LINGUIST List 14.2217

Thu Aug 21 2003

Review: General Ling: Cruz-Ferreira (2003)

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  1. Viatcheslav Iatsko, The Language of Language: Core Concepts in Linguistic Analysis

Message 1: The Language of Language: Core Concepts in Linguistic Analysis

Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2003 15:21:35 +0000
From: Viatcheslav Iatsko <>
Subject: The Language of Language: Core Concepts in Linguistic Analysis

Cruz-Ferreira, Madalena (2003) The Language of Language: Core Concepts
in Linguistic Analysis, Prentice-Hall (Division of Pearson Education).

Announced at

Viatcheslav Iatsko, Department of English, Katanov State University of

This book, intended as an introduction to linguistics, doesn't assume
any previous experience of language analysis and can be most
appropriately used by undergraduate or high school students taking
their first course in linguistics. Since the book lacks any exercises,
assignments or activities it can be characterized as a collection of
lectures rather than a textbook.

As the author claims in the Preface the purpose of the book is
twofold: to acquaint the reader with the way linguists talk about the
language and to stir reader's curiosity about language matters.

The book comprises 12 chapters outlining main branches of linguistics:
morphology, phonetics and phonology, syntax, and lexical semantics
Issues pertaining to the interdisciplinary and applied study of, such
as language and the brain, bilingualism, language contact, child
language acquisition second language learning, language variation and
change are also overviewed. Data are taken principally from English.
Each chapter ends with ''Some food for thought'' and ''Readings''
sections. The book has a subject index.

The first chapter ''Language'' outlines some characteristics of
natural language, such as arbitrariness, displacement, duality, rule
governing, and creativeness. The second chapter ''Linguistics: the
language of language'' consists of two sections. The first one
entitled ''Science'' can be safely skipped by the reader because it
has nothing to do with language analysis describing some
characteristics of science and pseudoscience. The second section
''Linguistics, language and languages'' touches upon the object,
method, purpose of linguistics, role of the English language, areas of
linguistic study.

It should be noted that this chapter contains some doubtful, vague and
somewhat misleading statements. 1) ''Prescriptivism is an ideology, it
is not science'' (p. 11). If the author means prescriptive grammar she
is wrong. Prescriptive grammar is aimed at formulating rules of
literary language to be used in language teaching (Borjars & Burridge,
2001, pp. 3-7). Prescriptive statements are the result of careful
observation of differences between different varieties of a given
language. 2) ''Being the science of language, linguistics has:: a
method: empirical, that is based on observation'' (p. 15). This
statement is an oversimplification because linguistics employs
empirical as well as theoretical methods. For example analysis of
constituents is sure a theoretical method because resulting trees
represent internal hierarchical structures of sentences that can in no
way be directly observed. 3) In section 2.3 entitled ''Areas of
linguistic study'' the author missed a good opportunity to introduce
the reader to the structure of linguistics enumerating practical
applications of linguistic knowledge (speech therapy, language
teaching, literary studies, etc.) instead of describing branches of
linguistics outlined in the next chapters: morphology, phonetics,
phonology, syntax, lexical semantics, text grammar.

Chapter 3 ''Language and languages'' touches upon language diversity,
classification of language families, language variation features of
spoken and written language, language contact, language change,
standard language, universal grammar. Chapter 4 ''The grammar of
words: words and word-parts deals with morphology, word classes,
morphemes. Chapter 5 ''The grammar of words: word-building''
concentrates on word formation and word types. Chapter 6 ''Human
speech sounds'' focuses on phonetics and classification of speech
sounds. Chapter 7 ''The grammar of sounds'' tells about phonology and
phonemes. Chapter 8 ''The grammar of sentences: slots and phrases''
deals with syntax, constituent analysis, phrase structure.

This chapter has some disputable points. 1) The sentence ''boy that
ate the durian'' marked as ungrammatical (p. 85) seems grammatical. 2)
tree diagram of the noun phrase ''the cheap durian'' (p. 91) seems
incorrect because the determiner is shown as a sister of Adjective and
Noun. In fact the determiner relates to the rest of the noun phrase as
a whole. The same goes to the noun phrase ''a patched eye''. Such
cases are discussed in L. Brinton's (2000) ''The Structure of Modern
English'' (p. 171). It should be noted that Brinton's book is
referred to and extensively used by the author. Chapter 9 ''The
grammar of sentences: slots and functions'' deals with verb types and
functions within the sentence, such as adjunct, subject, object,
complement. Chapter 10 ''The grammar of meanings'' focuses on lexical
semantics, problems of lexical and structural ambiguity, semantic
relations. Chapter 11 ''Meanings in action'' deals with text analysis,
problem of cohesion and discusses such notions as displacement,
presupposition, narrative, accommodation, convergence, divergence,
taboo and euphemism. Chapter 12 ''Language and speakers'' discusses
problems of language acquisition, language loss and language death,
bilingualism, language learning, language acquisition, language

The book has he following advantages. 1) Plain and clear language,
simple comparisons with facts from everyday life that help students to
better understand described linguistic phenomena; 2) logical
structure. The book starts with characterizing general features of
science and linguistics and proceeds to linguistic subfields.

To better assess the book under review it would be good to compare it
with a similar introduction to linguistics, for example with ''Working
with Texts: A Core Introduction to Language Analysis'' by R. Carter et
al (2001), which also doesn't assume any previous knowledge of
language analysis. I personally would prefer ''Working with Texts''
because of the following advantages. 1) ''Working with Texts'' is much
better illustrated. To stir readers' curiosity Carter et al use
advertisements, cartoons, Web pages, etc. In Cruz-Ferreira's book the
reader can find only diagrams and tables, the first of them appearing
in the 5th chapter, previous chapters not being illustrated at all. 2)
''Working with Texts'' has extensive activities, answers and
commentaries on activities that can successfully be used in
classroom. Cruz- Fereira's book has ''Some food for thought'' sections
that contain citations from different authors and it is often
difficult to understand how to use them in the classroom. For example,
''Some food for thought'' section in chapter 1 contains the following
citation from O. Wilde: ''Nothing that is worth knowing can be
taught''. What is the message of this citation? That linguistics can't
be taught, or that it isn't worth knowing?


Brinton, L. J.(2000) The Structure of Modern English: A Linguistic
Introduction. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Carter, R. et al (2001) Working with Texts: A Core Introduction to
Language Analysis. London & New York: Routledge.


V. Iatsko is a professor in the Department of English and Head of
Computational Linguistics Laboratory at Katanov State University of
Khakasia located in Abakan, Russia. His research interests include
text summarization, text grammar, TEFL, contrastive analysis of
English and Russian syntax.
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