LINGUIST List 17.1511|
Tue May 16 2006
Review: Lang Description/Indo-European Lang: Tenser (2005)
Editor for this issue: Lindsay Butler
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Message 1: Lithuanian Romani
From: Harald Hammarström <harald2cs.chalmers.se>
Subject: Lithuanian Romani
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/16/16-2754.html
AUTHOR: Tenser, Anton
TITLE: Lithuanian Romani
SERIES: Languages of the World/Materials 452
PUBLISHER: Lincom GmbH
Harald Hammarström, Graduate School of Language Technology,
Chalmers University of Technology/Gothenburg University
The book at hand is aimed at describing Lithuanian Romani, a
previously undescribed variety of Baltic Romani. The book is clearly
written, chapter-wise evenly balanced and very concise -- only 62
pages -- it can be read from cover to cover in an hour or two.
Since there isn't any, the introduction contains no history of research
but, in addition, it is in very scant on ethnographic information.
Speaker numbers are assessed and the relevant political history of
region is drawn up but no information is presented on the social
conditions, subsistence patterns or history of the speakers in
question. However, as linguists, we can glean some history through
loans, which are predominantly from Polish and Russian, but
curiously, in spite of a long time in Lithuanian territory, Lithuanian
Romani has borrowed little or nothing from Lithuanian. The
explanation given is that, although Lithuanian was spoken by a
considerable population, it was not the dominant official or upper class
form of communication during these times.
With this publication, the classification of Lithuanian Romani can be
confirmed to be within the Northeastern (''Baltic'') group of Romani (as
preliminarily assessed by Matras (2002: 10). However, the status of
Lithuanian Romani or Baltic Romani as a separate language as
opposed to dialect does not seem to have interested the author at all.
The book sets off describing phonology and the morphology of nouns,
adjectives, verbs and the rest in the standard order and the standard
way -- just the way one wants it. Every morpheme has been analyzed
as to whether it is inherited or borrowed and its relation to other
Romani varieties. These matters are obviously the main interest of the
author and are masterfully categorized. Lithuanian Romani has
borrowed massively into its lexicon and inventory of grammatical forms
and functions. Except for old (mainly Greek) loans, everything is
borrowed from Slavic, predominantly Polish and Russian. In this
regard, one suspects the wording of the author is unnecessarily
vague; often given as 'from Slavic', but the present reviewer has not
found anything that is necessarily non-Polish non-Russian Slavic, let
alone something necessarily South Slavic (unless absence of
infinitives counts as South Slavic influence).
Despite the brevity, the author managed to attend to all the important
matters; palatalization, stress, derivational, inflectional, valency
changing morphology etc. However, only one or two exceptions to the
presented paradigms are mentioned. Surely, in a language like this
where we find fossilized case forms and lots of old stem classes, it
would be remarkable if there weren't more individual idiosyncratic
Likewise, all major questions on clausal syntax are answered and
phrasal syntax appears straightforward enough to glean from
examples. Remarkably well-portioned tables and glossings give the
reader an instant eagle-eye shot of the language. But to be able to
speak the language one would need to know more details.
The description is based on the recordings of the Romani
Dialectological Questionnaire (RDQ) (Elsík and Matras 2001) filled in
by the author with 8 speakers, and in addition personal
communication with recent Lithuanian Roma immigrants to
Manchester. This brings me to my only disappointment with the book;
everywhere in the descriptions of various morphological and syntactic
phenomena we find comments like ''only such and such occurred in
the sample'' so soon one builds up a great curiosity to know what and
how much ''the sample'' contains. Presumably, the sample refers to the
RDQ but nowhere is the scope and content of RDS elaborated on. If
one wants to know, one has to set about to obtain the hard-to-find
RDQ publication from Manchester University. It would have been
much better if this information were contained within the covers of this
book. Moreover, there are a couple of unnecessary gaps that should
have been re-checked with the speakers when the sample wasn't
enough. For example, only two ordinal number formations
(vavir 'other/second' and oxto-to 'eighth', p. 15) are taken up, and we
are told ''rarely yes/no questions are formed by the head-movement of
the copula'' (p. 57). It would have been simple to elicit the information
needed for a full treatment of these two cases.
This, although short, book is a great contribution in that it documents
a previously undescribed variety. It has a few minor gaps in coverage
but is in contrast very strong on the historical side.
Elsík, V. and Y. Matras (2001). Romani dialectological questionnaire.
Department of Linguistics, University of Manchester.
Matras, Y. (2002). Romani: A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Harald Hammarström is a PhD Student in Computational Linguistics at
the Depertment of Computing Science at Chalmers University of
Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden. His current research topic is
Unsupervised Learning of Concatenative Morphology but interests go
significantly wider and include linguistic typology and computational
linguistics in general.
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