LINGUIST List 10.467

Tue Mar 30 1999

Review: Siewierska & Song: Case Typology and Grammar.

Editor for this issue: Andrew Carnie <>

What follows is another discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect these discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for discussion." (This means that the publisher has sent us a review copy.) Then contact Andrew Carnie at


  1. Chris Bongartz, book review "Case, Typology, and Grammar"

Message 1: book review "Case, Typology, and Grammar"

Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 15:31:27 -0600
From: Chris Bongartz <>
Subject: book review "Case, Typology, and Grammar"

Siewierska, Anna & Jae Jung Song (eds.). 1998. "Case, Typology, and Grammar.
 	In Honor of Barry J. Blake." Typological Studies in Language 38.
	Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 379 pages.

Reviewed by Chris Bongartz, University of Wisconson

Contributions by Keith Allen (1), Peter Austin (2), Edith L. Bavin (3), 
Byron W. Bender (4), Kate Burridge (5), Bernard Comrie & Maria Polinsky (6), 
Nicholas Evans (7), Richard Hudson (8), William McGregor (9), Andrew Pawley 
& Jonathan Lane (10), Anna Siewierska (11), Jae Jung Song (12), Stanley 
Starosta (13), Sandra A. Thompson (14), Tasaku Tsunoda (15).

 The fifteen original articles in this edited volume are dedicated 
to Barry J. Blake (La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia), honoring his 
scholarship on the occasion of his 60th birthday. With "Case, Typology, and 
Grammar" the editors, Anna Siewierska and Jae Jung Song, have chosen a title 
representing the impressive range of contributions to the book, many of 
which are directly related to Blake's work. A comprehensive bibliography, 
listing his publications from 1966 until the present, complements Blake's 
vita given in the editors' preface. The frequent references to Blake's work 
in the individual papers distinguish the honoree as an extremely perceptive 
descriptive grammarian for Australian Aboriginal languages. But they also 
portray him as a theory-oriented scholar with significant contributions to 
the conceptualization of language typology and case. 
 Like Blake's own research the collection embraces both applied 
work in language typology and more theoretical concerns. Reflecting the 
field he has worked in over the past three decades the papers in the volume 
range from meticulous description of grammatical phenomena in individual 
languages to generalizations about language change and other theoretical 
claims based on the observations from the data. Each paper has its own 
reference list. A shared list of abbreviations, a notable language index 
listing more than 150 languages, and a subject index link the individual 
contributions and round out the volume.
 Its diversity is the volume's major asset, in both topical variety 
and depth of investigation. Is Lexicase Theory superior to Role and 
Reference Grammar when classifying case marking systems (13)? What does the 
developmental route of kumpa-' (to sit') in Jiwarli reveal about the 
grammaticization of auxiliaries (2)? Why does "The Guiness Book of Records" 
(Young, 1997) list Tabasaran as the language with the most noun cases (6)? 
Must the separation of lexis, syntax, and discourse be questioned to explain 
particular grammatical features (10) and to account for typological 
universals (14)? These questions and many more are raised in the articles, 
and the suggested answers will be of interest to scholars in language 
typology, historical linguistics, discourse analysis, language acquisition, 
and theoretical syntax, semantics, and morphology. However, the articles 
come without abstracts, and there are no introductions to the many 
contributors from around the globe. Although the subject index serves as a 
basic orientation, one might wish for greater accessibility nevertheless, 
patient reading will be rewarded with the volume's hidden treasures.
 The collected articles are arranged in the usual alphabetical 
order of a "Festschrift" an organization that does not reflect the 
cohesive ties between the contributions. Thematic cohesion marks four 
different groups: The first group of articles focuses on particular 
grammatical constructions. Topics include the aforementioned auxiliary 
development (2), initial mutation in Iwaidja verbs (7), Warrungu applicative 
constructions (16), and benefactive marking with possessive classifiers 
(12). Some of the implications which the authors in this group derive from 
their data are strikingly unusual and call for further investigation - for 
example the role of 'correspondence mimicry' (Alpher & Nash, 1984) in 
multilingual settings (7).
 Articles in a second group discuss their data in terms of 
different theoretical considerations. Here, reanalysis of inverse 
case-marking (Givon, 1994) as a source of ergative case-marking (11) is 
questioned, and profiling of thematic roles for 'be' and "possessive" 
'have' in Role an Reference Grammar (Foley & Van Valin, 1984) is put under 
scrutiny (1). Semiotic Grammar (McGregor, 1997) and NP roles in clauses 
account for applicative constructions in Warrwa (9), and Lexicase Theory 
can explain active case-marking as a variant of ergativity (13). 
Theoretical validity depends, of course, on the empirical relevance of any 
given framework. The cross-linguistic variation of structure-sharing and 
non-structure sharing accounts of control structures such as "We persuaded 
Pat to come" poses different problems for different syntactic accounts an 
insightful perspective offered in (8).
 The third group of related articles looks into how language works 
from a variety of perspectives. One article calls for more attention to the 
role of iconicity and other criteria suggested by the Prague School (for 
example Jakobson, 1966) in markedness and language development (4). Another 
points to "typology of use" in language acquisition, illustrated by the 
acquisition of overt and covert syntactic arguments in Warlpiri (3). A 
third article in this group argues that variation in event structure 
conventions motivates grammar in terms of lexical and syntactic structure, 
as the example of serial verb constructions in Kalam illustrates (10). But 
discourse functions must be observed in interaction. While questions, for 
example, invite responses in a conversations, negative constructions do not 
have the same interactive qualities. The universal differences observed in 
the structure of interrogatives and negation, often explained in terms of 
syntactic scope, can in fact be related to their different functions an 
intriguing explanation of structure given in (14).
 Finally, a small group of two articles aims to debunk popular 
linguistic myths. "Throw the baby from the window a cookie", for example, 
is not a common syntactic structure in the English of speakers of 
Pennsylvania German (5). It is not stereotypes, but language functions in 
the community and outside that can explain the actual effects of language 
contact observed in Waterloo County, Canada. And while the Daghestanian 
languages of the Northeast Caucasian area do have up to eighteen different 
case-markers, it is more interesting to explain the different combinations 
in terms of the three parameters orientation, direction, and distality, than 
to look at all possible different combinations and arrive at a record number 
of different case noun cases (6).
	The thematic diversity of the articles is reflected in the various 
methodological routes taken. While the study of acquisition, for example, 
is based on production data from child language acquisition in just one 
language, other studies are informed by data from as many as forty different 
languages (12). Some of the language data are quite rare making the book 
a valuable source of data. Many articles include graphic illustrations of 
case and other syntactic relationships, and the quality of the editing is 
generally very good the only exception being the occasional typos, such as 
"grand children" (p.88). Also slightly disruptive in the reading process 
are some arbitrarily placed graphs and figures (eg., p. 65, p. 288). Such 
misplacements appear in stark contrast to remarkably carefully edited 
articles such as (6).
 Overall the papers in the volume are highly readable and 
up-to-date, with a potential role in future research, and are very 
informative in their own right. Interesting in terms of the diversity of 
analyses offered, rich in data and references, the book suits its purpose in 
a fine manner - an excellent tribute to the honoree's excellent scholarship.


	Alpher, Barry and David Nash. 1984. "Lexical Replacement and Cognate 
Equilibrium in Australia." In Precirculated Papers for the Australian 
Linguistics Society Conference, Alice Springs, August 1984, 17-44.

	Foley, William A. and Robert D.Van Valin Jr. 1984. 
Functional Syntax and Universal Grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

	Givon, Talmy. 1994. "The Pragmatics of De-Transitive Voice:
 Functional and Typological Aspects of Inversion." In Talmy Givon (ed.), 
Voice and Inversion. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

	Jakobson, Roman. 1966. "Implications of Language Universals for 
Linguistics." In Joseph Greenberg (ed.), Universals of Language, 2nd 
edition. Cambridge: MIT Press.

	McGregor, William. 1997. Semiotic Grammar. Oxford: Oxford 
University Press.

	Young, Mark (ed.). 1997. The Guiness Book of Records. (US edition). 
New York: Bantam Books.


Chris Bongartz is a lecturer at the Department of English, University of 
Her research interests include language contact, typology, syntax, and 
interlanguage development.

Christiane M. Bongartz, PhD
Department of English
University of Wisconsin-Madison
6111 Helen C. White Hall
Madison, WI 53706

phone: (608) 263-2848
fax: (608) 263-3709
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue