 examines the structure and interactional norms of workplace meetings. In Pākehā-dominant organizations, the opening and closing of meetings tends to be brief and informal. In Maori cultural environments, however, the opening of work meetings may follow traditional protocol, depending on the size and formality of the meeting. Interaction between the attendees may also contrast in the two cultural environments. Unlike the New Zealand European meeting norms in which overlapping speaker turns are avoided, according to Maori cultural practice, a degree of background meeting-related talk is appropriate during a speaker’s turn; this is interpreted as interest in (rather than disinterest in) issues raised by the speaker.

Ch. 5 looks at how leaders use relational talk to maintain and direct workplace relationships. The authors note that, while senior staff at both Pākehā- and Maori-run organizations make ample use of relational talk, in Maori cultural environments, such talk is more likely to encompass family-related topics. Maori leaders may more likely use relational talk as an indirect channel to convey particular messages to staff, and use humor to navigate potential conflict. Ch. 6 examines how leadership is shared in organizations through co-leadership roles. Ch. 7, devoted to an analysis of different styles of Maori leadership, discusses how Maori values increasingly influence social norms in Pākehā-dominated workplaces.

Suitable for graduate-level work, this very readable study contributes to the limited research available on the enactment of leadership by indigenous peoples.

An introduction to the grammar of Old English

An introduction to the grammar of Old English: A systemic functional approach. By Michael Cummings. Sheffield: Equinox, 2010. Pp. xiv, 170. ISBN 9781845533649. $45.

Reviewed by Mikael Thompson, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

The title of this book is misleading, for it is written for an audience that has already been introduced to Old English: Cummings assumes his readers have already studied Old English morphology (3) and restricts himself to syntax. In fact, ‘The primary purpose of this book is to bring the Old English historical dialect into the purview of systemic functional linguistics’ (1). Thus, his treatment of syntax is highly condensed and serves to illustrate the principles of systemic functional grammar, the approach to language pioneered by M.K. Halliday.

Ch. 1 is a concise overview of systemic functional linguistics. In this view, language has three primary purposes underlying three distinct perspectives on language use: as a means of communicating shared experience of reality (the ideational perspective), as negotiating cooperative activity (the interpersonal perspective), and as objectifying itself (the textual perspective) (5–6). Each perspective structures part of the grammar of a language. Ch. 2 discusses the interpersonal perspective, in which each speech act is seen as an exchange: either an offer or a demand for either goods and services or information (34–36). Four fundamental moods are defined thereby, three of which are encoded distinctly in Old English by the order (if the elements occur) of the subject and the finite verb form.

Ch. 3 concerns the experiential perspective, one of the two major divisions of the ideational perspective. All events are classified into six broad types of processes with associated participants; this perspective, thus, underlies case, voice, and role. In Ch. 4, the means of linking units into longer units of text are introduced; the fundamental distinction is between theme and rheme. Ch. 5 treats the structure of groups and phrases (the difference appears to be that modifiers are obligatory in phrases, optional in groups), and Ch. 6 treats complexes, units made up of smaller units of the same class. Finally, Ch. 7 discusses cohesion (anaphora, pronouns, comparison, etc.) and metaphor.

This book will, of course, appeal to linguists who work in or are interested in systemic functional linguistics. It will also be worth reading by students of Old English who seek a more broadly philosophical approach than traditional grammar, and with less technical detail than other schools of linguistics. However, because of its concision and the prerequisite experience it assumes, its appeal to most general readers is likely to be small. It is not suited to serve as a textbook for Old English classes but should be useful extra reading for more advanced students, for it treats a number of issues in a coherent framework, such as the large-scale organization of text, that are less touched on in textbooks.

The dialects of Irish: Study of a changing landscape

The dialects of Irish: Study of a changing landscape. By Raymond Hickey. (Trends in linguistics: Studies and monographs 230.) Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2011. Pp. xi, 508. ISBN 9783110238044. $168 (Hb). Includes DVD.

Reviewed by David Elton Gay, Bloomington, IN

In the preface to The dialects of Irish: Study of a changing landscape, Raymond Hickey writes that his book is ‘intended as an overview of present-day dialects of the Irish language for both scholars and students who interested in Irish but do not necessarily have prior experience with the language’ (v).

Irish orthography is notoriously difficult, and thus those unfamiliar with it would do well to read Appendix 2, ‘The orthography of Irish’ (392–404), before reading the rest of the book. This appendix outlines how Irish orthography works, and though it does not remove all difficulty for the newcomer, it will help the newcomer make sense of what seems to be a chaotic orthography.

The book is divided into four parts, with each part divided into further subsections for specific topics. Part 1 (1–26) is a general survey of modern Irish—who speaks it, with whom, when, and how many people now speak Irish. Part 2 (27–104) is a survey of the sound system of Irish. Here H notes that his ‘aim is to make general statements about the dialects of Irish and hence demonstrate overall phonetic patterning across the varieties of the language’ (32).

Part 3 (105–384) is a survey of the dialects themselves. The first subsection in Part 3 examines the decline of the Irish language, the problem of reconstructing the historical distribution of Irish dialects, and the formation of the dialects. This is followed by a brief subsection on the data collection for this book. There is a long subsection on the phonology of the dialects, followed by subsections on grammatical and lexical differences. The fourth subsection covers the prosody of the dialects; the fifth, reconstruction of the dialects; and the final subsection is on the sociolinguistics of the dialects.

Part 4 of the book (385–430) is composed of the appendixes. Subsections here include brief comments on the history of Irish; early studies of Irish (including the bardic tracts); early grammars of Irish; the orthography and transcription of Irish; and samples of spoken Irish, which include information on how to use the DVD that comes with the book. The book also has a very useful glossary as well as an excellent bibliography on Irish dialects.

There are a few misprints in the book, though I only noted one of significance: in example 25 (78), the pronoun sé/sí (he/she) is used in all four sample sentences, but the transcription and translation make it clear that in each of the second sample sentences sé/sí should read muid (we) instead.

The dialects of Irish: Study of a changing landscape is an excellent survey of modern Irish dialects. It will, in fact, become the standard account of the dialects of modern Irish; and it is, in general, accessible to those who do not know Irish.


Linguistics. Ed. by Anne E. Baker and Kees Hengeveld. (Introducing linguistics.) Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. Pp. 472. ISBN 9780631230366. $44.95.

Reviewed by Kanavillil Rajagopalan, State University at Campinas

This is the fifth volume in the series ‘Introducing linguistics’. All of the contributing authors are from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam. The book is ‘a revision and adaptation’ (1) of the 2002 edition, which itself incorporated parts of another work assembled by the same editors and was published in Dutch a decade earlier.

The book is presented by the editors as a broad survey of the discipline, intended for students. It is comprised of twenty chapters and covers a wide range of topics, grouped into six parts. Part 1, ‘Language and language faculty’, contains two chapters: ‘From language to linguistics’ and ‘The language user’. These chapters lay down practically the entire gamut of basic principles and guiding assumptions of contemporary linguistics.

An interesting feature of Parts 2, 3, and 4 is that they approach language from the outside in rather than following the customary route from the inside out. That is to say, the chapters do not first focus on the smallest units of language, namely speech sounds, and then go on to look at larger units, such as text and discourse. Instead, the progression of chapters moves in the opposite direction—from discourse toward sounds, through sentences and words.

Part 2, ‘Language and interaction’, contains two chapters, ‘Discourse’ and ‘Speech acts’, paving the way for Part 3. Part 3, ‘Sentences and their meaning’, contains five chapters, covering units such as constituents and simple and complex sentences. Narrowing the focus further, Part 4, ‘Words and their meaning’, consists of three chapters on topics including lexicon, word formation, and compounds and idioms. Part 5 deals with phonetics and phonology.

Part 6, ‘Languages and communities’, broadens the focus to look at culture and how it impacts language, especially language variation, language change, and bilingualism—this last one being a hot-button issue, particularly in the context of language policy and education in many countries of the world.

Overall, this book covers practically the entire spectrum of research areas within the discipline of linguistics. The chapters are clearly written for the uninitiated and, at the same time, the authors are keen to present state-of-the-art introductions to their respective areas of specialization. Each chapter is accompanied by a succinct summary, a self-test, along with assignments and suggestions for further reading. Key terms are presented in boldface.

In the book’s preface, the editors emphasize their educational aims and note the importance of comments they received about the earlier editions in making sure that this edition is user-friendly. This book has a joint list of bibliographical references, a separate list of the sources of illustrations, and an index of key proper nouns and topics.

An introduction to element theory

An introduction to element theory. By Phillip Backley.Edinburgh:EdinburghUniversity Press, 2011. Pp. xiv, 210. ISBN 9780748637430. $40.

Reviewed by Natalie Operstein, California State University Fullerton

This book introduces element theory (ET), which assumes that the primitive units of segment organization are elements rather than features. The conceptual equivalents of elements are used in several phonological frameworks, but this introduction assumes that elements are flexible enough to be used independently of any particular theory of phonology. The book consists of a preface and five chapters.

Ch. 1, ‘A Theory of elements’, provides the conceptual background for the book by motivating the use of elements as an alternative to traditional features. The discussion essentially centers on two points. The first is that, unlike features, elements are capable of capturing the linguistic knowledge shared by both speakers and hearers; this distinguishes them from articulatorily defined features, which privilege the speaker, and from acoustically defined features, which privilege the hearer. The second point addresses the fact that, unlike most features, elements are monovalent in the sense of representing only positive properties of segments. This allows ET to avoid the pitfall of making incorrect predictions about the behavior of sounds.

The remaining chapters introduce the elements themselves. Ch. 2 ‘Elements for vowels’ introduces the resonance elements |I U A| and shows how they are used to represent vowel contrasts and phonological processes. The chapter also demonstrates how the resonance elements may be used to model the vowel system of English (received pronunciation). Ch. 3, ‘Place elements in consonants’, shows how the same elements are used to represent consonant place. In the version of ET adopted in this book, the |I| element represents palatal resonance in palatals and some coronals, the |U| element is used for labials and velars, and the |A| element for pharyngeals and some coronals; the subgroups within each group are distinguished by using the notion of headedness. The same notion is also used in representation of consonants with complex resonance, such as uvulars and labiodentals.

Ch. 4, ‘Manner elements in consonants’, introduces the remaining elements |ʔ H L|, which represent the ET alternative to laryngeal and manner features. Each element may stand for a range of properties. Specifically, the stop element |ʔ| represents occlusion in stops, nasals, and laterals, and is also found in ejectives, implosives, and laryngealized vowels. The noise element |H| represents frication in fricatives, audible release in stops, voicelessness or aspiration in obstruents, generally, and high tone in tone languages. Finally, the nasal element |L| represents nasality in nasal consonants and vowels, voicing in obstruents, and low tone in tone languages. The last chapter in the book, ‘Liquids, licensing and antagonistic elements’, explores the structure of liquids and the relationship among the elements, as well as between elements and the units of prosodic structure.

Although it is primarily an introduction to ET, this book also provides a good overview of segmental phonology. Throughout the book, elements are systematically compared with features, and ET with feature theory, with respect to their predictions about the behavior of sounds and the shape of sound systems. The book is written accessibly, frequently mentions alternative analyses of the data, and illustrates each point with abundant examples from English and other languages.

The Cambridge handbook of endangered languages

The Cambridge handbook of endangered languages. Ed. by Peter K. Austin and Julia Sallabank. (Cambridge handbooks in language and linguistics.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. xii, 567. ISBN 9780521882156. $150 (Hb).

Reviewed by Natalie Operstein, California State University Fullerton

The issue of language endangerment has received increasing attention in recent years. The book under review reflects this trend by offering a thorough overview of the topic. It consists of twenty-two chapters and an introduction by the editors.

Part 1, ‘Endangered languages’, opens with a chapter by Lenore A. Grenoble, which surveys the causes of language shift and mechanisms for assessing the level of endangerment. Colette Grinevald and Michel Bert discuss differences among endangered-language communities and propose a dynamic model for classifying types of endangered-language speakers. In his chapter, David Bradley outlines the current state of endangerment among the world’s languages. Carmel O’Shannessy discusses how contact-induced change is evaluated by minority-language communities, and Naomi Palosaari and Lyle Campbell discuss endangered-language contributions to linguistic theory and typology, and the structural consequences of obsolescence for these languages’ grammars. Closing this section, Lev Michael explores some of the cultural consequences of language shift, and Bernard Spolsky surveys the social dimensions of language management.

Part 2, ‘Language documentation’, opens with a chapter by Anthony C. Woodbury, which evaluates the scholarly and community contexts of endangered-language documentation and calls for a broadly inclusive coordination of academic and popular agendas in the design of documentation projects. In their chapter, Lise M. Dobrin and Josh Berson highlight the ethical dimensions of work with endangered languages. Jeff Good surveys the collection, storage, and manipulation of primary data in language documentation. Chapters by Lisa Conathan andby David Nathan outline the principles and practices for the organization, management, and archiving of durable documentary corpus materials.

Part 3, ‘Responses’, opens with Julia Sallabank’s chapter, which considers language management issues in relation to the maintenance and revitalization of endangered languages. Leanne Hinton discusses the many forms language revitalization can take, and the role of linguistics in these initiatives. Friederike Lüpke looks at the role of orthography in language documentation and the various practical, linguistic, cultural, and identity-related factors that influence the development of orthographies for unwritten languages. Ulrike Mosel discusses problems typical of lexicographic work in language-documentation projects, such as the challenge of producing work which would satisfy the minority-speech community without compromising the scholarly standards of the field. In their chapter, Serafin M. Coronel-Molina and Teresa L. McCarty present case studies of curriculum design and evaluation informed by local language-planning goals, and Gary Holton discusses the potential of information technology to support language maintenance efforts.

Part 4, ‘Challenges’, opens with a chapter by Wayne Harbert that discusses the economic status of endangered-language communities and its implications for the viability of their languages. Anthony Jukes outlines the skills needed for work in language documentation and conservation, and identifies the main types of target audiences in language-documentation training courses. In her chapter, Máiréad Moriarty evaluates the potential benefits of the new role of endangered languages in the media, internet, and pop culture. Finally, Claire Bowern discusses the general principles and key stages of a language-documentation project, from finding sources of funding to the main project phases and possible outcomes.

Theoretically informed and replete with advice from practitioners in the field, this handbook will be of interest to a wide range of scholars, students, and general readers interested in language endangerment and related issues.