LINGUIST List 19.3077|
Fri Oct 10 2008
Review: Linguistic Theories: Singh (2006)
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The Yearbook of South Asian Languages and Linguistics 2006
Message 1: The Yearbook of South Asian Languages and Linguistics 2006
From: Christina Willis <cmwillismail.utexas.edu>
Subject: The Yearbook of South Asian Languages and Linguistics 2006
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Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/17/17-3460.html
EDITOR: Singh, Rajendra
TITLE: The Yearbook of South Asian Languages and Linguistics 2006
SERIES: The Yearbook of South Asian Languages and Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
Christina M. Willis, School of Humanities, St. Edward's University, Austin, Texas
This volume is a collection of current scholarship that focuses on the languages
of South Asia. This edition includes five articles covering a range of topics,
three regional reports, four reviews, a dialogue on language policy, and
The first of five articles is Elena Bashir's ''Change in Progress: Negation in
Hindi and Urdu.'' Bashir examines the distribution of two negative particles, na
and nahÍ [editor's note: "Í" represents I with a bar over it], in Hindi and Urdu
simple perfective constructions. She traces the use of each particle
historically and proposes a reanalysis of the meaning of nahÍ to explain the
current distribution. Her analysis is informed by her comparison of the negative
particles in Hindi and Urdu with the distribution of the negative found in Bengali.
In ''The Overt Licensing of NPIs in Hindi'' Elabbas Benmamoun and Rajesh Kumar
argue that Negative Polarity Items (NPIs) in Hindi are overtly licensed and that
the licensing takes place prior to the mapping to the phonetic component/PF.
They provide a typology of NPIs found in Hindi and then outline their argument
focusing on a single NPI 'ek bhii'.
In ''Reduplication in Bengali'' Shishir Bhattacharja describes a pattern of
reduplication in Bengali using the framework Whole Word Morphology (WWM). After
defining WWM, he outlines the types of words that he identifies as examples of
reduplication. Bhattacharja excludes some types of words that have been
described as examples of reduplication (cf. Chatterji 1988 and Abbi 1992). He
argues that WWM can account for a number of reduplication patterns and that
these patterns are not different from other morphological strategies found in
In ''Mirative Meanings as Extensions of Aorist in Hindi/Urdu,'' Annie Montaut
argues that there is a contrast between the perfect and the aorist in
Hindi/Urdu. She describes the latter as having a mirative function indicating
surprise. She compares the aorist in Hindi/Urdu with the inferential perfect of
Nepali. Ultimately she uses the mirative interpretation of the aorist as
evidence to support the theory that mirativity and evidentiality should be
viewed as separate categories.
Terry Varma's ''Some Aspects of the Meaning of the Hindi Particle hii'' is an
exploration of a unifying pattern to account for the distribution of the
polysemous particle 'hii'. She argues that the meaning of 'hii 'depends on a
number of factors including what is being focused, what is being excluded,
whether the context is scalar, and if so, what type of scale it is.
The first of three regional reports is Elena Bashir's ''Pakistan: Research and
Developments in Linguistics and Language Study.'' Bashir's second contribution to
this collection provides an update to previous reports on the topic of
linguistics and language study in Pakistan by Rahman (1998, 2005). In this
report, Bashir outlines the status of linguistics as a field of research in
Pakistan, research that has been done on Pakistani languages, and Pakistani
languages that are taught at the university level. Bashir describes the programs
that exist and the programs that are being developed and offers suggestions for
areas of study that need to be included.
Omar N. Koul's ''Linguistic Studies on Kashmiri'' provides a straightforward
summary of the existing literature on Kashmiri including the topics: genetic
classification; phonetics and phonology; grammar; sociolinguistics;
lexicography; and pedagogy.
Yogendra P. Yadava's ''Linguistic Activities in Nepal (1999-2004)'' is a concise
and thorough report providing descriptions of major linguistic projects. The
report is divided into three thematic sections: linguistic studies, grammatical
studies, and other linguistic activities. Each section provides detailed
information about ongoing projects including the goals and motivation for each
project and who is funding the work. This summary and the references provided
should prove useful to anyone interested in the languages of South Asia. It will
be especially useful for those working on the languages of the Himalayas
including researchers whose focus centers on the languages of Nepal.
The four book reviews include Gardani's review of Pandaripande's
_Sociolinguistic Dimensions of Marathi: Multilingualism in Central India_ (pp.
165-172); Kelkar-Stephan's review of Kashi's _Marathi_ (pp. 172-173); Wee's
review of _Studies on Reduplication_ edited by Hurch (pp. 173-178); and
Wickramagamage's review of St-Pierre and Kar edited volume _In Translation:
Reflections, Refractions, Transformations_ (pp. 178-189).
The dialogue for this volume includes two essays centering on the debate over
what is the best approach to language policy in India as it relates to minority
languages. Probal Dasgupta's ''Language Policies and Lesser-Known Languages in
India'' (pp. 193-205) introduces the debate and Stephen Moran's ''The Baby in the
ARSA Bathwater: A Response to Dasgupta'' (pp. 207-210) offers a rebuttal.
Dasgupta argues that rather than the current aid-related approaches to language
policy, India should focus on community-based individual empowerment through
computer technology. Moran counters that Dasgupta's proposal puts too much
emphasis on the notion that modern technology will bring equality to the masses.
The thesis of Bashir's paper ''Change in Progress: Negation in Hindi and Urdu''
stems from a question raised by students of Hindi and Urdu: Why does the
textbook instruct one to use nahÍ with the simple perfective and future when
another negative particle, na, is sometimes used? This paper takes a pedagogical
question and provides a cross-linguistic diachronic analysis of negative
particles in Indo-Aryan languages. Bashir does a fine job outlining her argument
and supporting her conclusion regarding the synchronic interpretation of the
negative particle nahÍ. The major criticism I have for this article is related
to her methodology. Bashir states that she analyzed ''naturally-occurring
negative sentences in context,'' but her analysis is based on written texts not
natural discourse. This criticism is not major, however, since she does not
appear to be intentionally misleading the reader with this statement. She
clearly identifies the texts used in her study and defines the parameters of her
search within those texts. I suggest that for future work on this topic Bashir
should also consider focusing on the distribution of the negative particles in
natural discourse. It is so often the case that students of foreign languages
discover that they have a better grasp of literary forms than colloquial speech.
It would be helpful to determine whether the distribution of the negative
particles is the same in both written and colloquial Hindi and Urdu. This
discovery could also further aid students (as Bashir aims to do) by offering
further guidance regarding the similarities between literary and colloquial
Hindi and Urdu.
The main argument made by Elabbas Benmamoun and Rajesh Kumar in ''The Overt
Licensing of NPIs in Hindi'' is that Negative Polarity Items (NPIs) are overtly
licensed. As a preface to their argument, Benmamoun and Kumar illustrate that
NPIs can be classified as Type I or Type II based on where they can be licensed.
''Type I NPIs are not licensed in the context of questions, modality,
conditionals or adversative predicates whereas type II NPIs are licensed in such
contexts'' (32). Despite this typological breakdown of NPIs found in Hindi, they
decide to focus on a single NPI ('ek bhii') to make their argument. While they
do not say this overtly, they may have focused on a single NPI in an effort to
limit the scope of their paper. Indeed their arguments are clearly laid out and
they walk the reader through their analysis step by step. Considering their
hypothesis refers to NPIs in general, however, their argument would be
significantly strengthened if they demonstrated that other NPIs (e.g. type I
NPIs with the same distribution as 'ek bhii') can also be shown to be overtly
licensed prior to PF.
Shishir Bhattacharja manages to discuss word-level reduplication patterns in his
article ''Reduplication in Bengali'' without ever using the term 'echo formation'.
While echo words are certainly classified as a subset of reduplication, they are
one of the features that led to the classification of South Asia as a linguistic
area. Considering the body of literature devoted to both the areal features of
South Asia and the morpho-phonology of echo constructions, it seems like a
disservice to the reader to not mention the term 'echo' anywhere in the article.
Bhattacharja argues convincingly for his theoretical model (Whole Word
Morphology) and why it can help account for the multiple patterns of
reduplication found in Bengali. Some of the formulas he presents, however,
contain errors and other examples wind up being redundant. For example,
Bhattacharja has a formula (cf page 56), /X/n, sing <----> /XeXe/n, plu, loc 'in
each and every /X/' with CVC examples of /X/. The result is CVCeCVCe words
meaning 'in each and every /X/'. For example, /rdal/ 'branch' <---->
/rdalerdale/ 'on each and every branch' [editor's note: /rd/ represents a
retroflex /d/]. The next formula presented, however, is written as /XC/ <----->
/XCaXCi/n 'reciprocal action involving two or several /XC/ of different
persons'. As with the preceding formula, the /X/ words he provides as examples
are CVC. For example, /kan/ 'ear' <----> / kanakani/ 'whispering to one another'
or 'spreading rumours'. Based on his definition of WWM and the formulas used to
represent word formation processes, we would not need /XC/. Instead /X/ would
suffice. The new form would simply be /XaXi/.
Montaut's article ''Mirative Meanings as Extensions of Aorist in Hindi/Urdu''
contributes further evidence that the mirative can be identified as a separate
category from evidentiality. She strengthens her argument that the aorist has a
mirative reading by comparing the Hindi/Urdu structure to a similar structure in
Nepali, which has already been shown to have a mirative interpretation. This
article, like others included in this volume, does a fine job of implementing a
cross-linguistic approach to provide an innovative analysis.
In her article ''Some Aspects of the Meaning of the Hindi Particle hii,'' Varma
provides an intriguing analysis of this ubiquitous Hindi particle. Her goal is
to provide an analysis of hii that illustrates that the varying functions can be
tied together. She provides numerous examples that show the various meanings of
hii and ties the distribution to ''the core parameters of focus, exclusion and
scale'' (118). Varma makes no claim that her article is the ultimate analysis.
Instead, she suggests that it be used as a springboard for further analysis of
the Hindi particle and cross-linguistic comparison. Because her initial
contribution to this discussion offers such a thorough introduction, others
should be able to use it as a reference point for the description of similar
particles in other languages of South Asia.
In ''Pakistan: Research and Developments in Linguistics and Language Study''
Bashir provides a wonderful, updated resource for scholars interested in
linguistics and language study in Pakistan. The article contains useful
information such as URLs for relevant websites and the bibliographical
information for papers and dissertations written by students at Pakistani
universities. She also makes a point of arguing that the linguistics programs
being developed need to include descriptive and documentary linguistics as an
integral component to the field of study. In defense of such an approach, Bashir
concurs with Dixon (1997) and Dryer (forthcoming) that there is a difference
between descriptive theory and explanatory theory within the field of
linguistics. Bashir argues persuasively that the former should not be considered
an inferior pursuit and that there are many languages in Pakistan for which
''descriptive work... is a basic imperative'' (130).
The dialogue initiated by Dasgupta in ''Language Policies and Lesser-Known
Languages in India'' is followed by a response from Moran. The debate centers on
the long-standing issue of what is the best policy for the government with
regards to the many languages spoken in India. While the article starts off
well, Dasgupta's argument is fragmented and at times becomes impenetrable. In
the end, his conclusion is a non sequitur. While his discussion has centered on
valorizing local and indigenous languages, Dasgupta states in his conclusion
that the ''inevitable'' solution is for speakers of minority languages to use
Esperanto as their lingua-franca (204). Not knowing that Dasgupta is an advocate
of Esperanto, this conclusion appears to come out of nowhere. Knowing that
Dasgupta is an advocate of Esperanto does not make his argument any stronger.
Overall, his strategy for empowering speakers of lesser-known languages in India
relies on the assumption that the speakers of these languages are educated and
have continuous access to computers and the Internet. In a rebuttal, ''The Baby
in the ARSA Bathwater: A Response to Dasgupta'', Moran points out some merits in
Dasgupta's argument and some flaws.
Bringing together articles from multiple disciplines of linguistics is quite a
feat. This volume covers a range of topics and each article is a valuable
contribution to its sub-discipline. It should be noted, however, that this issue
is heavily skewed towards the Indo-Aryan languages of South Asia. While other
language families that are spoken in South Asia are discussed in articles
pertaining to regional aspects, none of the five theoretical articles centers on
any language outside of the IA family. The five articles address topics in
Hindi/Urdu and Bengali. This excludes in-depth theoretical work centering on
languages from the Austro-Asiatic, Dravidian, or Tibeto-Burman families.
Additionally, the articles included in this volume draw heavily from data that
is either contrived or originates in written texts. In the future the editors
should seriously consider the value of theoretical claims based on
There are a number of typographical errors throughout the volume. Some of these
include alignment problems in examples used to explicate the author's argument.
While this is not a problem if the reader is familiar with the target language,
it might pose problems for those who have no previous background. A related
criticism is that the glossing convention used does not provide the reader with
morpheme breaks in the examples of the target language. Adding to the confusion,
there are examples where there are hyphens in the morphemic gloss where there
ought to be a period. This could be easily rectified if each author were
requested to follow the same glossing guidelines (cf ''The Leipzig Glossing
Rules'' outlined by Balthasar Bickel, Bernard Comrie, and Martin Haspelmath at
Despite the criticisms put forth here, it is quite useful to have a collection
devoted to the languages of South Asia. This is the last stand-alone volume of
the Yearbook, but the editors assure us that it is to be incorporated into
Mouton's Trends in Linguistics series.
Abbi, Anvita. 1992. _Reduplication in South Asian Languages: An Aerial,
Typological and Historical Study_. New Delhi: Allied Publishers.
Chatterji, Suniti Kumar. 1988. _Bhashaprakash Bangla Beakoran_ [Grammar of
Bengali]. Calcutta: Rupa and Co. Reprint. Original edition, Calcutta University,
Dixon, R.M.W. 1997. _The Rise and Fall of Languages_. Cambridge: Cambridge
Dryer, Matthew. To Appear. Descriptive Theories, Explanatory Theories, and Basic
Linguistic Theory. In _Catching Language: Issues in Grammar Writing_, Felix
Ameka, Alan Dench and Nicholas Evans (eds.). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Rahman, Tariq. 1998. (Regional Report on) Pakistan: Indo-European. In _The
Yearbook of South Asian Languages and Linguistics_, Rajendra Singh (ed.),
184-196. New Delhi: Sage Publications.
Rahman, Tariq. 2005. Linguistics in Pakistan: A Survey of the Contemporary
Situation. In _Social Sciences in Pakistan: A Profile_, Inayatullah, Rubina
Saigol and Pervez Tahir (eds.), 403-426. Islamabad: Council of Social Sciences.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Christina M. Willis recently finished her PhD in Linguistics at the University
of Texas at Austin. She is currently teaching linguistics at St. Edward's
University. Her work centers on the description and documentation of threatened
and endangered languages of South Asia. She has worked on Darma, a Tibeto-Burman
language spoken in India, and is interested in the Tibeto-Burman languages of
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