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LINGUIST List 24.487

Mon Jan 28 2013

Review: General Linguistics: Ender, Leemann & Wälchli (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 28-Jan-2013
From: Annis Shepherd <als306soton.ac.uk>
Subject: Methods in Contemporary Linguistics
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-3552.html

EDITORS: Ender, Andrea, Leemann, Adrian, and Wälchli, Bernhard
TITLE: Methods in Contemporary Linguistics
SERIES TITLE: Trends in Linguistics/Studies and Monographs [TiLSM] 247
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Annis Shepherd, University of Southampton

SUMMARY
This volume is aimed at those who are interested in extending their
understanding of methodology in linguistics. It covers not only areas of
theoretical linguistics (phonology, syntax, morphology, etc.), but also others
such as historical linguistics, psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics. The
aim is not to develop new theories, but rather to reflect on the processes
involved in their development, and the benefits that such reflection can have
for our analyses. Dedicated to Iwar Werlen, the book aims to reflect his
constant awareness of, and willingness to participate in debates about, the
many different methodologies available to the modern linguists.

The volume is split into five sections. The first set reflects on
non-traditional approaches in “core domains”, phonetics, phonology,
morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics. The second deals with
“Cross-Linguistic and Language-Internal Diversity”, considering the techniques
used in areas such as multilingualism and second language acquisition. Section
three covers the importance of methodological considerations in dynamic
approaches to linguistics, including psycholinguistics and historical
linguistics. The fourth section is entitled “Writing” and discusses how best
to study visual language. The final group, “Language, Space and Society”,
examines different ways of analysing language use in society.

In the first paper, “Methodological reflections on the phonetic-phonological
continuum, illustrated on the prosody of Swiss-German dialects”, Beat
Siebenhaar and Adrian Leemann consider the desirability of maintaining a
strict distinction between phonetics and phonology. The authors discuss the
need to take methodological considerations into account when creating a corpus
of spontaneous speech and deciding how best to analyse the data gathered. This
paper questions the assumption that underlying stress patterns predict
fundamental frequency (f0) movement.. It concludes that a quantitative model
(such as the Fujisaki intonation model) allows for more accurate analysis than
others, as it allows for minor prosodic differences to be captured more
accurately.

In “Phonological typology, rhythm types and the phonetics-phonology
interface”, Stephan Schmid discusses the role of linguistic rhythm in language
typology, with the aim of showing that phonetic and phonological approaches
can be used in a complementary fashion. After a brief discussion of the
different techniques in diverse areas of linguistic typology, Schmid offers
three case studies of Italo-Romance dialects (vowel systems, syllable types
and the application of rhythm metrics) to show that a non-standard method --
using a sample of languages taken from the same language family -- can be used
to investigate hypotheses formed using the more frequently adopted approach,
namely using a broad range of languages taken from as many different language
families as possible. He shows that this method allows us to situate
individual dialects within the “typological space” of the world’s languages
and validate findings from other typological studies.

Moving away from phonology, Bernhard Wälchli’s paper “Indirect measurement in
morphological typology” discusses the limitations of direct measurement and
the legitimacy of indirect measurement (including its use in other domains).
Wälchli uses a case study of parallel texts taken from the Bible to show that
an indirect measurement methodology can be employed to measure the degree of
synthesis seen. He applies a text-to-device approach (i.e., takes word-forms
as the basic linguistic unit and derives the internal linguistic structure
from them) working through three levels of analysis. The author concludes by
discussing the advantages and limitations of the indirect measurement
approach, with suggestions for ways to further develop its application to
morphological typology.

In “Is a syntactic dialectology possible?”, Claudia Bucheli Berger, Elvira
Glaser and Guido Seiler consider why dialect syntax should be studied at all,
as it has been debated whether there is any such thing as dialect-specific
syntax. They conclude that the best way to determine this is through
cross-dialectal micro-comparison. Through a study of Swiss German dialects,
they discuss the application of the “Zurich Written Questionnaire Method”
(developed by the authors) to dialect syntax. They show that it can produce
reliable syntactic data by comparing the results of their analysis with those
of another, more traditional, methodology. The authors conclude with a
discussion of how best to present their data cartographically, considering
different map types and symbols.

“Methods for modalities” (by Johan van der Auwera and Gabriele Diewald)
considers various ways of investigating modality. According to the authors,
modality is of interest as it can be used to study both form and meaning, but
an approach which allows for an investigation of both at the same time can
have interesting results. They begin by discussing the different techniques
that have been applied in studies of modality (native speaker intuition,
corpus studies of both comparable and parallel texts and “specialist
consultation” -- using either linguists or grammarians to gain indirect access
to native speaker judgments) and the role of the computer in corpus studies.
They then discuss the application of these methodologies in specific studies,
to show that a combination can allow new perspectives on modality.

In “The making of a festschrift, is it a ritual?”, Andrea Ender and Bernhard
Wälchli consider whether editing a festschrift such as the volume reviewed
here can be considered a ritual act. By concentrating on the intentions and
actions of the editors when redacting a festschrift in “a broader pragmatic
sense”, they investigate its symbolic nature. This paper includes a discussion
of the methods in the analysis (self-observation, questionnaires completed by
editors of other festschrifts, discourse analysis and spontaneous definitions
provided by different members of an academic community), a consideration of
the usual and/or expected components of a festschrift, as well as a brief
overview of the (increasingly negative) attitudes towards them. It then moves
on to consider various definitions of the term ‘ritual’, before analysing the
extent to which festschrift editing can be considered ritualised. The authors
conclude that, whilst the manner in which the editing is done may be
considered partially ritualised, each festschrift could be said to reinvent in
part the production of the final product.

The first paper of Part 2, Fernando Zúñiga’s “Language description and
linguistic typology” considers the methodological challenges faced by those
investigating language description and linguistic typology. The author
discusses three particular areas that cause issues for linguists: the
collection of data; sampling; and crosslinguistic comparison. He analyses data
collection with some of his own previous research, showing that several
traditional approaches have at least one shortcoming. His discussion of
sampling is less specific, concentrating more on the general issues faced in
avoiding bias. The final part concentrates on crosslinguistic comparison, how
it should be undertaken and some of the challenges involved.

In his paper “Multiple languages and multiple methods: Qualitative and
quantitative ways of tapping into the multilingual repertoire”, Raphael
Berthele considers the different methods that can be used to investigate
multiple language usage, based on the current debate over the
qualitative-quantitative divide. After a section considering methodological
triangulation and some of the other ways (and combinations of techniques) of
eliciting data, Berthele moves on to two case studies highlighting the results
that can be obtained when more than one method is adopted. He concludes with a
discussion of the issues involved in studying multilingualism.

“Koineization and cake baking: reflections on methods in dialect contact
research” (David Britain) discusses the data collection issues that need to be
considered when studying dialect contact, with a focus on koineization (the
formation of a new dialect through prolonged contact between two different
dialects). Britain’s motivation is that, whilst the distinction between
language contact and dialect contact is often unclear, the two are usually
studied separately, and draw on very different methodologies. After a
discussion of the different types of dialect contact, the author discusses in
some detail the techniques used (and the issues inherent in adopting them) in
studies of linguistic accommodation, second dialect acquisition, new dialect
formation, supralocalization and innovation diffusion. He concludes with a
discussion of whether the cooking metaphors frequently used in studies of
koineization are appropriate.

Andrea Ender’s paper, “Variation in a second language as a methodological
challenge: Knowledge and use of relative clauses”, addresses the little
studied issue of how second language learners cope with variation in their
input and how this affects their language acquisition. She does this through a
consideration of a previously undertaken study of relative clause acquisition
in learners of German in Switzerland. After a discussion of terminology, an
overview of the context and why relative clauses are problematic, she outlines
her study, the methodology adopted to collect her data and the rationale
behind its use and her general findings. She concludes that the variation seen
is a result of a combination of linguistic, cognitive and social factors, and
that therefore a combination of methods was required to investigate it.

“Polish tea is Czech coffee: advantages and pitfalls in using a parallel
corpus in linguistic research” (Ruprecht von Waldenfels) considers the
strengths and weaknesses of using parallel text corpora. Von Waldenfels
discusses the issues raised when translating equivalence of meaning between
languages and the problems caused by specific characteristics of translated
texts. Using examples taken from studies using ParaSol, a corpus focussing on
parallel texts in primarily Slavic languages, he shows how these issues can be
resolved. This paper also briefly discusses the differences between the use of
parallel corpora and questionnaires, and concludes that the two are
complementary.

Beatrix Busse begins Part 3 with “Historical text analysis: Underlying
parameters and methodological procedures” , which considers the study of
pragmatic phenomena in historical corpus analysis, something that has been
made possible through advances in methodological techniques. Busse discusses
the advantages of what she terms the “modern historical linguistic approach”.
She then moves through an investigation into stance adverbials in Early Modern
English to show that it is possible to overcome the issues involved in
studying historical changes pragmatic phenomena through a combination of
quantitative corpus-based searches and qualitative analysis.

In “Using methods of historical linguistics in Indo-European and Tibetan”,
Roland Bielmeier exemplifies the merits of the comparative method, through an
analysis of sound change in Indo-European and Tibetan. He concludes that
syllable structure is an important factor in sound change in both language
families, but that it would be unhelpful to compare sound change in Tibetan to
that seen in Indo-European, as Tibetan typically sees conditioned changes,
unlike Indo-European.

“Etyma, shouldered adzes and molecular variants” (George van Driem) explores
the challenges in investigating areas of prehistory about which little is
known with a multi-disciplinary approach. The utility of using disciplines as
diverse as linguistics, genetics and paleobotany has been questioned: van
Driem uses this paper to show that (in one case at least), some interesting
parallels can be found. Drawing on work in etymology, molecular genetics,
archaeology and human genetics, the author shows that it may be possible to
construct competing accounts of the past. He concludes that, whilst an
interdisciplinary approach has potential, caution is required in the
interpretation of its results.

In “Experimental methods in psycholinguistics”, Constanze Vorwerg discusses
the role of the experiment in psycholinguistics. She covers a wide range of
topics, such as the rationale behind using experiments to gather data, common
terminology, and different types of experiments available depending on the
type of data desired and the area of psycholinguistics under consideration.
Vorwerg follows the process from beginning to end, from the considerations
that need to be taken into account when designing an experiment to methods of
data interpretation and how they can feed into theory development. She
concludes with a brief discussion of other experimental areas of linguistics
and their role in interdisciplinary research.

Part Four begins with Daniel Perrin’s paper, “Coming to grips with dynamics
and complexity. Methodological challenges to real-life writing research”. He
first gives basic details of four well-known frameworks used to investigate
“real-life” writing, considering the principal reasons for their use over
others. He then moves on to discuss in detail Dynamic Systems Theory (DST)
through a case study of an experienced journalist producing a piece about
demonstrations in Lebanon. He concludes that DST has a genuine role to play in
investigating written language.

In “Evolving methods for written representations of signed languages of the
Deaf”, Penny Boyes Braem addresses some of the issues (e.g., the use of
non-manual gestures and privacy violations) that need to be overcome when
researching signed languages. She provides a critical overview of recent
studies and methodologies, including those which represent individual signs,
and those which attempt to replicate sentences and longer texts. She concludes
that, through a combination of the existing writing systems with advances made
possible by new technologies, it may now be possible to produce “adequate and
useable written representations of signed languages”.

In the first paper of section 5, “Crossing perspectives on onomastic
methodology: Reflections on fieldwork in place name research”, Elwys De
Stefani compares the traditional aims and methods in onomastic research
(namely historical changes investigated through isolated phonetic
transcriptions of place names) with an alternative, called “interactional
onomastics” by the author. A synchronic study is discussed employing
interactional onomastics to discover how place names are used in naturally
occurring conversation. De Stefani concludes that an interactional approach
has shown that place names are just one way of referring to place, and that
therefore a traditional onomastic approach needs to take this into
consideration. He also suggests some areas for future research that have been
highlighted by this new approach.

Matthias Grünert’s paper, “Does the territoriality principle work in practice?
The principle’s application to the Romansh area in the Swiss Canton of
Grisons” considers the controversial territoriality principle (which, in
linguistic terms, obliges administrative, political and/or juridical bodies to
use a number of languages, depending on the traditional and actual linguistic
make-up of the region), how it functions and its application in the context of
the Swiss canton of Grisons. Grünert concludes that, although other Swiss
cantons abide by the territoriality principle, there are factors in Grisons
that complicate its application.

The final paper, “Procedures of methodological triangulation in
sociolinguistic research on multilingualism” (Georges Lüdi, Katharina Höchle
and Patchareerat Yanaprasart) shows that, contrary to the impression of
English use in Swiss workplaces created by studies relying on only one method,
an approach that adopts several different complementary methodologies shows
that English is not used in the same way as the country’s national languages,
but rather as a form of lingua franca. Other insights are also discussed that
could only have been made by adopting such a combination.

EVALUATION
Overall, this is an extremely wide-ranging collection, potentially useful to
anyone considering the role of different methodologies in a large number of
areas of linguistics. A note of caution is, however, necessary. The blurb on
the back cover could give the impression that the book provides an overview of
current and widely accepted techniques. This is not the aim, and the book
focusses more on innovative and unusual approaches in a range of different
linguistic sub-fields.

The focus on innovative techniques makes the book most suitable for advanced
students and experienced researchers. The majority of papers are written at a
level that presupposes a relatively high level of prior knowledge of the
subject material, and whilst it is not strictly necessary to be able to follow
the theoretical detail of any examples given, such ability helps the reader to
gain more benefit from the many insights contained in each paper. Having said
that, some papers, such as Vorwerg’s, are considerably more accessible to
readers with less-developed subject knowledge. This volume is definitely more
suitable for researchers wishing to gain an insight either into the importance
of methodology as a whole, or into the benefits and disadvantages of a
specific approach. It is less suitable for students wishing to gain an
overview of the more common techniques used in a particular domain of
linguistics: whilst one or two papers may provide this, the majority do not.
As I have already said, though, this was never the aim of the book, despite
the somewhat misleading blurb.

It seems that one of the principal aims of the editors was to produce a volume
which could stimulate debate about the importance of an open consideration of
which methodology is most appropriate in a given context, rather than an
implicit assumption that there is only one suitable option. It remains to be
seen whether this debate will now take place, but if it does, this volume has
provided ample material to allow linguists from all domains to participate,
rather than syntacticians having a separate debate from sociolinguists, etc.
The choice to include papers from all domains also enables the reader to learn
about methodologies that may not be particularly common in their specific
domain, but that might still be useful to them.

It is by no means an easy challenge to organise papers from such a diverse
range of domains into a coherent volume. However, the editors have largely
been successful: the division of the book into five themed sections is logical
and the different sections generally work well together, although some (e.g.
section 1) are more coherent than others (e.g. section 5). The introduction
further clarifies this, describing in some detail the contents of each section
and each paper.

Ideally, I would have liked more consensus as to what constitutes a discussion
of methodology. Whilst all the papers considered the topic in some way or
other, the approaches varied from that taken, for example, by Vorwerg, who
provides a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of a range of
approaches when considering a specific issue, to that of Lüdi et al., which
shows how a specific combination can be used to advance progress, without
discussing any alternatives at all. All have their merits, but it might have
been nice to have a greater level of consistency.

It is refreshing to see an open and focussed discussion on the importance of
choosing the right methodology. It is all too easy to adopt a particular
method of data collection and analysis, without making it clear why that
particular way has been chosen. This is especially the case when the one
adopted is a common one, such as the role of intuition in many generative
syntactic analyses. It is also a welcome change to see a consideration of
methodology that covers such a comprehensive range of topics: many previous
works (e.g. Maguire and McMahon 2011) cover the subject in a specific context,
or the merits and limitations of a specific technique (e.g. Schütze 1996), but
few cover such a wide range of contexts, methodologies and areas of
linguistics. Overall, then, this book is a welcome addition to existing works
considering the importance of an open discussion of methodology in
linguistics.

REFERENCES
Maguire, Warren & April McMahon. 2011. Analysing Variation in English.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schütze, Carson T. 1996. The Empirical Base of Linguistics: Grammaticality
Judgments and Linguistic Methodology. Chicago and London: The University of
Chicago Press.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Annis Shepherd is a Ph.D. student at the University of Southampton. Her
research interests include the division of labour between syntax and
morphology, intra-speaker variation and non-standard varieties of English. Her
thesis deals with syntactic intra-speaker variation in English, focussing on
case variation in coordinated structures.
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