LINGUIST List 14.1480

Thu May 22 2003

Review: Language Description: Comrie & Corbett (2002)

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  1. Tania Avgustinova, The Slavonic Languages

Message 1: The Slavonic Languages

Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 22:13:56 +0000
From: Tania Avgustinova <>
Subject: The Slavonic Languages

Comrie, Bernard and Greville C. Corbett, ed. (2002) The Slavonic
Languages. Routledge, Routledge Language Family Descriptions.

Announced at

Tania Avgustinova, Saarland University / DFKI

As the editors point out, this book is designed to meet different
requirements of a variety of readers. Being a comprehensive source on
the Slavonic language family, it could primarily be used as a
straightforward reference book. But it could also serve as a general
introduction to Slavonic languages, as a typological guide, as well as
in comparative research.

Chapter 1 (by Comrie and Corbett) introduces the geographical and
demographic distribution of the Slavonic languages, reflecting the
political situation in early 1993. Chapter 2 (by Cubberley)is a
comprehensive and detailed presentation of the various alphabets and
addresses transliteration issues. Chapter 3 (by Schenker) introduces
the reconstructed ancestor of the Slavonic languages known as
Proto-Slavonic; it bridges the Indo- European language family and its
Slavonic branch. The following chapters are grouped according to the
traditional distinction made between South Slavonic, West Slavonic and
East Slavonic languages.

The South-Slavonic part includes chapter-long presentations of
Old-Church-Slavonic (Chapter 4 by Huntley), Bulgarian (Chapter 5 by
Scatton), Macedonian (Chapter 6 by Friedman), Serbo-Croatian (Chapter
7 by Browne) and Slovene (Chapter 8 by Priestly). As for the
West-Slavonic collection, it contains descriptions of Czech (Chapter 9
by Short), Slovak (Chapter 10 by Short), Upper and Lower Sorbian
(Chapter 11 by Stone), Polish (Chapter 12 by Rothstein), Cassubian
(Chapter 13 by Stone) and Polabian (Chapter 14 by Polan'ski). The East
Slavonic part includes the respective presentations of Russian
(Chapter 15 by Timberlake), Belorussian (Chapter 16 by Mayo) and
Ukrainian (Chapter 17 by Shevelov).

The final Chapter 18 (by Sussex) deals with Slavonic languages in
exile and could thus be of particular interest not only to Slavicists,
but to sociolinguists in general.

A special feature of the volume as a whole is that all chapters
describing the individual Slavonic languages (i.e. from Chapter 3 to
Chapter 17) are highly structured, with each author providing uniform
detailed information on the same important set of topics. In
particular, each of these chapters is written according to a single
general plan. It begins with an introductory section providing a brief
account of the current status of the language and of its historical
development. A section on phonology follows, dealing with the phoneme
inventory and morphophonemic alternations from both synchronic and
diachronic perspectives. Then, a section on synchronic morphology
deals with nominal and verbal inflection as well as derivation, with
special reference to the major historical developments. A section on
syntax follows, dealing with various patterns of combining words into
phrases and sentences and discussing extensively the syntactic
properties of the language. This is followed by a discussion of
vocabulary (lexis) including the relation between inherited Slavonic
and borrowed vocabulary, with lists of basic lexical items from three
well-defined lexical fields: colour terms, body parts and kinship
terms. Accompanied by a map, an outline of the main dialects presents
their most salient characteristics. Finally, a bibliographic section
is provided.

This organization supports phenomena-oriented acquisition of relevant
information across Slavonic languages. Non- Slavicists are further
assisted by the systematic transliteration and glossing of the
examples. The bibliographies after each chapter provide useful
indications of further generally accessible sources. The book is made
particularly handy and accessible by inclusion of a comprehensive
index. It can be recommended for use in teaching, comparative research
and typological investigations.


Tania Avgustinova received her Ph.D. in Slavic and Computational
Linguistics at Saarland University. In 1998 she was awarded an
individual grant from the German science foundation (DFG) to work on
modular language-family oriented grammar design at the Department of
Computational Linguistics and Phonetics in Saarbruecken. Currently,
she is a senior researcher at the DFKI Language Technology Lab.
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