Monthly Archives: October 2013

Morphology and language history: In honour of Harold Koch.

Morphology and language history: In honour of Harold Koch. Ed. by Claire Bowern, Bethwyn Evans, and Luisa Miceli. (Current issues in linguistic theory 298.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2008. Pp. x, 364. ISBN 9789027248145. $173 (Hb).
Reviewed by Alexandra Galani, University of Ioannina

Claire Bowern, Bethwyn Evans, and Luisa Miceli put together a collection of twenty-five papers which discuss the various methods used when studying historical morphology. Part 1(‘Genetic relatedness’) opens with Barry Alpher, Geoffrey O’Grady, and Claire Bowern, who bring evidence for the development of Western Torres Strait, whereas Peter Austin investigates the classification of Pinikura. Mark Donohue shows that bound pronominals can also be used as a classification criterion in West Papuan languages, and Margaret Sharpe explains that unsolved morphophonological phenomena prevent researchers from fully supporting the relatedness of Alawa, Mara, and Warndarang. Jane Simpson reconstructs pronominals in Warumungu and compares them to the corresponding forms in neighboring languages as evidence towards the language’s genetic position.

In Part 2 (‘Reconstruction’), Avery Andrews shows how one may use historical morphology to support synchronic morphological theories based on Greek data, whereas Jay H. Jasanoff discusses the reconstruction of the Ancient Greek verb σβέννυμι. Paul Black investigates the pronominal system in Pama-Nyungan languages, and William B. McGregor in his chapter, ‘The origin of noun classes in Worrorran languages’, supports language family classification. John Giacon examines verb specification morphemes in Gamilaraay not only to shed light on its historical development but also for the purposes of language revival. Mark Harvey looks into the origin of conjugational markers in Australian languages, while Luise Hercus and Stephen Morey offer a historical investigation of negatives in Southeastern Australian languages. H. Craig Melchert offers a semantic reconstruction of the adverb duwān in Hittite, and David Nash reconstructs monomorphemic verb roots in Warlpiri, whereas Phil Rose looks at tones in Oujiang Wu through modern acoustics. Grace Koch and Myfany Turpin investigate the language used in Central Australian Aboriginal songs and conclude that it shows a non-archaic behavior. Luisa Miceli compares two methods of reconstruction (inspectional versus comparative method) using data from Australian languages, and, finally, Paul Sidwell uses a bottom-up method of reconstruction to examine verbal morphology in Mon-Khmer.

In Part 3 (‘Processes of change’), Cathryn Donohue reaches generalizations about the morphological realization of case marking of four-place predicates in Old and New Basque, while Bethwyn Evans treats the development of plural in object marking in Marovo as a morphological zero affected by discourse patterns. Anthony J. Liddicoat and Timothy Jowan Curnow investigate the morphological development of the perfect in Jersey Norman French, and Patrick McConvell deals with the reconstruction of kinship affixation patterns in Pama-Nyungan languages. Kim Schulte investigates reconstruction of the plural morphology in Romanian, and following that, John Charles Smith discusses the refunctionalization of first-person plural inflection in Tiwi. Finally, Xiaonong Zhu examines the historical change of chain vowel raising in Chinese.

The book is well organized and coherent. It presents various techniques employed by researchers working on historical morphology. Its strongest advantage is that a wide range of crosslinguistic morphological phenomena, analyses, and theoretical questions are all addressed in a single book.


Mongolian. By Juha A. Janhunen. (London Oriental and African language library 19.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2012. Pp. xv, 320. ISBN 9789027238207. $165 (Hb).
Reviewed by Mikael Thompson, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Juha A. Janhunen has written a thorough study of spoken Mongolian. An introductory chapter (1–20) is followed by chapters on segmental structure (21–55), morpheme structure (57–93), nominal morphology (95–141), verbal morphology (143–84), phrasal syntax (185–222), clausal syntax (223–61), and complex sentences (263–89). The end matter includes the transcription of a folk tale (291–96), a short table of paradigms (297–99), an orthographic chart (301–303), a bibliography (305–11), and a grammatical index. (This reviewer read a preliminary version of the first three chapters and provided some data.) There is little to quibble with in any respect; two topics merit comment.

Mongolian is known among phonologists for its system of vowel harmony, which is usually presented as a front-back opposition with i front but transparent. In fact, due to vowel shifts, most Mongolian dialects are better analyzed as having ATR (advanced tongue root) or pharyngeal harmony in reflexes of modern Mongolian simple vowels, and conditioned fronting of former back vowels has left little phonetic basis to Mongolian vowel harmony (78–79). J treats the vowel system well, but his transcription, based on contemporary pronunciation, is counter-intuitive: digraphs indicate both quality and quantity (e.g. the short vowels ü, u, ö,and o, pronounced roughly [u], [o], [ɯ], and [ɔ], are transcribed u, ou, eu, and o; 34). Moreover, as it differs from the standard transcription and that adopted in Svantesson, Tsendina, Karlsson, and Franzén’s The phonology of Mongolian (Oxford University Press, 2005), this makes his data less accessible.

Morphologically, Mongolian is usually presented as having seven cases. In fact, the status of Mongolian case endings as inflectional endings distinct from derivational endings can be challenged. As Mongolian lacks productive agreement, cases must be defined by verbal and postpositional government, and by alternations in pronominal stems. These criteria do not entirely agree. In addition, some derivational suffixes can be productively added after certain case endings. On this point, J’s analysis could be sharpened: while J treats the suffix -x used to make the predicate form of the genitive and the attributive form of the dative-locative as a nominal case marker of sorts (114–17), it is also used to form the attributive of the instrumental, certain postpositions, and certain adverbial verb forms (e.g. tal-aar ‘with respect to’ < tal ‘side’, tölöö ‘for (beneficiary)’, and -tal4 ‘until’ all may take -x), and should better be treated as a derivational suffix indicating the government of a word form. In general, grammatical roles and functions in Mongolian need detailed re-examination; this book provides a good starting point.

Although Mongolian has been the subject of a significant body of research, a study summarizing and analyzing the language as a whole is needed. This book fills that need. The data are reliable, the coverage is comprehensive, and the treatment of unsettled questions is judicious. It is highly recommended to all Mongolists and will interest many other linguists.