LINGUIST List 14.2389

Tue Sep 9 2003

Disc: Iatsko's review: The Language of Language

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <karenlinguistlist.org>


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  1. Viatcheslav Iatsko, Disc: Donohue's comments on my review

Message 1: Disc: Donohue's comments on my review

Date: Tue, 9 Sep 2003 09:23:55 +0700
From: Viatcheslav Iatsko <slavaykhsu.ru>
Subject: Disc: Donohue's comments on my review


I would like to respond to Mark Donohue's comments (Linguist 14.2270)
on my review of Cruz-Ferreira's book "The Language of language: core
concepts in linguistic analysis" (Linguist 14.2217). In M. Donohue's
opinion the following areas of the book were misrepresented.

1. The book can be characterized as a collection of lectures. 

It should be noted that genre of the book is specified neither in the
subtitle nor in the Preface and it was reviewer's responsibility to
define it. As Donahue noted, in the Preface the author writes that the
book arose from her lecture notes, but she doesn't state that the book
itself is lecture notes. Many things may arise from lecture notes, for
example a textbook, a workbook, or even a dissertation. On reading the
book I decided that it is a collection of lectures and Donahue, by the
way, agreed with me: "So yes, it is a collection of lectures", writes
he. So where is the misrepresentation, may I ask? In the same way
Donahue agrees with some other comments (about prescriptive grammar,
theoretical methods in linguistics, book's advantages) except the
following.

2. In Section 2.3 the author missed a good opportunity to introduce the 
reader to the structure of linguistics.

It is my firm conviction that any introduction to linguistics must
open with the general characteristic of linguistics (available in
Cruz-Ferreira's book) followed by the (general) description of
linguistic subfields and disciplines representing the structure of
linguistics (not available in Cruz-Ferreira's book). Then each
linguistic discipline (phonetics, phonology, morphology, lexical
semantics, syntax, etc) is given a more detailed treatment (available
in Cruz-Ferreira's book). When I personally teach a linguistic course
I first tell students about linguistics and its subfields, such as
general and specific linguistics, theoretical, prescriptive, and
applied linguistics making emphasis on criteria for their
distinguishing. Then I proceed to general characteristics of
linguistic disciplines pointing out linguistic units studied by each
discipline and their integrative qualities (on the basis of systemic
approach). The data about structure of linguistics are represented in
a table form. Unfortunately I cannot insert a table here because
according to Linguist List's requirements this message is in "text
only" format; those interested may consult syllabi of my Methods of
Linguistic Research and Applied Linguistics courses available at
www.khsu.ru/sumschool.

3. Sentence "boy that ate the durian" marked as ungrammatical seems
grammatical.

I agree with Donahue that this structure may be treated as an
incomplete sentence or as a noun phrase. Cruz-Ferreira could have
pointed out this ambiguity in her book.

4. Tree diagram of the noun phrase "the cheap durian" 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. Here I am citing L.Brinton's (2000) book (p.171), to which
Cruz-Ferreira refers several times. I agree with L.Brinton; to show
the determiner as sister of Adjective is incorrect because the phrase
"the cheap" is unacceptable. Such cases are discussed in detail in
R.Van Valin's (2001) book, who, having applied constituency tests,
differentiated three levels of constituency in the phrase "the read
scarf" and showed that the determiner relates to whole noun phrase
(p.122-124). The same treatment of such noun phrases is given by
K.Borjars and K. Burridge (2001, p.188-208). Donahue writes that it
is hard to demonstrate to students the constituency of Adj N without a
determiner because it "involves the sort of argumentation that slips
past many beginning students". That sounds strange since earlier
Donahue called for encouraging enquiry and argumentation, making
"clear from the outset what constitutes 'proof' and 'argumentation'"

5. "Working with Texts" is much better illustrated, has extensive
activities, answers and commentaries on activities that can
successfully be used in classroom.

While preparing the review of Cruz-Ferreira's book I decided to
compare it with the book Working with Texts by Carter et al (2001)
because both books are intended as introductions to linguistics, don't
assume previous knowledge of language analysis, have similar
structures and even similar subtitles. Cf. "a core introduction to
language analysis" in Working with Texts and "core concepts in
linguistic analysis" in Cruz-Ferreira's book. Donahue doesn't question
my conclusions about "Working with Texts" advantages but notes that
"Working with Texts' costs $75 whereas Cruz Ferreira's book sells at
$10, a more reasonable price for students. I must admit that haven't
paid attention to this fact. I can comprehend this difference in
prices very well since we have similar problems here in
Russia. Nevertheless Cruz-Ferreira, while writing her book, could have
found time and money to read a similar introduction to linguistics
announced and reviewed on the Linguist List (see Iatsko, 2001).

References
Brinton, L. (2000) The structure of modern English: a linguistic 
introduction. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Borjars, Kersti, and Kate Burridge (2001) Introducing English Grammar. 
London; New York: Arnold.
Van Valin, Robert D., Jr. (2001) An Introduction to Syntax, Cambridge 
University Press.
Carter Ronald, Goddard Angela, Reah Danuta, Sanger Keith, Boering Maggie 
(2001) Working with texts. A core introduction to language analysis. 
Second edition. London; New York: Routledge.
Iatsko, V. (2001) Review of Carter et al Working with Texts. In: 
Linguist List 12.2950 Nov. 26. 2001 
http://linguistlist.org/issues/12/12-2950.html#1

V.Iatsko
Katanov State University of Khakasia
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