LINGUIST List 19.2108|
Tue Jul 01 2008
Review: Historical Linguistics: Donhauser, Fischer & Mecklenburg (2007)
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Moutons Interaktive Einführung in die Historische Linguistik des Deutschen
Message 1: Moutons Interaktive Einführung in die Historische Linguistik des Deutschen
From: Thomas Schares <thomas.scharesuni-hamburg.de>
Subject: Moutons Interaktive Einführung in die Historische Linguistik des Deutschen
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AUTHOR: Donhauser, Karin; Fischer, Annette; Mecklenburg, Lars
TITLE: Moutons Interaktive Einführung in die Historische Linguistik des
Deutschen/The Mouton Interactive Introduction to Historical Linguistics of
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
Thomas Schares, Goethe-Woerterbuch [Goethe-Dictionary], Hamburg/Germany
The present interactive introduction to historical linguistics of German is an
outstanding example for the applicability of multimedia in scholarly teaching
and didactics. Donhauser, Fischer, and Mecklenburg have endeavored to make
available the complex syllabus of the intralingual history of German in a
PC-based presentation which applies multimedia elements and a menu-based
organization of the contents, thus enabling a historical as well as a systematic
topical approach: (Brief) texts, (dynamic) figures and maps, illustrations,
interactive cross-linking, excerpts of source texts and audio-elements are the
main forms of presentation of the contents.
The contents are presented in the following menu (accessible via the menu-list
on the left margin): ''Language Stages'', ''Phonology'', ''Morphology'', ''Syntax'',
''Lexicon'' (vocabulary), ''Library''.
The first section of the main menu, ''Language Stages'', provides a historical
approach to the contents and comprises the sub-sections ''Old High German'' (OHG),
''Middle High German'' (MHG), ''Early New High German'' (ENHG). Each of these three
sections is further subdivided into the parts: ''Textual Record'' (i.e. written
records), ''Phonology'', ''Morphology'', ''Syntax'', ''Lexicon''. ''Textual record'' gives
an account of the written records of the respective periods OHG, MHG and ENHG
and also in subordinate menu-structures a further classification according to
different text types and of the different areas of the textual records:
''Religion'', ''Literature'', ''Administration'', ''Science'', ''Everyday Life''. The
phonological structure of the language stages and the diachronic changes are
summarized under ''Phonology''. The menu-item ''Morphology'' gives an account of
verbal and noun morphology (inflexion, verbal conjugation and noun declension)
of the respective language stages. Accordingly, the syntactic features are
described under the menu-item ''Syntax''. Under ''Lexicon'' aspects of vocabulary,
word-borrowing and word-formation are given.
The following menu-sections (''Phonology'', ''Morphology'', ''Syntax'', ''Lexicon'') of
the main menu provide a systematic and thematic entrance to the Introduction's
The menu-section ''Phonology'' is further subdivided into the sections ''Vocalism'',
''Consonantism'' and ''Timeline''. Under ''Vocalism'' the main developments of the
vowel system are summarized, namely assimilation (lowering, raising and umlaut),
reduction (weakening and loss) of unstressed vowels, monophthongization (OHG
/ai/ > /e:/ and /au/ > /o:/; ENHG /ie, uo, ye/ > /i:, u:, y:/), diphthongization
(OHG /e:, o:/ > /ia, uo/; ENHG /i:, u:, y:/ > /ai, au, oi/ and /ei, öy, ou/ >
/ai, oi, au/), lengthening and shortening (MHG to NHG). Under ''Consonantism''
the major changes in the system of consonants from Indo-European to NHG are
introduced: the First (Germanic) sound shift (Grimm's Law) and Verner's Law, the
Second (OHG) sound shift (which is important for the classification of the
German dialects), the devoicing of word-final consonants and the development of
sibilants. The menu-item ''Timeline'' gives a visualization and synopsis of the
phonological developments (unfortunately not hyperlinked to the corresponding
sections as named above).
The menu-section ''Morphology'' contains the following menu-items: ''General
Tendencies'' (introflectional, fusional, agglutinative, isolational); here the
typological aspects of morphology are summarized, which is noteworthy since
German, like English, underwent (and undergoes) massive typological changes. The
menu-item ''Noun Declension'' (in OHG, MHG, and NHG) summarizes the developments
in noun declension from the inherited Indo-european classificatory principles
according to classes determined by a stem-forming derivative suffix to the
reorganization in classes mainly determined by grammatical gender and numerus.
The menu-item ''Nominal Categories'' deals with case and number, namely with case
levelling, reduction of inflectional morphemes, case syncretism, synthetic to
analytic case marking and changes in plural marking. The menu-item ''Verb
Conjugation'' (in OHG, MHG, and NHG) contains information to the verbal classes
of strong verbs, weak verbs and ''special verbs'' (preterite-presents, root-verbs
and ''wellen''); in NHG to weak verbs, strong verbs, mixed verbs, ''Special verbs''
and modal verbs. The last sub-entry of the ''Morphology''-section, ''Verbal
Categories'', includes sub-entries to aspect, tense (future and perfect), mood,
voice (''sein/werden''-passive and ''bekommen''-passive) and person/number of verbs.
The menu section ''Syntax'' contains the menu-items ''Noun phrase'', ''Case syntax'',
''Verb position'', ''Subordinate clauses'' and ''Negation''. Under the menu-item ''Noun
phrase'' the rise of the definite and indefinite article (which is part of a
somewhat pan-European development, cf. Heine & Kuteva 2007, pp. 106ff., this,
however, is not in the focus of the present work, which is fixed on German),
peculiarities of strong and weak adjectival inflection, the development of
possessive pronouns from genitive forms of personal pronouns and attributive
genitive forms are dealt with. Under ''Case syntax'' matters of adverbial, object
and subject position of cases are summarized. The menu-item ''Verb position''
contains information about the development of the verb-second position in
Germanic languages, verb positioning in main and subordinate clauses and the
''Satzklammer'' – the division of the finite and infinite parts of compound verbs
within the sentence. The menu-item ''Subordinate clauses'' contains sub-entries
with information on ''dass''-clauses, relative clauses and infinitive
constructions. The last menu-item of the section ''Syntax'', ''Negation'', deals
with the negator _nicht_, other negators and forms of multiple negation.
The menu section ''Lexicon'' contains the menu-items ''Semantic change'', ''Word
formation'' and ''Borrowing''. The part ''Semantic change'' is further subdivided
into ''Processes'' and ''Outcomes''. The former describes metaphor and metonymy, the
processes of meaning extension to another or within the same semantic domain,
the latter describes quantitative (change in the scope of meaning) and
qualitative (pejoration and melioration) results. The menu-item ''Word formation''
informs about nominal word formation (compounding and suffixation), word
formation of adjectives (with the phenomenon of grammaticalization of compound
elements to suffixes) and verbal word formation through suffixation and
prefixation. The final menu-item of this section is about borrowing in OHG
(mainly from Latin), MHG (mainly from French, also from Latin and Italian), ENHG
(from French, Italian and Latin), and NHG (from French and English).
The menu-item ''Library'' of the main menu provides access to the collection of
OHG (15), MHG (15) and ENHG (22) texts. The texts are presented in excerpts,
follow editions giving standardized texts and also provide translations
(unfortunately only into NHG). All text-excerpts contained here can also be
accessed as mp3-files, read by renowned scholars of German historical linguistics.
The thematic main menu is complemented with two administrational and
organizational menus (basic functionalities); the first menu, on the bottom left
margin comprises a back-, home-, and next-button as well as a
Graphic-mode-button, an add-favorite-button (to place bookmarks) and a
zoom-button on the right margin of the user interface. The second admin-menu on
the right margin gives access to some more essential features of this
Introduction: The ''Glossary'' contains 55 explanatory entries to the terminology
used, a list of the abbreviations used and a list of the sigla for the source
texts can also be found in this section. A subject-index (with some 150 entries)
and a source index listing the excerpts contained in the library can also be
accessed via the administrational menu. The button ''Literature'' gives access to
an up-to-date select bibliography with suggestions for further reading (note
well that this button is context-sensitive: it opens up selected bibliographies
related to the topics that have been chosen and viewed before in the main
thematic menu on the left; I have found no possibility, however, to open up a
complete biography). The administrational menu is further equipped with a
''Search''-button (a quick test: for the search-string ''MHG'' yielded ''no results''
although there are numerous occurrences; this feature would profit by some
refinement in programming), a ''Print''-button, a button to switch between the
German and the English version of the Introduction, a button to open up the
help-facilities and a button for the ''Impressum''.
The flash based application of this Introduction to historical linguistics will
run on most PC-systems without technical difficulties, no installation is
necessary (flash has to be installed of course); the original CD-ROM has to be
in the drive to run the application, its contents cannot be transferred to the
hard-disc (copy-protection). The default full-screen-presentation is clumsy to
handle in practical usage (it is hard to switch between different applications
running on the PC), but this can be overridden easily by using the escape-key to
switch into window-mode, as is common with flash-applications.
The English version has the ''feel'' of a translation, but is nevertheless
accurate. E.g., the terms ''Vocalism'' and ''Consonantism'' are not common in
English phonological/phonetic terminology (c.f. e.g. Waterman 1966, 191ff; Jones
1962, 23ff.). The examples given in the visualizations and figures do not always
have a translation. Also the texts collected in the library lack an English
translation. A polishing up of the style and a more careful and linguistically
balanced choice of vocabulary in the English version would greatly improve a
follow-up version of this Introduction.
In some instances the deployment of multimedia elements seems a little forced,
e.g. in many instances the multimedia component is simply that a text passage is
being read aloud, that means: a written passage of text is complemented with its
acoustic representation. This has struck me as a user a little as being put on,
since I, as well as all the potential other users, am very well able to read myself.
It is also important to mention at this point that a number of activities
concerning the use of multimedia in the teaching of historical linguistics are
going on in the German studies community (cf. e.g. Fournier & Rapp 2003). There
is also a small number of course materials on German historical linguistics
available online under:
http://urts96.uni-trier.de:8080/Projects/cll''praktikum/start (only in German).
The contents of this multimedia application are accurate and comprehensive. In
some instances, however, a little more extensive elaboration of the syllabus
would be desirable, e.g. in the explanation of the classes of strong verbs and
the complex phonological and morphological processes involved. With the
materials given in this presentation alone, a student will not be able to
comprehend the verbal system, which, on the other hand, is a core point in the
syllabus. An idea for a future version 2.0 of this application could also be the
inclusion of newer tendencies in and findings of historical linguistics, as
hinted above with the rise of the article, which has been put into
Eurolinguistic perspective meanwhile (Heine & Kuteva 2007). The syllabus of the
history of German has a long tradition and is well established but nevertheless
in desperate need of reformation, as scholars in this field and practitioners
lecturing the courses are well aware. New didactic forms like this
computer-based application could pick up this notion in a productive way.
A slight deficiency of the ''Library'' menue item is that even shorter texts,
elementary for the language-stages they belong to, are available in excerpts
only (like e.g. the ''Hildebrandslied'': 30 of 55 recorded lines; the ''Muspilli'':
17 of 103 ). The usability of this section could be well enhanced by providing
at least the most essential texts of OHG and some of the MHG period in full.
This section could very well also have been designed to enhance student
awareness of textual and documentation/authenticity complications related to
historical textual material (also in the focus of New Philology). Especially the
traditional practice of normalizing in the editions of MHG texts in relation to
the manuscript originals reflecting a rich range of diatopic variation (which
usually remains completely unnoticed by the introductory student) could be
visualized innovatingly in the electronic medium. But this is to be considered
as a pie in the sky and will be due to future developments, as I am very well aware.
On the whole, with this Introduction a moderately priced but very valuable
collection of course materials for German historical linguistics is available.
The contents rely on the specifics and requirements of introductory classes to
the topics as they are taught at German universities. According to its intended
purpose this introduction is not usable as a standalone basis for the study of
German historical linguistics: ''It is an effective autodidactic tool and a
useful aid in preparation for exams in the field of historical linguistics''
(cover blurb). It does not replace classes and the study of detailed literature
and textbooks on the topics. Combined with grammars and dictionaries of OHG, MHG
etc. along with a written introduction (e.g. Bergmann, Pauly & Moulin 2007 (in
German, up to date); Wright 1917 (old but not old-fashioned and freely available
online, English); Young & Gloning 2004 (in English and recommendable)), this
multimedia-introduction serves as an excellent didactic complement for students
and it offers a wealth of course materials for scholars. The usability,
especially for scholars, could be enhanced by less restrictive export facilities
and possibilities (it is not possible, e.g., to copy/paste text paragraphs, or
export illustrations as Jpegs). But this Introduction demonstrates convincingly
the opportunities of the multimedia-environment for usage in the academic
classroom and more of such endeavors in the field of linguistics and language
studies should be warmly welcomed by the linguistic community. The reviewer is
convinced that such forms of knowledge presentation as demonstrated in this
Introduction will play an prominent role in the future of teaching; even though
they will not
replace the traditional form of knowledge presentation, i.e., books.
A free demo version of ''Mouton's Interactive Introduction to Historical
Linguistics of German'' is accessible (after registration) under:
Bergmann, Rolf, Peter Pauly and Claudine Moulin. 2007. _Alt- und
Mittelhochdeutsch. Arbeitsbuch zur Grammatik der älteren deutschen Sprachstufen
und zur deutschen Sprachgeschichte_. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (7 th
Fournier, Johannes and Andrea Rapp. 2003. How to Introduce Historical
Linguistics by Multimedia Learning and Teaching. In Thomas Burch et al (eds),
_Standards und Methoden der Volltextdigitalisierung. Akten des Kolloquiums vom
8. bis 9. Oktober an der Universität Trier_, ed. by. Stuttgart: Hirzel, 303-306.
Heine, Bernd and Tania Kuteva. 2006. _The Changing Languages of Europe_. Oxford:
Jones, Daniel. 1962. _An Outline of English Phonetics_. Cambridge: Heffer (9th
Waterman, John T. 1966. _A History of the German Language_. Seattle/London:
University of Washington Press.
Wright, Joseph. 1917. _A Middle High German Primer_. 1917 (3rd edition).
Available as E-Text under http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/22636 (accessed March
Young, Christopher and Thomas Gloning. 2004. _A History of the German Language
through Texts_. London/NY: Routledge.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Thomas Schares., German and English studies, holds a Dr. phil. (PhD) in German
studies. Among his various academic activities he has taught a number of courses
in German historical linguistics. He currently works as a
lexicographer/researcher at the Goethe-Dictionary/Hamburg (Goettingen Academy of
Sciences and Humanities).
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