Languages and cultures in contrast and comparison

Languages and cultures in contrast and comparison. Ed. by María de los Ángeles Gómez González, J. Lachlan Mackenzie, and Elsa M. González Álvarez. (Pragmatics and beyond new series 175.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2008. Pp. 364. ISBN 9789027254191. $158 (Hb).

Reviewed by Manuel Padilla Cruz, University of Seville

This volume gathers twelve papers that explore relationships between different languages and the contexts where they are used with a wide array of methodologies. It is organized into three parts, each containing four chapters: ‘Information structure’, ‘Lexis in contrast’, and ‘Contrastive perspectives on SLA’,

‘Themes zones in contrast: An analysis of their linguistic realization in the communicative act of non-acceptance’, by Anita Fetzer, opens Part 1. Using German and British data taken from politicians’ reactions to electoral defeat, the author contrasts nonacceptances in British English and German, focusing on how Theme is related to its textual function and integrates clausal grammar. ‘Last things first: A FDG approach to clause-final focus constituents in Spanish and English’, by Mike Hannay and Elena Martínez Caro, examines Rheme in English and Spanish and discusses whether clause-final constituents in both languages allow for special focus positions. In ‘Contrastive perspectives on cleft sentences’, Jeanette Gundel analyses the distribution and frequency of those constructions in Norwegian and Spanish translations of Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone, revealing that their frequency differs across languages. Then, Ilse Magnus considers the placement of circumstantial adjuncts in Dutch and French in ‘The position of adverbials and the pragmatic organization of the sentence: A comparison of French and Dutch’, showing that some sentence constituents can be focusable.

Part 2 addresses lexical matters. ‘Swedish verbs of perception from a typological and contrastive perspective’, by Ǻke Viberg, analyses these verbs and their patterns of polysemy. In ‘ “Abroad” and semantically related terms in some European languages and in Akan (Ghana)’, Thorstein Fretheim and Nana Aba Appiah Amfo discuss the concepts ‘abroad’ and ‘home’ and their respective semantic fields, arguing that their corresponding expressions in Norwegian and Akan have different denotations. ‘The expression of emotion in Italian and English fairy tales’, by Gabrina Pound, reflects on the similarities and differences in the ways in which emotion is expressed in those languages and cultures, revealing that fairy tales in those languages emphasize various concerns. Finally, Felix Rodríguez González explores some lexical features of effeminate English and Spanish gay men in order to contrast their usage, connotations, and semantic evolution in ‘The feminine stereotype in gay characterization: A look at English and Spanish’.

Part 3 is devoted to contributions of contrastive linguistics and pragmatics to S/FL teaching. ‘Communicative tasks across languages: Movie narratives in English, in English as a foreign language and in German’, by Andreas H. Jucker, is a contrastive analysis of the different ways in which those speakers sequence narrative elements, introduce characters, and report acts of thought and speech. In ‘Linguistic theory and bilingual systems: Simultaneous and sequential English/Spanish bilingualism’, Raquel Fernández Fuentes, Juana M. Liceras, and Esther Álvarez de la Fuente explore bilingual twins’ lexico-grammatical patterns when learning their first languages. Edward D. Benson and Pilar García Mayo reflect on the possibility of raising students’ awareness of the rules of orthography in ‘Awareness of orthographic form and morphophonemic learning in EFL’. Finally, Francisco Gutiérrez Díez examines Spanish learners’ of English errors at the suprasegmental level in ‘Contrastive intonation and error analysis: Tonality and tonicity in the interlanguage of a group of Spanish learners of English’.

Practitioners, scholars, and students in different fields of linguistics will find in this volume valuable and revealing approaches to a wide array of issues that will certainly contribute to a better understanding of linguistic diversity across cultures. Its contents will also suggest new directions for future research and contribute to an enhancement of teaching methodologies.