Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Review: Computational Linguistics; Historical Linguistics: McGillivray (2013)

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

AUTHOR: Barbara  McGillivray
TITLE: Methods in Latin Computational Linguistics
SERIES TITLE: Brill’s Studies in Historical Linguistics
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Onna Adele Nelson, University of California, Santa Barbara

In her book, ”Methods in Latin Computational Linguistics”, Barbara
McGillivary builds off of Piotrowski (2012), offering historical linguists
basic training in quantitative and corpus methods, while offering
computational linguists the interesting challenge of exploring historical data
through the use of several case studies. Chapters 1 and 2 give a general
overview of the fields of Latin linguistics, computational linguistics, and
their intersections. Chapter 3 covers the creation of a verb valency lexicon,
which is a valuable resource for future studies. Chapters 4 and 5 cover a case
study in selectional preferences and argument structure; the former details
the linguistic theory while the latter covers the computational and
statistical methods. Chapters 6 and 7 cover another case study on Latin
preverbs; again, the former details the linguistics while the latter details
the computer science and mathematics. Finally, chapter 8 ties everything
together, defining ”Latin computational linguistics” as a unified field
which needs expertise from a variety of interdisciplinary scholars.
Chapter 1, ”Historical Languages, Corpora, and Computational Methods”,
situates the book for both historical linguists and computational linguists.
This chapter overviews some of the challenges of Latin for computational
linguists, such as the fact that spoken Latin is mostly unknowable, the
dataset is limited because there are no living native speakers, and the
language is morphologically rich with flexible word order. Additionally, the
author introduces the reader to some basic concepts in computational
linguistics, such as corpus annotation, automatic parsing, statistical
significance, and the creation of a well balanced corpus, explaining how each
of these might benefit Latin scholars. McGillivary defines ”Latin” and
”language” as a certain subset of all the available data, for the purposes
of her case studies, and then outlines the remainder of the book by previewing
the case studies covered in later chapters.
Chapter 2, ”Computational Resources and Tools for Latin”, overviews the
currently available corpora and programs for Latin, as well as the steps
necessary to create new tools and resources for Latin. The author points out
that although the Latin Index Thomisticus (Busa 1980) was the first
electronically available corpus in any language, Latin has not kept up with
modern languages such as English and other modern languages which have the
benefit of native speakers and a market demand for resources such as machine
translation, which in turn drives the field of computational linguistics in
those languages. Although Latin does not have resources like English in terms
of the scale and availability of resources such as digitized corpora,
automatic annotation tools, part -of-speech taggers, treebanks, and lexical
databases, the author seeks to partially remedy the situation through her
Chapter 3, ”Verbs in Corpora, Lexicon ex machina”, exemplifies a
computational approach to Latin which solves one of the problems introduced in
Chapter 2: the lack of a verb valency lexicon. The concepts of verb valency,
transitivity, and semantic roles are introduced. Next, McGillivary discusses
the advantages of a corpus- based distributional approach to semantics over
the traditional lexicography approach to verb valency, including detailed
usage -based frequency information and the lack of any sectional biases made
when a lexicographer is forced to choose only one or two examples due to the
space limitations of traditional dictionaries. The chapter then overviews how
to work with the Prague Dependency Treebank using MySQL queries to create the
valency lexicon. One challenge of Latin and verb valency is exemplified by the
fact that Latin allows pro-drop: in order to count all arguments of a verb,
one must account for the subject by extracting the person- marking from the
verb. Once the verb valency lexicon is created, a number of additional studies
can be carried out. For example, the author demonstrated how the valency
lexicon allows one to test diachronic trends, finding that VO word order is
slightly more common in more modern Latin while OV word order is slightly more
common in older Latin.
Chapter 4, ”The Agonies of Choice: Automatic Selectional Preferences”,
outlines a case study which makes use of the valency lexicon created in
Chapter 3. This chapter covers the linguistic background behind concepts such
as selectional preferences, argument structure, semantic features, and
animacy. The benefits of a computational approach are also outlined: manual
coding of these features is costly and time -consuming, but automatic
computational methods can complete this process quickly and accurately.
Semantic similarity can be measured computationally as well, either through
synonym resources such as WordNet or through distributional approaches which
makes use of relative frequencies and word collocations. Both of these
approaches, the knowledge-based WordNet and the knowledge -free distributional
approach, are tested against a ”gold standard”. Although normally the ”gold
standard” is made by native speakers, Latin requires that the gold standard
is made from a separate test corpus.
Chapter 5, ”A Closer Look at Automatic Selectional Preferences for Latin”,
covers the statistical and computational methods as well as some of the
technical details behind the case study outlined in Chapter 4. This chapter
covers the structure of the synsets found in WordNet, the organization of data
into a matrix of variables, as well as the concepts of vector space and
clustering algorithms. Examples of different clustering algorithms are
illustrated with charts and dendrograms, and the benefits and drawbacks of
various techniques are discussed. Some probabilistic models as well as the
variety of statistical tests carried out on the data are also discussed.
Chapter 6, ”A Corpus Based Foray into Latin Preverbs”, outlines the typical
corpus based approach to linguistic hypothesis formation and testing. This
chapter then tackles the Latin pre-verb system, which is an interesting test
case in diachronic morphosyntax. After covering some of the typological
background of analytic and synthetic languages, as well as the known facts
about the evolution of Latin into the modern Romance languages, this chapter
delves into another case study using Latin corpora, which seeks to replicate
the work done by hand by Bennett (1914). The hypotheses tested include whether
pre-verbs correspond to various Latin cases or prepositions. A multivariate
analysis is conducted to test the relationship between linguistic features
such as each pre-verb, the prepositional phrase, features of the noun such as
case or animacy, features of the verbs such as argument structure, selectional
preference, or semantics, as well as other variables such as the author of the
text, the era in which the text was written, and the genre of the text. The
results suggest what was already known: Latin underwent grammaticalization
from an inflectionally rich language to the more analytic Romance languages.
However, the author argues that because this study is replicable,
statistically significant, and does not rely on selectional biases inherent in
choosing examples by hand, it is an improvement on Bennett’s (1914) work.
Chapter 7, ”Statistical Background to the Investigation on Preverbs” covers
the statistical and computational side of the study outlined in Chapter 6.
Topics include basic hypothesis testing, the concept that correlation does not
imply causation, and some of the theories and formulae behind linear
regression models, correspondence analysis, multiple correspondence analysis,
and singular value decomposition. The benefits and drawbacks of each approach
are discussed and illustrated with various graphs.
Chapter 8, ”Latin Computational Linguistics”, wraps everything up by
summarizing the main goals and contributions of the book. The author suggests
several lines of inquiry that future Latin computational linguists could take.
McGillivary concludes that computational approaches are an ”unavoidable step
in the digital era” and advises that all scholars ”have a responsibility to
acquaint themselves with each other’s fields” (p. 216).
Despite the narrow subfield implied by the title, this book could be of
interest to a wide variety of scholars in the broad discipline of the digital
humanities. Latin scholars can benefit from more efficient data- mining and
analysis, as well as the increased scientific rigor of replicable,
quantitative studies. Corpus and computational linguists benefit by adapting
methods used on the million word corpora of modern, synchronic languages to
the smaller diachronic corpora available for Latin, while meeting the
computational challenges of an inflectionally rich language with relatively
free word order and no native speakers to test on. Latin, however, is just a
case study: many of the methods and concepts covered in this book are widely
applicable to any diachronic corpus, as with historical or acquisition data,
as well as any small corpus, as with endangered or extinct languages.
Those without a background in Latin, linguistics, computer science, and
statistics may find parts of this book difficult. Some Latin examples are
occasionally given without a translation, and the statistical formulae are
given with an expectation of at least some prior knowledge of Bayes’ theorem.
It is also expected that the reader is familiar with morphosyntax,
particularly the Latin case system. Furthermore, it is important to note that
this is not a ”how- to” guide to Latin computational linguistics. While
there is some discussion of the programs and packages used, and a few examples
of code or psuedocode, for the most part this book only covers the theoretical
background —  both linguistic and computational — behind the analyses, not
the practical details of the analyses themselves.
Overall, this book makes a unique contribution to the field, both by expanding
existing Latin resources as well as encouraging greater interdisciplinary
research among scholars from such disparate fields as historical linguistics
and computer science.
Bennett, C.E. 1914. Syntax of early Latin, Volume II The Cases. Boston: Allyn
and Bacon.
Busa, R. 1974 1980. Index Thomisticus: sancti Thomae Aquinatis operum indices
et concordantiae, in quibus verborum omnium et singulorum formae et lemmata
cum suis frequentiis et contextibus variis modis referuntur quaeque /
consociata plutrium opera atque electronico IBM automato usus digessit
Robertus Busa SJ. Stuttgart  Bad Cannstatt: Frommann  Holzboog.
Piotrowski, M. 2012. Natural Language Processing for Historical Texts. Morgan
& Claypool Publishers.


Onna Nelson is pursuing a Ph.D in Linguistics with an emphasis in Cognitive
Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research uses
corpus methods to explore language use in social media and language

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-3396

Review: Applied Linguistics: Mitchell, Myles and Marsden (2012)

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

AUTHOR: Rosamond  Mitchell
AUTHOR: Florence  Myles
AUTHOR: Emma  Marsden
TITLE: Second Language Learning Theories
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Caroline Payant, University of Idaho

Second language acquisition (SLA) is a relatively new field of linguistic
inquiry. Despite this, we have witnessed the emergence of numerous theories to
account for the complex processes underlying the acquisition of a language
beyond the first language (L1). Currently, we do not have a single, unified
understanding of how adults learn a second language (L2). To introduce readers
to the wealth of current theories and schools of thought, Rosamond Mitchell,
Florence Myles, and Emma Marsden, three SLA researchers with different views
about how L2s develop, constructed a comprehensive introductory textbook to L2
theories. The next section provides a brief summary of the ten chapters from
“Second Language Learning Theories” (3rd ed), London: Routledge.
Chapter 1 sets the stage for the entire textbook, introducing a number of key
concepts and issues. These concepts are critical for the development of
theories of SLA, regardless of the researchers’ epistemologies. Following a
brief discussion of features of “good” theories, the authors discuss current
debates regarding the nature of language and the language learning process.
The chapter concludes with a discussion of individual learner differences
(e.g. motivation, aptitude, anxiety).
Chapter 2 is a historical overview of L2 theory, serving to situate current
proposals and L2 theories. As in other SLA textbooks, (see, e.g., Gass,
Behney, & Plonsky, 2013; Lightbown & Spada, 2013), readers are presented with
seminal moments in the history of theory building. The chapter begins with
major developments that occurred during the 1950s and 1960s. After outlining
Skinner’s behaviorist views as an explanatory framework for L1 and L2
development, the authors review Chomsky’s criticisms of behaviorism. Rather
than delving into the Chomskyan Revolution (i.e., Universal Grammar (UG)),
Mitchell, Myles, and Marsden focus on L1 acquisition studies that paved the
way for systematic investigations of L2 development (e.g., error analysis and
morpheme studies). They present Krashen’s Monitor Model ­­ an influential
model that sought to bring some unity to the ideas pertaining to L2
development. The number of major theories and schools of thought that emerged
in the 1980s are introduced and revisited in detail in the subsequent
chapters. To summarize the trends in SLA research since the 1950s, Myles’
(2010) second language learning timeline is provided in the concluding section
of Chapter 2.
An in­-depth discussion of UG, a theory inspired by Noam Chomsky, constitutes
Chapter 3. The authors begin by reviewing the aims of the Chomskyan tradition
(i.e., what constitutes knowledge and the process of acquisition). After
considering arguments in favor of UG, they include a detailed discussion of
what characterizes the innate language faculty (i.e., principles and
parameters), and provide support for UG using evidence from L1 acquisition
studies. Drawing on L1 empirical studies, they consider the applicability of
UG to L2 acquisition. Finally, current debates about the initial state and the
ultimate attainment are explored. With this clear discussion of current
research endeavors and a thorough assessment of the contributions of UG-­based
approaches to SLA, readers have equal access to both UG’s strengths and
Cognitive orientations to L2 learning are explored in Chapters 4 and 5.
Chapter 4 examines frameworks that fall within emergentism, a framework that
rejects the existence of a specific language faculty. The authors focus first
on input­-based emergentist perspectives. Researchers who investigate such
perspectives are chiefly concerned with input, which arguably enables learners
to extract linguistic structures and patterns to create a complex linguistic
system. This line of work examines how particular characteristics of input
correlate with L2 development (for example, frequency, saliency, and
redundancy). In the latter section, theories relating to processing
constraints and L2 development are presented. The authors begin with
Pienemann’s Processability Theory and illustrate how his work has informed the
Teachability Hypothesis. The discussion then turns to O’Grady’s
Efficiency-­Driven Processor framework.
Chapter 5 explores learning mechanisms available to L2 learners, such as
memory, explicit knowledge about language, skill acquisition, and conscious
attention to language. In order to discuss the role of memory systems for L2
development, Mitchell, Myles, and Marsden describe two forms of knowledge:
declarative and procedural. Following is a review of memory systems and their
role in L2 learning, and a clear definition of explicit knowledge. One
prominent theory that draws on the notion of explicit knowledge is Skill
Acquisition Theory, which accounts for several L2 learning phenomena (e.g.,
incremental learning, individual learner differences, fossilization). The role
of awareness, explicitly addressing the relationship between noticing and L2
development, is then explored. The chapter concludes with a discussion of
underlying mechanisms (specifically, working memory) that enable learners to
allocate and focus attention while using language.
Building on cognitive and processing theories, Chapter 6 focuses on
interaction and L2 development. After briefly introducing the revised
Interaction Hypothesis, the authors present research relating to the role of
interaction in L2 development as well as the role of feedback. This section is
supported by a number of empirical studies illustrating the benefits of
various types of feedback on language development. Based on the observation
that input alone fails to account for L2 development, the authors examine the
predictions of the Output Hypothesis and discuss the importance of noticing
for L2 development.
Chapter 7 addresses functionalism. Concerned with the meaning-­making
processes, researchers from this paradigm claim that in order to understand L2
development, we must consider speech acts that learners are striving to
realize while also accounting for the social, physical, and discourse
contexts. After reviewing functionalist case study research, Mitchell, Myles,
and Marsden discuss the European Science Foundation project which sought to
describe adult, naturalistic interlanguage development. Following this, the
authors introduce research focusing on specific areas of linguistic
development, such as temporality, spatial location, coherence, and modality. A
detailed example related to temporality is provided. This discussion segues
into a formal introduction of the Aspect Hypothesis. The chapter concludes
with a brief introduction of L2 pragmatic research.
Chapters 8 and 9 focus on socially informed theories of L2 development. First,
key concepts of Sociocultural Theory as conceived by Lev Vygotsky are
introduced, including mediation, regulation, zone of proximal development,
microgenesis, private speech, and activity theory. The applications of a
sociocultural perspective to L2 development are illustrated by drawing on a
survey of empirical research for each of these concepts. The authors show how
one of the key contributions of Sociocultural Theory in this paradigm is its
ability to clarify the interconnectedness and interplay between social and
cognitive factors in L2 development.
Chapter 9 includes an examination of sociolinguistic research and L2
development. First, a quantitative approach to the study of lexical and
morphological variation is introduced. The authors’ discussion of empirical
studies indicates how sociolinguistic and linguistic factors mediate
interlanguage L2 variation. Next, readers are introduced to qualitative and
interpretative approaches to L2 development, including: (1) Language
socialization; (2) Communities of practice and situated learning; (3) Identity
and agency; and (4) Investment and affect. These final perspectives both
examine the interdependence and consider the broader social context of
linguistic and sociocultural development.
Following their survey of multiple perspectives on the acquisition of an L2,
Mitchell, Myles, and Marsden conclude their book by discussing the greatest
achievements within L2 acquisition theories, as well as the increasingly more
sophisticated research methods employed by L2 acquisition researchers. They
also consider the relationship between theory building and L2 pedagogy. While
L2 acquisition research does not prescribe teaching methodologies, the authors
propose that research can guide and inform classroom experiences.
Since the 1980s, we have witnessed a proliferation of SLA theories that
reflect differing epistemologies. The book “Second Language Learning
Theories”, introduces readers to these theories and is the result of a
collaborative project among three authors from three different orientations to
SLA: linguistic (Myles), cognitive (Marsden), and social/educational
(Mitchell). Their collaborative efforts led to this comprehensive survey of L2
This publication covers a breadth of theoretical positions, research topics,
research methods, and data analysis techniques. In discussing cognitive
theories of SLA, the authors begin with implicit mechanisms and then focus on
explicit mechanisms (Chapters 4 and 5, respectively). This organization is
effective in showing how some theorists argue that learning a language taps
into general, cognitive mechanisms (implicit learning) whereas other theories
highlight key mechanisms that are central for language learning alone
(explicit learning). Reflecting the social turn in SLA, the authors also
include two chapters addressing social factors that should comprise L2
theories (i.e., Chapter 8 “Sociocultural Perspectives on Second Language
Learning” and Chapter 9 “Sociolinguistic Perspectives”). Although
comparatively shorter than the discussions of linguistic and cognitive
orientations, these chapters on social dimensions reflect recent advances and
discussions that permeate the field of SLA (Block, 2003; Ortega, 2014).
With this comprehensive textbook, students may feel overwhelmed by the various
epistemologies underlying SLA research. Nevertheless, it is important to have
inclusive textbooks, which illustrate the current state of the field of SLA.
Researchers are actively engaged in discussions and debates about L2
development, and we have not yet agreed on how a theory (or multiple theories)
of SLA should look. After reading this book, students of SLA will not have a
skewed understanding of the field; rather, this survey may fuel their interest
in particular areas and encourage them to read further about topics introduced
in the book.
While there are some advantages to survey texts, they should come with an
important caveat. If such texts are used for a semester­-long course, novice
readers may have limited time to assimilate substantial amounts of
information. Moreover, students can easily become confused with the array of
new terms (some with complex definitions). Students may thus confuse key
concepts from different perspectives. Thus, when this book is used as a course
text, professors must truly highlight the epistemological differences that
inform these theories and remind students not to judge prematurely the
individual contributions or potential of each approach.
To facilitate the reading process, the authors provide a consistent format to
the presentation of the information. Following a brief introduction of each of
the chapter’s contents, the authors discuss key concepts. They then provide an
evaluation of the theories/perspectives by considering the scope and
achievements of the proposed theories. This evaluative component is useful for
readers as it prompts them to think about the benefits and limitations of the
theories. Also, readers will appreciate the glossary of key terms for the
whole book that are introduced throughout the readings.
Despite the clear format, some issues need to be acknowledged. The strictly
factual presentation of the complex information does not actively engage the
reader. For example, the authors include reviews of current empirical studies;
however, what appears to be lacking is more data to support the discussions
and findings. Additional data from empirical studies can help novice readers
better understand the aims of the research, the methods, and the findings.
Also, discussion, data analysis problems, and reflection questions for each
chapter would be an asset. They could push readers and novice SLA researchers
to reflect on, process, and assimilate the wealth of information that might be
otherwise inaccessible. Moreover, readers could benefit from greater textual
interconnectedness throughout the book. Each chapter, focusing on one
orientation (e.g., Chapter 3: UG; Chapter 4: Implicit cognitive mechanisms;
Chapter 6: Interaction), could be compared and contrasted more explicitly with
the others, to help readers better appreciate the similarities and differences
underlying these different approaches/theories. Highlighting how they differ
(perhaps in interactive reflective prompts) could engage the reader and
increase the accessibility of these materials. Finally, despite having a
plethora of recommended readings directly embedded in the text, each chapter
could have concluded with suggested readings for follow-­up study with some
questions for guided reading.
The specified intended readership for this publication raises some concern.
The audience, as conceived by the authors, includes undergraduate and graduate
students from language-­related fields, as well as teachers and researchers
interested in issues related to L2 development. Given its theoretical
orientation, this book may not be suitable for undergraduate students, who
might be excessively challenged by its theoretical discussions and the breadth
of its theoretical models. Another concern is the lack of explicit connections
to teaching pedagogy. Thus, in-­service teachers interested in identifying
applications of L2 theories to pedagogy should consider another text. In sum,
this book may be of interest to advanced students and faculty from programs
which focus primarily on introducing theory at the expense of making
connections to pedagogy.
In recent years, a number of researchers are questioning who L2 learners are.
Researchers reporting on multilingual learners are critiquing how SLA
researchers conceptualize L2 learners. One ongoing debate relates to the term
‘L2’ (Block, 2003). In their first chapter, L2 learning is operationalized as
“the learning of any language, to any level, provided only that the learning
of the ‘second’ language takes place sometimes later than the acquisition of
the first language” (p. 1). Immediately, one recognizes that the contents of
this book reflect the pervasive belief that learning an L2 entails similar
cognitive and social processes as learning an additional language. Recent
advances in the field of multilingualism suggests that we need to be more
critical of how we treat and investigate ‘L2 learners’ and that we should
increasingly treat learners of true L2s differently from learners of
additional languages (language beyond the L2) (De Angelis, 2007).
Currently, educators can choose from a wide array of SLA textbooks. Although
it has some shortcomings, “Second Language Learning Theories” is a welcome
addition. Three authors whose cooperative work provides us with a
comprehensive view of current advances is an asset to this field. In sum, this
book is a good option for theoretical, graduate-­level SLA courses.
Block, D. (2003). “The social turn in second language acquisition”.
Washington: Georgetown University Press.
De Angelis, G. (2007). “Third or additional language acquisition”. Clevedon.
Gass, S. M., Behney, J., & Plonsky, L. (2013). “Second language acquisition:
An introductory course (4th ed.)”. New York: Routledge.
Lightbown, P. & Spada, N. (2013). “How languages are learned” (4th ed.).
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Myles, F. (2010). The development of theories of second language acquisition.
“Language Teaching”, 43, 320­332.
Ortega, L. (2014). Ways forward for a bi/multilingual turn in SLA. In S. May
(Ed.), “The multilingual turn: Implications for SLA, TESOL and bilingual
education” (pp. 32­53). New York: Routledge.


Dr. Caroline Payant is an assistant professor in the MA TESL program at the
University of Idaho. Her areas of interests include cognitive and
sociocultural aspects of language acquisition as well as L2 teacher education.
Her recent work has examined the impact of pedagogical tasks on
learner-learner interaction and language development. At the University of
Idaho, Caroline teaches SLA, ESL Method, ESL Teaching Practicum, and
Sociolinguistics. Her work can be found in TESL Canada Journal and
International Review of Applied Linguistics. Caroline received her Ph.D. in
Applied Linguistics from Georgia State University (2012) and her M.A. from the
Universidad de las Américas Puebla (2006).

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-3395

Review: Sociolinguistics: Ramanathan (2013)

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

EDITOR: Vaidehi  Ramanathan
TITLE: Language Policies and (Dis)Citizenship
SUBTITLE: Rights, Access, Pedagogies
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Ghislain Potriquet, Université de Strasbourg

Language Policies and (Dis)citizenship begins with an introductory chapter
written by its editor. It opens on the definition of citizenship used
throughout the book; citizenship will be understood as a dynamic process, as
“being able to participate fully”. This understanding of citizenship departs
from the conventional view that citizenship amounts to a fixed legal status.
Translations from an English language textbook written for Gujarati
schoolchildren are used to justify the editor’s choice. When moved from one
language to another, a text or a person experiences a similar transformation:
each is mediated through another language that curtails their meaning. To
allow such a person to express themselves unrestrainedly, Ramanathan argues
that one must “unabashedly usher in history into applied linguistics, and view
each person speaking an alien tongue as a ‘historicized being’” (8). Such
awareness is a precondition to a new understanding of the interaction between
language and citizenship, between one’s language skills and one’s
participation in society.
Busi Makoni’s contribution focuses on a culture-­specific language variety of
Ndebele, “isihlonipho sabafazi”, which translates as “women’s language of
respect”. Makoni argues that this language variety further embeds the
discitizenship of women in Zimbabwe, a country where gender equality is
affirmed in a bill of rights, but also negated by the constitution’s
recognition of customary law. Makoni shows how discitizenship occurs by
examining the testimonies of women victims of rape. Isihlonipho sabafazi
prevents them from testifying against their perpetrators, because sex
discourses are forbidden by this language variety. Hence, a rape can only be
referred to as “to play a game of getting on the mat” (28-­29).
Aya Matsuda and Chatwara Suwannalai Duran’s contribution studies the
implications of constructing Americans as monolingual speakers. Their piece
actually discusses many other terms used to classify Americans according to
their linguistic abilities. To characterize Americans as English monolinguals
is not only inaccurate; it also runs the risk of reinforcing monolingualism
and restricting individual multilingualism (39). As to multilingualism, the
authors note that it too is often synonym with “non­-native speaker of
English” and call for the study of multilingualism as a feature common to both
native speakers of English and native speakers of other languages.
Emily Feuerhem engages in a critical interpretive approach of interview data
gathered among Iraqi refugees in the United States. Her goal is to understand
how policies of resettlement help refugees translate themselves to their new
country (53). Interviews and hours of observation conducted in a Sacramento
community center point to the multiplicity of this translation process.
Occurrences of “my country” in several refugees’ testimonies point to the
importance of comparing Iraq to the United States in the adaptation process.
“English” is another keyword that bridges these individuals’ experiences in
their home and host countries: “speaking English is bound up in issues of
external survival knowledge and fears of symbolic violence” (68).
Julia Menard-­Warwick questions the ideology of English as a tool for success
on the global marketplace. How do teachers of English working in Chile avail
themselves of this ideology? Using ethnographic data collected in a small
university, she unveils an interesting paradox: “despite claims that English
is important for success in Chilean society, very few teachers offered
concrete examples of times when they had found English actually necessary”
(79). Menard-Warwick also observes that English is valued by Chileans because
it grants them access to a foreign, global culture.
Gemma Punti and Kendall A. King choose an original object for their study:
multi level marketing companies. It appears that a high proportion of
undocumented Latino youths work to sell products such as Herbalife nutrition
products or Amway beauty products. This can be explained by these multi­-level
marketing companies’ language policies and discourses of advancement, authors
explain. Interviews and observations of two young Latinos working for such
companies, as well as an analysis of the texts and videos made available to
them yield many insights. Teresa L. McCarty asks how language and educational
policies may enable Native Americans to exercise their citizenship. She begins
her chapter with a reminder of the peculiar history of Native American
citizenship, and then refers to a concept she developed in an earlier study:
“safety zone”, or the “physical, social, psychological and pedagogic space in
which the federal government and other colonizing agents have deliberately and
systematically sought to distinguish ‘safe’ from ‘dangerous’ Indigenous
cultural beliefs and practices” (121). She then studies two Navajo public
school projects, which use different methods (immersion and dual-­immersion)
to foster the academic success of all students, regardless of their linguistic
background. By doing precisely the opposite of a majority of schools in the
United States (that is, to consider a child’s proficiency in a foreign
language as an impediment to the acquisition of English) these two schools
made possible the exercise of a Native American citizenship.
The following piece by Gopinder Kaur Sagoo examines an equally inclusive
environment in a very different setting. Her work focuses on a nursery founded
by the Sikh community of Birmingham, England. After providing her reader with
a brief overview of the history of pre-­K education in England, she analyzes
data collected on site (field notes, interviews, recordings). The nursery
school is imbued with the ideas of its founder, Bhai Sahib, a community leader
who has elaborated an understanding of citizenship consistent with the Sikh
faith, i.e. “‘a spiritual citizenship’ based on rights and responsibilities
assumed by virtue of being domiciled… as a human citizen on the planet”
(152). Analyses of verbal interactions between children and educators testify
to the inclusiveness of the nursery, where English and Punjabi are equally
Jacquelin Widin and Keiko Yasukawa’s contribution draws from ethnographic work
conducted in Australia. They conducted fieldwork in four different educational
programs catering to the needs of ESL adults. Against the backdrop of a
contested Australian citizenship test introduced in 2007, authors focus on the
development of a “third space”, where teachers and learners negotiate the
curriculum and redefine their identities. An illustration of this is the
interaction between a refugee from Guinea-­Bissau, who tells the story of his
watch, a present from his father. Instead of simply proceeding with the lesson
plan, the teacher allows this student to express himself, thus creating a
supportive environment for all refugees. This is no minor detail, as the
authors conclude: “Some of these learners may never achieve the kinds of human
capital outcomes that ‘count’ in the dominant discourses of who is a worthy
citizen (…) However, the Third space that these learners and their teachers
have created expands the space within which people can exercise citizenship”
Ariel Loring’s piece is situated against a similar backdrop; citizenship is
also very much debated in the United States (188). Loring looks at the ways
citizenship instructors enact citizenship in their classrooms. She draws from
ethnographic observations conducted in three different community centers. She
also interviews four different instructors, and finds that each has a
different understanding of what citizenship ought to mean. Interestingly, all
four instructors challenge the official discourse on citizenship: to integrate
with each other, not just with the American community is something that they
emphasize. Interestingly, some students continue to attend citizenship classes
after naturalization, (205), a fact that belies the notion that citizenship is
a mere legal status to be acquired once and for all.
The closing chapter of this volume is authored by Rosemary Henze and Fabio
Oliveira Coelho. In 2008, both got involved in a partnership project between
their university and a Nicaragua-­based non-­governmental organization. The
purpose of this partnership was to improve access to English in the rural
north. Instead of reaching its goals, this collaboration ended up
disempowering local teachers and students. Henze and Coelho explain why.
Teachers’ training is identified as a problem, but most importantly, they show
that “the rhetoric of English as part of globalization doesn’t fit the rural
communities’ realities” (244). They put forward an alternative curriculum, one
that would meet the needs of these communities and take into account the
material conditions under which a foreign language can be taught.
Vaidehi Ramanathan’s edited volume is certainly a daring endeavor. This
professor of sociolinguistics at the University of California at Davis had
already distinguished herself by exploring an unusual topic in Bodies and
Language: Health, Ailments, Disabilities and by dealing with it as
convincingly as humanely. Her latest contribution builds on her interest in
disability studies and hinges on a definition of citizenship put forth by
Dianne Pothier and Richard Delvin in Critical Disability Theory: Essays in
Philosophy, Politics, Policy, and Law, namely that citizenship “is about the
capacity to participate fully in all the institutions of society ­­ not just
those that fit the conventional definitions of the political, but also the
social and cultural.” (1) Central to Language Policies and (Dis)citizenship is
therefore the relation between language and participation.
In order for her endeavor to succeed, Ramanathan has rigorously edited the
eleven essays making up her volume. Such careful editing work is manifest in
the essays’ common approach (ethnographic) or their systematic reference to
Pothier and Delvin’s understanding of citizenship as participation. In
addition, each essay follows a similar structure that includes a clear
formulation of the research question(s), a presentation of the methodology and
very useful background information, among other things. Ramanthan’s editorial
rigor makes it possible for these eleven studies to form a coherent whole:
from a criminal court in Zimbabwe to secondary schools in rural Nicaragua, the
reader is given to see into the processes that end up depriving language
minorities of their full citizenship. Chapter after chapter, a similar pattern
emerges: discitizenship occurs when a linguistic norm, usually the vehicle of
social values, is forced on a people. All contributors highlight the
importance of fostering linguistic inclusiveness as a means to combat
discitizenship. Collectively, they demonstrate the validity of Ramanathan’s
initial approach, to move from the study of citizenship as a legal status to
that of citizenship as “being able to participate fully” (2013,1).
In Language Policies and (Dis)citizenship, Ramanathan takes a giant leap from
disability studies to sociolinguistics. Overall, her approach is very
convincing, but doubts may linger in the mind of an informed reader:
“discitizenship” when applied to a disabled person is one thing, but it
becomes another when applied to an individual who does not speak an official
language. For, to use a distinction made by jurists, language is not an
“immutable trait”: one may move from a category to another, from discitizen to
citizen, thanks to devoted language teachers, years of practice, etc. To this,
one may retort that not everyone can become proficient in another language
because of a number of factors such as age. Still, it remains to be elaborated
whether discitizenship can adequately describe the experience of someone who
happens not to conform to a linguistic norm. Our intuition is that it can, but
also that further work needs to be done to study the relation between language
discitizenship and the many other hurdles put on a person’s path to full of
citizenship (class, gender, race, etc.). Such conceptual work would also
further demonstrate the validity of citizenship as an object of
sociolinguistic inquiry, one that allows more comprehensive insights than
classical sociolinguistic concepts such as diglossia.
In short, Language Policies and (Dis)citizenship yields fascinating findings
and opens up an exciting area for research. The book reads equally well as a
whole or by chapter. Academics and graduate students will use the book as a
source of inspiration for papers and dissertations. Single chapters may be
used as reading material for an undergraduate course in sociolinguistics. Most
importantly perhaps, language policy makers around the globe would be
well­-inspired to read Ramanathan’s book.
Pothier, Dianne and Richard Devlin (ed). 2006. Critical Disability Theory:
Essays in Philosophy, Politics, and Law. Vancouver: University of British
Columbia Press.
Vaidehi Ramanathan. 2009. Bodies and Language: Health, Ailments, Disabilities.
Bristol, Multilingual Matters.


Ghislain Potriquet is an associate professor of American studies at the
University of Strasbourg, France. His research interests revolve around the
issues of language diversity and the law. He is affiliated to two research
centers: “Groupe d’Étude sur le Plurilinguisme Européen'(GEPE) and ‘Savoirs
dans l’espace anglophone : représentations, culture, histoire’ (SEARCH).

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-3394

Review: Computational Linguistics

Monday, August 4th, 2014

EDITOR: Alexander  Clark
EDITOR: Chris  Fox
EDITOR: Shalom  Lappin
TITLE: The Handbook of Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing
SERIES TITLE: Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Wiley-Blackwell
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Mauro Costantino, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés


“The Handbook of Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing,”
edited by Alexander Clark, Chris Fox and Shalom Lappin, is a large collection
of 22 works that covers the field of Computational Linguistics (CL) and
Natural Language Processing (NLP), ranging from the theoretical aspects
(formal language theory, language models, among others) to the most concrete
applications (machine translation, question answering). The coverage is so
broad that the work can be considered a fundamental volume collecting a
comprehensive view of applications, methodologies and base theories in the
field of CL and NLP.

For the same reason, it can serve as a reference manual for a wide audience,
even without assuming all readers to be interested in or specialists in all
the different aspects; the different chapters give the theoretical basis, the
historical background and the overview of the state of the art on each of the
topics. In what follows, the organization of the handbook is detailed chapter
by chapter.

In the introduction, the structure of the manual is presented in order to
offer to the reader a clear map (section by section and chapter by chapter) of
the specific contents.  The chapter ends by presenting the goals and aims of
the manual, and explaining the reasons for its particular organization, the
choice of topics and the development of each chapter.

Chapter 1: “Formal Language Theory” (by Shuly Wintner).

The chapter starts with a basic introduction to formal language, without
assuming familiarity with the topic; it is nonetheless advisable, in order to
follow it, to have some familiarity with basic features of the language and
the notational methods and operations (of mathematical and logical nature).
The chapter then goes on with Regular Languages, Finite State Automata,
Transducers, Context Free Languages and the Chomsky Hierarchy.

Chapter 2: “Computational Complexity in Natural Language” (by Ian

Pratt-Hartmann starts with a review of Complexity theory, stating its goals
and presenting the basic methodology. A solid knowledge in mathematics and
logic is advisable, even though the chapter provides a step-by-step
introduction to the topic. Turing machines, decision problems, parsing and
recognition, and semantics are presented through the analysis of theorems and
definitions, each one with detailed examples.

Chapter 3: “Statistical Language Modeling” (by Ciprian Chelba).

The third chapter starts with the very beginning steps of Language Modeling
(LM), presenting the chain rule and n-grams, and then discussing perplexity,
in order to smoothly follows towards the Structured Language Model and its
applications in Speech Recognition.

Chapter 4: “Theory of Parsing” (by Mark-Jan Nederhof and Giorgio Satta).

The fourth chapter presents the theoretical bases of Parsing, phrase structure
and dependency structure, Probabilistic Parsing and (Lexicalized) Context Free
Grammars, leading into a discussion, detailed and rich in examples, of some
basics of the most common applications like Translation.

Chapter 5: “Maximum Entropy Models” (by Robert Malouf).

Robert Malouf presents, before entering into a discussion about practical
applications, the theoretical basis for the Maximum Entropy Model (MaxEnt).
The chapter deals with the theoretical development of MaxEnt, moving from
Shannon through probabilities in order to bring the reader to the
applications: Parameter Estimation, Regularization, Classification and
Parsing, among others.

Chapter 6: “Memory-Based Learning” (by Walter Daelemans and Antal van den

Memory-Based Learning (MBL) is presented alongside other methods (MaxEnt,
Decision Trees, Artificial Neural Networks) for supervised
classification-based learning in the sixth chapter. The work follows up with
the discussion of some NLP applications like Morpho-phonology,
Syntacto-semantics, Text analysis, Translation, and Computational

Chapter 7: “Decision Trees” (by Helmut Schmid).

Schmid presents another method for annotating linguistic entities through
classification: decision trees. The chapter explains through examples how
Decision Trees are inducted from training data, and moves then to the
applications, like Grapheme-to-morpheme conversion, and POS-tagging. The
chapter ends with a discussion about advantages and disadvantages of Decision

Chapter 8: “Unsupervised Learning and Grammar Induction” (by Alexander Clark
and Shalom Lappin).

This chapter addresses two main aspects of Unsupervised Learning: the
advantages and disadvantages of unsupervised learning applications to large
corpora, and the possible relevance of unsupervised learning for the debate
about the cognitive basis of human language acquisition.  The topics are
presented in an accurate manner, discussing the comparison between supervised
and unsupervised learning. Examples in classification tasks and parsing are
presented. The last section of the first part of the chapter compares
supervised, unsupervised, and semi-supervised learning, taking into account
the “accuracy vs. cost” dichotomy, and also discussing the possibilities for
future developments of the field.

The second part of the chapter, discussing the new insights that unsupervised
learning has brought to human language acquisition studies, presents a broad
vision of the state of the art in human language acquisition.

Chapter 9: “Artificial Neural Networks” (by James B. Henderson).

The chapter starts with an introductory background section that presents
Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) and Multi-Layered Perceptrons (MLP), the most
commonly-used type of ANN in NLP, and statistical modeling. It then moves on
to contemporary research in NLP like the improvement of large n-grams, parsing
(constituency, dependency, functional and semantic role parsing), and tagging,
discussing advantages and disadvantages of ANN and SLM.

Chapter 10: “Linguistic Annotation” (by Martha Palmer and Nianwen Xue).

This chapter presents Linguistic Annotation starting from the early times of
the Penn Treebank and the Semcor, to the British National Corpus, and to
present-day work in annotation; the discussion also touches on different
schemes, presenting “a representative set of widely used resources” (p. 239)
such as Syntactic structure, Independent semantic classification, Semantic
relation labeling, Discourse relation, Temporal relation, Coreference, and
Opinion tagging.
The second part of the chapter deals with the annotation process, analyzing it
step by step from the choice of the target corpus to the study of efficiency
and consistency of annotation, to the presentation of the possible
infrastructures and the available tools, and concluding with evaluation and

Chapter 11: “Evaluation of NLP Systems” (by Philip Resnik and Jimmy Lin).

The chapter starts with a broad discussion presenting some fundamental
concepts of NLP systems (Automatic/manual evaluation, Formative/summative
evaluation, Intrinsic/extrinsic evaluation, Component/end-to-end evaluation,
Inter-annotator agreement and upper bounds), then moving on to discussing the
partitioning of data and cross-validation advantages, eventually closing the
section with a summary of the evaluation metrics and comparison of their
performance. The following part of the chapter offers an introduction to the
three NLP evaluation categories (one possible correct output, various outputs
possible, scalable values outputs). The chapter ends with two case studies,
both well explained and detailed, that give the reader a quick and concrete
reference for the previously explained theory.

Chapter 12: “Speech Recognition” (by Steve Renals and Thomas Hain).

The chapter deals with Automatic Speech Transcription, starting from
statistical frameworks and the usage of corpora for the development and
evaluation of the algorithm. After the statistical section, the authors focus
on the Acoustic generative modeling of p(X|W) and approach modeling through
Hidden Markov Models. The last section deals with the decoding issue (search)
and the maximization of the computed probability through the Viterbi
algorithm. The chapter ends with the analysis of a case study and the study of
the performances of preset day systems, their strengths and their weaknesses.

Chapter 13: “Statistical Parsing” (by Stephen Clark).

The chapter starts by introducing some baseline questions about the grammar,
the algorithm, the model and the choice of the best parses from a theoretical
point of view. It then presents an historical review of the topic (beginning
with the very first attempts in Sampson 1986, down to present-day works).

The author focuses next on Generative (with special attention to Collins
models) and Discriminative parsing models. The author then analyzes in detail
Transition based approaches presenting various examples in the literature, and
concludes the study of Statistical Parsing with Combinatory Categorial

Chapter 14: “Segmentation and Morphology” (by John A. Goldsmith).

Goldsmith starts by presenting the basic definition of morphophonology,
morphosyntax, and morphological decomposition as a brief overview. The chapter
goes on with more technical NLP insights, discussing Unsupervised Learning of
Words and “four major approaches” (p. 373), namely Olivier, MK10, Sequitur and
MDL. The following section presents Unsupervised Learning of Morphology from
the beginning of the studies in the 1950s with Zellig Harris to present-day
works. The chapter ends with a discussion about the Implementation of
Computational Morphologies, the usage of Finite Stage Transducers and the case
of morphophonology.

Chapter 15: “Computational Semantics” (by Chris Fox).

The chapter, after stating the difference between formal semantics and
computational semantics, moves on to formal theory and logical grammar, in
order to present background on the computability of semantics and different
approaches. The author goes on by presenting the state of the art as
propaedeutical material for the next section about research issues such as
intentionality, non-indicatives, and expressiveness, among others. The chapter
ends with a less theoretical topic, namely corpus-based and Machine learning
methods in computational semantics, thus putting some distance between the
more classical strictly formal logic approach and computational semantics.

Chapter 16: “Computational Models of Dialogue” (by Jonathan Ginzburg and
Raquel Fernández).

This chapter starts with discussion of the basics characteristics of dialogue
and peculiarities from the point of view of structure, in order to define the
methodological challenges of computational modeling of dialogue. Once the
theoretical questions are settled, the author presents approaches to Dialog
System Design and evaluation through comparison (query and assertion,
meta-communication, fragment understanding benchmarks). The second part of the
chapter is dedicated to Interaction and Meaning (Coherence, Cohesion,
Illocutionary interaction, query and assertion, etc.) and to the models for
automatic learning of dialogue management (based on Markovian Decision
Processes). It presents “the underlying logical framework […] [that]
provides the formalism to build a semantic ontology and write conversational
and grammar rules” (p. 453). The chapter ends with “Extensions”, offering
suggestions for further development of the topics treated that could not find
space in the manual.

Chapter 17: “Computational Psycholinguistics” (by Matthew W. Crocker).

The chapter presents, at the beginning, an introduction to the topic as a
manner of establishing the reach and limitation of the very term
“computational psycholinguistics”, in order to specify the basis for the
entire chapter. A discussion of Symbolic Models follows, starting from the
first examples in the 1980s of computational parsing models, then continuing
into a section dealing with Probabilistic Models (touching lexical and
semantic ambiguity, syntactic processing, and disambiguation issues, among
others). The Sentence Processing section presents the application of
Artificial Neural Networks (here called Connectionist networks), discussing
advantages and criticism and following into presenting Hybrid Models.

Chapter 18: “Information Extraction” (by Ralph Grishman).

The first chapter among the “Applications” part deals with Information
Extraction (IE), and, after a short historical overview, presents its four
main tasks: name extraction, entity extraction, relation extraction, and event
extraction. For each one of the four sections, the discussion starts from the
analysis of some of the first approaches to IE with hand-written rules and
with Named Entity tagged corpora for supervised learning, and reaches the
presentation of the state-of-the-art methodological approaches in IE.

Chapter 19: “Machine Translation” (by Andy Way).

As stated in the introductory remarks, the chapter is divided into two parts,
one presenting the “state of the art in Machine Translation (MT)” and the
second presenting research in hybrid MT (p. 531). The first part jumps, in
fact, directly into current MT, avoiding the historical background, and
directly addressing the Phrase-Based Statistical Machine Translation (PB-SMT),
thus presenting all the steps for the development of a corpus-based system
(pre-processing data, clean-up, segmentation, tokenization, word/phrase
alignment, language models, decoding, among others). This thorough section
ends by discussing various approaches to evaluation in MT. The next section
discusses some of the currently developed (or under development) alternatives
to PB-SMT, such as Hierarchical Models, Tree-based Models, Example-based MT,
Rule-based MT and hybrid methods. The second part of the chapter details
research at Dublin City University (DCU) in the field of MT, presenting work
done in many directions, combining syntax-driven SMT, hybrid statistical and
EBMT, tree-based MT, rule based and much more.

Chapter 20: “Natural Language Generation” (by Ehud Reiter).

The twentieth chapter starts with a brief introduction on Natural Language
Generation (NLG) and choice making. The subsequent section discusses the
problem through the analysis of two NLG systems: SunTime and SkillSum. After a
review of some other alternatives to these two, the chapter continues by
analyzing the task of NLG into its basic steps: document planning (choice
making issues), microplanning (lexical choice, reference, syntactic choice,
aggregation) and realization. The chapter ends with a detailed discussion
about evaluation for NLG systems and some overview of currently
under-development research topics (statistical NLG, affective NLG). The
closing section lists some of the resources available in NLG such as software,
data resources and further readings.

Chapter 21: “Discourse Processing” (by Ruslan Mitkov).

Mitkov starts with a practical approach to the basic notion of discourse, by
presenting an example-based discussion of the coherence-cohesion dichotomy and
the different types of discourse. The second section deals with Discourse
Structure: organization and segmentation algorithm (TextTiling). The
subsequent part of the chapter goes into details, analyzing Hobbs’ theory of
coherence, Mann and Thompson’s Rhetorical Structure Theory (Mann & Thompson,
1988) and Centering (Grosz et al. 1995). The fourth section deals with
anaphora resolution, starting from the basic definition of anaphora and
reference, then moving to the computational problem of anaphora resolution and
the related algorithm (full parsing, partial parsing and their comparison).
The chapter ends with a panoramic view of applications in discourse processing
(in discourse segmentation, discourse coherence and anaphora resolution). A
“further reading” section closes the chapter with a rich presentation of
interesting possible amplification and development both from the statistical
approach point of view and from the corpus-based approach.

Chapter 22: “Question Answering” (by Bonnie Webber and Nick Webb)

The authors start with a review of Question Answering (QA) systems from their
first steps until state-of-the-art implementations. The discussion analyzes
the different steps of question typing, query construction, text retrieval and
text processing for answer candidates, and evaluation through examples; it
goes on with a theoretical development of the topics. The second part of the
chapter considers the current developments QA is now addressing. One of the
topic is corpus-related research in order to achieve improvements in the
“understanding the question” problem; on the other hand, the subsequent
sections focus on the improvement of choice of answers through user’s
analysis, by analyzing how different users might judge different answers as
correct, or by solving the semantic ambiguity of the questions. The chapter
closes with a discussion on QA systems evaluation, concentrating on the
possible need for new and better evaluation methods for QA systems.


The book is a wonderful work both from the point of view of content and form.
Compared to other manuals, it probably covers the broadest panorama in
state-of-the-art NLP and CL, thus becoming (one of) the most complete manuals
on these areas.

Because of the aim of covering such a broad field as NLP and CL, some chapters
might seem a bit loosely related to one another. This is inevitable in a work
that is organized in 22 chapters that cover something of such an amplitude as
(almost all) NLP.

Even though the topics of the chapters range from Formal Language Theory to
Machine Learning, to Morphophonology, to Parsing, the structure of the manual
itself is solid and the work is well organized. In some cases, a stronger set
of cross references could have added to usability, even though the direct
linkage between the main topics across the chapters is always present.

Among the book’s qualities, besides its completeness and the wide range of
topics treated, other points of strength should be mentioned: the constant
development of the chapters making a parallel between theory and practice is
definitely a plus, being for the majority of the topics a smooth “crescendo”.
Nonetheless, it could be noted for some chapters that the jump from theory to
applications might be somehow rough or abrupt for somebody who is unfamiliar
with the topic.

It is difficult to find negative points in the work; something that might be
observed, more from an editorial point of view, is the reference section
condensed at the end of the book, resulting in a little cumbersome 86
double-column pages. Taking into account the broad coverage of the 22
chapters, it would be easier for the user to search through references if they
appeared at the end of each chapter, thus limiting the searching to the topic
the reader is interested in. It is nonetheless understandable that this choice
would have brought to a considerable redundancy in some cases, and therefore
it might simply be a space issue.

For the same reason, the editors omit some potentially useful tools, like a
list of formulas and equations (maybe also containing algorithms), and even a
list of acronyms, which might have increased hugely the usability of the
manual. It should be kept in mind, in fact, that it will probably serve as a
reference manual, not necessarily a book to be read from beginning to end. On
the plus side, the manual provides a complete List of Figures, a List of
Tables, an Author Index and an even more useful Subject Index to compensate
for the unavoidable density of the chapters.

The last observation refers to some differences between the single chapters,
where the structure is sometimes a little different. A somehow slightly firmer
template, implying overview, state-of-the-art, further reading sections for
all chapters could have helped in giving a more uniform micro-structure thus
improving usability and decreasing searching time. Again, this is not a
content issue, since each chapter presents all this information, they are just
organized (or named) in a slightly different way.

The overall evaluation is therefore definitely very good: the work is solid,
complete and definitely an important reference for NLP and CL.


Grosz, B.J., Joshi K. Aravind, & Scott Weinstein. 1995. Centering: a framework
for modelling the local coherence of discourse. Computational Linguistics,

Mann, William C. & Sara A. Thompson. 1988. Rhetorical Structure Theory:
towards a functional theory of text organization. Text 3:243:81.

Sampson, Geoffrey. 1986. A Stochastic Approach to Parsing, in Proceedings of
the 11th International Conference on Computational Linguistics, 151-5.


Mauro Costantino is invited professor at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés
(UMSA) of La Paz, at the Universidad Pública de El Alto (UPEA). His main
interests range from Second Language Acquisition, comparing the acquisition of
the Italian verb system by speakers of different languages, to Translation
Studies, to corpus linguistics (focusing on learners corpora). He teaches
Italian, translations seminar and introduction to computational and corpus
linguistic at UMSA, as well as organizing new introductory experimental
seminars in computational and corpus linguistics at UPEA. Besides actively
cooperates to the VALICO ( and VALERE ( projects
from the University of Torino (Italy) he is working at various projects (one
in translation and one in corpus implementation) with the Literature
Department at UMSA. In his “free time” he is translator and general secretary
of the Società Dante Alighieri of La Paz, Bolivia.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-3094

Review: Historical Linguistics; Syntax; Typology: Josephson & Söhrman (2013)

Monday, July 28th, 2014

EDITOR: Folke  Josephson
EDITOR: Ingmar  Söhrman
TITLE: Diachronic and Typological Perspectives on Verbs
SERIES TITLE: Studies in Language Companion Series 134
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Anish Koshy, English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad


The volume is organized as a collection of 15 papers along with a brief
introductory note from the editors Ingmar Söhrman and Folke Josephson. This
volume is a sequel to an earlier volume Interdependence of Synchronic and
Diachronic Analysis (2008) by the same editors. While the earlier volume
focused on the issues of tense, aspect and mood in terms of their conceptual
parallels and diachronic relations, the present volume apart from taking up
further questions on modality also focuses on issues of evolution of
grammatical systems with respect to the verb.

Gerd V.M. Haverling’s paper “On tense and mood in conditional clauses from
Early to Late Latin” focuses on a diachronic study of the loss of distinction
in the temporal reference of the subjunctive and indicative from Classical
Latin to Late Latin in conditional clauses, in the process tracing the
additional functionalities that past tense markers take up, like representing
hypothetical situations and counterfactuality as a result of

Judith Josephson’s paper “The fate of the subjunctive in late Middle Persian”
also takes up the loss of the subjunctive, especially in subordinate clauses
in late Middle Persian, where it has been reduced to mere formulaic uses. The
loss is paralleled by grammaticalization of the preverb /be/ in an expanded
/be/+VERB construction, which eventually takes over the role played by the
subjunctive, namely, expressing volition, possibility and future. Structural
changes that follow the eventual loss include reanalysis/incorporation of the
finite verb of the subordinate into the main clause with the indicative also
having taken over some of the functions of the subjunctive.

Nadezhda Zorikhina Nilsson’s paper “The negated imperative in Russian and
other Slavic languages: Aspectual and modal meanings” explores the effect of
negation on the use of the perfective aspect in Imperative clauses and
hypothesizes that the replacement of one system by another in many of these
languages is to be understood in terms of the general typological principle of
opposition between marked and unmarked forms, with the perfective as the
marked and the imperfective as the unmarked form. The perfective attains in
these languages the specialized meaning of expressing inverse imperatives.

William B. McGregor’s paper “Grammaticalisation of verbs into temporal and
modal markers in Australian languages” looks at the development of certain
temporal and modal categories as a result of the grammaticalization of certain
construction types like the compound verb constructions (CVC), complement
constructions and auxiliary constructions. The CVCs often follow the
typologically attested patterns of first delexicalization of one of the verbs
in a CVC and then the delexicalized verb turning into a derivational affix.
Complement constructions involving the verbs ‘say,’ ‘do,’ etc., are seen as
developing modal semantics as a result of codification of pragmatic
implicatures. Auxiliary constructions also show widely attested path of
lexical verbs becoming auxiliary verbs and auxiliary verbs becoming
inflectional markers.

Atle Grøun’s paper “Aspect and tense in counterfactual main clauses: Fake or
real?” investigates what are called fake and real aspectual markers
(imperfective) in counterfactuals in Romance and Slavic languages (French and
Russian, mainly), where the fake imperfective is seen in French, that is, the
imperfective makes no semantic contribution, while the real is seen in Russian
counterfactuals. Moving from these already established facts, the author
investigates the case of certain counterfactuals in both Russian and French,
where the imperfective becomes fake in certain irrealis contexts. The author’s
analysis gives an Optimality Theory based competition analysis for Russian,
leading to the choice of the best form-meaning association, which is however
operational in a setting of pragmatic strengthening based on associative
learning. The form-meaning association is conventionalized, developing
stereotypical interpretations. The French case is only briefly dealt with.

Lars Johanson’s brief paper “On non-canonical modal clause junction in Turkic”
probes if the non-canonical Altaic phenomenon observed in Turkic clause
junctures is merely a result of contact induced changes with Indo-European or
whether the language internally available device of using the subjunctive
marker as an adjunctor when juxtaposing two independent clauses, is
responsible for the apparently non-Altaic structure.

Ingmar Söhrman’s paper “Reference, aspectuality and modality in ante-preterit
(pluperfect) in Romance languages” takes an in-depth look at the
syntactic-functional and the morphological-formal side of the ante-preterit
tense in Romance languages, which has been often taken to be the same as
expressing pluperfect tense. Going beyond the accepted definition of
pluperfect as referring to an event that happens before another event in the
past, the author investigates the subtle referential modal and aspectual
attributes of the ante-preterit in Romance languages and compares it to
typologically diverse languages like Greek, Slavic and other European
languages. The author concludes that in terms of aspect, ante-preterit is used
both as a past imperfect as well as in perfective function and in terms of
modality/pragmatic functions, its role is understood as expressing (a) change
of referential world, (b) enhancement of modifying illocutionary force.
Typologically, the Romance languages in this respect do show parallels with
Slavic and Germanic languages.

Birte Stengaard’s brief paper “Subjects and objects with Latin habere and some
of its Romance descendants” takes a look at the argument structure (subject
and object) of the Latin verb ‘habere’ in 4th century texts and its survival
in modern Spanish and Portuguese as a grammatical element expressing
temporality as an auxiliary, having lost its lexical status. In the historical
texts ‘habere’ is also seen to express possession (as in Ibero-Romance). The
diachronic processes involved in this semantic and syntactic evolution shows
the verb developing an abstract sense expressing impersonality, modality, etc.
The historical texts also give no structural evidence of its possible
disappearance in the future and may explain its survival till date for
structural reasons.

Peter Bekker in “Diachrony and typology in the history of Cree (Algonquian,
Algic)”  studies the unusual typological features of Cree (and also other
Algonquian languages) by applying internal reconstruction. Three unusual
features focused on, include (a) the prefixal and suffixal expression of some
semantic categories, (b) parallels between verbal and nominal morphology, and,
(c) a lack of symmetry in the ordering of selected morphological and free
grammatical elements, like adpositions, demonstratives, etc. Internal
reconstruction is carried out drawing parallels with distantly related two
Algic languages even hypothesizing a common origin for all; parallels are also
drawn with Kutenai and Salish from the Pacific Coast, with speculations of
common origins. The NP-VP parallels are explained by hypothesizing a clearer
distinction in the past between nouns and verbs. The prefixal and suffixal
marking of the same categories is understood in terms of retention (suffixes)
and innovation (prefixes), suggesting a development away from suffixes to
prefixes; the third aspect of lack of symmetry is left inconclusive.
Considering the languages seem to be in a mixed state, both diffusion as well
as genetic links with languages showing similar features is suggested.
Evidence is also taken from archaeology and human genetics. The structure of
Proto Algonquian is also highlighted based on internal reconstruction with
different possible stages of evolution.

Looking into the development of Aorist indicative aspect into a tense marker
representing immediate/ recent past in Vedic, Eystein Dahl’s paper
“Typological change in Vedic: The development of the Aorist from a perfective
past to an immediate past” discusses the diachronic development of this marker
through four stages of Vedic (Early Vedic, Early Middle Vedic, Middle Vedic
and Late Vedic). Arguing that use of perfective to mark recent past is
typologically a common phenomenon, Dahl looks for typological clues through
Vedic examples in the development of this type of past marking. Through
various stages, the aorist indicative is seen to mark perfective aspect as
well as absolute and/or relative past tense to an immediate past reading with
loss of aspectual meaning. Dahl suggests that this is a result of
conventionalization of a pragmatic implicature, that of the association of
perfective with proximate past.

Ailbhe Ó. Corráin’s paper “On the evolution of verbal aspect in insular
Celtic”  examines the development of periphrastic aspectual markers in Insular
Celtic, namely, introspective, retrospective and prospective formations, from
a state where there were none, in the process trying to look for typological
clues that could explain the development of such systems in natural languages.
These markers, which develop from locative markers, are understood cognitively
as evolution of spatially organized construct of time. Motivations for the
development of these systems is suggested as a result of pressure to develop
imperfective marking in a system where all finite verbs were punctual and
categories of preterite, imperative and future were all primarily perfective.
The development of the aspectual system also follows a specific order; some
latter forms necessarily requiring some others to be in place already (in
accordance with the principle of diachronic stratification).

Kjartan G. Ottoson in “The anticausative and related categories in the Old
Germanic languages” traces the development of the anti-causative in languages
that did not have them, examining various branches of Old Germanic including
Old Nordic, Gothic, West Germanic, Old High German, etc., and explains it not
only as an attempt by these languages to systematize the
transitive-intransitive distinction but also as a transition typologically
from a system where aspect was important to one where valency becomes more
valued. The contributions of various aspects/processes in this evolution is
also highlighted, including the emergence of middle categories constructed
with the reflexive pronoun, the opaqueness of the originally aspectual
(inchoative marking) ‘na(n)’-verbs, flexibility of the middle reflexives,
restriction to only ‘passive’ use of the Indo European Mediopassive in Gothic
and survival only in Germanic, and the development of labile verbs in English
(e.g. ‘open’ which can be both transitive and intransitive) as a result of
lacking both the middle reflexives and the ‘na(n)’-verbs. The anticausative
element is argued to have been inherently present in both the
language-systems, namely, the ones with the na(n)-verbs as well as those with
middle reflexives. The excessive multifunctionality of the causative ‘ja-’ in
Proto Germanic is also taken as a contributing factor for the development of
an anticausative system, as the system required a better means of
distinguishing transitives from their intransitive counterparts.

Folke Josephson in “Directionality, case and actionality in Hittite” looks at
the role of two enclitic particles,  ‘-kan’ and ‘-san,’ through Old to Middle
to modern Hittite, where they are used as actional modifiers expressing
punctuality, telicity and direction. These particles interacted with
directional adverbs, preverbs and postpositions at various stages of the
language and affected their meanings with their own inherent meanings of
goal/directed path (‘-san’) and source (‘-kan’). These enclitics are also
shown to express the abstract link between case and verbal actionality. These
also contribute because of their modal functions like accomplishment,
limitation, etc. A comparison with similar directional verbs in Latin occupies
the major part of the paper and is used as supporting evidence.

Kristine Gunn Eide’s brief paper “The case of unaccusatives in Classical
Portuguese” evaluates the effect of the diachronic change in classical
Portuguese to Modern Portuguese in terms of being a topic prominent language
to a subject prominent one, in the process shifting the subject from  their
post-verbal position where they received case and agreed with the verb, to a
pre-verbal position leading to the loss of nominative case on post-verbal
subject arguments of unaccusatives and passives, even while it offers the
nominative to the pre-verbal empty expletive pronouns. The paper is a
generative framework based analysis of syntactic restructuring. The
post-verbal subjects of unaccusatives often are either unmarked for case or
even resemble objects or may receive other case markings like partitive.

The last paper “Some historical developments of the verb in Neo-Aramaic”by
Geoffrey Khan, inquires into some general aspects of the development of
Ergative syntax in Neo-Aramaic, initially due to contact with Iranian Kurdish
dialects and then showing/taking its own developmental path with differences
in Jewish and Christian dialects in the same regions. The feature that is
taken up for a brief analysis is the finite verbal forms in their perfective
and imperfective forms, which have been eliminated and have been replaced by
passive and active particles. Comparisons and contrast are drawn with other
forms of Aramaic and with earlier forms as well.


Grammaticalization, as is expected in a volume on diachronic issues, forms a
major theme in multiple papers in this volume, including those by Haverling,
Josephson, and, McGregor. McGregor raises a very significant issue when he
highlights the difficulty in assigning motivation for structural changes,
arguing that all grammaticalization cannot be looked upon as essentially a
cognitive process in nature, that is, a metaphorical transfer. Instead, his
argument that a semiotic understanding of grammaticalization is often missing
in studies which only focus on the loss of meaning of the source but do not
talk about the gaining of meaning of the end product of grammaticalization
which may not often involve cognitive/metaphorical transfers is indeed

Structural reasons for change form the backdrop of many papers, including
debates on how certain structural patterns are found to be deficient or
typologically rare or non-confirming, that is, being marked (Nilsson), and
therefore assisting a process of change. The property of unmarked forms taking
on more and more roles with marked forms becoming more and more specialized is
insightfully discussed by Nilsson. McGregor, Dahl, Corráin as well as Söhrman
very usefully highlight the central thematic emphasis of the volume, by
looking at structural change as not being random but as attestations of
typological patterns of development and change, thus emphasizing on change as
a process and not merely as an event and looking at language evolution as
fundamentally goal-oriented. Josephson is right in arguing that languages give
structural cues on whether certain features are stable or will be lost
eventually. Since linguistic structures form a system, any loss is seen to be
compensated by multiple means including by reanalysis of existing forms. At
times, as Ottoson argues, change is motivated by a desire to systematize — at
times a lack of a feature, at other times to bring clarity in a situation of
excessive multifunctionality of certain markers. Even when Johanson highlights
change as a result of contact, the emphasis on looking for language internal
devices or reasons for change is not lost. One cannot say with certainty if a
language can resist change at all costs, but the presence of language internal
favourable factors leading to change must be seen as constituting an important
environment for change. This is confirmed by Stengaard’s paper, which talks
about the persistence of certain features due to the lack of any structural
evidence suggesting a possible disappearance. Dahl also raises the stakes when
he attempts to show how far the Vedic stages/processes are representative of
the stages in natural languages, thus attempting a more global understanding
of change in terms of universal principles of change.

The role of codification of pragmatic implicatures in the development of modal
semantics (McGregor), conventalization of form-meaning associations in a
setting of pragmatic strengthening (Grøun) as well as eventual move from an
aspectual reading to a tense reading (Dahl), highlights an often ignored role
played by the pragmatics of language use in the process of diachronic
development of forms.

Even though the book’s title seemingly suggests that two different
perspectives would be used to study verbs, the reader soon realizes that the
papers actually embark on mostly a diachronic study of various aspects of
verbs, mostly TAM categories but also touching upon preverbal, adverbial
markers, etc. It is assumed throughout the various analyses that typological
studies that only look at languages as they are in their current state can
only probably provide a shallow analysis, description or explanation and
therefore a diachronic perspective is assumed necessary for any meaningful
typological study. Structural similarities or patterns that come about are not
necessarily historical accidents but are often driven and guided by language
internal factors – at times a loss of markers that distinguished forms, or at
other times, a gradual loss of certain forms due to their marked nature in the
system or their disuse. Sometimes structural changes could mark the end of
certain forms. Contact with other languages, diffusion of certain features in
contact areas are all touched upon in the papers. Does the diachronic approach
coupled with comparative approach provide a better solution? Does dwelling on
diachronic principles make certain explanations for typological phenomenon
easier or stronger? The papers argue for these positions forcefully.

The papers present a very interesting mix of approaches and theoretical
persuasions, with Eide’s paper using a generative analysis of syntactic
restructuring and Grøun’s paper using an Optimality Theory-based competition
analysis leading to the choice of best forms, with multiple papers emphasizing
on conventionalization/concretization of pragmatic implicatures and many on
the usual aspects of grammaticalization like expansion, specialization,
delexicalization, contact-induced changes, the role of structural strength in
the stability and maintenance of certain features, the role of cognitive
processes like ease of processing, etc. in determining stability/instability
of features, development of abstract meanings, retention and innovation of
features, etc. The purely diachronic papers also follow sound principles of
historical linguistics in looking for internal reasons for change and seeking
comparisons with other languages typologically to support claims of diachronic
change by showing parallels in other languages. Attempts at internal
reconstruction are supplemented with typological comparisons. The importance
of diffusion and genetic links is also highlighted. The corroboration from
archaeology and human genetics is also an important step in forming stronger
claims (Bekker). The various positions taken in evolution and growth of
languages and the tensions between them are well articulated through papers
that question an exclusively cognitive basis for change and those that argue
for a cognitive basis. The importance of language-internal pressure to
systematize its oppositions and processes leading to change is also equally
highlighted. Thus, over-all the papers provide a rich menu of possibilities in
the analysis of diachronic as well as typological aspects of verbs. The
language families covered in the analyses are quite impressive and
distributed. The papers are not organized in any particular thematic patterns
or subsections. This review has tried to bunch papers together that deal with
a particular thematic principle, keeping in view the broader theme of the
volume as envisaged by its title.

Thus overall, the volume provides a good combination of shorter papers that
present a preliminary hypothesis and open up a larger window for more detailed
and parallel analysis, as well as longer research papers that provide detailed
analyses of verbal morphosyntax in diverse settings. Both students of
historical linguistics and typological studies will benefit from the
confluence of ideas and synthesis of practices. Also, the fact that the
inferences drawn from diachronic studies are used to provide explanations for
typological phenomena and vice-versa provides a good model for a synthetic


I have worked on the Mon-Khmer languages Pnar and Khasi spoken in Meghalaya in
the Northeastern region of India and submitted a dissertation on the
pronominal clitics in these languages at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New
Delhi. I am presently working on my Doctoral thesis on ‘The typology of
clitics in the Austroasiatic languages of India’ while also teaching at the
English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India. My career
interests include working on the morphosyntax of lesser-studied languages of
India from a typological perspective.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-3043

Review: Discourse Analysis: Nickerson, Planken & Bargiela-Chiappini (2013)

Monday, July 28th, 2014

AUTHOR: Dr Francesca  Bargiela-Chiappini
AUTHOR: Catherine  Nickerson
AUTHOR: Brigitte  Planken
TITLE: Business Discourse
SERIES TITLE: Research and Practice in Applied Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Brad B Miller, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Business Discourse (2nd Edition), by Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini, Catherine
Nickerson, and Brigitte Planken is designed to offer a background of applied
linguistics and business communication to the student, researcher, and
practitioner. This edition offers a more updated insight into the realm of
business discourse research, providing analyses of more recent studies in an
effort to provide the reader with a more up-to-date survey of the state of the
art. It is designed to bring into focus the benefits of discourse analysis and
other forms of linguistic research by showing how they may apply to and be of
benefit for other research areas – namely the business focused research of
Organizational Behavior as well as Institutional Communication along with
their focus on the dependent variable in language variation. This book is
intended to help readers establish a flexible mindset where
multidisciplinarity is a strength and varied approach-taking is essential for
a good result. It provides readers with a vast collection of previous studies
along with analyses of each as a background in the realm of business
discourse. It is geared towards linguists who are interested in, but have a
limited working knowledge of the field of business communication studies.

Part I is centered around ‘The Field of Business Discourse.’ It carries the
reader through the potentially complicated maze of the history of business
discourse as a research area, emphasizing different types of research
approaches that have been employed by others, and giving a brief overview of
how business discourse has evolved around the world. The first chapter in
particular offers a strong definition of what business discourse is – namely
“social action in business contexts” – considering various types of discourse
that can be analyzed emphasizing the ability to focus on communication through
various media. This first chapter highlights the background of various types
of research that can fall under the real of business discourse research: from
analyzing talk within any organizational context (Sarangi & Roberts 1999),
from studies on code-switching in a business context (Lavic 2009) to analyses
of written correspondence between companies and share holders (Prasad & Mir
2002), as well as a corpus analysis of application letters for a specific
position (Mahommed Al-Ali 2004) and analyses of gender and power in
corporations (Peck 2000; Tannen 1995).
It is important to note that throughout the book, though most particularly in
the first section, the authors offer specific highlights of various
researchers around the world who have made particular contributions to the
field of business discourse. Those profiled include Marjaliisa Charles, Karen
Lee Ashcraft, Gina Poncini, and Judith Baxter, among many others. Each profile
gives a brief background of the researcher, their educational background, and
a biography of their discourse related research. Further information includes
a series of quotations from the researcher and a list of the highlighted
researchers pros and cons of doing research in business discourse. Some also
include various elements of business discourse research (research ideas, foci,
or approaches) they oppose or support.

Chapter 2 discusses the idea of rapport management as one aspect of business
discourse that is perceived as the future of intercultural business discourse
research. This idea in particular is offered as one solution to the perceived
western-centric approaches of most past models of discourse and interaction.
The authors also consider other potential factors that may affect the future
of business discourse research, allowing for multimodality and the influences
from various sources of communication within the business field. Furthermore,
they highlight the need for researchers to be multidisciplinary in their
approaches, allowing for multiple approaches and the benefits that come from
open-minded and multi-method research styles.

Part II looks into how one may apply business discourse research in real world
settings. Chapter 3 deals with using business discourse research as a way to
teach and/or train. This chapter focuses on several real-life instances of
learning materials that were produced as a result of discourse research in
businesses such as those produced in the Hong Kong English for Business
Education Project (Bhatia & Candlin 2001), as well as Language of Work
(Koester 2004) and the Corpus of International Business Writing Teaching
Project (Connor et al. 1997). These examples provide a sampling of potential
applicability for such research in terms of business improvement, government
education, and teaching materials designed to teach and inform students (most
specifically within the field of business). It shows how the use of corpora
may also benefit the researcher.

Chapter 4 considers the industrial application of business discourse research
through consultancy work. The authors provide examples of different types of
research-based consultancy work that have occurred in the past around the
world such as the REFLECT (Review of Foreign Language and Cultural Training
Needs) project or linguistic audits (Charles & Marschan-Piekkari 2002). As a
part of this, they consider the methodologies that were used in such work and
the implications of the findings. This chapter also attempts to show how
consultancy projects effectively reflect developments in business
communication research.
The focus of Chapter 5 is mainly a review of teaching materials that have been
produced with business communication and language for specific business
purposes in mind. It profiles six sets of such materials and discusses the
approaches taken in producing these materials, their effectiveness and
quality. This chapter is primarily a literature review of such materials with
a focus on what went into their production, and as a result what would need to
go into any other similar production.

Part III of the book considers the actual practice of researching business
discourse. Chapter 6 profiles various studies like studies of corporate
communicative practices in Brazil (Barbara, Celani, Collins & Scott 1996) to
show basic themes as well as research strategies employed in order to focus
the attention of the reader on future research possibilities. Chapter 7
considers replicable studies from key research areas such as quantitative
approaches to studying discourse practices (van Hest & Oud-de Glas 1991; Hagen
1993; 1999; ELAN 2006; etc.) as well as more qualitative approaches (Nickerson
& Planken 2009; Sarangi & Candlin 2003; Akar 2002; etc.), presenting the
theoretical frameworks and methodologies employed in these types of studies
and providing examples for future potential project ideas in fields such as
researching spoken business discourse, social semiotics, genre analysis, or
written business communication.

The longest chapter in the book, Chapter 8, looks at ten research studies
“that showcase the work of business discourse researchers from around the
world” (p. 244). This chapter provides a summary of several research projects,
considers their goals and the methodology employed, and then discusses their
findings. Some examples include a study of Dutch and American companies and
how they deal with customers’ email inquiries (van Mulken & van der Meer
2005), a study of audience reaction to advertisements (Hoeken et al. 2003), an
analysis of English use in a Hong Kong merchandiser workplace (Li So-mui &
Mead 2000), or English as used as a lingua franca in corporate mergers
(Louhiala-Salminen et al. 2005). Each illustration is a brief review of the
study being considered and gives the reader a concise, yet useful view into
real work on business discourse. The commentary provided for each case also
helps the reader to informally apply the research to their own interests while
considering potential variations and modifications that might be useful.

The final section of the book, Part IV, is a list of resources that would be
useful for a business discourse research to consider in any future project.
Chapter 9 gives a list of books, edited collections, journals, professional
associations, conferences and workshops that in some way or another are
relevant to the field.


The book, Business Discourse (2nd Edition), is an excellent resource for
students attempting to better understand the applicability of discourse
analysis as well as for professionals hoping to better improve their
consideration of communication in the business field. It is a large collection
of information regarding past studies, helping the reader best understand how
questions have been resolved in the past in addition to helping him/her
develop potential future research projects. The background research and
consideration given is extensive to say the least, fully covering nearly the
entire field from its early inception. As such, this book is a must-have for
potential and current practitioners of business discourse research.

Throughout the book, the authors give summaries and reviews of the work they
highlight. These summaries act as a wonderful literature review for the
reader, helping her/him to fully understand the various aspects that go into
any type of discourse analysis. Perhaps most importantly, this book helps the
reader understand the basics necessary to consider performing research in the
business realm. The way in which the book is written provides readers with a
condensed review of many of these studies, helping them in turn decide on an
approach for their own studies. What is good about this is the nearly
non-biased way in which the authors review each study, allowing the individual
to formulate personal opinions rather than be swayed by the biases of the

Mini-biographies of prominent names in the field are also offered. For many
students, the names of individuals are often mentioned ‘behind’ the studies,
as subsidiary to the studies being discussed. It is often the case that
students learn the last name of authors and year when a paper was published,
but fail to recognize the physical human effort behind each study. In
providing mini-biographies of the scholars, the authors have given readers a
glimpse in the life of current practitioners, and as such have given a human
face to the studies being considered. It makes business discourse that much
more applicable and accessible for students, and as such truly opens the doors
for future generations.

While this book obviously considers the studies being examined as discourse
analysis in its many forms and shapes, it does little by way of description of
how to perform discourse analysis. Students of discourse analysis would do
well to use this as subsidiary to their study of analyses and focus their
attention on the methodology employed in discourse analysis. This book
provides no such methodological base, and as such provides little more than a
bridge between discourse analysis and its application in business. One should
have some previous exposure to discourse analysis in order to fully grasp the
intentions and potential of this book.

Tasks given at the end of each chapter recommend ways in which a student may
further their education and understanding of business discourse analysis. They
are useful and, for the most part, well thought out. It would be recommended
that students employ these in their reading of the book. Ignoring the tasks
may seem to be time-saving, however the novice would be ill-prepared to begin
any sort of business discourse analysis without such practice and
learning-based application.

In conclusion, Business Discourse is a wonderful book in terms of its scope,
however, in the end it is little more than a large literature review. Of
course, such a review is necessary and useful to say the least, but it should
be noted that students and practitioners must have a basic understanding of
broad linguistic theories and basic discourse analysis in order to fully
implement its recommendations. Especially considering the extreme lack of
instructional material available to a student of business discourse, this book
is unique and highly effective in its display of business discourse as a field
of study. The book would not be recommended to the novice researcher with
little linguistic background, but should be directed towards those intending
to apply the field of discourse analysis within the realm of institutions,
whatever that institution may be.


Akar, D. (2002). The macro contextual factors shaping business discourse: The
Turkish case. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching
40: 305-322.

Al-Ali, M. N. (2004). How to get yourself on the door of a job: A
cross-cultural contrastive study of Arabic and English job application
letters. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 25(1): 1-23.

Barbara, L. M., Celani, A. A., Collins, H., & Scott, M. (1996). A survey of
communication patterns in the Brazilian business context. English for Specific
Purposes 15(1): 57-71.

Bhatia, V. K., & Candlin, C. N. (Eds.) (2001). Teaching English to meet the
needs of business education in Hong Kong. Hong Kong: City University of Hong

Charles, M., & Marschan-Piekkari, R. (2002). Language training for enhanced
horizontal communication: A challenge for MNCs. Business Communication
Quarterly 65(2): 9-29.

Connor, U., Davis, K., De Rycker, T., Phillips, E. M., & Verkens, J. P.
(1997). An international course in international business writing: Belgium,
Finland, the United States. Business Communication Quarterly 60(4): 63-74.

ELAN (2006). Effects on the European Economy of Shortages of Foreign Language
Skills in Enterprise. A Report prepared by CILT, the National Centre for
Languages, for the European Commission. Principal Investigator: Stephen Hagen.
Hagen, S. (1993). Language in European business: A regional survey of small
and medium-sized companies. London: Centre for Information on Languages
Teaching and Research: City Technology Colleges Trust Ltd.

Hagen, S. (Ed.) (1999). Communication across borders The ELUCIDATE study.
London: CILT.

Hoeken, H., van Brandt, C., Crijns, R., Domingues, N., Hendriks, B., Planken,
B., & Starren, M. (2003). International advertising in Western Europose:
Should differences in unvertainty avoidance be considered when advertising in
Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Spain? The Journal of Business
Communication 40(3): 195-218.

Koester, A. (2004). The language of work. London & New York: Routledge.
Lavric, E. (Ed.) (2009). Sprachwahl in Unternehmen: Tiroler Fallstudien.
Ergebnisse eines Projektseminars an der Leopold-Franzens-Universita?t
Innsbruck. Innsbruck: Innsbruck University Press.

Li So-mui, F. & Mead, K. (2000). An analysis of English in the workplace: The
communication needs of textile and clothing merchandisers. English for
Specific Purposes 19: 351-368.

Louhiala-Salminen, L., Charles, M., & Kankaanranta, A. (2005). English as a
lingua franca in Nordic corporate mergers: Two case companies. English for
Specific Purposes 24(4): 401-421.

Nickerson, C. & Planken, B. (2009). Europe: the state of the field. In: F.
Bargiela-Chiappini (Ed.), The Handbook of Business Discourse (pp. 18-29).
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Peck, J. J. (2000). The cost of corporate culture: Linguistic obstacles to
gender equity in Australian business. In J. Holmes (Ed.), Gendered speech in
social context: Perspectives from gown and town (pp. 211-230). Auckland:
Victoria University Press.

Prasad, A., & Mir, R. (2002). Digging deep for meaning: A critical hermeneutic
analysis of CEO letters to shareholders in the oil industry. Journal of
Business Communication 39(1): 92-116.

Sarangi, S., & Candlin, C. N. (2003). Editorial. Trading between reflexivity
and relevance: new challenges for applied linguistics. Applied Linguistics
24(3): 271-285.

Sarangi, S. & Roberts, C. (Eds.) (1999). Talk, work and institutional order:
Discourse in medical, mediation and management settings. Berlin: Mouton de

Tannen, D. (1995). Talking from 9 to 5: Men and women at work. New York:
Harper Paperbacks.

van Hest, E., & Oud-de Glas, M. (1991). A survey of the techniques used in the
diagnosis and analysis of foreign language needs in trade and industry. Office
for Official Publications of the European Communities.

van Mulken, M., & van der Meer, W. (2005). Are you being served? A genre
analysis of American and Dutch company replies to customer enquiries. English
for Specific Purposes 24: 93-109.


Brad B. Miller is a graduate student in the MA/PhD program in Linguistics at
the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received an MA in
Linguistics from Brigham Young University in 2013. His primary research focus
deals with issues of social hierarchy and discourse in India, mainly dealing
with issues of caste and language variation. Other areas of research include
discourse in social and institutional hierarchies as well as language
documentation and socio-neuroscience.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-3044

Review: Cognitive Science; Historical Ling; Linguistic Theories; Semantics; Typology: Goschler & Stefanowitsch (2013)

Monday, July 28th, 2014

EDITOR: Juliana  Goschler
EDITOR: Anatol  Stefanowitsch
TITLE: Variation and Change in the Encoding of Motion Events
SERIES TITLE: Human Cognitive Processing 41
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Konrad Szczesniak, University of Silesia


Edited by Juliana Goschler and Anatol Stefanowitsch, “Variation and Change in
the Encoding of Motion Events” is a volume with a clear agenda. One common
goal of this collection of studies is to demonstrate the continuum nature of
the binary distinction between satellite-framed and verb-framed modes of
expression of motion proposed by Talmy (2000a) (2000b). The authors in the
volume argue that it is too simple and untenable to divide languages into
those that express path in the verb (enter the room) and those that express
manner in the verb and path outside it (hop into the room). As Kopecka notes,
Talmy’s division, “although clearly fruitful, nevertheless proved too
simplistic to account for the typological complexity of individual languages.”
(p. 164) Thus, the point being made is that in its traditional form, Talmy’s
division may be another facile dichotomy; for maximum accuracy, it should be
carefully qualified and shown to exhibit considerable variation. This
objective is pursued coherently in two ways, namely through analysis of
examples of variation within the two types of languages, and through tracing
diachronic change as languages cross the division between the types over time.
This approach is certainly reasonable and compelling: the cases of diachronic
change offered here are only possible if the distinction is a continuum; no
seismic changes between satellite-framed and verb-framed style would be
possible overnight as “one-fell-swoop” transformations.

The volume is a fascinating collection of studies focusing on how Talmy’s
typology of motion events plays out in languages when looked at in detail,
based on large numbers of actual uses of motion event phrases. Berthele
justifies this approach by pointing out that “[t]he typological status of a
particular language is to be determined empirically, based on corpora, and not
via introspection or via genealogical inheritance.” (p. 58) The contributions
in the volume provide ample concrete data to evaluate and revise our thinking
about how languages capture motion. Each chapter offers a study of uses
reflecting the way motion is encoded in languages chosen by the authors;
additionally the authors include a distillation of their views and findings
accumulated over years of research on the expression of motion in language.


Filipocić shows that in Serbo-Croatian, a satellite-framed language, the
conflation of manner and directionality is constrained by aspect and
morphosyntax. Unlike in English, where seemingly any manner verb can be used
with a path satellite, Serbo-Croatian resists uses of verbs such as skakutati
(‘skip’) in patterns like “She was skipping into the house”, because
morphological blocking makes it impossible to adjust the verb’s aspect to the
boundary-crossing scenario found in such motion descriptions. In other words,
this and other Slavic languages are not fully satellite-framed languages.
Hijazo-Gascón and Ibarretxe-Antuñano make similar qualifications, albeit about
languages found on the other extreme of the continuum. Here too, the main
finding is that textbook examples of verb-framed languages–Spanish, French
and Italian–are not fully verb-framed languages after all. They have “Manner
verb+adverb structures”. The authors conclude that the three Romance languages
“are verb-framed languages, but they show intratypological variation with
regard to the semantic component of Path” (p.50). Similarly, Berthele looks at
the production by speakers of French and a number of contact varieties of
German and Romansch, and uses a wealth of statistical data to demonstrate that
languages do not differ from each other in a simple binary fashion.  Instead,
satellite-framed German exhibits signs of verb-framed behavior, while speakers
of the Romance verb-framed counterparts French and Romansch allow elements
typical of satellite-framed languages such as relatively high numbers of
manner verbs with path descriptions. Wälchli and Sölling take a more panoramic
look at motion expression across a wide range of languages (although they do
not describe each one in detail in their chapter, they have compared 117
languages). They also conclude that there are few universal properties.
Compounding the impression of cross-linguistic variation is the observation
that “[n]o conclusive evidence for underlying global semantic features such as
path was found.” (p.109) They go on to venture that many features in motion
typology are “cross-linguistic comparative concepts designed by typologists
and not intrinsic in language structure.” (p.110) The next two chapters look
at how learners of satellite-framed languages express motion in these target
languages. Goschler studies Turkish learners of German, while Jensen and
Cadierno look at Turkish and German learners of Danish. Perhaps the most
important finding in both studies is that when the mother tongue and the
target language are typologically different, learners do not use patterns of
motion expression typical of the target language. That is, both studies
converge on the conclusion that speakers of Turkish (verb-framed) do not use
manner verbs in German or Danish (both satellite-framed) in proportions
comparable the production by German or Danish speakers.

Then in the second part of the volume, the authors of four chapters look at
how languages changed their modes of motion expression over centuries. Kopecka
traces diachronic changes in the development from Old to Modern French, and
shows how French lost its focus on Path, thus becoming more of a verb-framed
language. On the other hand, Nikitina shows that Greek went in the opposite
direction in its evolution from Archaic to Classical Greek. Her point of
interest is the use of motion verbs with path phrases in the accusative and
dative case, the former being directional and the latter locative. She shows
that Greek gradually relied more on the truly goal-encoding accusative
phrases, thus becoming a more consistently satellite-framed language. Huber
studies changes in Middle English as it incorporated French path-conflating
verbs (e.g. enter, ascend) into its motion construction. She provides data to
show that these verbs were initially used in the same pattern as other verbs,
with prepositional path phrases, but were eventually allotted separate
constructions. Stefanowitch’s approach is to treat motion event patterns as a
group of largely independent constructions.  Instead of viewing a language as
being either satellite-framed or verb-framed, one can study motion
constructions available in that language. Under this analysis, for example,
Romance languages are found to use some German-type patterns where manner
verbs appear with prepositional phrases expressing directional motion (e.g.
Rose courait au bas de l’escalier ‘Rose ran to the foot of the stairs’). In a
way, this should not be surprising, because as Stefanowitsch notes, “most
languages have both path- and manner-verbs in their lexicon and allow both the
path-in-verb and the path-outside-verb pattern in actual usage.” (p. 226)


The overall picture is one of differences of degree, not kind. A language is
not either/or, but tending toward the satellite- or verb-framed end of the
continuum. To substantiate this view, the authors identify many factors that
complicate the binary typology of motion event expression. For example,
Filipović explains limited satellite-framed expression found in Serbo-Croatian
in terms of morphosyntactic constraints responsible for disallowing many
manner verbs in path-satellite patterns. The constraints she identifies apply
not only to Serbo-Croatian, but to similar cases in Polish and Czech, and
probably other Slavic languages too. Berthele identifies a correlation between
speech community size and the number of manner and path verbs used by the
speakers. When their speech communities are small, satellite-framed languages
do not necessarily have to feature a large variety of verbs. That is because
in small tight-knit communities, more common ground knowledge is shared, “more
information can be taken for granted and less explicit forms of utterances are
licensed”.  As a result, less lexical precision is necessary and fewer types
of verbs are used. Also, the incidence of verbs depends on the speakers’
“verbal intelligence” (p.67). This is certainly a fair observation especially
in the case of manner verbs, given that there are incomparably more manner
verbs than path verbs; the choice of the former requires more effort, and
indeed more creativity and eloquence, than the choice between options like
‘go’, ‘leave’, and ‘enter’.

However, while the amount of data and the thoroughness of analyses offered
here are truly impressive, it seems that part of the impression of variation
is an artifact of the criteria used to classify a language having
satellite-framed properties. Some contributors in the volume conclude that a
language exhibits signs of satellite-framed behavior based on examples of
sentences where manner is conflated with any path phrases. For example,
Berthele observes that speakers of Romance (verb-framed) languages in his
sample (French and three varieties of Romansch) use manner verbs with path
phrases and provides examples like

(1) il saute sur la ruche

‘he jumps onto the beehive’ (example 5, p. 62)

Similarly, Stefanowitsch gives example (2) below

(2) Rose courait au bas de l’escalier. (example 3b, p. 226)

‘Rose ran to the foot of the stairs.’

Huber gives an example from Middle English (3)

(3)Hors þat evir trottid.. It were hard to make hym aftir to ambill well.

‘A horse that ever trotted – it would be hard to make it amble well
afterwards.’ (example 1a, p. 206)

While the status of English as a satellite-framed language is secure enough
and does not need to be defended, the choice of examples is questionable. A
mere use of manner verbs with path phrases is a rather relaxed standard,
indeed so undemanding that probably any language can meet it. Under this
criterion, even a classic verb-framed language like Spanish allows manner
verbs directionally:

(4) La botella flotó en la dirección del mar.

The bottle floated in the direction of the sea.

A true litmus test is whether a language allows manner verbs to appear with
phrases that express the resultative element of boundary crossing (Aske,
1989). When this criterion is applied, much of the purported variation
disappears — verb-framed languages cease to exhibit satellite-framed
properties. While French can indeed afford uses like (2) above, its
satellite-framed potential ends when it comes to expressing equivalents of
sentences like ‘Rose ran into the room’ (translated literally as ‘Rose courait
dans la pièce’ can only mean ‘Rose ran inside the room’, not ‘into the room’).

Also rather dubious are some conclusions drawn from reports of variation at
the opposite end of the continuum, where satellite-framed languages can be
observed to show signs of verb-framed behavior. Some authors note that
satellite-framed English also uses the verb-framed system (through verbs like
‘exit’, ‘pass’, or ‘ascend’), and they point out that, strictly under Talmy’s
typology, this seems to be against the very nature of English. For example,
Stefanowitsch reports that in the literature, these verbs cause some
consternation as an “oddity in an otherwise pure path-outside-verb language”
(p. 229). I believe this is a misunderstanding, a result of treating the two
systems on an equal footing. The path-in-verb system involving use of verbs
like ‘exit’ or ‘enter’ is probably available to all languages,
satellite-framed and verb-framed alike. It is simple standard equipment found
not only in classic verb-framed languages, but also in English and other
satellite-framed languages. On the other hand, the path-outside-verb system
found in satellite-framed languages is a special feature, a more complex way
of encoding motion. One could propose an implicational universal along the
lines of “If a language is capable of encoding motion satellite-framed style,
it also has the option of expressing motion by means of the verb-framed
system.” If this approach is accurate, any variation on the satellite-framed
side of the division is no longer variation; the choice between the two modes
of motion expression is a fairly unsurprising option, like the freedom to
occasionally resort to barter trade. Conversely, a verb-framed language cannot
and does not show true signs of satellite-framed behavior.

It is not my intention to dismiss the variation advocated in the
contributions. It is clear enough that, as the authors demonstrate, it is a
hallmark of motion event encoding. The examples of variation reported in each
contribution–as well as their discussion–are intriguing, pleasantly
stimulating, and indeed genuinely enlightening, and will certainly be welcomed
by cognitive linguists, typologists and generally all those interested in the
linguistic expression of motion. However, perhaps too much is being made of
the presence of variation across Talmy’s divide. To my mind, the variation
does not rule out a clear division; it does not justify writing off Talmy’s
binary typology as simplistic and replacing it with a continuum view.


Aske, J., 1989. Path predicates in English and Spanish: A closer look.. In:
Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics
Society. Berkeley: BLS, pp. 1-14.

Talmy, L., 2000a. Toward A Cognitive Semantics. Volume I: Concept Structuring
Systems. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Talmy, L., 2000b. Toward A Cognitive Semantics. Volume II: Typology and
Process in Concept Structuring. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


I am currently involved in work on grammatical constructions within the
Construction Grammar framework. I am particularly interested in questions of
meaning in schematic grammatical constructions. I attempt to reconcile new
cognitive approaches with traditional views on questions such as the division
into closed- and open-class forms, the lexicon and syntax, and the kinds of
meanings that language forms are capable of conveying.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-3039

Review: Discourse Analysis; Ling & Literature; Socioling: Labov (2013)

Monday, July 28th, 2014

AUTHOR: William  Labov
TITLE: The Language of Life and Death
SUBTITLE: The Transformation of Experience in Oral Narrative
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Marta Lupica Spagnolo, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano


At the time when Labov and Waletzky were asking themselves in 1967 about the
criteria for recognizing narrative in speech and the relation between the
sequence of clauses and events in a narration, narrative analysis was a quite
unexplored field of research in linguistics. In proposing a framework for
formal and functional analysis of oral narratives of personal experience, they
laid the groundwork for a linguistics approach to this issue. Fast-forward 50
years later, William Labov extensively returns to these and related questions
in the book “The Language of Life and Death: The transformation of Experience
in Oral Narrative”. Intriguingly, he shows how the transfer of the speaker´s
experience to the audience is achieved by the narration of events that concern
one of the seemingly most incommunicable topics–death.

“The Language of Life and Death” was published by Cambridge University Press
in 2013. On the one hand, the book aims to illustrate a framework for
structural analysis and comparison of oral narratives which, after the first
formulation in 1967, was further developed by the author in later essays (see,
e.g., Labov 1997, Labov 2006). On the other hand, Labov purposes the grasping
of mental processes and linguistic strategies followed and exploited by the
speakers by composing a narrative of great emotional impact on the audience.
That is, one that succeeds in transferring the experience of the speaker to
the listener/reader. Assuming that the teller transforms the narrated
experience in the interests of the self without lying, the processes of
narrative reconstruction and construction are seen as modeled by the
maximization of three principles (the first and the second inversely
correlated): reportability, credibility and tellability.


In the introduction, Labov accounts for his (first) interest in sampling oral
narratives of personal experiences that involve highly reportable topics
(death, sex and moral indignation) as elicitation technique for obtaining
vernacular data. Furthermore, he contextualizes his own approach to narrative
in sociolinguistics and discourse analysis literature. “Big stories”, as told
in sociolinguistic interviews, are chosen as material for the present book in
consideration of their “archetypical” form (p. 8). Since the speaker is not
constrained by competition for the floor, he/she can develop a narrative in
its full structure in a sociolinguistic interview. Nevertheless, the effects
of audience design are considerably underrepresented in such an elicitation
setting in comparison with what happens in ordinary conversation (see, e.g.,
some essays in Bamberg 2007 for a discussion on the topic).

The concept of “tense” is central in a linguistic definition of narrative as
discussed in Chapter 1. A narrative is a particular way of retelling past
events that actually happened whereupon the order of independent clauses
corresponds to “the order of the original events referred to” (p. 15).
Actually, really produced narratives are often a succession of narrative
clauses, i.e., independent clauses separated by a temporal juncture, and free
and restricted clauses, which cover a more extended temporal range and are
often headed by stative verbs or verbs in progressive tense. The linguistic
alternation between clause types, and the related oscillation between
recounting, orienting and evaluating sections, distinguishes narratives from
other genres which report past events. Furthermore, another empirically
observed characteristic feature of narratives is the rarity of flashbacks as a
result of the egocentric principle.

The first step in producing a narrative is the recursive reconstruction of the
chain of causal relationships that connects the most reportable event with its
initiating matrix; that is, the triggering event or situation that is
perceived by the teller as not needing any further explanation. By the
following process of narrative construction, the complicating action is
typically completed by other elements and sections: abstract, orientation,
evaluation, resolution, and coda. They normally accomplish further narrative
or communicative tasks. Apart of reporting past events, a main function of
narratives is, in fact, to assign “praise and blame to the actors involved”
(p. 35). This goal shapes the structure of a narrative. For example, it drives
the teller in the choice of the initiating event and in the placement of the
orientation. Even the omission of events or the interruption of the causal
chain of narrative clauses with postponed orientation elements, evaluative
remarks or instrumental acts can be justified in consideration of this

In the narratives of Chapters 3 and 4, the protagonists are respectively faced
with a life-threatening escalation of violence and with a traumatic
confrontation with death and dead bodies. To exemplify the previous
theoretical discussion in these and following chapters, the sequence of events
underlying each narration is rebuilt. Unclear causal connections between
narrative clauses are interpreted through inquiry into the teller´s cultural
background or through his commitment to assign or avoid assigning moral
responsibility to the actors. Very interestingly, linguistics forms that serve
polarizing or integrating strategies of the speaker are identified. For
instance, quasi-modal verbs, such as “started to”, “ready to” etc., and
zero-causative verbs, such as “drive”, are respectively ambiguous in regard to
“the presence or the absence of the activity” and to the assignment of agency
(p. 57). Thus, their use allows the narrator to avoid taking a position about
these issues by reporting a past experience without lying.

A peculiarity of the narratives about premonitions and communication with the
dead in Chapter 5 is the nature of the most reportable event. In these
narrations, the most reportable event concerns the temporal “distribution of
information” to the participants (p. 97). Moreover, syntactic and lexical
complexity is employed in a singular way so as to increase the narrative
impact. Despite the audience´s possible skepticism regarding these topics and
the related risk for the teller of “losing face” (p. 90), the narrator
succeeds in generating interest and credibility.

Each of the following four chapters (6-9) contains a single narration that the
author defines as “epic” because of its thematic and formal features. Indeed,
these narratives are “episodic in principle” and deal with the struggle of an
extraordinary person against “hopeless odds” (p. 107). Furthermore, these
narratives differ from the previous stories regarding their style and basic
strategies. Instead of achieving emotional impact and objectivity by eliding
events or by presenting objects as witnesses, the teller gives an extensive
account of the social background and resolution of the story. As the selected
epic narratives are all told by women, gender differences can be recognized in
the prototypical way of narrating personal experiences. However, a common
feature of female and male narratives, which emerges from the analysis
conducted hitherto, is the interaction of requests and responses in forming
the skeleton of narrative structure (p. 145). The reference to conversational
analysis and to the concept of “adjacency pair” suggests the profitability of
the interplay of different approaches in studying narration. Among the most
interesting linguistics features of these narratives are the particular name
and naming strategies employed, such as the use of non-anaphoric pronouns to
refer to the most important person in the context (p. 119), and the switch
between codes or the choice between local and non-local variants in order to
characterize the direct speech of a figure (p. 135) or to position the self
relating to community values (p. 128).

A multi-episodic male narrative, which is embedded in a daily conversation, is
analyzed in Chapter 10. The same structural features and similar polarization
strategies emerge as in the previous stories elicited during interviews. At
the end of the conversation, the speaker continues recounting past events, but
the report “does not take narrative form” (p. 174). As in another narrative of
Chapter 4 (pp. 82-87), the lack of narrative construction could depend on the
speaker´s attitude towards the past experience. Indeed, the development of a
personal narrative seems to require emotional control and a confident
interpretation of his past.

The style and prosodic pattern of Donald Wise´s narratives in Chapter 11
especially deserve the label “epic”. In recounting his spectacular robbery of
the gas man, Donald uses a typical rhythmic pattern of a toast´s recitation by
pronouncing a syllable extra-long in the last clause. Referring to research
that discusses the oral origins of traditional epic poems (see, e.g., Lord
1960), Labov considers in this chapter the reciprocal influences and
similarities between oral epic narratives and oral narratives of personal

Chapter 12 opens with an oral narrative of an historical fact told by an
historian in retirement during an interview. The example introduces the reader
into the long-standing dispute over the role and legitimacy of (personal)
narratives in historical writing. In the following three chapters (13-15),
Labov analyzes four historical narratives regarding the question of their
(more or less extensive) employment of the same techniques found in oral
narratives of personal experience. The four narratives are collected from
three historical books written by diverse authors in very different periods:
“The History of England” by Lord Macaulay, “Tudor England” by S.T. Bindoff and
the Old Testament. The method developed in the previous chapters proves to be
useful in reconstructing the interpretation of the past conveyed by the author
to the reader.

In the last chapter, the author proposes an “eight-point” schema for the
analysis of any given narrative or episode in a narrative that would help by
enhancing their comparability (pp. 223-224). In addition, he returns to the
crucial functions of narration. The transfer of the speaker´s experience to
the audience relies on the credibility of the causal sequence of narrated
events, i.e., on its plausibility in regard of the listener´s knowledge of
human behavior (p. 225). Furthermore, it is based on the creation of empathy
(p. 227). Thus, evaluative devices, such as the evocation of alternative
universes by means of negative sentences or verbs in modis irrealis and the
placement of the orientation, serve the transferring function of a narrative
by achieving identification and by conveying the point of view of the teller
without distorting the facts.


“The Language of Life and Death” is a comprehensive book which encourages
reflections on linguistics issues and more general topics. Labov offers a
detailed account of oral narratives of personal experiences regarding their
structures and functions and suggests a generalization of his approach to the
study of other narrative types; namely, oral epic narratives and written
historical narratives. Furthermore, he provides the reader with a picture of
people´s handling and conceiving of the end of their and other people´s lives
by discussing a selection of prototypical stories. The settings and periods of
collection of these narratives range from the sixties to the eighties, and
from the suburbs of Philadelphia to a rural area in Utah. Each of these
stories is embedded and documents the particular social and cultural
environment of the teller. At the same time, the book can also be read as a
journal of the field research of the author and his students. Indeed, Labov
describes the occasion and the participants of the interviews often by
referring to his personal relationships with them.

Language-centered strategies are recognized by Labov at different levels of
narrative generation. The ambiguities of the English language are functionally
exploited by the narrator in order to present his experience in the best light
without saying an untruth (p. 36). Moreover, the report of communicative
interactions between the figures structurally serves the construction of a
plausible and easily interpretable casual chain of events. Indeed, it provokes
prefabricated associations in the listener founded on his communicative
experience (p. 146). For its dramatizing effects, direct speech is often
quoted in a narrative, whereupon its omission and substitution by simple
mention of the speech act can function either as a polarizing or integrating
technique (pp. 172-173). Again, the expression of evaluative remarks mainly
depends on the purely verbal construction of parallel universes, thought
negation, and verbs in irrealis moods (p. 226). Thus, the generation of a
narrative relies on language in different ways. Linguistic structures and
speech are employed for constructing narratives and are also the topic of
narratives because the teller often reports speech events.

Recurrently, Labov recaps the purposes and outcomes of his analysis and
explains the concepts and grammatical distinctions he uses, addressing not
only a public of linguists. Nevertheless, the book cannot be considered an
introduction to narrative analysis in sociolinguistics, nor does it want to.
The bibliography is essential and other possible approaches are only briefly
discussed in relation to the account which the author embraces. In my opinion,
a greater number of examples that do not fit in the model of narratives of
personal experience would highlight the similarities with historical
narratives discussed in the last chapters in a more convincing way. In this
regard, the exemplification of narrative and non-narrative techniques in
Bindoff´s historical passage “The Death of Essex” and the comparison of this
“intermediate genre” with a fully developed narrative by the same author are
very useful (p. 207). In the same way, the discussion about “unsuccessful”
narratives in chapters 4 and 11 enlightens ex negativo the boundaries of the
research object.

Finally, the stories about premonitions and communication with death are
especially fascinating because of the high tension between reportability and
credibility. Interestingly, Deppermann & Lucius-Hoene (2006) also exemplify by
means of an oral narration about death premonition the controversial thesis
that narratives can be argumentatively structured. According to the authors,
the argumentative construction of the episodes becomes evident by embedding
the monologic speech of the teller in implicit skeptical questions (Deppermann
& Lucius-Hoene 2006: 137). Referring to narratives in Chapter 5, Labov notes
the struggle of the teller with a silent “although” that conditions the
delivery of the most reportable event (p. 94). As in Deppermann & Lucius-Hoene
2006, interesting research outlooks are opened by further analysis of such
narratives with a high persuasion demand and by the evaluation of their
implications on the genre theory.


Deppermann, Arnulf & Lucius-Hoene, Gabriele. 2006. Argumentatives Erzählen. In
A. Deppermann and M. Hartung (eds.), Argumentieren in Gesprächen.
Gesprächsanalytische Studien. Tübingen: Stauffenburg Verlag. 130-144.

Labov, William & Waletzky, Joshua. 1967. Narrative Analysis: Oral Version of
Personal Experience. In J. Helm (ed.), Essays on the Verbal and Visual arts.
Proceedings of the 1966 annual spring meeting of the American Ethnological
Society. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 12-44.

Labov, William. 1997. Some Further Steps in Narrative Analysis. The Journal of
Narrative and Life History 7. 395-415.

Labov, William. 2006. Narrative pre-construction. Narrative Inquiry 16(1).

Lord, Albert B. 1960. The Singer of Tales. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University

Bamberg, Michael. 2007. Narrative: State of the Art. Amsterdam/Philadelphia:
John Benjamins.


Marta Lupica Spagnolo is a Ph.D. student at Free University of Bozen/Bolzano
and Università degli Studi di Pavia (Italy). For her Ph.D. dissertation, she
is currently working on the language biographies of people who have moved from
the Balkans Peninsula to South Tyrol. She earned her M.A. in Linguistics at
the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, with a thesis in Corpus Linguistics on the
productivity of some morphological categories in texts of non-native German
writers. Her research interests are mainly focused on sociolinguistics,
language contact, morphology and corpus linguistics.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-3040

Review: Linguistic Theories; Syntax: Hartmann & Veenstra (2013)

Monday, July 28th, 2014

EDITOR: Katharina  Hartmann
EDITOR: Tonjes  Veenstra
TITLE: Cleft Structures
SERIES TITLE: Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 208
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Avelino Corral Esteban, Universidad Complutense de Madrid


This book consists of a collection of 11 papers that aims at shedding light on
the analysis and interpretation of cleft constructions by addressing different
aspects of these constructions in a range of languages from new theoretical
and empirical perspectives.

The introductory chapter, written by Katharina Hartmann and Tonjes Veenstra
(the editors of this volume), lays the foundation for the remainder of the
book. It presents a general review of previous work on clefts and discusses
fundamental issues regarding their typological variation, giving an overview
on views on their origin, their syntactic structure, discourse functions,
semantic interpretation and their prosodic characteristics. The chapter
concludes by presenting a summary of the remaining 11 articles included in
this volume.

The remainder of the book is organized into three main sections. Part I
(Chapters 1 to 3) focuses on the interpretation of cleft constructions as
specificational or predicational sentences. Issues regarding the syntactic
representation of clefts and the internal structure of their constituents are
analyzed in Part II (Chapters 4 to 6). Finally, Part III (Chapters 7 to 11)
examines mostly the information structure of clefts. There is also a language
index and a subject index. Below is a chapter-by-chapter summary of the 11

In Chapter 1, Marcel den Dikken, in his paper entitled “Predication and
specification in the syntax of cleft sentences,” transfers the distinction
between predication and specification from copular sentences (Higgins, 1979)
to the realm of clefts, by applying the three criteria (i.e. word order,
control, distribution of the copula in non-finite predications embedded under
propositional attitude predicates) used by Higgins in order to claim that a
predicational / specificational distinction also holds in the domain of
“it”-clefts. Thus, den Dikken provides an original analysis of “it”-clefts by
arguing that: 1) specificational “it”-clefts are a particular subtype of
inverse specificational copular sentences where “it” acts as a pro-predicate,
which inverts its position with its subject by means of syntactic derivation;
2) in contrastive-focus “it”-clefts, the pro-predicate “it” takes the
projection of the focus as its subject and the cleft clause is a headless
relative clause structurally related to the projection focus via asyndetic
specification, rather than predication; and 3) in continuous-topic
“it”-clefts, both the value and the relative constitute the focus of the cleft
that occupies the subject position of the construction whose predicate is the
pro-predicate “it”.

Edith Aldridge analyzes the relationship between “wh”-clefts and verb-initial
word order in Austronesian languages, arguing that there is a parallelism
between the derivation of basic word order in verb-initial languages and the
fact that “wh”-questions are formed on clefts in a broad range of these
languages. In the first case, the absolutive DP moves to a topic position in
the left periphery and the remnant TP is fronted to a higher focus position
above the topic, which derives the VOS word order. Regarding the formation of
clefts, the cleft clause, which is a headless relative, is treated as the
topic, whereas the “wh”-word forms part of the predicate, since it is
contained in the fronted remnant TP, which moves to the focus position.
Therefore, Aldridge argues that the focus must be part of the predicate and
consequently is not the subject.  Likewise, this positioning leads to a
bi-clausal analysis that accounts for the irreversibility of clefts in these

In “Pseudo-clefts at the syntax-prosody-discourse interface,”Mara Frascarelli
and Francesca Ramaglia take an interface approach to the study of “it”-cleft
and pseudo cleft constructions by investigating their syntactic, semantic,
discourse and intonational properties cross-linguistically. In contrast to the
general (traditional) view that the relative clause corresponds to the
predicate of the relevant copular sentence and the focused element acts as the
subject in a small clause, these authors argue that it is the clefted
constituent that has the properties of a main predicate in a copular
construction and that the relative DP is a dislocated constituent, namely as a
right-hand Topic in “it”-clefts and a left-hand Topic in pseudoclefts, which
explains their presuppositional behavior in the construction.

Lisa L.-S. Cheng and Laura Downing´s paper “Clefts in Durban Zulu” is a study
of the structure of clefts in this aboriginal Bantu language spoken in South
Africa. According to these authors, clefts in this language are bi-clausal
structures involving a copular sentence formed by a copula and a cleft phrase,
and an adjoined DP or an adjoined adverbial clause, depending on whether the
cleft phrase is nominal or non-nominal respectively. These two constituents
are not only syntactically independent from each other, but also in prosodic
terms, since each forms an independent intonational phrase. Likewise,
following Adger and Ramchand´s (2005)  assumption for a special copular
sentence (i.e. the augmented copular construction) in Scottish Gaelic, they
claim that the copula is the head of a predicate phrase which hosts the cleft
phrase in its specifier and has a null pronominal element as its predicate.
Thus, the adjoined element provides a definite description for the
interpretation of the variable in the semantic representation of the
pronominal predicate.

Matthew Reeve, in “The cleft pronoun and cleft clause in English”, provides
new evidence on the nature of the cleft pronoun, the interpretation of the
cleft clause, and the relation between the clefted element and the cleft
clause. Based on Hedberg (2000), Reeve firstly offers a great number of
syntactic and semantic arguments for an analysis of the cleft pronoun as a
referential pronoun, and not as an expletive, and claims that both the cleft
pronoun and the cleft phrase form a discontinuous definite description, which
reflects the structural similarity between clefts and specificational
sentences. Yet, the author departs from the traditional specificational
analyses on claiming that the cleft clause is a restrictive relative clause
functions as a modifier of the cleft phrase, to which it is adjoined, and
therefore it cannot be extraposed from the cleft pronoun. Finally, Reeve
compares both relative clauses and clefts in terms of connectivity effects to
show that DP-clefts (and some PP-clefts) are derivationally ambiguous since
they may present two different structures: one structure where the clefted
constituent occurs in postcopular position and another in which the clefted
constituent is raised from inside the cleft clause.

Harold Torrence explores “The morphosyntax of Wolof clefts” in terms of their
structural and movement properties. In Wolof, a Congo-Niger language spoken in
Senegal and the Gambia, there exist two syntactically different types of
clefts, depending on whether the clefted element functions as subject of the
construction or not. As regards their internal structure, the copula, the head
of the copular phrase, of a subject cleft occurs with a TP-structure, while
its counterpart in a non-subject cleft occurs with a CP-like structure.
Torrence provides detailed evidence that the cleft phrase undergoes overt A´-
movement, via SpecCopP in subject clefts or directly in non-subject clefts, to
the cleft position (SpecFocP). This fact shows that clefts in this language
resemble their English counterparts since in both languages clefting involves
A´- movement. However, they also differ in that in Wolof clefting does not
involve the presence of a silent operator.

Nancy Hedberg examines the information structure of English clefts in a paper
entitled “Multiple focus and cleft sentences”. Assuming that the syntax of
clefts reflects the semantic interpretation, she takes a bi-clausal analysis
of clefts to show that the two semantic units of a cleft construction, that is
the exhaustive focus and the pragmatic presupposition, are mapped onto the two
syntactic constituents, namely the clefted element and the cleft clause. Next,
she provides a detailed analysis of the two semantic elements — the
exhaustive focus and the pragmatic presupposition — in terms of their
informational properties to illustrate that clefts can display distinct types
of organization, that is topic-comment and comment-topic, which reflect the
distinction made by Prince (1978) between ´informative presupposition` and
´stressed focus`. Thus, in topic-comment clefts the cleft clause carries the
primary sentence accent and presents information that is new in the discourse.
By contrast, in comment-topic clefts, the cleft clause expresses an activated
presupposition and the clefted element, which usually carries the primary
sentence accent, expresses a focus that is used to make a correction, to
answer a question, or to present a contrast. In addition to these two types,
Hedberg examines three subtypes of clefts that contain prosodic prominence on
both the clefted constituent and the cleft clause (i.e. all-comment
organization) and shows that the prosodic focus in both cases can be
considered to present semantic focus in the sense of Krifka (1992, 2007).
Thus, a prosodic focus on the clefted constituent can be associated with the
exhaustive focus operator, whereas a prosodic focus on the cleft clause can be
associated with an assertive focus operator. In addition, the focus particles
´only` and ´also` / ´even` can also appear if the prosodic focus is on the
clefted element and the cleft clause respectively. A prosodic focus on the
entire cleft proposition can possibly be associated with the assertive focus
operator and may also associate with a focus particle.

Rosmin Matthew, in a paper called “Recursion of Focus Position in Malayalam”
explores cleft constructions in Malayalam, a Dravidian language spoken in
South India, especially focusing on their focus-related properties by adopting
a mono-clausal analysis. By means of a comparison between clefts, which
involve the focus marker “a:nu”, and another type of focus non-cleft
construction, she gains a better understanding of the proposed focus position
for two domains, namely, CP in clefts and vP in non-clefts. Her analysis
presents morphological, syntactic and semantic evidence that these two
positions involve a different syntactic behavior and distinct Information
Structure properties of Focus. Thus, whereas cleft constructions with the
focus marker “a:nu” involve a higher position at the left periphery of the CP
and express Exhaustive Focus, non-cleft constructions involve a preverbal
Focus position and expresses Information Focus. Consequently, the author shows
that the two positions available for the Focus, namely, in the vP level (i.e.
in the lower IP area) and in the CP level (i.e. in the left periphery), encode
Information Structure of a different nature, and, therefore, it would be wrong
to assume that the same Information Structure appears recursively at every
Phase, at least for this language.

In “Multiple ´wh`- questions and the cleft construction in Malayalam”,
Punnapurath Maadhavan, also examines the formation of “wh”-questions in
Malayalam. Despite the commonly held view that Malayalam is a “wh”-in-situ
language, Maadhavan presents detailed evidence that “wh”-questions can also be
formed by means of a different strategy: 1) clefting the “wh”-element or 2)
clefting the whole cleft clause containing the “wh”-element, with the clefted
element occupying the cleft focus. In addition to this, Maadhavan also
observes an interesting asymmetry regarding the formation of “wh”-questions:
unlike the strategy of clefting, which may occur in both matrix and embedded
clauses, it is not possible to have an in-situ “wh”-phrase in an embedded
context, in this case the only option being to cleft the whole embedded
clause. Consequently, these proposals are not only significant for their
contribution to the study of clefts in this language, but also because they
provide valuable insight into the cross-linguistic typology of “wh”-questions,
leading to the conclusion that a finer-grained typological account than that
dealing with the dichotomy between “wh”-in-situ languages and “wh”-moving
languages is required.

In “Cleft partitioning in Japanese, Burmese and Chinese”, Daniel Hole and
Malte Zimmermann provide a comparative account of clefts in these three
(South) East Asian languages that, despite showing typological variation in
terms of several morpho-syntactic (e.g. word order, case marking, among
others) and phonological parameters (e.g. tone system), they all exhibit
clefts displaying syntactic cleft partitioning, which in these languages
involves a backgrounded clause headed by a nominalized element. Yet, the
author notes some differences between Japanese and Burmese, on the one hand,
and Chinese, on the other hand, regarding the position of the copula, the
relationship between the different constituents of the cleft construction, and
its interpretation. Thus, in Japanese and Burmese, the copula follows the
cleft clause and the cleft focus phrase, with which it forms a constituent,
which in its turn is opposed to the cleft clause, thereby illustrating an
example of syntactic partitioning; the nominalizer heads the backgrounded
cleft clause and is followed by a topic marker. By contrast, in Chinese, the
copula precedes the complete cleft construction; the nominalizer is the
element responsible for the linking of the cleft phrase with the cleft clause
and therefore it is also the element that triggers the syntactic partition.
Finally, they show that syntactic partitioning in the form of clefting leads
to an exhaustive interpretation in all three languages, although the
exhaustivity effect in Japanese and Burmese is linked to the presence of the
Topic marker attached to the nominalized cleft clause, unlike in Chinese where
the exhaustivity effect is tied to the nominalizer de.

In the final paper, Italian clefts and the licensing of infinitival subject
relatives”, Petra Sleeman analyzes the licensing of infinitival subject
relative clauses by clefted constituents. The author shows that, unlike in
English or French, infinitival subject relatives are not only licensed by
superlatives and comparable modifiers, but they are also licensed by cleft
constructions with clefted DPs and two types of cleft constructions with
clefted quantifiers. In order to account for this fact, Sleeman provides
detailed syntactic evidence that clefts in Italian are used with a somewhat
negative presupposition and therefore express a contrastive focus, which
allows these constructions to license infinitival subject relative clauses.
Furthermore, regarding the structure of clefts in this language, she adds that
the infinitival relative clause functions as the complement of the cleft
phrase – which is in a high position- , rather than an adjunct, since, except
when it occurs with one type of  “che”-cleft, the infinitival relative clause
allows for extraction from it.


This book is inspired by the conference “Zentrum für Allgemeine
Sprachwissenschaft”, which took place in November 2008 in Berlin, but it is
not only a relevant selection of papers. A great effort was made in the review
process in order to strengthen links between the different papers and the
final result makes this book a useful resource for scholars and advanced
students who are interested in cleft constructions.

This volume provides the reader with a comprehensive picture of research
trends on clefts, and consequently, the overall goal of this book, which
consists in solving the problems derived from the interaction between syntax,
semantics and pragmatics in the analysis and interpretation of cleft
constructions, is met with incredible success.

One of the strongest assets of this volume is that it brings together a wide
array of contributors (all top scholars in the field) to successfully
represent current research trends in a coherent fashion. The assortment of
languages and the wide range of aspects dealt with in this edited volume is
indicative of just how much the study of clefts has advanced since Akmajian
(1970), Chomsky (1977) and Gundel (1977). Each chapter guides the reader to
the study of a specific aspect of this construction in a particular language
and addresses questions that outline the current state of knowledge and offer
future lines of research. Therefore, not only do these chapters offer
important insights into the origin, structure, and meaning of clefts, but they
also provide the reader with the necessary background information to further
explore and develop a greater understanding of the issues that are of
relevance to each of those lines of research that arise from this book.
Despite the fact that it is very difficult to make strong cross-linguistic
claims regarding this construction and many questions related to its structure
may remain unsolved and therefore they will have to be dealt with in future
research, the findings obtained in this volume mean a relevant step forward in
the direction of the right analysis of this construction. While the variety of
languages and the methodological diversity of this compilation are notable, it
may perhaps be most appropriate for audiences interested in studying this
construction through a generative lens. This book includes a wide range of
examples of cleft constructions in languages belonging to many different
families, such as Indo-European, Austronesian, Bantu, Sino-Tibetan,
Niger-Congo, Altaic, and Dravidian. The editors´ clear and thorough
introduction highlights the syntactic, semantic and pragmatic aspects that
make this construction so challenging for theoretical analysis. Afterwards,
all the chapters in the book offer a wealth of new data on the analysis of
this construction that contribute to our current understanding of the issue.

Summarized below are the most relevant findings included in these papers.
Firstly, den Dikken transfers the distinction between specificational and
predicational copular sentences to the analysis of cleft constructions and
examines the syntactic structure of specificational “it”-clefts,
contrastive-focus “it”-clefts, and continuous-topic “it”-clefts. Aldridge
accounts for the derivation of clefted “wh”-questions by comparing it to the
derivation of basic word order in VOS languages and argues that the absolutive
DP is a topic that moves to the left periphery and the remnant clause is
fronted to a focus position above the topic. Frascarelli and Ramaglia offer an
interface approach to the cross-linguistic interpretation of pseudo and
“it”-cleft constructions at different levels of analysis that supports the
view that (pseudo) cleft sentences are Topic-Comment structures that may host
different types of topics either in the left or in the right periphery . Cheng
and Downing accounts for the syntactic properties of Zulu clefts by analysing
their prosodic properties, which leads to their analysis as copular sentences
with an adjoined DP/CP, depending on the type of pivot. Reeve argues against
both specificational analyses and expletive analyses of English clefts by
claiming that the cleft clause functions as a syntactic modifier of the
clefted element and that the cleft pronoun is non-expletive. Torrence offers
two different types of syntactic structure for clefts in Wolof, according to
their syntactic function, and examines their derivation on the basis of the
overt movement of their clefted constituent. Hedberg discusses the information
structure of English clefts by examining how the semantic components of
exhaustive focus and pragmatic presupposition map onto the categories of topic
and comment, which leads to an analysis of certain types of clefts as multiple
focus constructions. Mathew analyses the two different types of Focus, namely
Identificational Focus and Information Focus, in Malayalam clefts by focusing
on the position that these two different types of Focus occupy in their
respective domains. Madhavan provides a typological account of clefted
“wh”-questions in Malayalam to prove that this language is not a typical “wh”
in-situ language like Chinese. Hole and Zimmermann compare clefts and other
focus strategies in Japanese, Burmese and Mandarin Chinese, showing that,
despite having different morpho-syntactic features, these languages share the
fact that clefts and related focus constructions involve backgrounded clauses
headed by a nominalizing element. Finally, Sleeman examines the infinitival
subject relative clauses licensed by clefted constituents and argues that the
reason why clefts in Italian, unlike in other languages, are able to license
the infinitival relative is due to the fact that they express a contrastive
focus, just like superlatives and comparable modifiers.

This volume is certainly not an introductory book owing to the complicated
material included and consequently a solid knowledge of the specific
linguistic issues (as well as knowledge of generative grammar) is required. It
includes one of the most complete and in-depth analyses of the topic to date.
Its rigor and clarity as well as the significance and relevance of its
contribution to the study of such a complicated linguistic issue will make
this book useful and challenging to students and researchers alike who are
interested in cleft constructions across languages.

In conclusion, the papers collected in “Cleft structures” highlight a great
number of aspects of cleft constructions that should be taken into account in
future research and therefore I believe that this volume will become an
important reference on the matter.


Akmajian, Adrian. 1970. On deriving cleft sentences from pseudo-cleft
sentences. Linguistic Inquiry 1 (2): 149-168.

Chomsky, Noam. 1977. On wh-movement. In Formal Syntax. Peter Culicover, Thomas
Wasow & Adrian Akmajian (eds), 71-132. New York NY: Academic Press.

Cottell, Siobhán. 2002. The Comparative Syntax of Cleft Constructions. Ph. D.
dissertation. University of Wales, Bangor.

Davidse, Kristin. 2000. A constructional approach to clefts. Linguistics 28
(6): 1101-1131.

Declerck, Renaat. 1988. Studies on Copular Sentences, Clefts and
Pseudo-Clefts. Leuven: Leuven University Press.

Delahunty, Gerald. 1981. Topics in the Syntax and Semantics of English Cleft
Sentences. Ph. D. dissertation, University of California, Irvine.

Delin, Judy. 1989. Cleft Constructions in Discourse. Ph. D. dissertation.
University of Edinburgh.

Den Dikken, Marcel 2009. Predication and specification in the syntax of cleft
sentences. Ms, City University of New York.

E. Kiss, Katalin. 1999. The English cleft construction as a focus phrase. In
Boundaries of Morphology and Syntax [Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 180],
Lunella Mereu (ed.) 217-229. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Gundel, Jeannette. 1977. Where do cleft structures come from? Language 53:

Halvorsen, Per-Kristian. 1978. The Syntax and Semantics of Clefts. Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Texas.

Hedberg, Nancy. 1990. The Discourse Function of Cleft Sentences in English.
Ph. D. dissertation, University of Minnesota.

Hedberg, Nancy. 2000. On the referential status of clefts. Language 76 (4):

Heggie, Lorie. 1988. The Syntax of Copular Sentences. Ph. D. dissertation,
University of Southern California.

Lambrecht, Knud. 1994. Information Structure and Sentence Form, Topic, Focus,
and the Mental Representations of Discourse Referents. Cambridge Studies in
Linguistics 71. Cambridge: CUP.

Lambrecht, Knud. 2001. A framework for the analysis of cleft constructions.
Linguistics 28(3): 463-516.

Pavey, Emma Louise. 2004. The English it-cleft construction: a Role and
Reference Grammar analysis. Ph. D. dissertation. University of Sussex.

Percus, Orin. 1997. Prying open the cleft. Proceedings of NELS 27:337-351.

Reeve, Matthew. 2011. The syntactic structure of English clefts. Lingua 121:

Reeve, Matthew. 2012. Clefts and their Relatives. Amsterdam. John Benjamins.

Sornicola, Rosanna. 1988. It-clefts and wh-clefts: two awkward sentence types.
Journal of Linguistics 24 (2): 343-379.


Avelino Corral Esteban is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English
Philology at both Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and Universidad Complutense
de Madrid, Spain. His main research focus is the study of the grammar of the
Native American languages spoken in the Great Plains area, such as Lakhota,
Cheyenne, Blackfoot or Crow, within the Role and Reference Grammar framework.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-3041

Review: Historical Linguistics: Miller (2012)

Monday, July 28th, 2014

AUTHOR: Gary D. Miller
TITLE: External Influences on English
SUBTITLE: From its Beginnings to the Renaissance
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Maria Volkonskaya, National Research University Higher School of Economics


This book is aimed at virtually anyone interested in the history of English,
for it complements the existing internal studies and discusses the external
influences on the English language from its beginnings up to the end of the
Renaissance. As stated in the preface (p. x), throughout the book Miller
employs the framework of Trudgill (2010, 2011a, 2011b) to examine different
types of language contact, distinguishing between adult second-language
acquisition and continuing contact leading to child bilingualism. The former
results in simplifications, whereas the latter brings about complexifications.
Within this framework, the author’s main focus is on “the constituent
ingredients of contemporary English” (p. x). To this end, he examines the
influence of Celtic, Latin and Greek (early and later), Scandinavian, and
French on English lexis, phonology, morphology, and syntax, providing a
variety of examples and detailed case studies to illustrate the point at
issue. The chapters that follow are mostly organized chronologically.
In the introduction (Chapter 1) Miller situates English within the
Indo-European and Germanic families. He briefly describes the main
constituents of Germanic and Celtic, giving numerous examples of borrowings
from North Germanic, Continental Germanic, Insular and Continental Celtic into
the English language. The majority of these loanwords, however, is relatively
recent and often fulfills a terminological function, such as ‘fjord’ (1674)
from Norwegian (p. 5), ‘pumpernickel’ (1738) and ‘shiksa’ (1892) from German
and Yiddish, respectively (p. 7), or ‘banshee’ (1771) from Irish (p. 11).

Chapter 2 reviews the Celtic, Roman, and Germanic background of English.
Miller starts by discussing the genetic evidence for the pre-Celts, the
subsequent Celtic settlement of the British Isles and its mark on place names
and other loanwords in English. Next, several periods of contact with the
Romans and the influence of Latin both on the British Celts and the early
Germanic tribes are mentioned, though the latter is described in detail in
Chapter 4. In the following sections Miller discusses the arrival of the
pre-English tribes in c.5 and provides linguistic and archeological evidence
for the survival of Celtic population in many areas around England after the
Anglo-Saxon settlement. He argues that “the initial contacts between Celts and
speakers of pre-Old English were based on equality” (p. 40), resulting in
complexifications. Miller claims that the two Old English paradigms of ‘to
be,’ ‘it’-clefts and the English aspect system are all examples of this
development. The enslavement of Brittonic women by the invading Germanic
tribes and the following language shift, on the other hand, led to
simplifications, as “in [slave] communities… children would not have been
exposed to Brittonic but would have learned the imperfectly acquired
(non-native) English from their mothers and/or the female slaves as their
first language” (p. 40). According to Miller, these morphosyntactic
simplifications became manifest in Middle English.

Chapter 3, entitled “English: The early period”, provides a short overview of
the main events of the external history of English from c.6 to c.10-11.
Although this chapter somewhat overlaps with the previous one, its main focus
is shifted towards Latin influences. Miller emphasizes the importance of
Christianization for the English language, as it resulted both in the several
layers of Christian borrowings and a revival of Roman culture, the Roman
alphabet, and the use of Latin.

Continuing the previous discussion, Chapter 4 is a careful study of early
English loanwords from Latin and Greek. This chapter falls into two parts. In
the first part Miller discusses the dating of loanwords on the basis of their
phonological shape and gives a brief outline of sound changes (a) from Latin
to Romance and (b) from West Germanic to Old English. The second part of this
chapter is a comprehensive chronological list of Old English borrowings
arranged according to their sphere of use. However, one has to be careful when
trying to narrow a loanword down to a particular period, and Miller puts
considerable emphasis upon (re)borrowing, which “occurred over the course of a
millennium” (p. 53), as in the case of, for instance, ‘sponge’ (p. 68). This
chapter ends with a succinct appendix offering an overview of Latin and
pre-Old English sound changes.

Chapter 5 is dedicated to the Scandinavian legacy of the English language. It
begins with a discussion of the history of Scandinavians in England, from the
Viking raids in c.8 to complete assimilation to the English in c.12. The
account that follows traces Scandinavian influence on toponyms, the lexicon,
phonology, morphology, and syntax. Norse-derived words have considerably
enriched the English language, even though the types of contact between
Scandinavians and the English seem to be different, depending on the area and
period. Miller believes that the initial borrowings are the result of adult
contact, whereas the later loans testify to bilingualism and code-switching
(p. 106). The profound lexical influence also led to some phonological
differences between southern and northeastern English; depalatalization of
native palatals in the northeast is a case in point, cf. native ‘church’ and
Danelaw ‘kirk(e)’ (p. 121). As for the morphological influence, Miller
attributes the following changes to Scandinavian-English contact: the
borrowing of the pronoun ‘they’, the diffusion of the northern present
participle ‘-and(e)’, and the generalization of nominal ‘-ing’ to participles.
Moreover, East Norse (in particular, early Jutland Danish) and English share a
number of morphosyntactic innovations, such as noun plural and genitive
singular ‘-(e)s,’ phrasal genitive, reflexive ‘(-)self’, omission of the
conjunction ‘that’, relative ellipsis, preposition stranding with pronominal
‘wh’-words, preposition stranded passives, adoption of V2 order in the north,
and the shift from SOV to SVO. “The fact that Scandinavian and English were
closely related provided for a higher degree of hybridization than occurs with
more distantly related languages or dialects,” concludes Miller (p. 147).

Chapter 6 examines French influence on English, which, according to Miller,
was mostly lexical. He criticizes the traditional view that loanwords from
Central French followed those from Norman French and agrees with Rothwell’s
assertion (1996, 1998) that the division between these two periods is rather
artificial (p. 150), for central and northern forms often coexist in one text.
Furthermore, due to the imperfect learning of French, an insular variety,
Anglo-French, appeared. Loans after the conquest easily fall into groups
according to cultural domains (for instance, titles of nobility, law,
government, religion) and reflect borrowing from a superstrate; however, “one
must distinguish terms superimposed by the Norman conquerors… from the later
borrowings that reflect cultural prestige” (p. 167). It is particularly
noteworthy that Miller pays special attention to the literary and stylistic
status of French words in English texts (pp. 162-164), a topic that rarely
comes under careful scrutiny. The period of continued bilingualism was
followed by the gradual decline and death of Anglo-French c.1400, which
correlates with “the increase (by double) of French suffixes in English
hybrids” (p. 176). Therefore, English was left with a large number of
derivational affixes. Whereas the morphological legacy of French is described
in great detail (pp. 176-184), the discussion of French impact on English
syntax is rather brief (pp. 185-187), as Miller believes that the influence is
“very limited” (p. 185). The appendix to this chapter presents an overview of
major sound changes from Latin to French.
The title of Chapter 7, which deals with later Latin and Greek influences, is
“Continuity and revival of classical learning”. Therefore, the first part of
this chapter is dedicated to the emergence of a liberal arts education, the
works of influential Christian writers of c.2-8, and the history of Latin in
the Middle Ages, though the latter account slightly overlaps with the previous
sections of the book. The second part of the chapter covers the Middle English
period, the humanistic movement, and the Renaissance (c.1300-1600) as the peak
period for Latinisms. A detailed survey of Latin and Greek influence on
English word formation is offered towards the end of this chapter. All in all,
Miller argues that the legacy of Greek and Latin is restricted only to the
lexicon and word formation (pp. 219, 221-223).

The final chapter, “External linguistic input to English,” summarizes the main
argument of the book: 1) French borrowings reflect “a substratal situation in
which English borrowed heavily from the dominant language” (p. 228).
Furthermore, French, Latin and Greek influence is restricted to the lexicon
and morphology; 2) the contact with Scandinavian was mixed, leading to a
considerable number of loanwords, whereas the contact with Celtic was
substratal. However, “for both, the major influence has been structural” (p.
232). Miller also raises some remaining problems and identifies areas that are
understudied, such as the loss of gender in English, acknowledging the need
for further research. He uses the last page to restate his key point, “A
typical family tree of the Indo-European languages lists English on a terminal
node in the Germanic subfamily, which is really relevant only for Old English.
Syntactically, morphologically, and lexically, Modern English reflects
multiple input languages” (p. 236).


Miller’s account of the external influences on English is striking. As his
book puts together the bulk of recent studies in etymology, linguistics,
archeology, history, and genetics, we should acknowledge the mere body of
scholarship that he takes into consideration while discussing a myriad of
phonological, lexical, morphological and syntactical influences. Furthermore,
far from being just a summary of previous research, the consistent application
of Trudgill’s theory of sociolinguistic typology even to some frequently
disputed or obscure cases, as well as the sharp focus on external impact, make
his work a notable contribution to current studies on English historical

However, a book that has to tackle such a vast and complex subject is bound to
contain a few irrelevant details. Occasionally, random associations, which are
due to the sheer vastness of the topic, lead the author astray and confuse the
reader, as the above-mentioned borrowings from Germanic and Celtic in Chapter
1 that fall beyond the time scale of the present study, or a rather redundant
list of the Church Fathers in Chapter 8. There is also a slight degree of
overlap in the chapters discussing classical background to English (Chapters
2, 3, 7).

On the other hand, while Miller’s account is highly accurate and detailed, a
few items are noticeably missing. For instance, one component that seems to be
lacking from Chapter 2 is a discussion of possible Celtic influences on
English phonology, though several studies have recently addressed this issue
(Laker 2009; Minkova 2011). Another example is the case of Old English
‘cirica’ from Greek ‘kuriakon.’ Though Miller uses this loanword as an
illustration a number of times (pp. 45, 81, 121), never does he mention the
later form ‘cyrice,’ which was probably a learned reborrowing. Furthermore,
whereas a number of Latin and French suffixes are being described in great
detail, ‘-or’ of agent-nouns is only mentioned in passing (p. 174). A final
instance of such omissions occurs when Miller discusses the later Latin and
Greek influence, which he believes to be lexical only, and overlooks the fact
that some borrowings are not fully morphosyntactically integrated and preserve
their original plurals (Nevalainen 1999, p. 366).

Besides, Miller makes several claims that are quite controversial. He notes,
for instance, that pre-Christian oral works, such as “Beowulf”, were written
down in c.7/8 (p. 47). However, there is no consensus view on the issue in
recent scholarship (Bjork & Obermeier 1997, pp. 18-28). Kiernan in particular
argued for a late date for the poem, claiming that “the last poet of ‘Beowulf’
was the second scribe” (Kiernan 1996, p. 278). Indeed, whether epic poetry
could be among the first texts to be written down in Christian monasteries
seems rather doubtful.

Miller also suggests that /a/ in such words as ‘man’, ‘bank’, ‘land’, is due
to Scandinavian influence (pp. 119-120). However, Middle English dialect maps
(cf. “MAN: ‘mon’ type” in eLALME) clearly demonstrate that the /o/ vowel was
restricted to the West Midlands, whereas the /a/ vowel was present outside the
Scandinavian-English contact area, which does not support Miller’s hypothesis.

Overall, the book is systematically structured, concise and quite easy to
read. All chapters are divided into subsections according to the topic, and
most of them have both introductions and conclusions; as a result, the text is
not difficult to follow. The appendices are handy and to the point. However,
there are some aspects of this book that could be improved upon. On the one
hand, the list of abbreviations is somewhat obscure as several abbreviations
are sometimes used for one term, for instance both ‘E’ and ‘Eng.’ for
‘English’ or ‘F’ and ‘fem.’ for ‘feminine’ (pp. xvi-xvii). On the other hand,
the book could benefit from a more elaborate word index, divided into
subsections to include not only Modern English, but also Old and Middle
English words as well as those of Celtic, Latin, Greek, Scandinavian, and
French origin.
To conclude, Miller’s comprehensive account of external influences will make a
highly useful resource for both academics and advanced students of the history
of the English language. Even though for the most part it requires a solid
background in English historical linguistics, even interested laypersons have
something to gain by leafing through this illuminating volume.


Bjork, Robert E. & Anita Obermeier. 1997. Date, provenance, author, audience.
In Robert E. Bjork & John D. Niles (eds.), A Beowulf handbook, 13-34. Lincoln,
Nebr.: University of Nebraska Press.

Kiernan, Kevin S. 1996. Beowulf and the Beowulf manuscript. Ann Arbor:
University of Michigan Press.

Laker, Stephen. 2009. An explanation for the early phonemicisation of a voice
contrast in English fricatives. English Language and Linguistics 13(2).

eLALME = Benskin, Michael, Margaret Laing, Vasilis Karaiskos & Keith
Williamson. 2013. An electronic version of a linguistic atlas of Late
Mediaeval English. Edinburgh.
(15 January, 2014.)

Minkova, Donka. 2011. Phonemically contrastive fricatives in Old English?
English Language and Linguistics 15(1). 31-59.

Nevalainen, Terttu. 1999. Early Modern English lexis and semantics. In Roger
Lass (ed.), The Cambridge history of the English language, vol. 3, 332-458.
Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Trudgill, Peter. 2010. Investigations in sociohistorical linguistics: Stories
of colonisation and contact. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Trudgill, Peter. 2011a. Sociolinguistic typology: Social determinants of
linguistic complexity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Trudgill, Peter. 2011b. A tale of two copulas: Language-contact speculations
on first-millennium England. NOWELE 62/63. 285-320.

Rothwell, William. 1996. Playing ‘follow my leader’ in Anglo-Norman studies.
Journal of French Language Studies 6(2). 177-210.

Rothwell, William. 1998. Arrivals and departures: The adoption of French
terminology into Middle English. English Studies 79(2). 144-165.


Maria Volkonskaya is a Senior Lecturer at National Research University Higher
School of Economics and Moscow State University (Russia). Her research
interests include the history of the English language (with particular
attention to the Old English and Middle English periods), the historical
development of Scots, Historical Sociolinguistics and Stylistics, as well as
Applied Linguistics (especially English for Academic Purposes).

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