LINGUIST List 12.1875

Sun Jul 22 2001

Review: Aronoff & Rees-Miller, Handbook of Linguistics

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  1. Laura Daniliuc, review of Aronoff & Rees-Miller, Handbook of Linguistics

Message 1: review of Aronoff & Rees-Miller, Handbook of Linguistics

Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2001 09:27:56 +1000
From: Laura Daniliuc <>
Subject: review of Aronoff & Rees-Miller, Handbook of Linguistics

Aronoff, Mark, and Janie Rees-Miller, eds. (2000) The Handbook of
Linguistics. Blackwell Publishers, hardback ISBN 0-631-20497-0,
xiv+824pp, $125.00 (Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics)

Laura and Radu Daniliuc, School of Modern Languages, Department of
Linguistics, The Australian National University

[Because of the size of the book, the reviewers are submitting a
description of its contents only at this time. They may submit a critical
evaluation later on. --Eds.]

The Handbook of Linguistics offer researchers and students an excellent
overview about the current status of research in linguistics. Mark
Aronoff (State University of New York, Stony Brook) and Janie Rees-
Miller (Marietta College) have done an extraordinary job in editing an
impressive book that can be used both as a reference work and as a
guide to modern thinking in linguistics.
 The work of globally recognized leading professionals in the
field, the 32 original articles in this volume constitute a wide-ranging
and helpful reference for a variety of linguistic (and related) areas,
providing a broad yet detailed picture of what is known about language
at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It addresses general
readers, students of linguistics and specialists in linguistic sub-
disciplines and it points mainly to the large and growing areas of
common interest and concern in this fascinating domain.
 The structure of the Handbook is as follows: it begins with a
general overview that considers the origins of language, frames the
discipline within its historical context, and looks at how linguists
acquire new data. It then focuses on the traditional and modern
subdisciplines of linguistics, from historical linguistics to language
planning. Here is a brief description of its contents.

The volume opens with a survey on the origins of language, in which
Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy (University of Canterbury) concentrates on
the evidence from anthropology and archeology, on genetic,
primatological and neurobiological evidence, as well as on linguistic
 Bernard Comrie (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary
Anthropology) provides readers with an overview of present-day opinions
on the distribution of the languages of the world and on the genetic
relations among them.
 Peter T. Daniels (Independent scholar) offers a very interesting
historical-descriptive survey of the world's writing systems and
comments on the theoretical aspects of writing systems.
 Lyle Campbell (University of Canterbury) presents an overview of
the major developments in the history of linguistics, from grammatical
traditions, universal grammar, comparative method, philosophical-
psychological approaches, to structuralism and the Chomskian era.
 Brian D. Joseph (Ohio State University) studies different aspects
of historical linguistics, such as the reasons, types and mechanisms of
language change and language history, pointing out to some of the
methods used by historical linguists in their investigations.
 Trying to explain why fieldwork is so appealing to some people,
Pamela Munro (University of California, Los Angeles) describes basic
techniques of field linguistics emphasizing the importance of a right
choice of a speaker and of a proper analysis of the data.
 John Laver (University of Edinburgh) defines the scope, coverage
and shape of a general phonetic theory and describes the aspects,
levels, units and organization of speech, as well as speech production
 For phonology, Abigail Cohn (Cornell University) focuses on sound
inventories and contrasts, structure above the level of the segment,
and subsegmental structure.
 Starting from the notion of 'word', Andrew Spencer (University of
Essex) explains how morphology functions, i.e. the different structures
words put on display and the morphological relationships woven between
 D. A. Cruse (University of Manchester) takes a close look at the
complex issue of the lexicon, from the simple units listed in the
lexicon, i.e. words, to communities of words, word fields and word
families, domain-specific vocabularies and layers of vocabulary.
 Trying to explain the differences and similarities between formal
syntax and functional syntax, Mark C. Baker (Rutgers University)
teaches us basic lessons of syntactic research and gives a concrete
example for universal grammar and parameterization.
 Thomas Wasow (Stanford University) takes up the challenging
task of writing a chapter on Generative Grammar and offers an
explanation for its success over the years and for the dominant
position that Noam Chomsky holds in the field.
 Robert D. Van Valin, Jr (State University of New York at Buffalo)
introduces the readers to the basic ideas of functional linguistics and
explains the way linguists have come to believe that language is a system
of forms for conveying meaning in communication.
 Exploring the diversity of human language, William Croft
(University of Manchester) presents the concepts and discoveries in
describing the main results of typological research since its beginning
in the 1960s.
 Shalom Lappin (King's College, London) introduces the readers to
formal semantics by discussing several central questions arising in the
construction of a formal semantic theory for natural language and
indicating the major lines of research of formal semanticists.
 In the chapter "Pragmatics: Language and Communication", Ruth
Kempson (King's College, London) describes pragmatics as the application
of conversational principles to sentence meanings and characterizes the
processes of reasoning, as well as the interaction between linguistic
processing and general processing.
 Talking about discourse analysis, Agnes Weiyun He (State
University of New York, Stony Brook) defines discourse as situated
language use and describes communicative motivation for the selection
of linguistic forms and linguistic resources for doing and being.
 Nigel Fabb (University of Strathclyde) talks about the ways in
which linguistic theory is applied to literature. He mainly considers
the modeling of the cognitive processes that shape verbal behavior and
the explanation of how linguistic form can be used to communicate
 Brian MacWhinney (Carnegie Mellon University) considers how the
study of first language acquisition leads to a better understanding of
universals of human language, of social interaction, and of the human
 Vivian Cook (University of Essex) focuses on the relationship
between linguistics and second language acquisition and on the
questions raised by the fact that people know more than one language.
 In her chapter on multilingualism, Suzanne Romaine (Merton
College, University of Oxford) pays attention to the causes and
consequences of this phenomenon which apparently affects about half the
world's population.
 Wendy Sandler (University of Halifax) and Diane Lillo-Martin
(University of Connecticut and Haskins Laboratories) focus on the
structure, acquisition, and mental representation of natural sign
languages, which prove to be of crucial importance for our understanding
of the essential nature of language.
 Describing sociolinguistics as an inter-disciplinary field of
research, Florian Coulmas (Chuo University) talks about language as a
social product, social classes and networks, language change and
variation, linguistic relativism, and micro- and macro-
 David Caplan (Neuropsychology Laboratory, Massachusetts General
Hospital) describes neurolinguistics, a rapidly-evolving linguistic
discipline studying language disorders (sometimes called "aphasiology")
and the relationships between language and the brain.
 As computational linguistics is such a diverse a field, Richard
Sproat (AT&T Research), Christer Samuelsson (Xerox Research Centre
Europe), Jennifer Chu-Carroll (Bell Laboratories), and Bob Carpenter
(Bell Laboratories) chose to discuss the matters of syntactic parsing,
discourse analysis, computational morphology and phonology, and corpus-
based methods.
 Janie Rees-Miller (Marietta College) investigates the vast area of
applied linguistics, which initially meant second language teaching,
but came to cover a wide variety of disciplines, such as cross-cultural
pragmatics, psycholinguistics, literacy, sociolinguistics, discourse
analysis, to mention only a few of them.
 James Paul Gee (University of Wisconsin at Madison) tries to
define what educational linguistics is and stresses the importance of
an overt focus on the structure of language and of the complexity of
relationships between language structure and communicative functions.
 Talking about linguistics and reading and focusing on written
language, Rebecca Treiman (Wayne State University) discusses the
cognitive processes involved in reading and in learning to read and
points to the importance of writing and written language processing.
 David Crystal (University College of North Wales at Bangor)
focuses on clinical linguistics, an applied linguistic discipline that
deals with the study of language disability in all its forms.
 Pointing to the fact that linguistics touches almost all areas of
everyday life, Roger W. Shuy (Georgetown University) describes the
fascinating domain of forensic linguistics which deals with such issues
as trademark infringement, product liability, speaker identification,
authorship of written documents, and evaluation of linguistic evidence
in criminal cases.
 Within the sphere of communicative devices, Christoph Gutknecht
(University of Hamburg) deals with the problems raised by translation,
from principles and modes of interpreting to false friends and machine
and computer-assisted translation.
 The book ends with a chapter on language planning, in which Frank
Anshen (State University of New York, Stony Brook) discusses language
policies and the major factors determining the selection of a national

In summary, these comprehensive articles, together with the editors'
informative introduction and an extensive bibliography, provide its
readership a key to the field of linguistics today. We cannot conclude
but that this is a considerable achievement.

Laura and Radu Daniliuc are the authors of the first Romanian
translation of Ferdinand de Saussure's Cours de linguistique g�n�rale
(Curs de lingvistica generala, Editura Cuv�ntul nostru, Suceava, 1998)
and of Descriptive Romanian Grammar. An Outline (Lincom Europe, Munich,
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