Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Review: Historical Linguistics: Ramat, Mauri & Molinelli (2013)

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

EDITOR: Anna  Giacalone Ramat
EDITOR: Caterina  Mauri
EDITOR: Piera  Molinelli
TITLE: Synchrony and Diachrony
SUBTITLE: A dynamic interface
SERIES TITLE: Studies in Language Companion Series 133
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Anna Alexandrova, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa

The present volume stems from the workshop “Gradualness in change and its
relation to synchronic variation and use”, organized by the editors, Anna
Giacalone Ramat, Caterina Mauri and Piera Molinelli at the University of Pavia
(Italy) in 2011.

As the editors put it in the introduction, the aim of the volume is “to
investigate the mutual relations between synchrony and diachrony, in order to
shed light on their interface” (p. 1). One of their main claims is that
certain methodological tools, among them semantic maps and constructional
approaches, can be applied both to diachronic and synchronic phenomena, which
helps us understand the relationship between the two dimensions. According to
the editors, the label ‘synchrony-diachrony interface’ can be applied to all
those cases where a phenomenon cannot be accounted for without taking into
consideration both diachronic and synchronic variation. Thus, it involves both
the linguistic data itself and the linguist’s perspective on this data. One of
its most widely recognized instances is the relationship (however
controversial it may be) between gradience and gradualness as features of
synchronic variation and diachronic change, respectively. In fact, a lot has
been done within historical linguistics, dialectology, grammaticalization,
language variation and change and other fields to assess the diachronic
implications of synchronic variation. Analogy should be also considered a
manifestation of the synchrony-diachrony interface. But little has been done
yet to provide a unified analysis of such phenomena, with an appropriate focus
on methodological and theoretical issues. The volume under review is intended
to fill this gap. The papers adopt different frameworks, including
Construction Grammar and Generative Grammar.

All of the languages covered are European. Most papers draw data from
Germanic: English is considered by Trousdale, Margerie, Disney, van der
Auwera, van de Pol & Cuyckens; German data is analysed by van der Auwera;
Dutch, by De Vos and Semplicini; Swedish, by Rosenkvist & Skärlund. Romance is
represented by Latin (Magni; Fedriani, Manzelli & Ramat), Ladin (Wratil),
Italian (Voghera), and South Calabrian dialects (De Angelis). Two papers are
dedicated to other Indo-European languages, Modern Greek dialects and Welsh,
by Melissaropoulou and Currie, respectively. Only one paper, by Egedi, treats
a non-IE language, Hungarian. Finally, two articles discuss linguistic areas:
the Circum-Mediterranean area is in the focus of Fedriani, Manzelli & Ramat,
whereas Wratil discusses the Alpine languages, comprising a number of Romance
and Germanic varieties.

The book is divided in three parts, each of which is centered on some
particular problem pertaining to the synchrony-diachrony interface.

The first part, “The role of analogy and constructions in the
synchrony-diachrony interface”, discusses cases of diachronic change driven by
synchronically available elements of variation. It opens with “Gradualness in
language change: A constructional perspective”, by Graeme Trousdale, who aims
to reconcile the hypotheses of gradualness and abrupt reanalysis. The author
argues that it is inaccurate to see gradualness as the diachronic equivalent
of synchronic gradience. It is demonstrated that the perception of gradualness
can depend on the fact that the process of constructionalization might consist
of a series of micro-steps, each, in turn, a case of abrupt neoanalysis. The
author presents a case study, consisting of a constructional, corpus-driven
account of the development of the English preposition ‘during’ from the Middle
English present participle ‘duren’, ‘during’, derived in turn from French
‘durer’ (from Latin ‘durare’, ‘to be hard, hold out, last’).

In “Gradual change and continual variation: The history of a verb-initial
construction in Welsh”, by Oliver Currie, two different analyses of the
development of Absolute-initial verb (AIV) order in Early Modern Welsh are
compared, a diachronic Construction Grammar account and a Principles and
Parameters analysis. The AIV order was a marginal construction in Middle
Welsh, but appears to be the dominant word order in several Early Modern Welsh
texts, and its definitive establishment was preceded by a protracted period of
variation. The abovementioned theoretical perspectives differ greatly with
respect to the question of the nature of syntactic change (gradualness vs.
discreteness) and the problem of syntactic variation. The Principles and
Parameters framework envisages syntactic change as discrete, whereas
historical data suggests gradual patterns. The author argues that a
Construction Grammar account of the development of the AIV order in Welsh as a
gradual increase in the frequency of use of the construction under analysis
fits the data better. The process was motivated by sociolinguistic and
stylistic factors and did not involve either grammaticalization or change in
the meaning or function of the construction. Given this, Traugott and
Trousdale’s (2008) model of gradualness as a sequence of discrete and
therefore abrupt micro-steps at the level of individual speakers, resulting in
gradual change at the level of community, is not relevant here.

In “Can you literally be scared sick? The role of analogy in the rise of a
network of Resultative and Degree Modifier constructions”, by Hélène Margerie,
the micro-construction ‘NP1 scare NP2 sick / NP be scared sick’ is examined in
the light of comparable diachronic changes, with the use of corpus and
internet data. It appears that the micro-construction in question does not
follow the pathway of other resultative constructions of the form ‘NP1 VB NP2
/ NP be ADJ XP’, which were historically reanalyzed into Degree Modifier
constructions. The author concludes that the resultative meaning of the ‘NP1
scare NP2 sick / NP be scared sick’ construction is an outcome of analogical
change, shaped on the model of formally and functionally related

“The reputed sense of ‘be meant to’: A case of gradual change by analogy”, by
Steve Disney, is a case study in a usage-based construction grammar
perspective. In its evidential ‘reputed’ sense, it is not a passive
counterpart of ‘mean’. The paper discusses the development of this evidential
use by analogy with ‘hearsay’ NCI (nominativus cum infinitivo) constructions.
‘Be meant to’ has such acknowledged meanings as intention, weak obligation and
predestination/design. Moreover, a novel evidential ‘reputed’ sense has
recently evolved in British English, together with ‘be supposed to’, the
latter having multiple synonymy with the former. Now, the construction ‘be
meant to’ can express a reported belief about an expected future. According to
the author, the developmental path of ‘be meant to’ challenges the Semantic
Map Connectivity Hypothesis (Croft 2001), in that the construction under
analysis seems to ‘miss’ a sense in the course of its development.

In “Gradualness in analogical change as a complexification stage in a language
simplification process: A case study from Modern Greek dialects”, by Dimitra
Melissaropoulou, cross-paradigmatic levelling in the nominal system is
analysed as a gradual process, leading to grammar simplification. Several
Greek dialects are discussed, namely Aivaliot, Lesvian, Pontic, Livisi, and
Silli. The focus falls on the intra-dialectal role of markedness, allomorphy,
and case syncretism. There appears to be a tendency for the loss of inflection
class sub-paradigms and the establishment of uniform inflectional patterns,
i.e. greater paradigmatic simplicity. The author aims to show that the
direction of change can be predicted on the basis of synchronic variation and,
moreover, intra-dialectal variation can represent different stages of the same

The second part, “Synchronic variation and language change”, focuses on
synchronic variation as the source and result of diachronic change; in other
words, it discusses synchronic variation as motivated by or, on the contrary,
motivating language change.

In “Semantic maps, for synchronic and diachronic typology”, by Johan van der
Auwera, the advantages of classical, or ‘connectivity’ semantic maps are
discussed compared to more recent statistical maps, and the possibilities
offered by the latter for studying diachronic processes are illustrated. The
‘old’ type of semantic maps has the feature of linking, which is crucial for
the representation of connections between uses. As for statistical maps, they
show only the proximity of the contexts, not the connections. What is more,
connectivity maps can represent theories, as they are predictive and
falsifiable, whereas proximity maps can be used only for generalizations
concerning certain contexts in which certain constructions occur. Van der
Auwera defends the connectivity approach and claims that, although both types
of semantic maps have merits, a major strong point of connectivity maps is
that they offer an insightful model of synchronic variation and at the same
time promote a diachronic perspective.

“Synchronic gradience and language change in Latin genitive constructions”, by
Elisabetta Magni, is dedicated to Latin adnominal constructions. It is
well-known that there is no strict borderline between possession in a broad
sense (anchoring relations) and other semantic types of adnominal modification
(non-anchoring relations). In Latin, with its flexible word order, genitive
constructions exhibit both G(enitive)N(noun) and NG patterns. As for their
semantics, they can convey possessive meanings, when the possessor performs
the role of a pragmatic anchor (or, in other words, a reference point) for
identifying the possessee, but they can also express non-anchoring relations,
being potentially ambiguous between different readings. It competes with
another widespread adnominal construction, namely, ‘Noun + denominal
adjective’, and their functions converge to a certain extent. After a long
period of constructional variation, NG structures gradually oust constructions
with denominal adjectives and become the preferred means for expressing
non-anchoring relations.

“Double agreement in the Alpine languages”, by Melani Wratil, provides an
account of double agreement effects in several linguistic varieties: Bavarian,
Alemannic and Ladin. Alpine languages exhibit agreement allomorphy in verbal
inflection, reflecting an intermediate stage in the grammaticalization of
atonic subject pronouns to verbal agreement suffixes. Analyzing the phenomenon
in a generative perspective, the author claims that its emergence gave rise to
more economical structures, as the highly specialized pronominal and verbal
paradigms brought about the least costly syntactic derivations and the least
redundant representations which can be compatible with the Primary Linguistic

In “On variation in gender agreement: The neutralization of pronominal gender
in Dutch”, by Lien De Vos, the triggering role of competition between
syntactic and semantic factors for variation in gender agreement is accounted
for. The northern Dutch category of gender is known to have evolved from a
three-term system to a two-term one, as masculine and feminine fused into one
gender. As for Southern Dutch, although it retains the original three-gender
system, it appears to be in transition from a grammatical gender system
towards a more semantic one. Evidence from a corpus of spoken Dutch, ‘Corpus
Gesproken Nederlands’, is provided to support the claim that in Southern Dutch
the antecedent’s position in the Givenness Hierarchy and its syntactic role
influence the use of gender-marked pronouns. The synchronic variety is
explained diachronically as depending on increased structural ambiguity,
caused by the reduction of gender-marking morphology.

In ‘Synchronic variation and grammatical change: The case of Dutch double
gender nouns’, by Chiara Semplicini, one more aspect of gender in Dutch is
investigated: double gender nouns (DGNs), a category which, on the one hand,
seems to be a marginal phenomenon, but, on the other hand, appears to be
persistent in the history of the language. DGNs tend to form kinds of semantic
clusters and include such referents as objects and substances, as well as
abstract terms. The number of nouns involved constantly increased from the
Middle Ages, when the overt gender markers and, consequently, transparency of
the inflectional system were lost, up to the modern period, but decreased
drastically in the 20th century due to the process of systematization and
standardization. The author provides additional evidence of the gradual loss
of grammatical gender in Dutch in favor of a semantic system and to explain
the diachronic persistence of the phenomenon under study.

In ‘A case study on the relationship between grammatical change and synchronic
variation: The emergence of tipo[-N] in Italian’, by Miriam Voghera, a
diversity of non-nominal uses of Italian ‘tipo’ (‘type’), exhibiting a complex
network of syntactic and pragmatic functions, is classified and analyzed in
terms of diachronic development and synchronic variation. It is shown how the
noun underwent the decategorization process, first developing the function of
adnominal modifier in the first half of the 20th century and acquiring, later
on, novel uses, including as similative marker, approximator, interclausal
connector and focus marker. The most characteristic features of the phenomenon
is the retention, up to the present, of uses which emerged at different stages
(although frequency and relevance of each of them have changed significantly
over time) and fuzziness of their categorial space. Upon the whole, ‘tipo’
exhibits the basic properties of grammaticalization and is coherent with the
cline of the development of discourse particles (Traugott 1995, 2008).

‘Grammaticalization in the present — The changes of modern Swedish ‘typ’’, by
Henrik Rosenkvist and Sanna Skärlund, is a corpus-driven study, aiming to
account for the reinterpretation of the word ‘typ’ as a preposition and,
subsequently, as an adverb and a discourse marker in the 20th century. This
taxonomic lexeme appears to have a strong tendency towards grammaticalization,
confirmed by analogous patterns in such languages as Italian, Russian, English
and French. The authors conclude that the development of non-nominal uses of
‘typ’ started about 1930 in technology-related discourse, with a high degree
of probability, specifically connected with Swedish aircraft.

The papers in the third part, “Gradualness in language change”, explore to
what extent diachronic change is gradual, providing case studies regarding
particular situations of gradual change, such as language contact.

In “Gradualness in change in English (augmented) absolutes”, by Nikki van de
Pol and Hubert Cuyckens, the history of absolute constructions (ACs) is traced
from Old English to the present time and analyzed in a constructional
perspective. Two major subtypes of ACs are singled out: augmented absolutes,
i.e. those introduced by a preposition, and unaugmented absolutes, which do
not exhibit any overt marker of syntactic linkage with the matrix clause. In
Old English ACs, both the subject and the participle were marked for dative;
however, due to the consequent loss of case morphology the constructions
became, on the one hand, less recognizable, favoring explicit marking of the
beginning of an AC, and, on the other hand, their structural possibilities
broadened, such that more and more predicate types entered ACs. Augmented
absolutes, introduced by the preposition ‘with’, initially indicated manner or
a sort of an accompanying circumstance. Their frequency gradually increased
over time, ousting other augmentors (e.g., ‘after’, ‘at’, ‘upon’, ‘by reason
of’, common in Middle and Modern English), their meaning evolved towards
vagueness and generality, and ‘with’ underwent semantic bleaching, becoming a
lexically empty marker of the beginning of an AC.

In “Grammatical encoding of referentiality in the history of Hungarian”, by
Barbara Egedi, the development of the definite article from a distal
demonstrative modifier is explained within a Minimalist framework. The paper
presents a piece of research from a huge project on the generative diachronic
syntax of Hungarian. The author assumes that as early as in Old Hungarian this
element was already a fully-fledged article, with a structural position of its
own; hence, it encoded definiteness at the syntactic level, notwithstanding
the coexistence with the homophonous demonstrative marker and, initially, a
more limited distribution with respect to the contemporary language. A
parallel is drawn with the rise of the definite article out of the Latin
demonstrative ‘ille’, originally located in the specifier of the Determiner
Phrase and, together with the loss of the first syllable, was reinterpreted as
an element in D (Giusti 2001).

“Gradualness in contact-induced constructional replication: The Abstract
Possession construction in the Circum-Mediterranean area”, by Chiara Fedriani,
Gianguido Manzelli and Paolo Ramat, surveys the diachronic spread and
synchronic areal distribution of the Abstract Possession
‘habēre’-construction, which appears to originate in Classical and Late Latin
and to be grammaticalized and diffused to different extents across a wide
range of Circum-Mediterranean languages. Generally speaking, there is a strong
semantic bond between Possessors and Experiencers in the languages of the
world, and constructions conveying concrete possession are frequently
recruited to express feelings and states, for instance, being right/wrong, or
even the age of a person. The present study takes into account 16 concepts
pertaining to several semantic domains (physical feelings and types of pain,
emotions, moral states, etc.) in a sample of languages which comprises
Albanian, Bulgarian, Egyptian Arabic, French, Italian, Macedonian, Maltese,
Modern Greek, Moroccan Arabic, Palestinian Arabic, Serbo-Croat, Slovenian,
Spanish, and Turkish. The authors come to the conclusion that physical
feelings are most compatible with the AP construction and establish a semantic
hierarchy (‘physical feelings > mental feelings’), which, actually, implies
that a language which uses the abovementioned construction to convey a mental
feeling is prone to use the same strategy for physical feelings, whereas the
opposite implication does not hold.

In “‘Binding Hierarchy’ and peculiarities of the verb ‘potere’ in some
Southern Calabrian varieties”, by Alessandro De Angelis, a range of
constructions with the modal verb ‘potere’ (‘can, be able to’) is accounted
for in terms of syntax, semantics and contact-induced grammaticalization in
several Calabrian varieties which have been in contact with some Greek
dialects spoken in Southern Italy. In particular, the author demonstrates how
the infinitive in dependent clauses was gradually replaced by finite verbs
introduced by a complementizer deriving from Latin ‘mŏdo’ or ‘quod’. De
Angelis argues that the process started in purposive and completive sentences
with desiderative predicates, extending later on to all the dependent clauses
with irrealis semantics. Since a very similar path of change is attested in
Late Greek and in the Greek varieties of Italy, it can be considered a case of
replica grammaticalization. The final step in the process is constituted by
the modal verb ‘potere’, which begins to take finite forms of dependent verbs,
although it is not possible in the Greek dialects of Italy, where the
analogous verb is the only exception to the construction.

The volume under review is certainly an important contribution to the study of
the interaction between synchrony and diachrony. It will be of interest to a
wide range of linguists working on grammaticalization, language change,
typology, areal linguistics and dialectology.

The very term ‘interface’, in the title, is used in a non-trivial way. In the
literature, it is conventionally used to refer to the interaction between
different linguistic levels, conceived of as modules. As a matter of fact,
synchrony and diachrony have nothing to do with linguistic levels, or modules;
they are two domains of linguistic research.

Although the editors state that the focus of the volume is on theoretical and
methodological issues (p. 1), the volume is more empirically rather than
theoretically driven, which, I suppose, is determined by the subject itself.
Even the fact that every article ends with a short theoretical and
methodological appendix, titled “Focus on the dynamic interface between
synchrony and diachrony”, does not counterbalance the empirical tendency. It
looks more like a collection of case studies illustrating some theoretical
claims concerning diachrony and its relationship with synchrony, usually
points well-established in literature. The exceptions are the editors’
introductory chapter and the paper by van der Auwera, where the
methodological/theoretical focus is really central. The papers by Trousdale
and Currie, who provide a thorough analysis of gradualness in language change
as a general problem, as well as Fedriani, Manzelli & Ramat with their
interesting reflections on contact-induced grammaticalization are also notable
in this respect.

Rosenkvist and Skärlund strongly criticize proponents of Grammaticalization
Theory for the extensive use of data from languages without written records
from earlier stages, in particular Bybee et al. (1994) and Heine & Kuteva
(2002). The reconstruction of morphosyntactic change in such cases presents
well-known methodological problems, but to assert that, in principle, there is
no such a thing as a reliable reconstructed path of grammaticalization and
that “reconstruction is no more than guessing” (p. 334) is too drastic.
Reconstructions rely on the Comparative Method, not mere guessing.
Reconstructions are needed in diachronic typology to provide balanced language
samples, typically including linguistic families lacking written records from
earlier stages. As for Heine and Kuteva, they are always explicit about
reconstructed vs. attested instances of language change in their lexicon.

The paper by Fedriani, Manzelli and Ramat offers numerous insights into
contact-induced grammaticalization phenomena and lexical typology, but some of
their data seems inaccurate, as it is not clear how the authors deal with
synonymy and synchronic constructional variation. Considering the focus of the
present volume, it is somewhat surprising that the corresponding constructions
from the languages under comparison are reported as if they were the only
strategies available. For instance, the authors claim that “the two
intersubjective states of “being right/wrong” constitute a lexical island … as
they are always coded by means of prototypical possessive constructions in our
data, the only exception for “being right” being Macedonian …” (p. 411).
However, in both Bulgarian and Macedonian, constructions with the verb ‘to be’
are used to convey the concepts ‘to be right’ and ‘to be wrong’ along with the
possessive constructions. In Bulgarian the meaning ‘to be right’ is conveyed
by the verb ‘to be’ combined with a predicative adjective, ‘prav săm’ (lit.
‘right be.1SG’), as well as by the possessive construction ‘imam pravo’ (lit.
‘have.1SG right’), meaning also ‘to have the right (e.g., to do sth)’. The
same holds for Macedonian, where the “existential” construction ‘vo pravo sum’
(in right be.1SG) coexists with the possessive ‘imam pravo’ (‘have.1SG
right’). In Bulgarian, the concept ‘to be afraid’ can be expressed by the
stative verb ‘straxuvam se’, the stative periphrasis ‘strax me e’ (fear
1SG.ACC be.3SG) and, finally, by the ‘habēre’-construction ‘imam straxa’
(have.1SG fear.DEF); ‘to be worried’ corresponds not only to ‘raztrevožen săm’
(‘worried be.1SG’), but also to ‘imam griži’ (‘have.1sg worry.PL’) and ‘griža
me e (za teb)’ (‘worry 1SG.ACC be.3SG (for you.ACC)’). Structural variation
can also be observed in the semantic field of pain: En. ‘to have a stomach
ache’ corresponds not only to Blg. ‘imam stomašni bolki’ (have.1SG
stomach.ADJ.PL aches.PL), but also to ‘boli me stomaxăt’ (ache.3SG 1SG.ACC
stomach.DEF); ‘to have a headache’ corresponds both to ‘boli me glavata’
(ache.3SG 1SG.ACC head.DEF) and ‘imam glavobolie’ (have.1SG headache). If this
kind of systematic variation is not taken into account, the quantitative
analysis will be skewed.

On another minor point, because topics across some papers intersect (e.g.,
grammaticalization of the noun ‘type’ in different languages addressed by
Voghera and Rosenkvist & Skärlund, or accounts of the category of gender in
Dutch by De Vos and Semplicini), the volume would have benefited from

Overall, though, the book makes a very good impression and is full of
insightful analyses of a wide range of morphosyntactic and lexical phenomena.

Bybee, Joan, Perkins, Revere & Pagliuca, William. 1994. The Evolution of
Grammar. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Croft, William 2001. Radical Construction Grammar: Syntactic Theory in
Typological Perspective.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Giusti, Giuliana. 2001. The birth of a functional category: From Latin ILLE to
the Romance article and personal pronoun. // Current Studies in Italian
Syntax. Essays Offered to Lorenzo Renzi [North Holland New Linguistic Series
59] Guglielmo Cinque & Giampaolo Salvi (eds.), 157-171. Oxford: Elsevier.

Heine, Berndt & Kuteva, Tania. 2002. World Lexicon of Grammaticalization.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Traugott, Elisabeth Closs. 1995. The role of the development of discourse
markers in a theory of
grammaticalization, Paper presented at ICHL XII, Manchester.

Traugott, Elizabeth Closs & Trousdale, Graeme. 2008. Gradience, gradualness
and grammaticalisation: How do they intersect? // Gradience, Gradualness and
Grammaticalisation [Typological Studies in Language 90]. Elizabeth Closs
Traugott & Graeme Trousdale (eds.), 19-44. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Traugott, Elisabeth Closs. 2010. (Inter)subjectivity and
(inter)subjectification: A reassessment. // Subjectification,
Intersubjectification and Grammaticalization. Kristin Davidse, Lieven
Vandelanotte & Hubert Cuyckens (eds.), 29-71. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Anna Alexandrova holds a degree in Russian and English philology. She is now a
PhD student in linguistics at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa (Italy).
Her research interests include linguistic typology, Aktionsart, aspectual
systems and verbal morphology, both in synchrony and diachrony.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-2354

Review: Discourse Analysis; Text/Corpus Linguistics; English: Busa (2013)

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

AUTHOR: M.  Grazia Busa
TITLE: Introducing the Language of the News
SUBTITLE: A Student’s Guide
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Sibo Chen, Simon Fraser University


Living in the age of information, we are surrounded by news reports. These
stories not only keep us updated on current affairs around the globe, but also
fundamentally shape our values, beliefs, and behaviors through their
agenda-setting and framing effects. Thus, it is crucial for undergraduates who
are interested in news to learn the production of news texts and the functions
of language within this process.

Assuming no prior knowledge of linguistics, “Introducing the Language of the
News” aims to offer an accessible reference for the study of news from
linguistic perspectives. Using English news as its primary examples, this
textbook covers key issues within news discourse analysis and introduces how
different linguistic choices can highlight different interpretations of news
texts. In addition, the exercises after each chapter make the book an ideal
reference reading for students learning English news writing in an English as
a Foreign/Second Language (i.e., EFL/ESL) context.

Introduction: Language and Texts

The introduction overviews “linguistic competence” and “register”. The author
highlights several factors contributing to variation in language use in our
daily lives: communicative purposes, discourse participants, communication
media (e.g., spoken versus written), and social contexts (e.g., formal versus
informal). In short, this introductory chapter discusses key components of
genre/register research and sets the theoretical background for the discussion
of news discourse in the following chapters.

Chapter One: Making News

The focus of Chapter One is the media industry and driving factors of news
production. To be specific, the chapter reviews six factors of news
production: media ownership, market pressure, labor division with the
newsroom, time deadline and space-on-the-page constraints, information
technology, and convergence of media forms.

Chapter Two: Defining News

This chapter provides a definition of news and explains factors influencing
the writing of news stories. According to the author, news can be defined as
“the relaying of events that are both recent (new) and relevant (interesting)”
(p. 25). Following such a definition, the author reviews the primary factors
that make a story potentially newsworthy: timeliness, location, topic and
familiarity, pictures and multimedia, dramatic potential, and public
interests. In addition to newsworthiness, objectivity is another crucial
standard for news texts and it determines the neutral language style of news
texts. The author concludes this chapter by explaining different types of
newspapers (e.g., broadsheets versus tabloids) and stories (e.g., hard news
versus soft news).

Chapter Three: Sourcing News

Chapter Four: Conveying Meaning through Design

These two short chapters (each is 10 pages long) briefly review the
information gathering stage of news production and the visual layout of a
newspaper page. Chapter Three starts by making a distinction between on-diary
sources (i.e., regular contacts of journalists) and off-diary sources (i.e.,
contacts reached by journalists when unanticipated events happen). The chapter
then reviews general issues regarding interviews and how information gathered
by journalists is used in news stories: attributions, anonymous sources, and
quotations. Following the above discussion, Chapter Four focuses on print news
and analyzes how page design (e.g., the position of headlines, pictures, body
copies, etc.) represents a powerful form of non-verbal communication.

Chapter Five: Structuring the Story

Chapter Six: Head, Lead and Proper Story

These two Chapters examine news story structures and the linguistic features
of news headlines, leads and the body copies. To be specific, Chapter Five
deals with three basic features of news stories: story structure, impersonal
language, and coherent texts. The chapter starts with an overview of three
common structures of news stories: the inverted pyramid, narrative
storytelling, and the hourglass (i.e., a combination of the previous two).
Then, the chapter goes into an exploration of impersonal writing and how
certain linguistic rules (e.g., the avoidance of first- or second-person
pronouns and emotive words or expressions) maintain the objectivity of news.
The chapter concludes with a brief explanation of coordination and
subordination and their function in language coherence.

By comparison, the focus of Chapter Six is on the components of news stories
(e.g., headlines, leads and body copies) and their grammatical features and
embedded rhetorical strategies. The author first discusses the synthetic
language of news headlines and how such linguistic characteristics lead to a
nominalization tendency in news headlines. Then, the discussion of news
headlines shifts to their rhetorical features (e.g., intertextuality, word
association, and metaphor), followed by an overview of informative headlines.
Finally, the chapter explains two types of news leads (i.e., direct leads and
delayed leads) and offers an example of how information is structured in the
body section.

Chapter Seven: The Tools of the Trade

Chapter Eight: Reporting Information and Evaluation of Likelihood

Chapter Nine: The Power of Words

The final three chapters are the most linguistic-centric ones, as they offer
an overview of linguistic strategies used in news discourse. Chapter Seven
examines the linguistic strategies used by journalists to compact lots of
information in short texts, such as nominalization, brevity (e.g., using
“although” instead of “despite the fact that”), and the passive voice. The
chapter then reviews some general syntactic issues in news writing: verbal
structure, voice, and thematization.

Chapter Eight discusses how journalists use various linguistic choices to
convert news sources into news stories. The Chapter explores two aspects of
information reporting: the use of reported speech (e.g., direct quote,
indirect quote, paraphrase, etc.), and the use of modality (e.g., epistemic
modality versus deontic modality).

Finally, Chapter Nine explains the “power of words” and how newswriters can
exploit the expressive potential of language to convey particular stances on
news topics. The primary focus of the chapter is the English language, and the
author demonstrates how careful word choices influence readers’
interpretations of the same news event, reinforce society’s perception of
certain groups, and promote particular ideologies.


Overall, this book presents a concise but well-organized introduction of news
production and discourse. Covering a wide range of topics in only 164 pages,
the book can serve as a good complementary reading for ESL/EFL learners
interested in English news. As mentioned earlier, the student exercises at the
end of each chapter make the book ready-to-use for ESL/EFL instructors. In
addition, the book’s language style is straightforward and succinct, which is
another advantage for its usage in ESL/EFL settings.

Meanwhile, there are two minor limitations within the book, which might be
addressed in its further editions. First, the book may consider re-organizing
certain chapters to make its presentational logic more coherent. Chapter Three
(Sourcing News) can be combined with Chapter Eight (Reporting Information and
Evaluation of Likelihood), as many linguistic details of the former are not
properly explained until the latter. Similarly, Chapter Five (Structuring the
Story) and Chapter Six (Head, Lead and Proper Story) can be combined, since
both chapters deal with the structuring of news texts. Second, although the
book’s simplicity is a desired design for its primary readers (ESL/EFL
learners), it would still be beneficial if more theories regarding news
discourse were introduced in the book. In the current version, the critical
analysis of news discourse is only introduced in the very last chapter and
several key texts within the field (e.g., Fairclough, 1989; van Dijk, 1988)
are not discussed. In the discussion of the media industry (Chapters One &
Two), some additional reviews of the political economy of communication would
also be beneficial (e.g. Mosco, 2009; Wasko, Murdock & Sousa, 2011).

Overall, the book is a good reference for intro-level courses on language and
communication, especially for ESL/EFL learners who want a concise overview of
English news discourse.


Busa, M. G. (2013). “Introducing the language of the news”. New York, NY:

Fairclough, N. (1989). “Language and power”. London: Longman.

Mosco, V. (2009). “The political economy of communication” (2nd ed.). London:

Wasko, J., Murdock, G., & Sousa, H. (2011). “The handbook of political economy
of communications”. London: Sage.

Van Dijk, T. (1988). “News as discourse”. Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum


Sibo Chen is a PHD student in the School of Communication, Simon Fraser
University. He received his MA in Applied Linguistics from the Department of
Linguistics, University of Victoria, Canada. His major research interests are
language and communication, discourse analysis, and genre theories.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-2340

Review: Applied Ling.; Discourse Analysis; Pragmatics; Socioling.: Cap & Okulska (2013)

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

EDITOR: Piotr  Cap
EDITOR: Urszula  Okulska
TITLE: Analyzing Genres in Political Communication
SUBTITLE: Theory and practice
SERIES TITLE: Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture 50
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Sibo Chen, Simon Fraser University

Although investigations of political language have been a pivotal topic in
Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), the broad body of previous studies has done
relatively little to provide a comprehensive and organized set of answers to
the theoretical complexities of political genre research. Given that
situation, “Analyzing Genres in Political Communication” has a two-fold
objective: “(1) to make a contribution to the study of genres in political
communication; and (2) to offer insights that add to the analysis of
communicative genres in general (p. 11)”. With contributions from a range of
experts with diverse backgrounds, this edited collection presents the latest
developments in political genre analysis and can be informative for
researchers in a wide range of disciplines, such as Applied Linguistics,
Communication, Political Science, and other fields.

The introduction, “Analyzing Genres in Political Communication”, addresses
general problems in genre analysis and overviews the studies in the following
chapters. Generally speaking, genre could be interpreted as: (1) abstractions
of communicative acts, (2) indicators of situational contexts, (3) flexible
macrostructures with both obligatory and optional elements, (4) interrelated
units in a social field, and (5) assigners of social roles for their
participants (pp. 3-7). In the field of political genre analysis, research
thus far has been mainly conducted at the national level, focusing on
discourse with significant mediation functions, such as political speeches,
press conferences, debates, and so on. Overall, research in political genres
poses three key questions for the theory of communicative genres (pp. 8-9):

A.  The heterogeneity of political genres questions the analytical consistency
proposed by genre theories: Can the current methodological procedures
adequately address the typologies and hierarchies observed in political
B.  The analysis of political genres requires the revisit of many common
properties of communicative genres: Do these properties also apply to
political genres, especially those on situational contexts and social
C.  The interactions between policies and political genres bring the issue of
genre accomplishment: Is there a hypothetical “hyper-genre” in general for
various forms of political communication?

To address these questions, the collection explores various genres within
political communication in 12 chapters, divided into two parts based on their
research focus: “theory-driven approaches” (Part I: Chapters 1-6) and
“data-driven approaches” (Part II: Chapters 7-12).

Chapter One, “Genres in Political Discourse”, follows up on the theoretical
account in the introduction and reviews genre theories in various traditions:
the “New Rhetoric” approach (Bazerman, 1988), the “Systemic Functional
Grammar” approach (Martin, 1992), the “Functional Move” approach (Swales,
1990), and the “Socio-critical” approach (Bhatia, 2004). Then, the chapter
provides an analysis of Austrian chancellors’ inaugural speeches and concludes
that analyses of politically sensitive genres need to not only focus on
generic features of political texts, but also to account for the texts’
relevant registers and discourses.

Chapter Two, “Political Interviews in Context”, presents an analysis of
political interviews based on an integration of various discourse methods,
such as conversation analysis, pragmatics, social psychology, and content
analysis. The authors conceptualize political interviews as a “hybrid genre”
in essence and discuss how this hybrid genre frequently departures from its
default organization.

Chapter Three, “Policy, Policy Communication and Discursive Shifts”, deals
with the European Union’s (EU) policy discourses on climate change via a
critical discourse analysis of its policy documents. The analysis was
conducted from two perspectives: policy-making and policy-communication. The
conclusion reached is that the EU discourse on climate change can be
characterized by a large degree of discursive change that frames climate
change from an EU perspective (i.e. climate change as a crisis will threaten
EU’s future economy and presents a global crisis).

Chapter Four, “The Television Election Night Broadcast”, describes the genres
and sub-genres of television election night broadcasts and demonstrates that
they, as a macro-genre, involve complex interlocking of different genres
(speeches, interviews, breaking news, etc.), which shows how complex generic
structures are influenced by both internal and external factors.  The
structures of election night broadcasts depend on the external social and
political contexts in which they are situated as well as their internal
communication logic and information economy.

Chapter Five “Analyzing Meetings in Political and Business Contexts” focuses
on meetings in political and business contexts and explores common strategies
shared in both situations. The chapter highlights the scarcity of theories of
meetings across different settings and discusses specific discursive
strategies in spontaneous interactions during meetings. Based on comparative
analyses of political and business meetings, the chapter further investigates
the impact of organization knowledge on the meeting genre as well as the role
of communications for genre identification.

Chapter Six, “Presenting Politics”, the last chapter of Part I, serves as a
transition between the collection’s two parts and offers a reflection on
persuasion and performance across political genres. The chapter reviews two
approaches to addressing persuasion in political communication (persuasion as
a psychological process versus persuasion as a cultural performance). The
chapter tackles Question C (see above): given the heterogeneity of political
genres and their theoretical frameworks, can the complexity of political
genres be addressed within the existing genre theories, or should the research
go beyond them?

Chapters in Part II pay more attention to the investigation of specific genres
through data-driven methods. Chapter Seven, “Legitimizing the Iraq War”,
discusses the theory of legitimation through the rhetoric of judge-penitence.
The chapter further analyzes the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s
self-critiques of Danish collaboration with German Nazis during World War II,
which established moral credibility and moral ground for the legitimation of
the Danish government’s engagement in the Iraqi war.

Chapter Eight, “Macro and Micro, Quantitative and Qualitative”, explores
election night speeches in Britain and German and addresses the most typical
characteristic in political speeches: the construction of the binary
opposition of “us versus them”.  Based on quantitative and qualitative
analyses, the chapter shows that for election night speeches, the
cross-cultural similarities at the micro level may not correspond to
similarities at the macro level.

Chapter Nine, “Reframing the American Dream”, examines the genre of political
debates. Focusing on the final televised presidential debate in the 2008 US
election, the chapter argues that the ‘nation as family’ metaphor proposed by
Lakoff (2002) has significant implications for US political discourse. The two
competing moral models (paternal vs. maternal) within US politics were
consolidated through the strategic use of personal references and pronouns by
John McCain and Barack Obama during the debate.

Chapter Ten, “The Late-night TV Talk Show as a Strategic Genre”, and Chapter
Eleven, “Multimodal Legitimation”, continue to investigate the 2008 US
presidential election, exploring late night shows and online election
advertisements. To be specific, Chapter Ten works with a selection of popular
talk shows in US and shows that their generic conventions tend to be recruited
to suit politician’s aims. By comparison, Chapter Eleven approaches the
multimodal legitimation offered by Obama’s 2008 campaign and discusses the
general question of hybridity within political genres: if a well-established
genre (e.g. political speeches) was adapted into a non-conventional
communication form (e.g. online advertisements), would it continue to dominate
the legitimation process of political communications, or would it be reduced
to a supportive role? The analysis in Chapter Eleven highlights the
significance of semiotic simultaneity in multimodal legitimation.

Finally, Chapter Twelve, “Blogging as the Mediatization of Politics”, deals
with the issue of mediation offered by political blogs, reflecting the
digitization and interdiscursivity of online discourse.  Based on quantitative
corpus analysis, the study scrutinizes the functional and structural features
of political blogs. Overall, the chapter shows how political communication
function as a complex network with increasingly mediated and interactive
practices of civil society.

In summary, this book presents an in-depth and comprehensive analysis of
political communication from the genre perspective. Covering a wide range of
genres, tit demonstrates not only the complexity of political genres
themselves, but also the contributions of political communication for genre
theories. Specifically, Chapters Five and Six provide theoretical updates on
current political genre research, showing how studies on political genres can
further benefit not only genre theory, but also other disciplines such as
political science and communication. Meanwhile, Part II continues the
theoretical discussion of legitimation, which can benefit the growing body of
scholarship in this area. Finally, this volume also offers much needed
insights on political TV talk shows and political blogs, which have previously
received little linguistic attention but are becoming significant
communicative phenomena in public discourse.

Unfortunately, the book does have one minor limitation, which might be
addressed in a future edition: it focuses exclusively on the Western context.
All chapters are based on political communications in Europe and United
States, which limits some of the findings to non-western contexts such as Asia
and Latin America. As pointed out in Chapter Eight, further studies based on
non-western cultures may “contribute even more to the way political genres can
be defined without running the risk of a Western bias” (p. 287) and in this
regard, more studies based on non-Western contexts in a future edition would
further improve the book’s theoretical depth and breadth.

Overall, though, this book offers significant theoretical and methodological
updates for genre theories.  The book is sure to appeal to genre scholars as
well as those in related disciplines. It is an interesting and useful
collection with a wealth of up-to-date information for anyone interested in
political genres.

Bazerman, C. (1988). “Shaping written knowledge: The genre and activity of the
experimental article in science”. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

Bhatia, V. (2004). “Worlds of written discourse”. London: Continuum.

Lakoff, G. (2002). “Moral politics: How liberals and conservatives think”.
Chicago: University  of Chicago Press.

Martin, J. (1992). English text. Systems and structure.
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Swales, J. (1990). “Genre analysis: English in academic and research
settings”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sibo Chen is a graduate student in the School of Communication, Simon Fraser
University. He received his MA in Applied Linguistics from the Department of
Linguistics, University of Victoria, Canada. His major research interests are
language and communication, discourse analysis, and genre theories.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-2307

Review: Historical Linguistics: Wagner, Outhwaite & Beinhoff (2013)

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

EDITOR: Esther-Miriam  Wagner
EDITOR: Ben  Outhwaite
EDITOR: Bettina  Beinhoff
TITLE: Scribes as Agents of Language Change
SERIES TITLE: Studies in Language Change [SLC] 10
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Philipp Brandenburg, Universität Frankfurt am Main

How languages changed and evolved in the past can only be observed if these
languages were written down. Scribes, here defined as ”all producers of
texts” or ”the literate, that is, the actively literate, those who write,
and not just those who write for a living” (4), have an impact on what we
know of the earlier history of languages. The conference held at Cambridge in
April 2011 that led to this volume goes further and scrutinizes the active
role of scribes in the process of language change. The majority of
contributions focus on medieval times and the British isles, but earlier
periods and other geographical regions are also included.

CHAPTER 1. An introduction by the editors, ”Scribes and Language Change”
(3-18), defines core notions and summarizes the contributions. These are
arranged into three parts: ”From spoken vernacular to written form” (19-96),
”Standardisation versus regionalisation and de-standardisation” (97-238),
and ”Idiosyncracy, scribal standards and registers” (239-323).

Do scribes have an impact on the development of a given language? The question
is seldom asked and difficult to answer. And it is hard to test for such an
impact. So the book certainly fills a gap in linguistic research. One is,
however, tempted to assume beforehand that scribes make little or no
difference. At least, an individual scribe first has to be read to make any
impact whatsoever on the speech community. An active role of scribes in the
development of languages seems to be heavily restricted by the community’s
willingness to follow their lead. But the fifteen contributions assembled in
this volume pursue the case against such assumptions.

CHAPTER 2. Mark A. Williams, ”Biblical Register and a Counsel of Despair: Two
Late Cornish versions of Genesis 1” (21-37), documents a case-in-point of
scribes who consciously tried to take an active role in language change. When
Cornish was on the verge of extinction John Keigwin and John Boson tried to
revitalize the language by translating the bible into Cornish. But their
struggle did not succeed and only few passages were ever translated. The
result is, nevertheless, an intriguing case of language documentation.

CHAPTER 3. Markus Schiegg, ”Medieval Glossators as Agents of Language
Change” (39-69), stretches the notion of language change to include change in
status. The earliest written records of Old High German include dry-point
glosses. ”Such glosses,” Schiegg explains, ”are not written with feather
quill and ink but carved into the parchment with styli, small instruments made
of iron or wood” (44). These glosses are almost invisible marks that teachers
would add to a Latin manuscript to help their own memory without, at the same
time, being detected by their students. But to adorn an otherwise Latin
manuscript with glosses in German, though certainly a change in status
(”Verschriftlichung”, 59), cannot be considered a case of language change in
the ordinary sense of the word.

CHAPTER 4. Roger Wright, ”How scribes wrote Ibero-Romance before written
Romance was invented” (71-83), poses the interesting problem of late Latin
orthography. What is usually considered a deteriorated form of post-Classical
Latin Wright explains as a way of writing the current vernacular with Latin
morphology. These texts were then never meant to be read as Latin, but to be
pronounced and read aloud as the current vernacular. The scribes impose a
backwards-oriented orthography on a living language.

CHAPTER 5. Anja Busse, ”Hittite scribal habits: Sumerograms and phonetic
complements in Hittite cuneiform” (85-96), adds a case from the Near East.
The Hittite cuneiform writing system, basically syllabic, includes logographic
components from Sumerian. Hittite scribes had a choice between either Hittite
syllabic or Sumerian logographic writing, the latter either with or without a
phonetic complement. Apparently, the continued use of Sumerograms reflects a
perceived need for internationalization of communication at the Hittite royal

CHAPTER 6. Terttu Nevalainen, ”Words of kings and counsellors: Register
variation and language change in early English courtly correspondence”
(99-119), analyses letters from the electronic Corpus of Early English
Correspondence. At a time when neither the language nor its orthography was
stable, members of the royal family and their secretaries tended to preserve
conservative forms, whereas upwardly mobile merchants tended to use innovative

CHAPTER 7. Florian Dolberg, ”Quantifying gender change in Medieval English”
(121-158), deals with changes in medieval English gender assignment. In his
view, gender assignment changed from being basically lexical determined in Old
English, where a word denoting a sexless referent could have any grammatical
gender, to a referential gender system in Middle English, where males had
masculine, females feminine, and sexless referents neuter gender. Contrary to
earlier studies, Dolberg disconfirms the existence of an ”intermittent”
(155, he probably means: intermediate) stage of confusion in this process.

CHAPTER 8. Merja Stenroos, ”Identity and intelligibility in Late Middle
English scribal transmission: Local dialect as an active choice in
fifteenth-century texts” (159-181), questions the notions of standard and
standardization. In two studies she elaborates on local differences between
manuscripts from Barnston and West Midlands. Idiosyncratic spellings, though
”dysfunctional in terms of national usage” but occasionally useful ”in
distinguishing between homonyms”, were employed ”as high-status forms partly
because of their difficulty” (177). And they also reinforced group identity.
Stenroos argues against defining the notion ‘standardized’ from hindsight in a
way that ”forms that came to be part of the later standard would be defined
as ‘standardised”’ (163).

CHAPTER 9. Ben Outhwaite, ”Lines of communication: Medieval Hebrew letters of
the eleventh century” (183-198), discusses documents from the Cairo Genizah,
most prominently letters of Ga’on Solomon ben Judah (11th century). The
material shows that Medieval Hebrew, contrary to common belief, was
flourishing as a living language. Even when a scribe’s native language was
Arabic, the ”language of the Hagri” (188), dealing with halakhic subjects
triggered code-switching to Hebrew. But after the 11th century, when
communication in Hebrew had experienced a peak, usage of Hebrew sharply
declines in subsequent periods.

CHAPTER 10. Geoffrey Khan, ”The historical development of early Arabic
documentary formulae” (199-215), observes a change of style in Egyptian
documents during the first three centuries of the Islamic era. Whereas in the
Umayyad period the writer used wordings that distanced him from the reader, in
the Abbasid period he presents himself as virtually in the reader’s presence.
Khan argues that this change was not drawn from a Greek tradition, but ”was
introduced into Egypt by officials trained in the eastern provinces” (211).

CHAPTER 11. Nicholas Zair, ”Individualism in ‘Osco-Greek’ orthography”
(217-226), argues against the idea of a unified system for writing the Oscan
language in the Greek alphabet. The evidence adduced shows that Oscan scribes
instead used the Greek alphabet in an intuitive, ad hoc manner.

CHAPTER 12. Stefan Reif, ”How a Jewish scribe in early modern Poland
attempted to alter a Hebrew linguistic register” (227-238), scrutinizes the
case of Shabbethai ben Isaac Sofer, a Polish scribe (16th/17th century) who
struggled to alter the existing standards of writing Hebrew. Dissatisfied with
the Hebrew language used in contemporary rabbinic literature, Shabbethai used
his expertise in Biblical Hebrew to point out errors that had crept in in the
course of time. His approach gives the lie to those who assume that
‘enlightened’ thoughts were more at home among Jews in Spain than in Eastern

CHAPTER 13. Alexander Bergs, ”Writing, reading, language change: A
sociohistorical perspective on scribes, readers, and networks in medieval
Britain” (241-259), analyses letters written by the Paston family from
Norfolk between 1421 and 1503. Female family members were illiterate and
dictated their letters to scribes. Bergs begins with a thorough review of
theoretical approaches to language change and concludes from evidence in the
letters that the scribes’ ”influence at least in the domain of morphosyntax
may have been fairly limited” (242), because ”scribes did not (always)
compose letters in their own style, but actually paid attention to the forms
that the author used” (250).

CHAPTER 14. Esther-Miriam Wagner, ”Challenges of multiglossia: Scribes and
the emergence of substandard Judaeo-Arabic registers” (261-275), deals with
an exclusively epistolary register. Judeo-Arabic, an Arabic sociolect written
in Hebrew alphabet, displays a mixture of hypercorrect forms that mark it as
literary and of vernacular forms that produce a feeling of intimacy between
sender and addressee of a letter. The scribes here were merchants who fostered
this register in order to facilitate relations with their business partners.

CHAPTER 15. Ivar Berg, ”Variation in a Norwegian sixteenth-century scribal
community” (277-290), presents a case of code-switching between Norwegian and
Danish. Although for political reasons Danish was the language of
administration, Norwegian continued to be used in certain contexts. The more
formal a text was, the more likely it was written in Danish, if not in Latin;
the less formal it was, e.g. in purely administrative documents, the more
likely it was written in Norwegian. The native Norwegian scribes actually
improved their ability to produce Danish under these circumstances.

CHAPTER 16. Dmitry Bondarev, ”Language change induced by written codes: A
case of Old Kanembu and Kanuri dialects” (291-323), presents an illuminating
case from Africa. In Nigeria and neighboring countries in the 13th to 14th
century (Old) Kanembu became the standard language for exegesis of the Qur’an.
A modernized variant of Old Kanembu, called Tarjumo, is still used for the
same purpose, despite the fact that the modern day vernacular in the region is
Kanuri. ”Paradoxically, even though T[arjumo] is entirely incomprehensible to
the ordinary public, … the purpose of T[arjumo] is to explicate the meaning
of the Qur’an in language understandable to Kanuri speakers” (301). It is as
if Biblical Hebrew were commented on in Latin in oder to meditate its meaning
to an English-speaking audience. And ”wherever O[ld] K[anembu]/T[arjumo] is
practiced it becomes one of the factors for language maintenance and change
(even though the literary form is unintelligible to the ordinary speakers)”
(319). It exercises a prescriptive and conservative force on the development
of present day Kanuri. For instance, when ”the speakers simplify semantic and
pragmatic statuses of the subject referents marked by [the subject marker]
‘ye’ in transitive constructions” (319), they are advised by the literate
elite educated in Tarjumo to apply grammatical rules instead that are apt to
Tarjumo but alien to Kanuri. Compare the split infinitive unduly shunned in
English merely because in Latin the infinitive is a single word form. This
paper provides a new perspective on comparable situations in other languages.

The outcome of both the conference and its published proceedings, as far as I
can see, is that scribes cannot without qualification be considered agents of
language change. The only indisputable cases of scribes actively and
successfully influencing language change are documented by Wagner (chapter 14)
and Bondarev (chapter 16), while clearly unsuccessful efforts are provided by
Williams (chapter 2) and Reif (chapter 12). The outcome is then negative, but
this is not a flaw of the book. In the humanities as well as in the sciences a
negative result can be as enlightening as a positive one. However, editors and
contributors, with the exception of Bergs (chapter 13), do not appear willing
to admit that their data require a negative answer to the initial question.
There is a general tendency among the authors and editors in this volume to
exaggerate the role of scribes in the process of language change. To me it
seems that their shared overestimation of scribes stems from the scribes’
preeminent role in language documentation, whereas their influence on language
change is but marginal. Assertions to the contrary inevitably stretch the
notion of language change to include change of status (chapter 3) or even
change of style (chapter 10) that do not affect the grammatical structure of a
language. Nevertheless, the data gathered in this book are highly intriguing
and should inspire further research.

The volume is carefully edited. Very few typos have crept in: read ”extent”
(52, l. 13), ”one is” (63, l. 6), ”going to be” (80, last l.), ”it does
not differentiate number; and in the neuter” (135-136), ”doubt both” (178,
l. 15), and ”has shown” (306, l. 18). The bibliographies on pages 157 and
274 lack the items Stenroos (2008) and Ferguson (1959), respectively. A useful
all-in-one index facilitates easy access to the contents (languages and
subjects) of the book.

Ferguson, Charles. 1959. Diglossia. Word 15. 325-340.

Stenroos, Merja. 2008. Order out of chaos?  The English gender change in the
Southwest Midlands as a process of semantically-based reorganisation. English
Language and Linguistics 12(3). 445-473.

Philipp Brandenburg specializes in grammar and grammaticography of Ancient
Greek and Latin. He works as a teacher and offers seminars on ancient
philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. His current research focuses on
General Syntax, Varro’s ‘De lingua Latina’, Plato’s ‘Cratylus’ and Aeschines
of Sphettus.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-2308

Review: Sign Language; Pragmatics: Herrmann & Steinbach (2013)

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

EDITOR: Annika  Herrmann
EDITOR: Markus  Steinbach
TITLE: Nonmanuals in Sign Language
SERIES TITLE: Benjamins Current Topics 53
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Michael W Morgan, National Deaf Federation Nepal

The linguistically naive (or at least those less familiar with the linguistics
of sign languages) often assume that sign languages are languages of the hand,
with signs formed by the hands being the sole articulators, and they alone
defining the linguistic system. Thus, not surprisingly, many languages refer
to sign language as ‘hand language’ (e.g., Japanese and Chinese). Likewise,
beginning sign language learners tend to focus on the hands (literally as well
as figuratively, with eye gaze centering on and following the hands). It is
thus perhaps natural that linguistic analysis of sign languages began in the
1960s with the ‘manual’ elements of sign language.

Soon however, it became clear that sign languages employed multiple
articulators in addition to the hands, and focus expanded to these other
articulators — upper torso, head, face (this last including mouth, cheeks,
eyes, eyebrows, facial expression, ). Although, as in spoken language
discourse, these other articulators also perform non-linguistic functions
(‘gesture’, affective facial expression, etc.), it became equally apparent
that they participate integrally in the grammar and lexicon of sign languages.
Linguistic research on sign languages expanded to include non-manual elements
(NMSs, non-manual signals, NMMs, nonmanual markers, or simply nonmanuals), and
over the years nonmanuals have become a rich and productive area of research.
The book under review is a collection of seven papers contributing to this
growing field of study.

Articles collected here are updated versions of papers previously published in
the journal “Sign Language & Linguistics” 14:1 (2011). They are based on
presentations originally given at the “Nonmanuals in Sign Languages (NISL)”
conference held at the University of Frankfurt am Main, Germany in April 2009.
The book runs 197 pages, including a short introductory chapter, seven
research articles, and a three-page index.

Annike Hermann and Markus Steinbach’s introductory chapter “Nonmanuals in sign
languages” (pp. 1-6) serves three functions. First, it provides a brief
introduction to the importance of nonmanuals in sign languages. While
generally ‘borrowed’ from the surrounding speaking community, they have been
incorporated into sign languages in such a way as to become fully a part of
the linguistic systems of those sign languages. Secondly, H & S provide a list
of eleven questions which have to be addressed “to get a comprehensive picture
of nonmanuals in sign languages” (p. 2). Covering diverse  issues — what the
lexical, syntactic, semantic and prosodic restrictions and functions of
nonmanuals may be; how nonmanuals interact with other nonmanuals as well as
with manual signs; why there is variation and optionality in the use of
nonmanuals between and among signers; where nonmanuals fit in the interface
between prosody, syntax, semantics and pragmatics; what the difference is
between grammatical nonmanuals used in sign languages (alone) and affective
manuals used in both signed and spoken languages; how nonmanuals are acquired;
how they are processed; and the origin of nonmanuals — these questions
provide us with a reasonably complete and coherent research agenda. Third, and
finally, this introduction provides a summary of the contents of the book.

The first research chapter is Sarah Churng’s “Syntax and prosodic consequences
in ASL: Evidence from multiple WH-questions” (pp. 7-45). This chapter examines
three types of multiple WH-questions in American Sign Language (ASL): stacked
wh-questions, requiring a pair-list reply (1); and two types of coordinated
wh-questions (2-3):

(1) What foods did you eat for what reasons? (requiring a pair-list reply)

(2) what foods did you eat, and why did you eat at all?

(3) what foods did you eat, and why did you eat each food?

All three of these use exactly the same lexical signs (YOU EAT WHAT WHY), and
it is the ‘spread’ of the nonmanuals and the occurrence of prosodic pauses
which make each type semantically distinct. Incorporating three facts of
simple wh-questions — (a) sentence-final location of wh-phrases, (b)
uncertainty as to whether this sentence-final position is shared by
sentence-final focus position, or separate from it, and (c) fact that this
position may contain the entire wh-phrase in simple, but only the wh-head in
doubled wh-questions — and showing that both right-movement and left-movement
models of derivation fail to account for all the facts, C proposes a third,
remnant movement, alternative, wherein focus movement is distinct from regular
wh-movement, and focus movement involves first movement to satisfy the  focus
feature and then remnant movement of lower projections. Finally, after the
syntax-prosody interface is taken into account, and prosodic reset as a result
of A-bar movement posited, the three types of multiple wh-questions can be
properly derived and differences in the mandatory placement of pauses in each
accounted for. In this way, nonmanuals reflect the process of derivation
within UG, and affect semantic interpretation as well as prosody.

Kadir Gökgöz’s chapter “Negation in Turkish Sign Language: The syntax of
nonmanual markers” (pp. 47-72) serves to document manual and nonmanual markers
in negative sentences in Turkish Sign Language (TİD, Türk İşaret Dili), and to
also develop a generative analysis of the syntax of negative sentences. The
following nonmanuals occur in negatives: backward head tilt (occurring in
almost half of all negative sentences in the database), headshake, single
head-turn , brow-raising and brow-lowering. Gökgöz bases his analysis on a
corpus of natural narrative and dialogue, and for each of the nonmanuals
above, percentage distributions across the database (including 56 negative
sentences) are presented and discussed. As nonmanuals may also occur in
combination, so percentages add up to more than 100%. Whether nonmanuals occur
accompanying the negative manual sign alone, or spread in a variety of ways
over additional signs as well is also analyzed. Backward head tilt is a
lexical nonmanual, predominantly occurring with negative manual sign alone,
exceptions resulting from phonological (i.e. non-grammatical) anticipatory
spread. Single head-turn is also lexical. Negative headshake appears to be
lexical in half of cases, in the other half it appears to be grammatical,
although data is insufficient to determine the exact grammatical function. The
nonmanuals analyzed as lexical (head tilt, head-turn and half of the
headshakes) each seem to be associated with different lexical signs. Finally,
brow raise and lowering are analyzed together (i.e. non-neutral as opposed to
neutral brow position). Non-neutral brow position occurs in 71% of all
negatives and is grammatical in nature, spreading over the entire sentence in
80% of cases. Syntactic spread in TİD, in contrast to ASL (Pfau & Quer 2002;
Neidle et al. 2002), appears to mark the syntactic domain of negative (not
only c-command domain of negation, but also spec-head).

In the chapter “Eye gaze and verb agreement in German Sign Language: A first
glance” (pp. 73-90), Jana Hosemann present results from an experiment
examining the correlation between verbal agreement and eye gaze in German Sign
Language (DGS, Deutsche Gebärdensprache). Previous work on ASL (Bahan 1996;
Neidle et al. 2000; Thompson et al. 2006) had shown that direction of eye gaze
did indeed correlate with agreement, although Thompson et al. indicated that
the correlation was not valid across all verb classes (and particularly, not
for so-called plain verbs). The results of the experiments on DGS show
considerable variation between signers, and also show that the situation in
DGS is more similar to that found by Thompson et al. for ASL, namely that eye
gaze was much more highly correlated with spatial and agreeing verbs, and not
for plain verbs. However, even for agreeing verbs, eye gaze was not as
systematically obligatory in DGS as it is in ASL.

Donna Lewin and Adam Schembri’s chapter “Mouth gesture in British Sign
Language: A case study of tongue protrusion in BSL narratives” (pp. 91-110)
examines tongue protrusion (normally glossed as ‘th’), analyzing data from ten
BSL (British Sign Language) narratives from two signers. While this mouth
gesture had already been attested in BSL with the meanings ‘boring’,
‘unpleasant’, ‘too easy’, the present study aimed to determine whether it also
occurred in the sense ‘lack of control, inattention, and/or unawareness’ as in
ASL (Liddell 1980). Mouth movements accompanying signing can be of several
kinds — 1) adverbial, as in the cases just described; 2) enaction, as when
cheeks puff when signing ‘blow up a balloon’; 3) echo phonology, where the
movement of the mouth mirrors some aspect of the movement of the hands; and 4)
other, which includes, among other things, examples of mouthing (full or
partial) spoken words — and another goal was to examine the frequency and
distribution of tongue protrusion (‘th’) among these types. Various allomorphs
of the gesture were identified (for further study?), as were the lexical signs
co-occurring with each instance of ‘th’. While there was considerable
variation in the frequency of ‘th’ between the signers studied (with one
producing twice as many instances as the other), for both signers the largest
category was ‘other’ (just under half for each signer). Echo phonology
accounted for the fewest number of instances overall, with all occurrences
coming from just one of the signers. Enaction and adverbial usage together
amounted to 31-53% of total instances, with the former occurring slightly more
than the latter for each signer. Allomorphs previously unattested were found.
The sense ‘too easy’ previously attested for BSL was indeed common, but in
addition adverbial usage with a sense similar to that described for ASL but
previously unattested for BSL was also common (although differing slightly in
form from the ASL mouth gesture).

Felix Sze’s chapter “Nonmanual markings of topic constructions in Hong Kong
Sign Language” (pp. 111-142) examines a construction widely reported and
researched in other sign languages. Typically, in these other sign languages,
topic constructions are marked by nonmanuals such as head tilt and/or brow
raise, and by prosody (a pause setting the topic off from the rest of the
sentence); the goal of this chapter was to examine whether the same was true
of Hong Kong Sign Language (HKSL).  In setting up the study, a wide range of
research on a variety of other sign languages was analyzed, and it was shown
that studies of ‘topic’ in fact have dealt with at least seven diverse types
and functions of constructions. In addition, the previous studies identified a
wide range of nonmanuals as marking ‘topics’. In order to avoid some of this
type of ambiguity, for the present research, topics examined were restricted
to two main types: ‘scene-setting’ topics and ‘aboutness’ topics. Both
spontaneous and elicited data were used, and a total of 2346 tokens of
‘aboutness’ and 217 tokens of ‘scene-setting’ topics were analyzed, and
occurrence of nonmanual (brow raise and head position) and prosodic (blink,
pause, and lengthening of last sign) markers coded. Tabulated results showed
that only scene-setting topics (but not other types of topics, such as
‘aboutness’ topics and fronted objects) were regularly (though not
universally) marked in HKSL by nonmanuals, with head position and/or brow
raise marking such topics. However, it was also found that frequency of such
marking varies depending on the type of scene-setting topic: ubiquitously when
the scene-setter was a locative expression, more than 75% when an NP or
subordinate clause setting up a temporal domain, but less than half the time
when a conventional temporal adverb.

Ronnie B. Wilbur in “Nonmanuals, semantic operators, domain marking, and the
solution to two outstanding puzzles in ASL” (pp. 143-173) examines three
nonmanuals: negative headshake, brow lowering, and brow raise. While headshake
and brow lowering occur in single functions (negatives and wh-questions,
respectively), brow raise occurs in a structurally varied range of situations.
Additionally, while negative headshake and brow lowering spread over their
c-command domains, brow lowering does not do so. Drawing on previous research
(Pfau & Quer 2002, 2007) which indicates that negative headshake is syntactic
in ASL but morphological (i.e. affixal) in both DGS and LSC (Llengua de Signes
Catalana, Catalan Sign Language), W proposes that negative headshake is
associated with a monadic operator in ASL, attaching to the negative sign when
present (since it is the head of NegP), but obligatorily spreading over the
entire scope of negation when not. In similar fashion, the [+wh] operator is
also monadic, and so brow lowering, the nonmanual marker of [+wh], is
associated with [+wh] in C rather than with the wh- lexical sign itself. This
then accounts for the scope of brow lowering, licensed by the monadic
operator, which in turn is licensed by the semantics. Unlike negative
headshake and brow lowering, brow raise is associated with a diverse of types
of constructions (topics, focus associates, relative clauses, focused relative
clauses, conditional clauses, yes/no-interrogative, wh-cleft, etc.),
complicating the analysis of its occurrence and syntactic derivation. It is
proposed that this fact can be explained by the fact that, unlike the other
two nonmanuals examined which are licensed by monadic operators, brow raise is
licensed by dyadic operators, and thus occurring only on a narrowly defined
domain and unable to spread over its c-command domain.  In addition to
explaining spreading of nonmanuals in each case, the model presented also
provides evidence that ASL has spec,CP on the left.

In the final chapter, “Linguistics as structure in computer animation: Toward
a more effective synthesis of brow motion in American Sign Language” (pp.
175-194), Rosalee Wolfe, Peter Cook, John C. McDonald, and Jerry Schnepp
discuss how linguistic analysis of nonmanuals, and in particular the domains
of brow raise and lowering, might effectively be incorporated into computer
animation of sign language to result in more accurate and acceptable
animation. They present a synthesis system which moves from the gloss stream,
adding in sequence, morpho-syntactic modifications, phonemes and timing, and
geometric settings and times to arrive at a 3D animation. Such a system works
well for simple questions requiring only interrogative nonmanual markers. They
then proceed to a case study of brow position (raised, neutral, and lowered),
discussing relevant linguistic findings, and then applying these to refine the
model. Non-linguistic (i.e. affective) brow position is then also discussed,
as is the effect of co-occurring linguistic and non-linguistic processes (e.g.
wh-question brow lowering with angry effect brow lower). Finally, the role of
the artist making animated visual messages more (e.g. facial wrinkles added to
highlight brow position). In user tests using Deaf community members, the
technique presented was highly effective, both for linguistics (animated
sentences repeated correctly with proper syntax 100% of the time) and for
non-linguistics (intended emotional state identified correctly 95% of the

The volume presents a diverse and well-rounded picture of research on sign
language nonmanuals no matter how you understand diversity. The sign languages
covered are geographically diverse: North America (three chapters on ASL),
Europe (one each on BSL from the UK and DGS from Germany), and Asia (HKSL from
Hong Kong in eastern Asia and TID from Turkey in western Asia). They also
focus on a range of non-manuals (eye-gaze, mouth gesture, brow raising and
lowering, headshake, head tilt), and on a range of functions (interrogatives,
negation, verb agreement, adverbials, topic constructions). Articles address
both formal theoretical (the two chapters on ASL and the one on TİD) and
functional (the chapters on mouth gestures in BSL and on topics in HKSL)
issues, as well as practical goals (the final chapter on animation of
nonmanuals). Chapters — not only those which draw their data from corpus
projects but also those which work within a theoretical framework (generative
grammar) which is sometimes criticized as being ‘light’ on data  — are
generally data driven. Even when the  focus is on more theoretical issues,
interesting new data abound. Most of these articles also present interesting
cross-linguistic comparisons; indeed, several of the chapters take as their
starting point work on nonmanuals done on other sign languages.

For sign language linguists, this is a very welcome addition to the growing
literature on the subject. For general linguists (and for gesture researchers)
it can also serve as an introduction to the breadth of the subject.

This volume is extremely well edited. In addition to the paper text, a number
of videos of illustrating examples are available online (for the chapters on
TID, HKSL, and on computer animation).

In closing, as someone who started off as a spoken-language linguist before
coming to sign language linguistics some decades ago, and as someone who made
that switch, yes, because of the remarkable complexity of sign languages
themselves, but also in large part because of the questions sign languages
raise about what big-L Language is and about how we should be doing
linguistics, I would raise a question concerning the validity (or at least the
necessary validity) of a statement made by the editors in the introduction:

“In sign languages, nonmanuals have become a genuine part of the grammatical
system because the visual-manual modality, unlike the oral-auditory modality,
offers the unique property to grammaticalize nonmanual and manual gestures.
The reason for this is that gestures use the same articulatory channel that is
also active in the production of signs, whereas spoken languages use a
completely different articulatory and perceptual system. Thus, manual and
nonmanual gestures frequently used in communication CANNOT become an integral
part of the grammatical system of spoken languages.” [emphasis added]

However, rather than exclude the possibility, it would seem more fruitful to
suggest that ‘gestures’ might in fact be a more integral part of the
linguistic systems of spoken language as well. It is an assumption which
should be questioned … and tested. Languages (both individual little-l
languages and collective, big-L Language) tend to make use of whatever
‘material’ they have at their disposal, and so it seems at least possible that
– aside from spoken language users with vision impairment — non-vocal,
visual-gestural means are ALSO at their disposal. Thus, to this researcher at
least, it would seem surprising if no language made any linguistic use of this
potential building material. Co-speech gesture is by now a well established
field, if not of linguistics narrowly defined, then at least of the periphery
of linguistics. However, I would like to suggest that in addition to CO-speech
gesture, we should also be open to the possibility of speech gesture, that is,
the existence of gesture (non-vocal elements) which is fully linguistic in

The mere fact that so-called co-speech gestures seem to be optional is not
necessarily an argument for their exclusion from the linguistic system (and
thus the realm of linguistic inquiry). After all, as we see in some of the
research presented in this volume, many nonmanuals are also optional markers
in sign languages, despite being fully integrated into the linguistic system.
Perhaps then we should allow for the possibility that gesture (or at least
some gesture and other nonmanuals/non-verbals) MIGHT be language, MIGHT be a
part of the linguistic system, and adjust our research agenda accordingly.

Enfield’s study of composite utterances in Lao gives us an idea of how
research might integrate gesture within language. “In composite utterances …
different types and sources of information are complementary and
co-constitutive of a larger whole message. The composite utterance par
excellence involves simultaneous integration of (conventional) speech,
(symbolic indexical) gesture, and (non-conventional, iconic-indexical) visual
representations” (Enfield 2012: 150-151). While the gesture and visual
representations Enfield analyzes are both manual, perhaps research on the
integrative communicative semiotic of which language (narrowly defined) is a
part should be expanded to include nonmanuals as well.

Bahan, Benjamin (1996) “Non-manual realization of agreement in American Sign
Language”. Boston, MA: Boston University PhD dissertation.

Enfield, Nicholas J. (2012) The anatomy of meaning: Speech, gesture, and
composite utterances (Language Culture and Cognition 8). Cambridge University

Liddell, Scott (1980) “American Sign Language syntax”. The Hague: Mouton.

Neidle, Carol, Judy Kegl, Dawn MacLaughlin, Benjamin Bahan, & Robert G. Lee
(2002) “Syntax of American Sign Language: Functional categories and
hierarchical structure.” Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Newport, Elissa L., & Ted Supalla (2000) “Sign Language Research at the
Millennium”. In Karen Emmorey & Harlan L. Lane (eds.), “The signs of language
revisited: An anthology to honor Ursula Bellugi and Edward Klima”. Mahwah,
N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 103-114.

Pfau, Roland & Josep Quer (2002) “V-to-Neg raising and negative concord in
three sign languages”, “Revista da grammatica generativa” 27: 73-86.

Pfau, Roland & Josep Quer (2007) On the syntax of negation and modals in
Catalan Sign Language and German Sign Language. In Pamela Perniss, Roland Pfau
& Markus Steinbach (eds.), “Visible variation: Comparative studies in sign
language structure”. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 129-161.

Thompson,  Robin, Karen Emmorey & Robert Kluender (2006) The relationship
between eye gaze and verb agreement in American Sign Language: An eye-tracking
study. “Natural Language and Linguistic Theory” 24: 571-604.

Michael W Morgan is a linguistic typologist specializing in sign languages,
and also a pedagogical linguist focusing on issues relating to the teaching of
sign language and to the use of sign language in deaf education and deaf
literacy programs. Having been part of the teaching faculty of BA-level
programs in sign linguistics for Deaf at Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia) and
at Indira Gandhi National Open University (India), he currently resides in
Kathmandu, Nepal, where he advises the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal
on sign language and deaf education issues. He has created a three-level
curriculum for training and certification of Nepali Sign Language
interpreters, and is also currently working on documenting Nepali Sign
Language, with the eventual aim of creating open-access online reference and
teacher/learner-support materials.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-2309

Review: Romance; Historical Linguistics; Typology: Labeau & Bres (2013)

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

EDITOR: Emmanuelle  Labeau
EDITOR: Jacques  Bres
TITLE: Evolution in Romance Verbal Systems
SERIES TITLE: Sciences pour la communication – Band 108
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Paul Isambert, Université de Tours


In their introduction, Emmanuelle Labeau and Jacques Bres stress the
importance of a cross-linguistic and diachronic approach to linguistic
phenomena, relating the book to Bybee et al. (1994) and similar works. They
then introduce the following papers.

Aude Rebotier’s ”The ‘passé simple’ takes a step back; who steps in?” is a
study of the use of the ”passé simple” in French compared to the similar yet
more frequent ”passato remoto” in Italian. Working with a corpus of
Wikipedia articles, the author shows that several variables, for example, the
verbal lexeme, the animacy of the subject, the presence of some adverbials or
prepositions, (dis)favor the use of concurring tenses, and that as a whole,
the present and ”passé composé” are the more frequent replacements, but with
different profiles: the present is an alternative for the ”passé simple” in
general, while the ”passé composé” takes over some of its uses only.

Mary T. Copple’s ”Following the path: An emerging perfect(ive) viewed through
temporal reference” describes the evolution of the present perfect (PP) into
a perfective (competing with the preterit). Texts from the 15th, 17th and 19th
centuries are studied according to three main criteria: increase in frequency
(i.e., the proportion of PP forms versus preterit forms), syntactic
rigidification (i.e., fusion of the auxiliary and the participle), and
semantic generalization (i.e., larger range of temporal reference). They all
point to the same conclusion: the PP experiences the well-known evolution from
resultative to perfective.

In ”Towards an unified account of the present perfect in Catalan and
English”, Teresa Maria Xiqués addresses the difference between the use of the
PP in the two languages: it has a hodiernal past interpretation in Catalan,
which is impossible in English. Using Reichenbach’s (1947) framework, the
author argues that the temporal configuration of the PP is identical in all
uses, although it remains unexplained why English prevents punctual time
adverbials with this tense.

”French participle agreement with ‘avoir’: Current trends as an indication of
grammaticalization”, Rebotier’s second contribution to the volume,
investigates the factors contributing to proper agreement (according to
normative grammar) between the past participle and its pre-posed object; among
others, the audibility of the agreement (the study is based on a written
corpus) and the speech situation matter most, but interestingly, some factors
inhibiting agreements also prevent a resultative or passive reading, hinting
at the parallel development of form and function in the ongoing
grammaticalization of the perfect with ‘avoir’ (‘to have’).

In ”Non-conventional uses of the pluperfect in Italian (and German) literary
prose”, Pier Marco Bertinetto examines the aoristic interpretation of the
pluperfect and its exploitation by writers as a replacement for the simple
past. While the study focuses on literary use, the author hypothesizes that
the evolution is parallel to the present perfect becoming a perfective, so
languages missing the latter (like English) would be less likely to exhibit
the aoristic pluperfect.

Bres and Lebeau’s ”About the illustrative use of the ‘aller’ + periphrasis in
French” studies a frequent yet little studied use of the French
‘go’-periphrasis (whose most common interpretation is future). This use often
illustrates a fact and marks iteration (preventing any semelfactive
interpretation), and, more generally, is clearly modal. The authors also claim
that all the uses of the ‘go’-periphrasis stem from a common, fundamental
value, despite the apparent variety.

”The ‘aller’ perfect”, by Marianne Collier, compares the French future with
its periphrastic counterpart when used with the perfective. Both tenses can be
used for temporal reference (locating a process in the future before another
one) or modality (expressing past probability); however, with ‘aller’ (‘to
go’), the latter use is much restricted (except in Canadian French). Moreover,
when ‘aller’ itself is in the imperfect, it does not take over the modal
values of the conditional.

In ”Indirect evidentiality and related domains: Some observations from the
current evolution of the Romanian presumptive”, Monica-Alexandrina Irimia
investigates how Romanian expresses indirect evidentiality with a modal
auxiliary followed by ‘be’ and the present or past participle. The complex
morphological data allow the author to study the evolution of
tense/aspect/mood notions and how they are mapped onto particular structures.
Despite highly idiosyncratic patterns, the semantics of indirect evidentials
can be decomposed, showing that their main import is that an eventuality does
not hold at the speaker’s deictic center.

In ”Modals and tense in Contemporary European Portuguese and in Old
Portuguese”, Alexandra Fiéis and Ana Madeira claim that, despite unchanging
semantics, some Portuguese modal verbs have undergone degrammaticalization, as
evidenced by syntactic considerations pertaining to the following infinitival
phrase. Because of this structural change, the modals have acquired
characteristics associated with lexical verbs, even though no difference in
interpretation follows.

In ”Portuguese temporal expressions with ‘haver’ and their Romance
counterparts — Semantic interpretation and grammaticalization”, Telmo Móia
tracks the current development of a modal into a preposition-like connective;
this evolution, found in several other languages (see English ‘ago’), can be
explained by the fact that the (originally verbal) constructions have a
meaning typically expressed by prepositional phrases, which they formally
resemble at the discourse level.


As stated by the editors in their introduction, this volume takes diachrony
seriously as an explicative factor in language structure: ”[A] diachronic
approach significantly enhances the explanatory power of linguistic theory by
showing how a specific form came to convey a certain function [...]” (p. 1).
Also crucial is the idea that a language is not ”a neat system”, but rather
a complex layering of interacting sub-systems (Hopper, 1991). Finally, many –
if not all — papers compare similar phenomena in several languages, thus
offering interesting cross-linguistic insights.

Interestingly, most evolutions studied in this volume are quite recent, and
actually, often still ongoing. As such, it stresses the fact that diachronic
approaches do not deal with the past, but with change, and that change may be
better grasped in the present (Janda & Joseph, 2003), if only because data are
much more available. It also serves as a constant reminder that diachronicians
study the same phenomena as other linguists; the papers on French, for
instance, offer excellent insights into the most contemporary grammatical

That said, the approaches in this volume vary widely, from the variationist,
quantitative methodology of Rebotier’s two papers to Fiéis and Madeira’s
strong generative stance. Again, this stresses that diachrony is not a theory,
but rather a point of view — actually, a linguistic phenomenon in itself, in
need of explanation like any other linguistic phenomenon. Hence, despite the
theoretical diversity, much can be learned from this book about the evolution
of a language family.

Verbal systems, even restricted to Romance languages and considered only in
diachrony, won’t be exhausted by a single volume, and this book doesn’t
pretend to do so. Instead, it includes a set of contributions focusing on very
precise issues (as opposed to more abstract theorizing). Theoretical
considerations aren’t absent, but they are played down in favor of data, which
is actually the feature that makes this book stand out. Consequently, it will
be of use to anybody interested in Romance linguistics (not only historical
Romance linguistics), as it offers hard facts on quite complex systems.

The book could have benefited from a more thorough introduction strengthening
the importance of diachrony; here, the editors mostly refer the reader to
Bybee et al. (1994), and similar works, and then present the rest of the
volume. Finally, more care could have been brought to the editing of figures,
as most of them are screenshots that are, in some cases, not very legible, and
in some cases, even including the spellchecker’s wiggly underline. These are
minor defects, though, and do not decrease the book’s value.


Bybee, Joan, Revere Perkins & William Pagliuca (1994), ”The evolution of
grammar: Tense, aspect and modality in the languages of the world.,” The
University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Hopper, Paul J. (1991), On some principles of grammaticalization, in
”Approaches to grammaticalization,” E.C. Traugott and B. Heine (eds.),
vol.1, 17-35, John Benjamins, Amsterdam.

Janda, Richard D. & Brian D. Joseph (2003), On language, change, and language
change — Or, of history, linguistics, and historical linguistics, in ”The
handbook of historical linguistics”, B.D. Joseph and R.D. Janda (eds), 3-180,
Blackwell, Oxford.

Reichenbach, Hans (1947), ”Elements of symbolic logic”, Macmillan, New York.


Paul Isambert holds a PhD from the University of Paris 3, France. He is
currently working on grammaticalization in French and teaches at the
University of Tours, France.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-2314

Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Arnau (2013)

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

EDITOR: Joaquim  Arnau
TITLE: Reviving Catalan at School
SUBTITLE: Challenges and Instructional Approaches
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: A. Jordan Lavender, State University of New York at Albany


This book, a collection of articles edited by Joaquim Arnau, addresses
multilingualism in Catalonia and the various issues related to the
incorporation of Catalan, Spanish, and English into the schools of this region
in Spain. It contains a number of studies conducted in schools, mostly in or
near Barcelona. Catalan is the official language of Catalonia and functions in
unison with the national language, Spanish, and both must be learned by all
students. Adding to this multilingual environment, foreign immigration has
brought an additional layer of complexity to the situation.

In Chapter One, “Language-in-education policies in the Catalan Language Area,”
Joaquim Arnau and F. Xavier Vila address the current language-in-education
policies in the Catalan-speaking areas of Spain, Andorra, parts of France, and
the city of L’Alguer in Sardinia (Italy). The 1983 Linguistic Normalization
Act requires that students in Catalonia be bilingual in both Catalan and
Spanish and requires that Catalan be the medium of instruction, although this
does not eliminate Spanish from the classroom. Additionally, in 1983 an
immersion program was established in a Spanish-speaking area of Barcelona and
additional immigration has since prompted the creation of the “Plan for
Language, Interculturality and Social Cohesion,” designed to accommodate new
students. The vehicle of this program is the “reception classroom” that
teaches Catalan and provides additional help in mainstream courses. Language
policies in other Catalan-speaking areas are less rigid than in Catalonia,
such as in Valencia, where the use of Catalan is confined to its historical
region. Due to changing governments, language policies in the Balearic Islands
are characterized by instability, but with a trajectory towards multilingual
education. Outside of Spain, Andorra has adopted a plurilingual educational
model. While, in France and L’Alguer, Catalan instruction is only optional and
often only available through private lessons. The educational system of
Catalonia is effectively plurilingual, requiring mastery of both official
languages and one foreign language, usually English. Armau and Vila critique
the current system and offer suggestions for improvement. They suggest using
Catalan as a bridge to other Romance languages. Additionally, they think
schools could better adapt their sociolinguistic environments to address
students’ needs. Lastly, they believe that immigrants’ heritage should be
incorporated and utilized as a gateway to other cultural learning.

In Chapter Two, “The Acquisition of Catalan by Immigrant Children,” Àngel
Huguet, Jose-Luis Navarro, Silvia-Maria Chireac, and Clara Sansó study how
immigrant children adapt to a new sociocultural context, specifically in their
acquisition of Catalan. Spain receives the most immigrants in the European
Union and many students struggle to adapt to the multilingual environment in
Catalonia. Length of stay and family language are the factors considered in
this study. Previous research has determined that three to five years of
instruction are necessary for students to communicate effectively in Catalan
for their mainstream classes. Students who speak another Romance language have
an advantage over those who speak a non-Romance heritage language. The authors
analyze the linguistic attitudes and competence of a sample of students from
differing linguistic backgrounds. They use a questionnaire and language test
to gather results, which confirm that both length of stay and family language
are significant factors. Results indicate that six years are needed to score
test results comparable to those of native speakers. The L1 of the child is
only slightly significant in accelerating the acquisition of Catalan, as
Spanish, Romanian, and Arabic speakers progress at relatively the same pace,
whilst Chinese speakers lag in their acquisition of Catalan.

“Language Attitudes of Latin-American Newcomers in Three Secondary School
Reception Classes in Catalonia,” by Mireia Trenchs-Parera and Adriana
Patiño-Santos, describes the linguistic attitudes of Latin Americans, the
largest population of immigrants in Catalonia, towards the use of Catalan in
academic and non-academic environments, and their attitude towards the
reception process. The researchers study three secondary-level Reception
Classes (RCs), which are supplementary language classes provided for older
students to help them acquire Catalan and facilitate their social integration.
Additionally, the study investigates the effects of instructor ideology on the
attitude of the students. The researchers collect data on student attitudes
through participant observation and individual and group interviews. Three
RCs, operating under differing philosophical paradigms, distinguished by their
openness to multilingualism and multiculturalism, were analyzed. The study
suggests that instructor attitude and ideology effect students’ attitudes;
students in programs more open to multilingualism and multiculturalism held
positive attitudes towards the use of Catalan in both schooling and social
interactions, while those who were not exposed to the same openness did not
have such positive attitudes.

Chapter Four, “Training a Primary Education Teacher to Teach Expository Text
Comprehension Strategies,” by Nuria Castells, Isabel Solé, Cristina Luna, Eva
Lordán, Esther Nadal, Mariana Miras and Sandra Espino, describes and evaluates
the professional development of content reading comprehension training for
teachers. The study investigates student comprehension of expository texts.
The researchers compared results from two primary-level classes, one of which
formed an experimental group and the other a control group. They conducted
semi-formal interviews and observed the classes, which formed the basis for
their evaluation. The authors evaluated reading comprehension strategies from
the first year of primary education and assessed the ability of instructors to
incorporate these strategies, as well as their effectiveness. Results
indicated that the instructor of the experimental group was able to
successfully incorporate new strategies into the classroom, and that the
students were able to comprehend more than students in the control group after
utilizing the comprehension strategies.

In Chapter Five, “Teacher Training in Literacy Instruction and Academic
Achievement in a Multilingual Classroom,” Joaquim Armau, Haridian M. de Aysa,
and Sonia Jarque discuss instructor training for literacy instruction in a
multilingual classroom. The researchers compare two classrooms, one with
intervention and one without. Results show that students in the intervention
classroom were able to comprehend the literary texts better due to the
teacher’s more extensive training in literacy instruction. Additionally, the
students’ academic achievement, defined by the use of academic vocabulary and
quality of writing, improved in this environment. This research suggests that
teaching vocabulary, together with specific writing and reading strategies, is
beneficial to the overall academic improvement of the students.

In Chapter Six, “Production of Texts and Multimodal Resources by two Groups of
Primary Education Students,” Aneska Ortega, Júlia Coromina, and Ana Teberosky
evaluate the use of multimodal resources in the instruction of a science
course. The research investigates the effect of these multimodal resources on
the production of Catalan by non-native students. It responds to two key
interests: one regarding the learning process associated with the use of
multimodal resources, and another concerning the influence of lesser
competence in Catalan on the results. Documents produced by the students were
the basis of the analysis. The results show that the incorporation of
multimodal resources in the classroom helps immigrant student comprehension
more than that of native students. Additionally, the use of multimodal
resources helps students express themselves better, especially if they have
limited linguistic competence.

Chapter Seven, “Interlinguistic Reflection on Teaching and Learning
Languages,” by Oriel Guasch Boyé, looks at grammar instruction in a
secondary-level education environment as presented by an instructor of Catalan
and an instructor of English. It is part of an on-going collaborative research
project with the aim of understanding how students understand grammatical
constructions. The research analyzes both students’ interactions among
themselves and their interaction with course instructors. The research team is
interested in the different ways languages express similar grammatical
concepts. The study reveals the usefulness of were analyzed metalinguistic
interlinguistic reflection among students in their conceptualization of these
grammatical constructs.

In Chapter Eight, “Affording Students Opportunities for the Integrated
Learning of Content and Language,” (CLIL) Cristina Escobar Urmeneta and
Natalia Evnitskaya English language-learning courses in particular. They
compare the approaches of two CLIL teachers and evaluate the academic
discussion in those classrooms. The researchers observed a biology classroom
and one about renewable energies, both with bilingual students dominant in
either Catalan or Spanish. Teacher A was more individual-focused, while
Teacher B was more focused on group discussion. Teacher A allowed time for
group discussion, withheld feedback to promote it and focused on students’
elaboration of answers, while Teacher B provided instant feedback, which did
not accommodate student discussion. Additionally, Teacher B encouraged
students to guess the right answer instead of provide argumentation. Each of
these approaches provided strengths and weaknesses in both language production
and comprehension of the subject material.

Rosa María Ramírez and Teresa Serra’s “Integrated Languages Project,” in
Chapter Nine, is a study on the integrated language program at the Vila
Olímpica School in Barcelona. This primary education center, in a
predominantly middle-class neighborhood, has a mixture of Catalan-dominant,
Spanish-dominant students, as well as those dominant in a foreign language.
The school is modeled on three ideas: “open-mindedness to all languages and
cultures, languages as a means of communication for all subjects, and the
importance of the use of oral and written language” (183). Catalan is the
dominant language in the school, yet, from an early age, both Spanish and
English are introduced as languages of instruction. Sixth-year students at the
Vila Olímpica School outperform students outside their system of the same age
in all three languages. Additionally, test results for the content class
examined (mathematics) also showed that using additional languages in
instruction does not hinder students’ comprehension of the subject material.


This book presents a collection of studies on language instruction in schools
in Catalonia, particularly in relation to the recovery of Catalan, as well as
the incorporation of English and Spanish, language-in-education policies in
the respective political jurisdictions in Catalan-speaking areas, and the
analysis of instructional approaches for students in language learning. This
collection includes the opinions of experts in the field and approaches the
issue of language-in-education from a number of angles. Much of this material
is newly available in English.

This book will be an excellent resource for scholars, educators, and
policy-makers involved in language planning and acquisition. The studies
contained in this volume address a number of the concerns associated with the
integration of multiple languages into an educational system. Although this
book is intended primarily for language policy-makers, second language
acquisition researchers will find interest in Chapter Eight, on the
implementation of content and language integrated learning, or Chapter Six, on
the integration of multimodal resources in the classroom. Additionally,
sociolinguists might be interested in Chapters One to Three, particularly
regarding the linguistic attitudes of Latin American immigrants toward the use
of Catalan in the public sphere as well as its use in the classroom. The book
could be useful in courses related to the above fields. The results of the
studies contained in this book can be extrapolated to similar contexts outside
of Catalonia and can aid in language planning in other multilingual
environments. The variety of studies in the collection provides a number of
departure points for a broader discussion on a wide range of topics.

Chapter Three, “Language Attitudes of Latin-American Newcomers in Three
Secondary School Reception Classes in Catalonia,” by Trenchs-Parera and
Patiño-Santos, was particularly interesting. This qualitative study noted the
tendency of Latin American students to utilize Spanish as the language of
social interaction, while limiting the use of Catalan to the classroom. The
correlation between promoting multilingualism and an early integration into
this environment, and a positive attitude towards Catalan in social
interactions was noteworthy, as was the documented use of code-switching as a
learning tool in one of the RCs (56). When the instructors encouraged social
integration early, the students responded more positively to the language and
to multilingualism. The complex sociolinguistic environment found in Catalonia
and experienced by these students, as well as the interaction of Catalan and
Spanish, is of particular interest to me as a sociolinguist and contact
linguist; particularly, the linguistic traits that could be studied in the
spoken Catalan of Latin American students.

Some of the studies could have benefited from more quantitative analyses. For
instance, Boyé’s study seemed to overly rely on the reflections of both
students and instructors. This study could have been enhanced with a more
objective form of analysis, as well as by using a control group and an
experimental group.

Apart from any minor weaknesses, the book will be an excellent resource for
those involved in applied linguistics research, particularly language
planning, multilingualism and multilingual education, as well as second
language pedagogy.


Jordan Lavender is a PhD student at the University at Albany, State University
of New York. He conducts research on the effects of language contact in the
Spanish spoken in Catalan-dominant areas. His primary research interests
include sociolinguistics, morphosyntactic variation, language contact, and

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-2317

Review: Cognitive Science, General Linguistics: Bolhuis and Everaert (Eds., 2013)

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

EDITOR: Johan J. Bolhuis
EDITOR: Martin  Everaert
TITLE: Birdsong, Speech, And Language
SUBTITLE: Exploring the Evolution of Mind and Brain
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Darcy Sperlich, Manukau Institute of Technology


This books revolves around the theme of what the study of birdsong can
contribute to our understanding of human language evolution.  This being a
very broad topic, the book is divided into six comprehensive sections,
‘Introduction,’ ‘Acquisition of birdsong and speech,’ ‘Phonology and syntax,’
‘Neurobiology of song and speech,’ ‘Genes, song, speech and language,’ and
finally ‘Evolution of song speech and language.’ The book begins with a
foreword from Robert C. Berwick and Noam Chomsky, setting the scene with
Aristotle’s observations on birdsong. They discuss evolutionary problems along
the lines of shared ancestry versus functional adaptations, and how this
provides insights to the origins of language. This is then followed by the
editors’ preface to the book.

The first chapter of the book is entitled ‘The design principles of natural
language,’ by Martin Everaert and Riny Huybregts, which is written as an
introduction to non-linguists on the principles behind the book. They give a
brief overview of what language and generative grammar is and cover
perspectives on the design principles behind language. The discussion then
turns to that of birdsong, covering arguments that birdsong has grammar on par
with humans. They conclude briefly on the evolution of language.

The next chapter entitled ‘Evolution, memory and the nature of syntactic
representation,’ by Gary F. Marcus, focuses on the psychological reality of
syntactic tree structure in the brain. He proposes it does exist, linked via
small branches (treelets), not as a single tree. He divulges into the
psychological aspects (e.g., problems of center-embedding), arguing for the
treelet approach.

The third article, ‘Convergence and deep homology in the evolution of spoken
language,’ by W. Tecumseh Fitch and Daniel Mietchen focuses on the genetic
aspects of language. They set the background by discussing homology in
evolutionary biology, and then turn to ‘deep homology’ whereby the genetics
over different species appear to be similar to one another. One example give
is the FOXP2 gene, which is similar to genes found in mice and other
vertebrates. They point out how such similarities should not be surprising,
and how research on one species can inform on another.

Chapter 4 by Erich D. Jarvis, entitled ‘Evolution of brain pathways for vocal
learning in birds and humans,’ focuses on vocal learning. He points out that
while most vertebrates are capable of auditory learning, the same is not true
of vocal learning. He then compares various brain structures, and how legions
of the brain affect vocal behaviour. This is followed by studies on brain
activity and genes. The focus is then shifted to the auditory system, looking
at the evolution of humans and birds from an earlier ancestor, proposing a
motor theory for vocal learning, advancing on earlier theories (e.g.,
Lieberman 2002).

The next book section, ‘Acquisition of birdsong and speech,’ starts with Sanne
Moorman and Johan J. Bolhuis’ comparisons of just this in their short article
‘Behavioral similarities between birdsong and spoken language.’ They go over
the basis of avian vocalisation, drawing parallels between how birdsong is
learnt compared to language. They discuss sensitive learning periods in birds
akin to the critical period hypothesis compared to humans, and finally,
syntactic parallels, which they call into question.

‘Parametric Variation: Language and Birdsong,’ by Neil Smith and Ann Law,
looks at what makes human language unique, compared to birds. They briefly
consider recursion and reject it in favour of parametric variation (PV, of
Principles and Parameters theory), which is basically parameter setting (e.g.,
plus or minus prodrop). After outlining the theory, they list 7 criteria of
PV. They then move to birds, comparing and contrasting the crucial differences
humans, in order to see if birds meet the PV criterion. They find that, while
PV is helpful as a tool, they are unable to conclude if PV is unique to

The next article by Olga Fehér and Ofer Tchernichovski, called ‘Vocal culture
in songbirds: an experimental approach to cultural evolution,’ is about vocal
cultural evolution in birds. It is an experimental study where they isolate
zebra finches from the wild and put them in an isolated colony. Once the
isolated bird has developed its own song, they then have it ‘tutor’ a younger
bird to see what is learnt, repeating the process with the younger bird to
other younger birds (also to a group as well). They find over a few
generations the song progresses towards to what is found in the wild (the
analysis is discussed in detail). They conclude by discussing likely models of
this evolution.

Chapter 8 by Frank Wijnen, ‘Acquisition of linguistic categories: cross-domain
convergences,’ explores the learning processes involved in syntax and
phonology, arguing that they are essentially the same using linguistic
definitions as evidence. He covers learning of phonemes and grammatical
categories in children, proposing the same statistical learning mechanism
underlies their acquisition, being able to track the quantity of tokens and
their dependencies in a series. He then reviews evidence in support of this in
neuropsychological studies, noting that motor skill acquisition is linked with
non-linguistic sequence learning. He concludes by showing how his research
paradigm differs from theories of similar nature.

The next chapter, ‘Structure in human phonology and in birdsong: a
phonologist’s perspective,’ by Moria Yip, starts the next section called
‘Phonology and syntax.’ She begins by comparing sounds produced by birds and
humans in terms of phonological structure. This is done over many species of
birds, investigating acoustic, neurological and behavioural cues. Yip then
investigates how structure arose in birds (e.g., genetic mutations), exploring
five possibilities. She sums up by suggesting further areas to gather

Eric Reuland in ‘Recursivity of language: what can birds tell us about it?’
focuses on the centrality of recursion being to human language (e.g., Hauser
et al., 2002). This is discussed with reference to Minimalism (e.g., Merge),
outlining the human computational system. He discusses what language needs,
and argues for recursion being a key component. He finally refers to recent
work on the European starling, arguing that it does not have recursion. He
comes to the conclusion that studying birds will shed little light on human
language recursion.

From the outset, Kazuo Okanoya in ‘Finite-state syntax in Bengalese finches:
sensorimotor evidence, developmental processes, and formal procedures for
syntax extraction’ forcefully argues that birds do not have syntax on par to
humans, but rather a finite state syntax. Okanoya moves onto the discussion of
segmentation and chunking, asking if birds are able to perceive and produce in
such a manner. Reviewing experiments across different birds supported just
this, implying a possible cognitive basis.

In a review article entitled ‘Analyzing the structure of bird vocalization and
language: finding common ground,’ Carel ten Cate, Robert Lachlan and Willem
Zuidema discuss the methods used to identify the structure of songs in birds,
and the difficulties posed doing this across species (also in humans). The
authors then cover the sequence of song and its complexity – the models used
to describe it with special reference to hidden Markov models.

Chapter 13, ‘Phonological awareness in grey parrots: creation of new labels
from existing vocalizations,’ by Irene M. Pepperberg, focuses on the famous
grey parrot Alex (now deceased), and his colleague, Arthur. The discussion is
of the human-like phonological ability they have, due to training and simple
human language exposure. The article details the research that has gone into
the two parrots, noting the developmental difference between them owing to
their differing experimental treatment.

‘The neural basis of links and dissociations between speech perception and
production’, the 14th contribution, by Sophie K. Scott, Carolyn McGettigan and
Frank Eisner, begins the 4th section of the book, ‘Neurobiology of song and
speech.’ They start by discussing how speech perception is represented in the
brain, followed by its production, and their relation to the motor cortex.
They finally give a summary discussion on the processes, arguing against motor
theory of speech perception.

Sharon M. H. Gobes, Jonathan B. Fritz and Johan J. Bolhuis look into auditory
learning similarities in songbirds and speech learning in humans, as well as
other non-learning species. They briefly cover the literature, then move into
auditory learning in nonhuman species, comparing the avian and mammalian
brain. The authors then discuss song locality in the bird’s brains and also
the neural makes of song memory. They also discuss auditory memory in humans,
finishing the chapter with the interaction between auditory and vocal regions,
touching on evolutionary matters.

In the 16th chapter of the volume, ‘Age effects in language acquisition and
attrition’, Christophe Pallier investigates the issues of language acquisition
from an age perspective, tackling the notion of the critical period
hypothesis. The review shows that the idea of the brain losing its plasticity
is a simplistic approach. Through reviewing the delay of L1 and L2
acquisition, to interesting studies on adopted children growing up in a
completely different L1 environment, points to a complex matrix yet to be
fully understood.

The next paper, ‘A “birdsong perspective” on human speech production,’ by
Hermann Ackermann and Wolfram Ziegler, compares the avian song within the
brain to human speech production. They discuss first the similarities between
both (e.g., function) and discuss the area of the brain connected with song
production, similarly done for humans as well (bringing in studies on brain

Michale S. Fee and Michael A. Long in ‘Neural mechanisms underlying the
generation of birdsong: a modular sequential behavior’ investigate the
neurology behind song, focusing specifically on the interaction between RA and
HVC neurons. After reviewing their functions, the authors move on to two
models of song generation, which make use of these neurons, discussing how to
experimentally investigate the models and detailing such past experiments by
the authors. They finally consider models of timing syllable and motif onsets,
and compare them to the data.

The article ‘Auditory-vocal mirror neurons for learned vocal communication,’
by Jonathan F. Prather and Richard Mooney, focuses on mirror neurons in birds.
They first discuss the advantages for looking for mirror neurons in songbirds,
followed by a discussion on songs in terms of neurons involved and structure
in the brain. They then move into experimental evidence measuring neuron
activity. The most important point is that HVCX cells appear to be mirror
neurons. The authors finally discuss HVCX neurons place in perception,
learning and sensorimotor learning, concluding on a mechanism for
auditory-vocal correspondence.

Chapter 20 entitled ‘Peripheral mechanisms of vocalization in birds: a
comparison with human speech,’ by Gabriël J. L. Beckers, focuses on reviewing
vocal production by birds and comparing them to humans. The author discusses
the physical mechanisms behind vocal production in birds, e.g., the syrinx,
which is involved in the production and modulation of voice. The voice tract’s
production use follows, and finally suggests future research directions.

Chapter 21 introduces the next section, ‘Genes, song, speech and language,’
with a paper titled ‘Building bridges between genes, brains and language,’ by
Simon G. Fisher. He reviews FOXP2 (in italics), focusing on what it is and
what it is not. He covers the discussion of FOXP2 and its links between it and
speech – noting that it cannot be seen as a ‘gene for speech’. He covers
FOXP2’s functions and areas it affects within the brain, also observing
mutations of a similar gene in mice. He finishes his article by looking at the
gene’s role in speech evolution.

Constance Scharff and Christopher K. Thompson’s contribution, ‘A bird’s-eye
view of FoxP2,’ relates FoxP2 in Area X. They discuss the gene in pre- and
postnatal development, within seasonal changes (in canaries) and in general
behaviour. The authors touch upon a variety of other topics relating to FoxP2,
finishing by looking at the future of genetics and birds.

Chapter 23, titled ‘Genetic basis of language: insights from developmental
dyslexia,’ by Franck Ramus, discusses what developmental dyslexia can show us
about genes related to language. He backgrounds dyslexia and its main
symptoms. He then moves onto the review of gene studies related to the topic,
where evidence points to genetic problems causing dyslexia. A similar
discussion is given of specific language disorder, and how it overlaps with

W. Tecumseh Fitch leads the final section of the book, ‘Evolution of song,
speech and language,’ with ‘Musical protolanguage: Darwin’s theory of language
evolution revisited.’ The topic is musical protolanguage (a term coined by
Fitch, but a theory of Darwin’s). He reviews the hypothesis and draws
parallels to today’s linguistic endeavours. Not only does he discuss its good
points, but also its difficulties (clashing with modern linguistics, sexual
selection and his terminology), with Fitch suggesting solutions to these

Chapter 25, ‘Birdsong as a model of studying factors and mechanisms affecting
signal evolution,’ by Kazuo Okanoya, provides a different perspective on
birdsong, focusing on the difference between the Bengalese finch and
white-rumped munia, which share a close genetic relationship. He covers a
variety of interesting studies which show how different the two species are in
their song abilities. He concludes on the developmental pathway of birdsong,
and calls for further research.

The final chapter, by Irene M. Pepperberg, ‘Evolution of vocal communication:
an avian model,’ focuses on mirror neurons and their role played in evolution,
touting birds as a possible missing link in regard to vocal communication. She
covers language evolutionary theory and discusses the role of mirror neurons,
paralleling bird and human similarities – all the while looking at what
species could bridge the divide between the two.


The first chapter by Everaert and Huybregts sets the mood of the book, but it
should be noted that the following chapters are not necessarily in concordance
of their views espoused here. In saying that, however, they do give
consideration to competing thoughts. On another note, I was partly surprised
to see the Wikipedia reference on language in the text, which shows how far
this encyclopedia has come. In all, serving as an introduction for
non-linguists, the authors do the job well.

The article by Marcus presents an attractive idea on treelets, offering
courses of research that could help forward the idea. My only comment on this
idea would be its appeal to ‘sequence sensitive structure’ present (e.g., the
active and passive), but I wonder how useful this paradigm would be for free
word order languages, as those found in Australian aboriginal languages (e.g.,
Jiwarli; Austin 2001). Also, another area would be that of reflexives, which a
syntactic approach is concerned with locality, but may run into difficulty
trying to explain long distance dependencies (e.g., long distance anaphora,
cf. Huang 2000).

The article by Fitch and Mietchen gives an excellent, accessible overview into
why we should be studying deep homology across different species, painting a
bright future for this field. I found the discussion on the genes involved
quite clear, and it also acts as a warm up to the gene related studies
presented later on in the volume.

Chapter 4 by Jarvis gives a thorough look at vocal learning from the brain and
genes, which is full of references. The topics are well discussed, and the
reader comes away with up-to-date knowledge on the latest developments on
comparisons between birds and humans. This chapter again is quite useful
pre-reading for later chapters.

Moorman and Bolhuis in Chapter 5 is straight to the point in describing
parallels between birds and humans, including syntactic parallels which is
more controversial, the authors acknowledge (as other articles in the volume
also discuss). If there were syntactic parallels, then this obviously would
end at a very early stage, otherwise we would expect bird language.

Smith and Law try to answer the question what makes human language unique by
introducing parametric variation. In the end they are unable to conclude if
parametric variation is unique to language. While it appears useful as a tool
of language classification, I would share the authors’ muted conclusion
surrounding the uniqueness of parametric variation to language, as to me it
would seem not to be the case.

The paper by Fehér and Tchernichovski discusses how birdsong can become
wild-like from an experimental setting over a few generations, using objective
measures. Cleary, nature and nurture both have a place in these results.

Wijnen’s look into finding an underlying mechanism into phonological and
syntactic processes appears very promising on the evidence provided. Such a
proposal would find opponents (e.g., Wexler 2011) who argue against
statistical learning. Nonetheless, Wijnen’s work adds more to the debate.

Yip’s article looks at the kinds of structure in birdsong over many different
species, so in a sense it is more like a meta-analysis. While the search for
structure appears hopeful, this would need to be investigated deeply in
individual species. Overall, Yip provides a good perspective on the issues at
hand, and explains concepts clearly to the non-phonologists.

The article by Reuland presents a Minimalist solution to the question of the
uniqueness of human language and sums up the perspective well. Moreover, he
does not warrant research into birdsong for recursion as he believes that
little will be found — which may be the case.

Okanoya presents an interesting study on bird syntax through experiments on
perception and production, making a case for birds’ lack of recursive syntax,
instead having a finite state grammar. Undoubtedly, such research on a single
species gives the necessary depth on the status of their syntax, and paints a
bright picture for further research in this area.

Cate et al. provides a useful review of the literature on the structure of
birdsong, and offers productive steps forward towards a systematic study of
birdsong compared to human language.

Pepperberg’s article gives an interesting insight on the phonological
acquisition of Alex, which draws parallels to human phonological acquisition.
While Alex has died, research continues to be published on his abilities
(e.g., on his mathematical ability, Pepperberg 2012). Hopefully, other grey
parrots will be able to be similarly raised to provide collaborating evidence.

Scott et al. provide a methodological discussion on the literature of speech
perception and production, pointing out that their supposed similarities of
processing is not reflected by current evidence. The authors make this point
convincingly, for as usual the picture is often more complicated than earlier
thought — and it is good that we are digging deeper into the problem.

Gobes et al. give a state of the art review of the auditory literature,
comparing and contrasting the avian and mammalian brains. In all, the review
is written well imparting an objective view on the topic.

Pallier’s contribution brings together L1 and L2 studies on language
acquisition, effectively showing the problems surrounding the critical period
hypothesis. I was especially interested in the research on bringing up adopted
children in a new L1 environment, and how much of their L1 they had lost at a
young age.

Ackermann and Ziegler’s contribution gives a clear picture on the neurological
basis of song in birds and human speech production. Each area of discussion is
written concisely, allowing the reader to have a clear understanding of the
processes behind these similar systems.

Coming from a linguistic perspective, I found fascinating Fee and Long’s
experimental methodology of cooling and heating bird brains, thereby effecting
song production, and allowing inferences to be made on the neurological
mechanisms. Such elaborate experimenting does nothing but pull us closer to
understanding of bird songs, hopefully transferable in part to human language.

Prather and Mooney’s discussion links to the last chapter involving neurons,
allowing for thought in this area to continue unabated. It is excellent to see
that mirror neurons are being investigated in other species, as it is a very
current topic with implications for language (e.g. Ramachandran 2011).

Beckers’ chapter is an interesting one that provides the fundamentals of bird
vocalisation. She points out that different bird species have different types
of vocalisations, needing further research. The question arises whether
general similarities can be found across different bird species.

The article by Fisher provides a clear, systematic review on what the FOXP2
gene is, careful not to come to premature conclusions. What I found
interesting was the coverage of a similar gene in mice, yet another species
represented in this volume.

Scharff and Thompson present an all-encompassing review on FoxP2 in birds, and
give hope to the future of its continued study. A good feature of this article
is the covering of the variation of FoxP2 at different stages, showing the
levels of FoxP2 expression affects the behaviour of birds — which gives a
good functional insight.

Ramus’ discussion on genes and dyslexia highlights their importance in such
disorders, without forgetting environmental factors. While it is still yet
unclear to which gene(s) are the main causes of dyslexia, slowly we are coming

Fitch presents his review of Darwin’s theory on his 200th anniversary. Indeed,
if one is a proponent of the musical origin of language, then Darwin
rightfully deserves credit as Fitch argues. The theory itself on the other
hand, is just one among many competing theories of language evolution.

Okanoya presents a series of reviews which build up a convincing array of
evidence supporting his scenario presented. I appreciated the picture of the
birds, and their historical background.

Pepperberg discusses her thoughts on mirror neurons in relation to humans and
birds, most of which is speculative, but nonetheless deserves further
attention. Moreover, as part of the articles here on mirror neurons, this
again brings important focus on the phenomena which I believe holds plenty of
promise for understanding the origins of language.

Evaluating the book as a whole, it is simply a splendid piece of scholarship.
Firstly, the editors have done a superb job in collating such excellent
scholarship from a range of authors who are clearly leaders in their
respective fields. Without exception, all papers are well written, concise and
clear to the point. The amount of different topics is also outstanding,
including the number of different species covered. The editors are also to be
commended in how the articles relate to one another, often on similar topics,
with each article feeding off one another. Moreover, the amount of references
the book contains will certainly assist those that are looking to enter the
field. It is for this reason I would recommend the book to advanced
undergraduates and beyond, where this book provides an excellent starting


Austin, Peter K. 2001. Word order in a free word order language: The case of
Jiwarli. In: Jane Simpson, David Nash, Mary Laughren, Peter Austin and Barry
Alpher (eds.), Forty years on: Ken Hale and Australian languages. Pp. 205-323.
Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

Hauser, Marc, Chomsky, Noam and Fitch, W. Tecumseh. 2002. The faculty of
language: What is it, who has it, and how did it evolve? Science

Huang, Yan. 2000. Anaphora. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lieberman, Philip. 2002. On the nature and evolution of the neural bases of
human language. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 119:36-62.

Pepperberg, Irene M. 2012. Further evidence for addition and numerical
competence by a grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus). Animal Cognition

Ramachandran, Vilayanur. S. 2011. The tell-tale brain: Unlocking the mystery
of human nature. London: William Heinemass.

Wexler, Ken. 2011. Grammatical Computation in the Optional Infinitive Stage.
In: Jill de Villiers and Tom Roeper (eds.), Handbook of Generative Approaches
to Language Acquisition. Pp. 53-118. Dordrecht: Springer.

Yang, Charles. 2011. Computational Models of Language Acquisition. In: Jill de
Villiers and Tom Roeper (eds.), Handbook of Generative Approaches to Language
Acquisition. Pp.119-154. Dordrecht: Springer.


Dr. Darcy Sperlich is currently a senior lecturer of ESOL in the School of
English at the Manukau Institute of Technology, in Auckland, New Zealand. His
research interests include the study of pragmatic and syntactic theories in
relation to anaphora (especially Chinese), experimental linguistic
methodology, second language acquisition, and comparative Chinese syntactic

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-2334

Review: Discourse Analysis; Pragmatics; Socioling: Thielemann & Kosta (2013)

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

EDITOR: Nadine  Thielemann
EDITOR: Peter  Kosta
TITLE: Approaches to Slavic Interaction
SERIES TITLE: Dialogue Studies 20
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Dorota Lockyer, University of British Columbia


This book is an edited collection of papers that broadly fall under the scope
of face-to-face interaction within discourse analysis and interactional
linguistics. It is a useful book to acquaint scholars of various linguistic
and Slavic backgrounds with “current research conducted on verbal interaction
between Slavic as well as bilingual interlocutors” (1). Accordingly, all data
discussed within this book examine one or more of the Polish, Russian and
Czech languages. The volume contains fifteen articles divided into five
sections, in addition to an introduction/overview.

The introduction, written by Nadine Thielemann and Peter Kosta, situates the
volume within its methodological and linguistic framework. They begin by
briefly describing current methodological frameworks and theories within the
broad scope of linguistic pragmatics and explaining how the papers in the
volume “analyze Slavic interaction primarily from a mostly Western
perspective” (3). In the last part of the introduction, they present an
overview of the book by briefly summarizing each paper and explaining how the
papers fit into each section of the volume.


1. ‘Talking out of turn: (Co)-constructing Russian conversation’ (Lenore
Grenoble), pp. 17-33.

This paper discusses the use of co-constructions, defined by Grenoble as
syntactic units “created within a single turn construction unit but by
multiple speakers” (17). The study uses a Conversation Analysis framework to
analyze Russian conversation recorded in Brighton Beach, New York and from
radio interviews on Radio Echo Moscow. Grenoble shows that co-constructions
can be used to “‘fill in’ missing words” (24) or manipulate the conversation
by attempting to redirect the topic or statement made by a speaker. The marked
difference between conversation in Brighton Beach and in political interviews
is that while the co-constructions in political interviews are highly
manipulative, the co-constructions used in interviews made at Brighton Beach
serve “to enhance participation and to signal heightened involvement” (31).
The results of Grenoble’s study show the possibilities for co-constructions in
the morphologically-rich language of Russian and also reinforce the
communicative, social, collaborative and interactive nature of conversation.

2. ‘Reanimating responsibility: The weź-V2 (take-V2) double imperative in
Polish interaction’ (Jörg Zinken), pp. 36-61.

This paper discusses the functions of the Polish ‘weź-V2’ double imperative
construction from a Conversation Analysis and Interactional Sociolinguistics
approach. Using a corpus of video-taped naturally-occurring interactions that
occurred in the homes of six Polish families, Zinken examines requests of
here-and-now actions to show the two main reasons for the use of the double
imperative. First, it “is commonly selected when the request recipient carries
some co-responsibility for the relevant business, but isn’t currently
attending to it” (59). In this way, the speaker who uses the double imperative
conveys some level of criticism and expresses the speaker’s opinion regarding
the action the recipient should be performing. Second, the “double imperative
often creates a situation in which a person becomes newly enlisted for some
socially beneficial action” (59). Broadly, Zinken shows that the type of
social action performed is highly relevant to the specific grammatical
constructions that are used by the speaker.

3. ‘Eye behavior in Russian spoken interaction and its correlation with
affirmation and negation’ (Elena Grishina), pp. 62-83.

The Multimodal Russian Corpus (MURCO) provides the data for this paper’s
comprehensive analysis of eye behavior in connection with Russian words of
negation and affirmation, specifically ‘da’ and ‘net’ (‘yes’ and ‘no’).
Grishina analyzes her data in relation to three main concepts, namely that of
gaze grammar, eye closing, and blinking. First, the paper analyzes the corpus
with respect to gaze grammar at cue boundaries, ‘da’/‘net’ cues, eye closing
(EC) as full gestures, and gesture ligatures. Grishina proposes that the EC
with ‘da’ or ‘net’ are ‘embedded gestures’, which must be situated within a
context and paired with full gestures and speech to have meaning. It is argued
that the EC with ‘da’ is “the backup gesture which metonymically duplicates
the nod of agreement” (75), while ‘net’ connects the EC with disappearance and
the breaking-off of communication. Next, the paper investigates blinking with
pauses and stressed syllables, and proposes that blinking follows the same
pattern as the previous EC embedded gestures. Last, the results lead to the
conclusion that “‘da’/’net’ reactions, or affirmation and negation, are the
basic driving forces that influence eye behavior in Russian dialogue at all
possible levels” (81).

4. ‘Hesitation markers in transitions within (story)telling sequences of
Russian television shows’ (Hanna Laitinen), pp. 85-102.

Using samples from television shows, Laitinen applies Conversation Analysis,
Labov’s minimal narrative and several psycholinguistic models to locate
hesitation markers (HMs) in storytelling sequences, and specifically in each
turn-constructional unit (TCU). In her analysis, HMs are shown occur at the
beginning and end of a telling sequence (e.g. between abstract and either
orientation or evaluation). Laitinen suggests that problems may occur at these
points due to shifts in consciousness, the concept of tellability and/or
misunderstandings that may occur at the end of the telling. The paper
concludes by suggesting that HMs are a widespread phenomenon, and that “a
shift in a storytelling or telling sequence appears to be both a pragmatic and
a cognitive action that may cause hesitation” (99).


5. ‘Russian everyday utterances: the top lists and some statistics’ (Tatiana
Sherstinova) pp. 105-116.

Using audio data from the Russian ORD speech corpus, Sherstinova examines the
length of utterances and compiles a list of Russian everyday utterances. The
shortest utterances of one word (e.g. da ‘yes’) are shown to be most frequent
in Russian, followed in frequency by two-word (e.g. nu da ‘well yes’),
three-word (e.g. nu ne znaju ‘well I don’t know’), four-word (e.g. kak u tebe
dela? ‘how are you?’), and progressively longer utterances. Of the most
frequent utterances, those expressing evaluation or salutation were
unsurprisingly at the top, followed by the two-word utterances that begin with
particles or conjunctions. In addition, discourse particles are shown to
appear often within the most frequent utterances. Sherstinova also examines
the link between duration of utterances and syllable duration, and shows that
one- and two-syllable utterances are the most predictable by having the least

6. ‘Speech rate as reflection of speaker’s social characteristics’ (Svetlana
B. Stepanova) pp. 117-129.

Through an analysis of spontaneous Russian speech from the Speech Corpus of
Russian Everyday Communication (ORD), Stepanova’s contribution confirms many
conclusions about the influence of factors including age and gender previously
made by researchers working on other languages. Specifically, Stepanova uses
statistical analysis by way of the STATISTICA program to show that males speak
faster than females; there is no “direct influence of speaker’s age on the
speech rate” (125) except when the data is divided into two groups of above
and below age forty; then speech rate decreases with age. In addition, a high
level of verbal competence is shown to correspond with a slower speech rate,
and that the number of syllables in a spoken phrase strongly corresponds with
speech rate: “the longer the phrase, the faster the rate” (127). Other
factors, such as the emotional condition of the speakers, are left for future


7. ‘How evaluation is transferred in oral discourse in Russian’ (Nicole
Richter) pp. 133-145.

Richter’s paper discusses and analyzes the phenomenon of evaluation, which is
broadly defined as verbal and non-verbal emotive choices that convey a
positive or negative evaluative stance towards a referent in discourse. The
paper uses recordings by native speakers of Russian and consists of two sets
of data: read and quasi-spontaneous speech. By testing the Russian speakers to
see whether they could distinguish between prosodic and rhetorical features,
Richter points out that different speakers used different rejection and
evaluation techniques, including tonal features and lexical items. Both
prosodic attitudinal markers and attitudinal meaning were produced
concurrently; thus, from this data, Richter concludes that rhetorical
strategies can, and should be, studied within the context of spontaneous

8. ‘“This is how I see it”: No-prefacing in Polish’ (Matylda Weidner) pp.

Using a corpus of audiotaped doctor-patient interactions, Weidner discusses
the turn-initial Polish particle ‘no’. In the first part of the paper, Weidner
presents previous research on ‘no’, linking the particle to discourse
particles and interjections, and also the particle’s dependence “on context
and intonation” (149). Although the particle can appear in four turn
construction environments, Weidner states that her study is limited “to cases
where ‘no’ occurs TCU-initially” (149). The analysis suggests that ‘no’
indicates a “my side” epistemic evaluation of preceding information which
“works toward minimizing the potential negative implications” (158) of earlier
requests. Weidner concludes with the suggestion that although ‘no’ may have no
semantic meaning in itself, its meaningfulness becomes apparent “in and
through the detail of talk-in-interaction” (163). In a similar way to
Grenoble’s paper, Weidner’s study reinforces the collaborative nature of

9. ‘How can I lie if I am telling the truth? The unbearable lightness of being
of strong and weak modals, modal adverbs and modal particles in discourse
between epistemic modality and evidentiality’ (Peter Kosta), pp. 167-184.

Using data from the ORD and the National corpus of Russian, Kosta revisits
particles that correspond either to ‘weak’ or ‘strong’ modals in regards to
evidential and epistemic meaning. The main part of the paper examines “how
particles that show the portmanteau effect between evidentiality and epistemic
modality interact and are used in conversations” (176), particularly the
particle ‘vrode’ and ‘vrode by’. Kosta concludes that in the view of lexical
semantics, these particles are highly ambiguous; however, their discourse
functions in conversational backgrounds can differ. Thus, the paper builds on
and adds to previous theoretical findings on modality.


10. ‘Irony in the face(s) of politeness: Strategic use of verbal irony in
Czech political TV debates’ (Jekaterina Mažara), pp. 187-212.

The central question of this paper concerns the relationship of verbal irony
to politeness management in political candidates in six cases of political
debate shows. Ironic utterances are examined in light of their intended and
actual effects, and the victim’s reaction in relation to positive and negative
face, face threatening acts (FTAs) and the protection of face. In the
analysis, Mažara gives two possible reasons for the speaker’s choice of irony.
The first “reason might be the wish to present oneself as the stronger, more
controlling participant in a debate” (209), while the second reason is to
protect one’s negative face from an opponent’s attacks. It is argued that
reactions to irony also follow similar reasoning; however, as Mažara notes,
other reasons may cause the use or lack of irony, including the attitude of
the host, the setting and also the individual politician’s personality.

11. ‘Parliamentary communication: The case of the Russian Gosduma’ (Daniel
Weiss), pp. 213-235.

Through an analysis of parliamentary debates in the Russian State Duma
(‘Gosduma’), the paper examines the Gosduma’s characteristics in turn-taking
(in particular that of the Chair), forms of address, multi-addressed and
multi-layered communication and Internet and TV coverage. In general, the
language in the Gosduma is shown to be less formal and more varied,
particularly when compared with the British Parliament. Weiss suggests that
published transcripts could be improved upon by increased grammatical editing
and the addition of substantial information including hecklings. The overall
representation of the institution of the Gosduma, it is concluded, is
“constitutionally and politically less influential, if not to say handicapped,
compared with its European counterparts” (233).

12. ‘Impoliteness and mock-impoliteness: A descriptive analysis’ (Michael
Furman), pp. 237-256.

In this paper, naturally occurring speech from the Russian reality television
show ‘Dom Dva’ is used to analyze impoliteness and mock-impoliteness, and also
impoliteness strategies. Using theory from foundational works such as by
Austin and Labov, the paper argues that “mock-impoliteness is parasitic on
impoliteness” (241), and both impoliteness and politeness stem from identical
locutions but differ on the level of illocution. Strategies identified in the
corpus include condescending scorn or ridicule, calling names, belittling,
invading another’s space and inappropriate identity markers. Mock-impoliteness
is shown to “perform a socially affiliative and inclusive function” (253) such
as bonding, which dampens conflict. The paper thus contrasts mock-impoliteness
from genuine impoliteness by examining conversational turn sequences in close

13. ‘Humor as staging an utterance’ (Nadine Thielemann), pp. 257-278.

In the paper, contextualization cues (CCs), broadly defined as ways that
speakers can interpret the semantic message in discourse, are analyzed as a
discourse modality that indicates the humorous framing of an utterance. The
paper focuses on animated speech in face-to-face conversations from the
Russian National Corpus, ORD corpus and the author’s recordings. Thielemann
begins the paper with a discussion of footing, alignments, and forms of
conversational humor, which includes parody, irony and teasing. Next,
Thielemann argues that “there is a motivational link between the CC animated
speech and its ‘meaning’” (273) since the CC does not contain meaning in
itself. Last, Thielemann concludes that playing with the words spoken by
another person (e.g. mimicking) and animating a character is not just play but
a shift in footing; furthermore, CCs convey “the meta-message ‘This is play’
or ‘I don’t mean this’” (273).


14. ‘Bilingual language use in the family environment: Evidence from a
telephone conversation between members of a community of speakers of German
descent’ (Veronika Ries), pp. 281-293.

In this paper, the spontaneous language use of two families of bilingual
speakers of German descent from Russia (‘Russlanddeutsche’) is examined in
order to discover code-switching used in telephone calls and their effects on
conversation. The main question posed asks: “How do speakers use the
linguistic resources available to them (i.e. German and Russian) during a
family conversation?” (282). The observations demonstrate that language choice
is not random, but that the second language brings the conversation to a
different level. Opening and closing sequences are also examined and found to
“constitute frames of conversations [that] are highly characterized by
routines” (290) and are more likely used habitually due to their frequency.
Ries concludes that “[t]he complex use of more than one language shows that a
parallelism of the two languages arises but that, in practice, their use is
very flexible” (291).

15. ‘Russian language maintenance through bedtime story reading?: Linguistic
strategies and language negotiation in Russian-French speaking families in
Switzerland’ (Liliane Meyer Pitton), p. 295-315.

Pitton discusses the problem of language maintenance, specifically within a
minority group of Russians living in Switzerland. Language maintenance through
the interactive practice of reading bedtime stories is shown to be a joint
opportunity to teach the Russian language by the parents who can use various
techniques (e.g. role play) to evoke responses in the target language by the
child. Yet, it is shown that the activity is not a monolingual interaction
because the child can either resist and use French or adopt the language used
by the parent, a choice which leads to different outcomes. Pitton concludes
that the story-reading activity in these families is “a bilingual
Russian-French event” (311) that demonstrates the difficulty for the
Russian-speaking parent to create an exclusively Russian-speaking environment.


The title of the volume can be construed as slightly misleading by the use of
the word ‘Slavic’ since the main languages discussed are Polish and Czech
(West Slavic) and Russian (East Slavic) with little or no reference to any of
the South Slavic languages (e.g. Bulgarian). Likewise, the title suggests a
broad range of approaches to ‘interaction’, from talk-in-interaction to
politeness research, all of which falls under an umbrella of discourse
analysis; yet, ‘interaction’ also suggests approaches that are not included in
the volume (e.g. cognitive approaches) but could also fit under the title.
Since the volume contains mainly empirical and descriptive case studies, the
title would have been clearer with more specific phrasing or a subtitle.

The division of the volume into five parts does seem to work and balance out
well, even though some sections have more papers than others. Also of interest
is that most of the papers cite past papers by other authors in the same
volume. These types of overlap demonstrate the coherence of the volume and
appear to work to the volume’s favor. Overall, the volume is presented well,
with each section containing an effective title that makes it immediately
obvious to the reader what types of papers to expect in the section.

This project is successful because of several qualities and strengths:

-The presentation of a collected work by contemporary scholars in the field of
discourse/interactional analysis that clearly references similar foundational
research in the field (e.g. by Goffman and Labov). Overall, the papers are
well grounded in the relevant scholarly literature and give detailed
theoretical and methodological backgrounds. Sherstinova’s paper would benefit
from a more comprehensive literature review and additional references that
would situate the valuable findings of the paper to current scholarly

-The scholarly precision in the construction and proficient management of the
volume, by accepting high-quality empirical papers that are not only
interesting to discourse analysts but fit well within the relevant literature
and can be of interest to scholars in related fields (e.g. semantics,
sociolinguistics, pragmatics). Because all the Slavic examples have an English
gloss or translation equivalent, the papers are accessible to scholars with
little to no knowledge of any Slavic languages.

-This volume is a rich source of empirical case studies that should appeal to
graduate students and established scholars alike. The accessibility of corpora
and other sources of data used, combined with further directions and angles of
study that could be taken outside the scope of the papers, are an invaluable
resource for scholars to expand on these investigations in other languages or
from other perspectives.

-The volume succeeds in its goal to include “the kind of research which has
ever since the 70ies been conducted in Western style conversation analysis or
similar approaches” (2), thereby making it accessible and understandable to a
Western audience.

-The data used by the papers in the volume come from various sources, thus
allowing for an overall discussion of different types of discourse, including
formal discourse (e.g. political debates and the Gosduma), semi-formal
discourse (e.g. doctor-patient interaction and television/radio shows) and
informal discourse that comes from recorded conversations in families and
among friends/acquaintances.

In sum, this volume is a useful and interesting resource for anyone working on
or interested in various forms of interaction, particularly in the Slavic
languages under examination. This book met my expectations, and I was able to
find valuable contents and data that advance research in the field.


Dorota Lockyer is a PhD student in the Department of English at the University
of British Columbia, Canada. Current research interests: linguistic approaches
to literature, corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, pragmatics and
translation studies.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-2335

Review: Language Acquisition; Neurolinguistics; Psycholinguistics: Blom, Verhagen & van de Craats (2013)

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

EDITOR: Elma  Blom
EDITOR: Josje  Verhagen
EDITOR: Ineke  van de Craats
TITLE: Dummy Auxiliaries in First and Second Language Acquisition
SERIES TITLE: Studies on Language Acquisition [SOLA] 49
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Eugenio Goria, Università degli Studi di Pavia


The aim of the book is to give a thorough account of the emergence of dummy
auxiliaries in several situations of first (L1) and second (L2) language
acquisition. This term has been chosen among several other almost-synonyms,
such as ‘light verbs’, ‘dummies’, ‘fillers’, etc., and describes a
construction in which the speakers spontaneously produce a semantically empty
auxiliary, as in ‘she does want eyes on her back’ (p. 171). This construction
is acceptable in standard English, only if the auxiliary has an emphatic or
contrastive stress. However, both L1 and L2 learners resort to dummy
auxiliaries far beyond such restrictions, and without treating the
construction as a pragmatically or semantically marked alternative.

Part I focuses on monolingual L1 aquisition, and contains studies on native
speakers of English (Schütze, Ch. 1), Dutch (Zukerman, Ch. 2; Hollebrandse,
van Koert, A. van Hout, Ch. 3; Julien, van de Craats, van Hout, Ch. 4), and
Cypriot Greek (Grohman and Leivada, Ch. 5).

Chapter 1 approaches dummy auxiliaries in the framework of Generative Grammar.
Schütze observes that English children differ from adults with respect to the
derivation called ‘Tense to Verb (T-to-V) lowering’. This is obligatory, in
Standard English, in all the cases where it is not blocked by elements such as
negation or ‘positive emphatic polarity’; however, it appears to be optional
in child varieties, as a result of difficulties in the comparision with V-to-T
raising. Dummy ‘do’ in child speech is considered by the author as an
allomorph of a 0-morpheme occurring as a functional head of a Mood phrase.
This feature is lost in adult speech due to an economy principle; T-to-V
lowering becomes obligatory because ”the derivation using fewer overt
morphemes bolcks the one using more morphemes” (p. 28).

In Chapter 2, Zuckerman addresses Dutch dummy constructions with auxiliary
‘doen’ (”do”) and ‘gaan’ (”to go”). The author adopts a framework which
combines a structure-based approach and an input-based approach. The first
approach is grounded on the observation that dummy auxiliaries are used in V2
Dutch matrix clauses (i.e., clauses with a rigid word order, where the
inflected verb always occupies the second position), but are absent in
embedded verb-final clauses, and their use is thus related to the acquisition
of V2; as no movement is involved in embedded clauses, the dummy construction
is not motivated. The second approach draws on the hypothesis that children at
pre-scholar age overextend ‘gaan’ + INF constructions present in adult
speakers’ input language. After summarising two past experiments (Zuckerman
2001), the author provides further evidence for his theory that dummy
auxiliaries are both structure dependent and input-dependent, especially with
respect to dialect variation.

Chapter 3 describes an experimental study with five-year-old Dutch children
aimed at tense elicitation. Despite the relatively late age of the test
subjects, who, according to other studies, should have already acquired the
inflected V2 syntactic structure, the experiment provides good evidence that
children at this age still produce constructions with ‘gaan’ as a dummy
auxiliary. According to the authors, this construction is economical from
different points of view: from a morphosyntactic point of view, (i) dummy
constructions are ”easy to learn and quick to retrieve in processing” (p.
93); (ii) they avoid inflection of the lexical verb; (iii) they provide a
one-to-one correspondence between form and function, in that grammatical
information, such as tense, is indexed on the auxiliary, while lexical
information is indexed on the lexical verb. Moreover, such constructions
perform an effect of existential closure over the event described by the
lexical verb. Finally, the authors argue that this construction is left out in
Standard Dutch because the synthetic form allows finer aspectual distinctions.

In Chapter 4, the authors provide evidence for the use of Dutch ‘zijn’
(”be”) as a dummy auxiliary. This construction, unlike the ones presented in
the preceding chapters, is absent in the input, and represents an invention of
L1 learners. Julien, van de Craats and van Hout present the results of a
longitudinal study with five children from ages 1;6 to 3;6. The main outcome
is the definition of three stages in the acquisition of finiteness: at stage
1, young speakers only display root infinitives in sentence-final position; at
stage 2, they start to use finite, non-thematic verbs such as ‘zijn’ and
‘gaan’ in V1/V2 position; finally, at stage 3, more finite verbs are used in
V2 position, and at the same time, dummy constructions start to show up. This
demonstrates the crucial role of dummy auxiliaries in the acquisition of

Chapter 5 contains a groundbreaking contribution, in that it represents the
first study on light verbs in Cypriot Greek. The article focuses on the use of
‘kamno’ (”do”), ‘ðio’ (”give”) and ‘pçano’ (”take”) as dummy verbs in an
elicitation task with a random sample of 100 children divided into five
age-brackets and ranging in age from 4;0 to 8;11 years old. Using the five
types of light verbs described in Kearns (1988) as a point of departure, the
study shows that ”true” light-verb constructions are found in the sample,
and with higher frequency in Cypriot Greek when compared to Standard Modern
Greek. Furthermore, the speakers appear to prime unexisting light verb

Part II is dedicated to child bilingualism, and contains a total of three
studies on the following topics: L2 English (Bohnacker, Ch. 6), L2 German
(Chilla, Haberzettl and Wulff, Ch. 7), and Turkish-German learners affected
with specific language impairment (SLI) (de Jong, Blom, Orgassa, Ch. 8).

In Chapter 6, Bohnacker discusses data from her past work (Bohnacker 1999a,b)
in light of new findings on dummy auxiliaries. She presents data from a
longitudinal study on an Icelandic-English bilingual child living in England
and exposed to both input languages. The author documents two steps in the
acquisition of ‘do’ as an auxiliary: the child learns at 2;0 how to use it in
negative sentences, and at 3;0 she acquires interrogative and emphatic
affirmative sentences. At the same time, she starts to overextend the use of
‘do’ to non-emphatic affirmative sentences. This is interpreted by the author
as an attempt by the bilingual child to regularise the Standard English system
through the ”creation” of an unstressed ‘do’ in complementary distribution
with the other two.

Chapter 7 compares the acquisition of German as an L1 and L2 with respect to
the use of dummy verbs such as ‘sein’ (”be”), and ‘machen’ (”do/make”).
The data for monolingual acquisition come from an extract of Szagun’s (2006)
German corpus, while the L2 data come from two groups of children with Turkish
as their L1, which are part of the Hamburg corpus (Rothweiler 2006) and the
Augsburg corpus (Haberzettl 2005; Wegener 1992). The first group has an age
onset of 3-4 and the second one is formed by two young girls with an age onset
of 6. The most relevant outcomes of the study are that the age onset is
crucial in the emergence of dummy auxiliaries; while dummy verbs appear to be
extremely rare in L1 acquisition and in the first group of L2 learners (age
onset 3), older learners frequently use this construction as a link to V2 word
order. In this case, the dummy auxiliary has the function of creating ”a
mould” (p. 237) for the production of German verbal brackets.

Chapter 8 is quite different from the others in that it contains an
experimental study about dummy verbs in monolingual and bilingual children
affected by SLI. The aim of the experiment is twofold: on one hand, it is
meant to explore the differences in the use of dummy auxiliaries in mono- and
bilinguals; on the other hand, it aims to observe differences in SLI speakers
compared to speakers typical development (TD). The results show that the
presence of SLI is clearly related to a higher frequency of dummy
constructions, while the effects of bilingualism appear to be less pervasive.
In the authors’ view, dummy auxiliary constructions represent a less costly
alternative in terms of processing for SLI speakers.

Part III focuses on adult learner varieties, and contains two studies: one on
Morocccan learners of Dutch (Verhagen, Ch. 9), and one on Turkish learners of
French and German (Schimke, Ch. 10).

Chapter 9 contains two studies. The first one is focused on the uses of the
dummy ‘is’ construction by Moroccan learners of Dutch. It provides evidence
that the dummy construction occurs at a stage where learners have not yet
acquired the rules for subject-verb agreement and verb raising. The second
study focuses on possible uses of ‘is’ as a marker of aspect. Results show
that dummy ‘is’ is associated by the speakers with the present tense and
ongoing actions. Verhagen strongly argues that ‘is’ is incompatible with the
perfective aspect (contra Starren 2001) and that perhaps it could be related
to the marking of durative aspect.

In Chapter 10, Schimke analyses the use of dummy verb constructions in the
interlanguage of two groups of Turkish learners: one learning German and one
learning French. First, the author shows that dummy verb constructions are
spotted in both groups, but with an higher frequency in the French group.
Secondly, she takes into account a possible relation with the acquisition of
verb raising; dummy verbs are characteristic of ”an intermediate stage in the
acquisition of verb raising in L2 German” (p. 328), while no evidence for
this correlation is found in the French data. These data are then compared
with analogous studies on L2 Dutch. Schimke observes that, despite both being
V2 languages, German and Dutch differ in several aspects: the latter is much
more similar to French, in that dummy verbs are more frequent and more clearly
related with the acquisition of finiteness; however, this construction appears
to be associated with the acquisition of verb raising only in German and
Dutch, but not in French.

The contributions in Part IV try to find generalisations on dummy auxiliaries,
addressing the issue from different perspectives. This phenomenon is
investigated by Jordens (Ch. 11) from a semantic-pragmatic point of view,
followed by a comparison of learner varieties with monolingual adult varieties
(Ch. 12- Cornips) and with Dutch dialects (Ch. 13- Barbiers).

In Chapter 11, Jorden discusses the results of a qualitative study conducted
on both L1 and L2  learners of Dutch. First, he distinguishes between ‘dummy
auxiliary’, that is, a verbal element used by speakers ”instead of a regular
auxiliary verb form” (p. 341), and full-fledged auxiliaries, which are
”elements of a functional category system” (p. 341). In Jorden’s view, the
study demonstrates that at a first stage in the aquisition of Dutch, dummies
are lexical elements which reflect a distinction,in the speakers’ system
between agentive and non-agentive utterances. Dummies at this stage simply
mark the control of an agent on the action and occupy the same structural
position of modal verbs. Only at a second stage, which he calls the
‘functional stage’, verbs such as ‘gaat’, ‘komt’, ‘doet’, etc., become the
head of a functional projection, which corresponds with the acquisition of the
auxiliary position. Learners may then use auxiliaries in order to avoid verb
movement, only in this case, the term ‘dummy auxiliary’ is correct.

Chapter 12 challenges interpretations of dummy auxiliaries in Dutch as being
exclusively related to the acquisition of V2. Cornips compares the production
of dummies in various oral corpora, providing evidence that if spoken language
is taken into account, adult Dutch constructions such as ‘gaan’ + INF and
‘doen’+INF have a wider range of meanings than what is normally codified in
Dutch grammars, especially concerning the expression of tense and aspect. This
allows the author to opt for a partially input-based approach. Even though she
does not deny the relation of such constructions with the acquisition of V2
position, she suggests that the features characterising the speech of L1 and
L2 learners could as well mirror some features of the input language.

In Chapter 13, Barbiers provides an account of dummy auxiliary constructions
with ‘doen’, ‘habben’, ‘zijn’, and ‘gaan’ in Dutch dialects. The author
exhaustively reviews dummy constructions in dialects of Standard Dutch and
learner varieties, showing that such constructions have a distinct syntactic
status in the former. Barbiers then claims that interpretations based on an
economy principle, where the dummy construction is seen as a device to reduce
the complexity involved in verb movement, are in and of themselves
problematic: ”a Principles and Parameters approach would predict a general
preference for dummy auxiliaries, while Minimalist approaches would predict a
free alternation between dummy auxiliaries and movement constructions” (p.


This volume is highly valuable in several respects. First, it goes very deep
into the exploration of a single phenomenon which is analysable from a wide
range of different perspectives. Not only does it contribute to theories of
language acquisition, in general, and second language acquisition, in
particular, but it also includes other perspectives such as contact
linguistics and general linguistics.

All the thirteen studies are easily readable, even by non-specialists of
language acquisition, and this is mostly due to the particular care that all
of the authors take in forming clear discussions of the frameworks adopted in
their studies. Furthermore, in the discussion of experimental studies, the
authors are very scrupulous in the description of the aims and methodologies
of data elicitation, and also, when needed, they supplement ideas with helpful
pictures and summary tables. On the other hand, however, the high specificity
of the topic makes this volume mostly usable by students and researchers at
all levels who have done previous work on language acquisition, or who are at
least acquainted with the aims and methodologies of the discipline. Potential
readers are also those researchers who work on the morphosyntax of auxiliaries
outside of the perspective of acquisition.

Perhaps, since many of the authors hold a personal, preferential view on dummy
auxiliaries, and the notion itself is discussed rather than taken for granted,
it could have been worth adding a final chapter at the end of the book in
which the outcomes of the thirteen studies are compared and discussed. This
would have been quite helpful to the reader, in order to provide a new and
up-to-date ”status quaestionis” on several interesting aspects such as the
notion of economy and the role played by input.


Kearns, Kate. 1988. ”Light verbs in English”. Ms. MIT.

Rothweiler, Monika. 2006. ”The acquisition of V2 and subordinate clauses in
early successive acquisition of German”. In: Conxita Lleó (ed.) ”Interfaces
in multilingualism: Acquisition, representation and processing”. Amstedam,
Benjamins: 91-113.

Starren, Marianne 2001. The second time: the acquisition of temporality in
Dutch and French as a second language. Ph.D. dissertation, Tilburg University.

Szagun, Gisela. 2006. ”Sprachentwicklung beim Kind” [Child language
development]. Weinheim, Beltz.

Zuckerman, Shalom 2001. The acquisition of ”optional” movement. Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Groningen.


Eugenio Goria is a PhD student at Pavia University, Italy. His main interest
is contact linguistics, and at present he is working on English-Spanish
codeswitching in Gibraltar. Among his other interests are Latin linguistics
and information structure.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-2292