Monthly Archives: November 2012

The handbook of intercultural discourse and communication

The handbook of intercultural discourse and communication. Ed. by Christina Bratt Paulston, Scott F. Kiesling, and Elizabeth S. Rangel. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. Pp. 552. ISBN 9781405162722. $174.95 (Hb).

Reviewed by Abby Forster, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

This book is composed of twenty-three chapters that provide a theoretical and practical overview of the field of intercultural discourse and communication (IDC). The book is divided into five parts organized from the theoretical to increasingly practical.

Part 1 (1–60) contextualizes the field historically. Ingrid Piller’s chapter provides a critical discussion of the field centered on the problematic ‘culture’ concept. Leila Monaghan describes the origins of and connections between related approaches in anthropology, linguistics, intercultural communication, and discourse analysis. John Edwards gives a review of typologies that have been developed for the analysis of language contact and presents his own typological framework.

Part 2 (61–132) contains the richest theoretical chapters of the book. These include John J. Gumpertz and Jenny Cook-Gumpertz’s chapter on interactional sociolinguistics, Scott F. Kiesling’s chapter on the ethnography of speaking, Ryuko Kubota’s chapter on critical approaches, and Suresh Canagarajah’s chapter on postmodernism and world Englishes. These four chapters touch on methodological issues and overlapping topics while covering the most influential theoretical perspectives in IDC.

Part 3 (133–228) provides a rich survey of key discourse phenomena that have been the focus of much study in intercultural discourse contact. It is comprised of chapters on turn-taking, silence, indirectness, and politeness, written by Deborah Tannen, Ikuko Nakane, Michael Lempert, and Janet Holmes, respectively.

Part 4 (229–364) contains five chapters exploring specific cases in which IDC analyses have been performed. Eirlys E. Davies and Abdelali Bentahila offer a critical analysis of the literature on Arab-Anglo communications. Steven Brown, Brenda Hayashi, and Kikue Yamamoto present a study of communication between Standard Japanese speakers in Japan and Standard English speakers in the United States. In a chapter on stereotyping, Lars Fant explores the discursive construction of self-and-other identities in interviews with Latin Americans and Scandinavians. Building on this theme, Maria Sifianou and Arin Bayraktarogul argue for the importance of historical and situational aspects of communicative problems in their analysis of Greek and Turkish communication in a Turkish serial drama. Language policy and vocational language learning among students of healthcare and law in South Africa is addressed in Russell H. Kashula and Pamela Maseko’s chapter. In the final chapter of the section, Rocio Fuentes provides a critical discourse analysis of market interactions between indigenous and mestizo groups in Mexico.

The final section of the book, Part 5 (365–495), moves beyond the geographical and cultural categories to focus on specific domains in which IDC has been practically applied. The chapters cover translation, business communication, law, medicine, education, and religion. The chapters are written by Eiryls E. Davies, John Hooker, Diana Eades, Claudia V. Angelelli, Amanda J. Godley, and Jonathan M. Watt.

The handbook is largely successful in striking a balance between a theoretical and historical overview and practical applications. While it does succeed in showing range, however, it lacks the depth that more advanced students may be looking for. Researchers and students looking for starting points, on the other hand, will benefit from this book.


The sound of Indo-European

The sound of Indo-European: Phonetics, phonemics, and morphophonemics. Ed. by Benedicte Nielsen Whitehead, Thomas Olander, Birgit Anette Olsen, and Jens Elmegård Rasmussen. (Copenhagen studies in Indo-European 4.) Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2012. Pp. 630. ISBN 9788763538381. $116 (Hb).

Reviewed by Jean-François Mondon, Minot State University

This book contains twenty-nine papers, all in English aside from three in German, selected from a conference held in Copenhagen in 2009. A wide breadth of daughter branches of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) receive ample coverage in this book. Due to space limitations, only a sampling of the articles can be highlighted here.

 Aaron Griffith’s ‘Non-raising before *m in Old Irish’ proposes that PIE *e did not raise before lenited *m, allowing him to account for four recalcitrant forms more easily, particularly teimel ‘darkness’. In ‘Lenition of s in Gaulish?’ David Stifter sifts through Gaulish data, concluding that there was no deletion of s across the board, but rather loss in specific environments. Nicholas Zair’s ‘A new environment for laryngeal loss in Proto-Celtic’ highlights the gains that are achieved by assuming laryngeal loss in *-RHT- clusters in Proto-Celtic, not the least of which is a clear derivation of Old Irish do.cer ‘fell’. Anders Richardt Jørgensen, in ‘Palatalization of *sk in British Celtic’, proposes that *sk yielded*hṷ initially before a front vowel and *x medially before *y.

 Brent Vine’s ‘PIE mobile accent in Italic: Further evidence’ is an exciting paper that shows evidence of a Latin sound law raising *e to i in unstressed positions with respect to PIE accent. Michael Frotscher offers an interesting proposal on the development of *-ṛ in Latin and Vedic. In Latin, the outcomes are conditioned by the preceding consonant, while in Sanskrit the outcomes are conditioned by the placement of the accent. In ‘Predicting Indo-European syllabification through phonotactic analysis’, Andrew Miles Byrd refines the input to the rule of laryngeal loss from *CH.CC > C.CC to *TH.CC and also offers motivation for the metron-rule. Paul S. Cohen and Adam Hyllested’s ‘A new sound law of PIE: Initial **h3> *h2’ accounts for the paucity of *h3before *ṷ word-initially, in addition to offering cleaner derivations for certain words that formerly forced the assumption of a non-ablauting *a.

 Eugen Hill, in ‘Hidden sound laws in the inflectional morphology of Proto-Indo-European’, takes up an idea of Warren Cowgill’s and derives the first-person singular of thematic verbs from *-o-mi, postulating an early PIE rule and examining its repercussions. Martin Joachim Kümmel’s ‘Typology and reconstruction’ evaluates various versions of the glottalic theory as well as certain oddities of qualitative ablaut. Paul Widmer, in ‘Notiz zur holokinetischen Ablautklasse’, delves into the problem of why holokinetic inflectional patterns can be built from all other types of inflectional classes, concluding that optional locative endings were misanalyzed as the full grade ending of a holokinetic stem.  Georges-Jean Pinault, in ‘Remarks on PIE amphikinetic and hysterokinetic nouns’, also deals with holokinetic nouns but derives them from a type of vṛddhied hysterokinetic class.Finally, Zsolt Simon’s chapter, ‘PIE “me” and a new Lydian sound law’, proposes that *h1R- > aR- in Lydian which forces a slight tweaking of the reconstruction of PIE personal pronouns.

Apart from the lack of a word-index, this book is of high quality, with very few typographical errors, and is a necessity for anyone interested in the latest developments in Indo-European linguistics.

Phonological architecture

Phonological architecture: A biolinguistic perspective. By Bridget D. Samuels. (Oxford studies in biolinguistics.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. 272. ISBN 9780199694365. $47.68.

Reviewed by Natalie Operstein, California State University Fullerton

This book by Bridget D. Samuels is concerned with the interface between generative linguistics (primarily phonology, and to some extent syntax) and selected aspects of evolutionary biology. The book consists of five substantive chapters, an introduction, and a conclusion.

The introductory chapter provides a brief but detailed preview of the book’s contents. Ch. 2, ‘A minimalist program for phonology’, sets the scene for the substantive discussion by outlining S’s views on the aims of a minimalist type of biolinguistic phonological theory. A significant portion of this chapter is devoted to a discussion of evolutionary phonology, which S views as complementary to the synchronic theory of phonology she argues for. The chapter is supplemented with a wealth of bibliographical references on the minimalist syntactic framework and related topics.

Ch. 3, ‘Phonology in evolutionary perspective’, is the most accessible for readers interested in evolutionary linguistics but without necessarily being versed in the intricacies of minimalism. The aim of this chapter is to determine how many of the cognitive abilities necessary for the phonological module of human language are present in non-linguistic domains and in species other than our own. With this aim in mind, S examines a range of studies in animal cognition and finds that each of the building blocks of phonology—categorical perception and the ability to group objects, extract patterns from data, and learn arbitrary associations—are found in the animal kingdom, particularly among birds and primates. This leads S to conclude that human phonology may be explainable through a combination of properties of general cognition and the sensory-motor system.

The remaining chapters are devoted to outlining the place of phonology within the architecture of the language faculty. This part of the book is more technical in nature and less accessible to the general reader. Ch. 4, ‘The syntax-phonology interface’, considers in detail how phonology interfaces with morphology and syntax. The discussion offered here is provisional, in the sense of being dependent on the latest proposals of syntactic theory, and consequently subject to change. Ch. 5, ‘Representations and primitive operations’, argues for a non-hierarchical (‘flat’) organization of phonology at different levels, including sub-segmental and syllabic. This chapter introduces the primitive operations SEARCH, COPY, and DELETE; demonstrates how they may account for selected phonological processes, such as vowel harmony; and attempts to identify evolutionarily equivalent operations in other cognitive domains, such as foraging for food, and in other species, such as chimpanzees. Finally, Ch. 6, ‘Linguistic variation’, discusses the sources of linguistic variation, while the concluding chapter briefly recapitulates the main points.

This study raises interesting and worthwhile questions; however, it would have benefited from a more theory-neutral approach by providing more lasting solutions that would be less susceptible to the vicissitudes of rapidly changing theoretical perspectives. Formulating the hypotheses in theory-neutral terms, furthermore, would also have made the book more accessible to the general reader.

Language across difference

Language across difference: Ethnicity, communication, and youth identities in changing urban schools. By Django Paris. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. 226. ISBN 9780521193375. $100 (Hb).

Reviewed by Abby Forster, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

In this book, Django Paris follows eight South Vista High School students for one year, observing multiethnic linguistic practices in their community. South Vista High School is comprised entirely of students of color, and the student body has rapidly shifted from a historically African American majority to a Latino majority. Hyper-marginalized ethnolinguistic groups, of which Samoan is prominently featured in the book, also contribute to the school’s diversity. P employs a humanizing ethnographic approach in which both the participants and researchers work to decrease inequalities (9). In order to understand how to bring ‘pluralist repertoires of practice’ into curriculum and pedagogy, P studies how language use among the students (in ‘youth space’) works to solidify, exclude, and unify them (13).

Ch. 1 (1–23) introduces the South Vista community and the major themes of the book. The next three chapters focus on the three major ethnolinguistic groups in South Vista High School. Ch. 2 (24–55) explores the role of the Spanish language for both Spanish-speaking students and non–Spanish-speaking students. Ch. 3 (56–80) focuses on speakers of the hyper-marginalized Samoan language. Ch. 4 (81–118) explores the ways in which African American Language (AAL) has become a shared language resource in the youth space of the high school, and an interlude (119–25) discusses pedagogical implications. Ch. 5 (126–62) describes the role of three major textual practices (worn texts, delivered texts, and flowed (rapped) texts) in maintaining and challenging ethnolinguistic lines. Ch. 6 (163–74) proposes changes in schooling that support language pluralism. Finally, the appendix (175–84) contains notes on the research methods used.

As he participates in youth life, P shows how linguistic practices are integral to the students’ identities in their social groups and within their larger communities. He finds numerous opportunities for linguistic crossing (e.g. when students use the language of their peers, whether or not such language use is ratified), and these moments are integral to youth identity and empowerment. P also reveals opportunities for linguistic sharing (e.g. ratified uses of peer language) in youth space (14).

P largely succeeds in his goal to reveal the students’ ‘shouts of affirmation, shouts of identity and cultural worth in the face of the vastness of oppression’ (1) asserted in their linguistic practices. However, this is the backdrop to his larger call for changes in education. At the end of each chapter, P asserts a call for a ‘pedagogy of pluralism’ (55). For example, instead of segregating Spanish-speakers and non–Spanish-speakers, he argues for grouping these students together for Spanish classes so that they can share their linguistic resources within the educational space. Overall, this book is an accessible text for anyone interested in youth, identity, language, and education.


An introduction to Vlach grammar

An introduction to Vlach grammar. By John Marangozis. (Languages of the world 39.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2010. Pp. 158. ISBN 9783895868979. $103 (Hb).

Reviewed by Jason Merchant, University of Chicago

This short potpourri of information about the Vlach language and its speakers clearly represents a labor of love for its author. Unfortunately, for the field of linguistics, it does not represent a labor of scholarship, consistency, attentive editing, or insight. It contains four short chapters, ‘Vlach alphabet and Vlach scripture’ (5–8), ‘Vlach phonology’ (9–20), ‘Morphology’ (22–56), and ‘Vlachs and the Greek revolution of 1821 / Πολεμικά τραγούδια–Επική ποίηση’ [Songs of war–Epic poetry] (59–73), followed by a brief bibliography (74–76), an index, and a Greek–Vlach glossary (alphabetized by the Greek lemma, with English glosses after the Vlach) (79–141). The text vacillates between English and Greek, and the best that can be said of this book is that the list of apparently randomly chosen words from Greek translated into Vlach, which constitutes almost half the book, is at the very least useful as one person’s record of how certain words were pronounced. No information is given about the source of any of the data, nor for any of the historical claims (e.g. the author claims to have written a study of Epirotes but does not cite it).

It is clear that the text is innocent of any revision by a competent writer of English: fricatives are called ‘rubbed’ (a mistranslation of the Greek τριβόμενα), Greek γένος ‘gender’ is rendered as ‘gene’ (also in Latin), ‘neuter’ comes out as ‘neutral’, and we read that ‘[v]erbs are seemed to by syntaxed with the Syzyyia I’ (14). The only part of this book that may have been of interest to scholars, the glossary, is marred by the complete absence of any grammatical information about any of the words (e.g. no indications about gender, declension, or conjugation class). Although the author includes in his bibliography the grammars of Gustav Ludwig Weigand (Die Sprache der Olympo-Walachen, 1888) and Nikolaos Katsanis and Kostas Dinas (Γραμματική της Κοινής Κουτσοβλαχικής, 1990), it is clear that he was unable to profit from their more proficient descriptions: those grammars remain the best sources on the language in German and Greek, respectively.

Finally, it is sad to note that the best description of Vlach in any language goes unreferenced here: Zbigniew Gołąb’s masterful grammar (The Arumanian dialect of Kruševo in SR Macedonia, SFR Yugoslavia, 1984) is uncited. Scholars and libraries would likely be better served by this grammar in contrast with the present one under review.

Duels and duets: Why men and women talk so differently

Duels and duets: Why men and women talk so differently. By John L. Locke. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp .ix, 241. ISBN 9780521887137. $17.

Reviewed by Ece SevgiYeditepe University

Men duel by intimidating their rivals in competition for the things that they need, while women duet by sharing their intimate thoughts and feelings in harmonious ways to achieve their goals. To John L. Locke, this is how men and women differ in their verbal behavior. Is there a reason that men and women exhibit such differences in the way they talk? Do these differences affect communication between them? Are we influenced by the way we communicate judgments about the opposite sex? The eight chapters in Duels and duets seek answers to these questions, focusing on the terms ‘dueling’ and ‘dueting’ and on how they complement each other.

L’s opening chapter, ‘Speech, sex, and gender’ (1–22), introduces the topic of comparing the communicative interactions between people of the opposite sex to interactions when people are with ‘their own kind’. L claims that men and women experience a clash in their conversations, and he lists some possible causes of this clash. This introduction is followed by two subheadings: ‘Gender and sex’ and ‘Vocal differences’, in which L further discusses from where the basic differences between the preferences of males and females stem by supplying the reader with research findings on learned behavior together with the cultural and biological factors that contribute to these differences.

Ch. 2, ‘Duels’ (23–59), consists of seventeen sections looking into several types of oral duels. The next chapter, ‘Bards, heroes, romeos, and clowns’ (60–75), focuses on solo performances by men and questions the need for dialogue in dueling. Ch. 4, ‘Why do men duel?’ (76–101), as the name would suggest, searches for an answer to the question ‘Why do men consume their energy to run verbal battles against each other?’. The following chapter, ‘Duets’ (102–16), takes the focus off of men and places it on the talk of women. Throughout the chapter, L discusses the goal of the participants involved and the style used in duets, which he defines as ‘[v]erbal interactions involving the mutual exchange of intimate human material…an exchange that occurs in a context of closeness and trust’ (105). In Ch. 6 ‘Complicity’ (117–31) and Ch. 7 ‘Why do women duet?’ (132–61), L investigates the nature of the partnership and harmony observed in the verbal interactions of women. In the final chapter in the book, ‘Collaboration in language and in life’ (162–79), L shows the readers that a ‘clash’ between men and women does not necessarily mean war. Basing his ideas on ‘the opposites attract’ theory, he points out the ways that men and women complement each other.

With clear language, L addresses an audience of different ages and backgrounds. His true talent in writing is revealed in that he takes a seemingly simple issue that has been discussed for decades and, without being heavy-handed, is able to engage the reader.

Ute reference grammar

Ute reference grammar. By Talmy Givón. (Culture and language use 3.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. xxiii, 441. ISBN 9789027202840. $165 (Hb).

Reviewed by Edward Vajda, Western Washington University

This full-length grammar of an endangered Numic language spoken in eastern Utah and western Colorado is the culmination of nearly four decades of documentation work by the author in collaboration with native speakers and community educators. Though the description is thoroughly informed by the best traditions of functional grammar, the book was clearly composed with an eye toward using the material for creating language teaching and learning tools as part of ongoing revitalization efforts. To ensure accessibility to an audience broader than theoretical linguists, each section begins with a brief introduction to the general linguistic concepts treated within. All Ute example forms are provided with hyphens indicating morpheme breaks, which elucidate the language’s structure even in the absence of interlinear morpheme glossing. Unresolved problems of a theoretical nature, such as the conditioning factor governing the cooccurrence of uvular allophones of velar /k/ with the dorsal allophone [o] of the phoneme /ɵ/ (18), are mentioned succinctly without becoming the main focus of description. In general, the book succeeds impressively in addressing two audiences: theoretical linguists and pedagogues.

One of the book’s strong points is the attention each section gives to language usage in context. Clear examples illustrate the actual discourse functions of every formal morphological or syntactic category described. Grammatical terminology is always accompanied by clear explanations of carefully chosen example words or sentences. The reader is never left with the task of extrapolating the probable functional content of the language’s formal grammatical categories by analogy with similar terminology used in the description of other languages. For example, the Ute verb system contains a form called the ‘immediate aspect’ (121–23) that in its usage subsumes much of the semantic range of the English present progressive and present perfect forms, but also can be used to express a vivid example when narrating the distant past. The examples in this section superbly illustrate these various uses, so that similarities and distinctions between the Ute immediate aspect and the semantically overlapping English verb forms are fully explicated. Emphasis on pedagogy is evident on nearly every page.

Another valuable feature of the grammar that warrants mention here is the attention paid to the language’s historical development. Most chapters conclude with observations on the morphological origins of the structures described, or included notes on the rise of morphosyntactic patterns. The chapter-length treatments of the origins of Ute case marking (93–115) and passive constructions (263–72) are particularly illuminating. This information not only helps explain synchronic usage, but also ties the reference grammar into broader functional and typological studies of grammaticalization patterns. It also better integrates the book into the rich tradition of Uto-Aztecan historical linguistics.

This reference grammar succeeds as a theoretical description as well as a resource for creating future pedagogical materials. It is planned as the first volume of a three-part work, to be followed by a dictionary and collection of texts. Together these volumes should provide a firm foundation for the practical and scholarly study of Ute language for years to come.

A grammar of Ubykh

A grammar of Ubykh. By Rohan S. H. Fenwick. (LINCOM studies in Caucasian linguistics 19.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2011. Pp. 225. ISBN 9783862880508. $174 (Hb).

Reviewed by Edward J. Vajda, Western Washington University

The Northwest Caucasian (NWC) family contains some of Europe’s most incompletely described languages, which are relatively unknown beyond Russia and the Caucasus region itself. Basic questions remain without consensus regarding their polysynthetic verb structure and typologically marked phonology, which consists of over eighty consonant phonemes and only one to three vowel phonemes. This full-length grammar of the recently extinct Ubykh, one of the family’s three primary branches alongside the Abkhaz and Adyghe dialect continua, is an important contribution to NWC linguistics for several reasons.

Rohan S. H. Fenwick’s authoritative command of existing documentation and earlier treatments of Ubykh sets the cornerstone for this study. The language began to disappear after the 1864 exodus of speakers from their homeland on the north shore of the Black Sea to the Ottoman Empire. Serious documentation began in the late nineteenth century and continued until the passing of the language’s last fully competent native speaker, the celebrated Tevfik Esenç. F’s survey of this material carefully identifies dialectal and idiolectal variation. He also identifies and assesses Ubykh linguistic data collected before the nation’s exodus, most of which was misidentified in the primary source publication as belonging to another NWC language. The brief discussion of loanwords and their probable origins (12–14) is also useful, as are charts providing a historical overview of competing Ubykh transcriptions used in the most important earlier published sources (208–10).

Nearly double the length and detail of most grammars in LINCOM Europa’s Languages of the world/materials series, this book offers a concise but penetratingly thorough treatment of all major aspects of Ubykh phonology and grammar. A chart (25) divides vowel articulations into three phonemes distinguished primarily by tongue height, the allophony conditioned by consonant environment, which F demonstrates to consist of eighty-five phonemes, eighty of which occur in native words, arguably the largest consonant inventory outside of Africa (16–17). Verb morphology receives extensive description, making Ubykh now the most accessibly described language in the NWC family. The descriptions benefit from the author’s comparisons of the same phenomena in related NWC languages, which should facilitate future typological and comparative work on the family. For example, Ubykh has forty-three local and direction preverbs, which occupy a distinct prefixal slot in the verb template (112–16); their description here facilitates a comparison with the 123 local preverbs described for Abkhaz. Interlinear morpheme glosses throughout the book are superb, making the explication of even the most complex facets of the verb morphology extremely easy to follow.

F does not attempt to answer whether NWC has identifiable genealogical ties with other families, giving instead a generalized overview of existing hypotheses. Nor does he answer whether Ubykh is closer to Abkhaz or to Adyghe at an early time in the family’s diversification. The data made available here, particularly regarding Ubykh morphological structure, can help tackle these questions. This book likewise offers a firm basis for future investigations of Ubykh based on still unpublished materials left by earlier scholars.

From the classroom to the courtroom

From the classroom to the courtroom: A guide to interpreting in the U.S. justice system. By Elena M. de Jongh. (American translators association scholarly monograph series.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2012. Pp. 237. ISBN 9789027231949. $49.95.

Reviewed by Mark J. Elson, University of Virginia

Its title notwithstanding, this book is not, in any significant way, about translation, interpretation, or language. The preface describes it accurately as ‘a road map to the complex proceedings of the United States justice system’, stating that ‘its central aim is to provide interpreters with essential information about pretrial, trial, and post-judgment processes’ (xix). The book focuses on English/Spanish court proceedings. With no explanation, the author includes a disclaimer to the effect that ‘matters pertaining to interpretation theory, bilingualism, forensic linguistics, sociolinguistics or discourse theory must necessarily remain outside the limits of this guide’ (xxii). That is, all areas that are relevant to language, and therefore potentially to interpretation, are beyond its scope, which seems difficult to justify given the book’s topic.

The absence of attention to matters of language becomes particularly noticeable in the context of the self-assessment form provided by the author (44). How is one to assess criteria such as use of appropriate grammatical structures, use of appropriate register, or no unwarranted omissions, without reference to some conceptualization and application of grammatical phenomena? The answer remains unclear, as it does in the use of the lexicon of Spanish terms provided as an appendix (165–81). When multiple Spanish renderings are given for a single English item, are we to assume that they are identical in both their denotative and connotative values? If they are not, how do they differ, and how does the difference correlate with legal usage?

With regard to the subject matter that the book does cover, it fares well. The body of the book comprises three parts, each divided into chapters, as follows: court interpreting and due process (3–20); overview of the courts (21–36); pretrial proceedings (37–78); trials (79–150); and sentences and post-trial proceedings (151–62). As a procedural guide, it is excellent, clear, and explicit in its presentation.

Perhaps the most language-oriented information is in the first chapter, where we find discussion of a defendant’s right to a linguistic presence in the courtroom, the need to know the difference between legal English and ordinary English, the difference between translation and interpretation, the modes of interpretation (i.e. simultaneous, consecutive, and sight), and, finally, the qualifications of a court interpreter (12–17).

The modes of interpretation play an important role in the exercises, each of which instructs the student to interpret sample excerpts in one of the modes, for example, the instruction to interpret jury instructions in the simultaneous mode (141). However, the author offers only brief and general discussion of each mode, which is regrettable but unavoidable in view of the exclusion from consideration of grammatical matters as they relate to interpretation.

Readers will find this book useful and of high quality as a guide to legal and courtroom procedure. They will not, I think, find it enlightening in its treatment of courtroom interpretation as such. Competence in courtroom interpretation is not simply a matter of procedure, however important that may be, but also a matter of the extent to which the interpreter functions successfully as the interface between two languages, and that is a linguistic matter.


The life of slang

The life of slang. By Julie Coleman. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. 352. ISBN 9780199571994. $27.95 (Hb).

Reviewed by Kanavillil Rajagopalan, State University at Campinas

This book is a meticulously undertaken study of slang, written in a superbly jovial spirit. It takes a balanced view of this phenomenon, which is pervasive in every language, focusing on English. In its purview is, in the author’s words, ‘slang used throughout the English-speaking world, from the earliest record to the latest tweet’ (ix).

The book is presented in twelve chapters. Each of these chapters is rounded off with a useful closing paragraph titled ‘Conclusions’, in which the principal arguments marshaled in the chapter are recapped. The book includes, in addition, a section containing relevant explanatory notes, a fairly comprehensive bibliography, a word index, and an index of topics and proper nouns.

The book starts with an opening chapter titled ‘What is slang?’ wherein Julie Coleman guides the reader through the welter of confusing, often conflicting, claims about what slang is in order to arrive at a working definition. An interesting tactic employed by C is to use the metaphor of a frog to work through different parts of a frog’s life cycle as a means to talk about slang. Accordingly, Chs. 2 through 5 take the headings ‘Spawning’, ‘Development’, ‘Survival and metamorphosis’, and ‘The spread of slang’.

Ch. 6 is titled ‘Prigs, culls, and blosses: Cant and flash language’. This chapter gives the reader an overview of the development of slang over the years, noting that the word slang itself was first used in the second half of the eighteenth century in the sense of ‘the special vocabulary used by any set of persons of a low or disreputable character; language of a low and vulgar type’ (118).

Ch. 7 discusses slang up to the twentieth century, but the emphasis is on British slang. The scope is broadened in Ch. 8, where the gaze is turned to the other side of the Atlantic, and the growth of slang in the United States is examined. In Ch. 9, the discussion pans out to how English slang found its way to remote places around the world. The final two chapters deal with the contemporary themes of media, entertainment, and the digital age, and how they impact the development and diffusion of slang.

The book ends on a thoughtful note, warning that some of the metaphors characteristically used to discuss slang (including the frog metaphor used by C herself in the book) may mislead people to think that slang is a concrete noun, whereas it actually is an abstract noun. C adds, ‘[e]ven as an abstract noun, it’s problematic’ (306), in that it may give rise to the wrong impression that it is a quality inherent to a word or group of words. C’s own solution to the problem is to offer a new metaphor of slang as an attitude.