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LINGUIST List 24.787

Wed Feb 13 2013

Review: Ling & Literature; Text/Corpus Ling; Translation: Głaz et al. (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 01-Jan-2013
From: Elena Gheorghita <for.elenagmail.com>
Subject: What’s in a Text? Inquiries into the Textual Cornucopia
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-3774.html

EDITOR: Adam Głaz
EDITOR: Hubert Kowalewski
EDITOR: Anna Weremczuk
TITLE: What’s in a Text? Inquiries into the Textual Cornucopia
PUBLISHER: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Elena Gheorghita, State University of Moldova

SUMMARY

This volume is a collection of articles based on presentations made at the
International Postgraduate Linguistic Conference, which was organized at Maria
Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland, in September 2010.

The volume is divided into five parts.

Part I, entitled “Text as a Problem,” comprises four chapters. The first
chapter, authored by Catherine Emmott and Anthony Sanford, examines the use
and interpretation of linguistic devices which control a reader’s level of
attention to specific parts of a text. The research described in this article
supplements previous stylistic and linguistic research on attention, and
provides evidence for ways specific language features affect readers. The
authors present different methodologies for studying the effect of linguistic
devices. The second chapter, by Elzbieta Tabakowska, is a corpus-illustrated
study, presenting sample analyses of selected titles of press editorials and
columns. The author elucidates her idea that a title often fulfils most of the
criteria of textuality, and its conciseness in fact sharpens the view of
relevant textual phenomena. The titles analysed in the article reveal multiple
levels of meaning, which are present in the title, but not always evoked by
readers-translators, which affects the process of translation. The author of
chapter 3, Joanna Jablonska-Hood, deals with the notion of humorous text and
context as seen through the perspective of Conceptual Integration Theory. The
author suggests that the process of conceptual integration, also known as
blending, can explain the constituents of humorous text and context. The last
chapter of this part, by Konrad Zysko, presents a cognitive analysis of the
selected examples of malapropisms and eggcorns in ‘Automated Alice’ by Jeff
Noon, which will prove especially useful for anyone dealing with the problem
of translation of humour and word-play.

Part II, entitled “Text as a Means of Doing Things,” is composed of five
chapters. The first, by Anna Erlikhman and Yaroslav Melnyk, is dedicated to
the study of implicit evaluation in speech acts. The second, by Olessya
Cherkhava, deals with linguistic and discursive characteristics of biblical
and prophetic texts, giving a definition of fideistic discourse, which is a
type of institutional discourse that reflects socially and culturally grounded
mythological and religious ideas of people in a particular period of history.
The following chapter, authored by Joanna Szczepanska-Wloch, elucidates the
reasons why politicians make use of rhetorical means, figures and tropes, such
as metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, etc. We observe a blend of ‘grand’,
‘middle’, and ‘low’ styles and various games, played in order to convince the
audience of something, not only in the images projected by discourse, but also
in the choice of words and in the way their meaning is shaped. The chapter by
Iman Rasti analyses how questions are employed by second language students in
their argumentative essays, based on a corpus of 220 short argumentative
essays produced by Iranian EFL writers. Malgorzata Janik, in her chapter,
approaches the linguistic problem of narration and the identity of the
story-tellers in Samuel Beckett’s novels: “Molloy”, “Malone Dies” and “The
Unnamable”. She reaches the conclusion that the struggle of the narrative
voices of the trilogy to find their identity is doomed to failure, as neither
the true nature of ‘I’ nor the outside world (at least in the world of
Beckett) are to be recognized and known in language.

Part III, entitled “Text as a Repository: Literature,” consists of three
chapters. Katarzyna Stadnik’s investigation, which opens this part, focuses on
the question of how speakers’ understanding of their interaction with the
world and their inner lives is encoded in language. The author illustrates her
analysis using Chaucer’s “Knight’s Tale”, paying special attention to the
occurrences of Middle English *moten ‘must’. The next chapter, by Alla
Gnatiuk, examines the deontic and epistemic use of ‘can’, ‘cannot’, ‘could’
and ‘could not’ in two samples of contemporary fiction in English, namely Dale
Brown’s “Rogue Forces” and Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight”. The author applies
the method of correlation analysis to discover the statistical correlation
between the deontic and epistemic meaning of the modals that she investigated.
The statistics make evident the comparatively weaker epistemic nature of
‘can’ and ‘cannot’, the medium epistemic content of ‘can’ and ‘could’ and the
strong epistemic content of ‘could not’. The data provide a good indication
of the way the modals that were studied function in English-language fiction
in general. The chapter authored by Dorota Gorzycka is a preliminary study
that explores the types and functions of diminutives in English. The material
for analysis is taken from Dan Brown’s novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’. Statistical
data related to the types of diminutives in the novel are presented, followed
by an analysis of diminutive functions identified in the data.

Part IV, entitled “Text as a Repository: Corpora,” contains three
contributions. Ulf Magnusson opens this part with a detailed study of the
notion of ‘balance’, based on material from the British National Corpus and
two Swedish sources. The author has analyzed metaphorical extensions into the
domains of financial, cognitive, mental, and emotional balance in
goal-directed actions and life goals, and claims that the variables of the
physical world and those of the phenomenological world are not in a one-to-one
correspondence with each other. Joanna Adamiczka provides a corpus-based study
of some aspects of the metaphorical conceptualization of happiness and joy in
Spanish, German, English and Polish. The study shows relations between
conceptual metaphors, cultural factors and the meaning of selected emotion
words. Differences and similarities in understanding the emotions of joy and
happiness in different languages and cultures are discussed.

The next contribution by Iryna Dilay explores grammatical properties of
cognitive verbs in English, using data from the British National Corpus and
the Corpus of Contemporary American English, giving special attention to the
concept of semantic prosody. The last contribution of this part, by Rafal
Augustin, is a cognitive linguistic analysis of English neosemantic verbs (the
author treats them as a subtype of neologisms), formed from nouns via zero
derivation, e.g. ‘homework’ → ‘to homework’, ‘butterfly’ → ‘to butterfly’. The
article addresses the issue of the mechanism behind the emergence of novel
linguistic meanings.

Finally, Part V, “Text and Beyond” contains two contributions. In chapter 17,
Angelina Rusinek provides an insight into the relationship between humans and
clothes as it is revealed in dictionaries. The author presents the way
dictionaries can not only show, but also explain changes in meaning. Evidence
for a conceptual contiguity between two conceptual macrocategories, CLOTHES
and HUMAN BEING is presented. Laryssa Makaruk, in the last chapter of the
book, considers paralinguistic elements (pictograms and ideograms) which occur
in modern media.

EVALUATION

Whether linguist, translator, interpreter or literary scholar, we all share an
interest in text. That is why the collection of articles under review appears
very timely and relevant.

The title of Part I, “Text as a Problem,” was a bit puzzling. “Text as a Means
to Solve a Problem” might have reflected the content better. This part of the
collection brings up several interesting issues in text inquiries and opens up
new intriguing paths of research.

The study performed by the authors of chapter 1 has potential practical
benefits not only in understanding the effects of creative writing, but also
in advertising, politics, news and law, where texts certainly have a
rhetorical effect and it does make an enormous difference whether
readers/listeners do or do not notice the information presented in the text.
The broad range of empirical results of the use of the ‘text change detection’
method are particularly interesting.

The second article, by Elzbieta Tabakowska, is notable not only for its
attempt to corroborate the claim that what pertains to a title viewed as text
might also pertain to text as such, but also for the “painfully obvious” (p.
29) conclusion that a major part of the meaning of the text resides in its
grammar. Tabakowska’s study, corpus-illustrated, is another piece of evidence
that comes in to support the symbolic character of grammar.

Very interesting ideas for future research are suggested in the conclusions to
chapter 3: to prove or disprove the universality of Conceptual Integration
Theory as a theory of humour or to verify whether humour can be reduced to
metaphor or metonymy may, should it turn out to be true, create the potential
to consider humour an algorithmic operation.

Chapter 4 is of great value for translators as rendering word-play into
another language is certainly one of the greatest challenges for translation
professionals. Any translation of malapropisms or eggcorns requires that the
translator has to satisfy many conceptual, contextual, phonological and
morphological conditions. This article is recommended for translators and
interpreters. The application of principles of analysability and
compositionality should prove especially useful.

Part II, which presents text as a means of doing things, is more like the
study of various types of discourse, but as Coşeriu (2009:295) points out,
discourse should be the object of study of what is nowadays called text
linguistics, so the contributions in this part are quite welcome in the
context of meticulous text investigation. Chapter 9, which is a study of the
narrator’s identity and discourse in Samuel Beckett’s trilogy of novels, might
have been better included in Part III, dedicated to literature. Part III
would have gained from that, as in its current representation it seems to be
more of a study of grammatical phenomena in various literary texts, which by
no means diminishes its value and appeal to linguists interested in text as a
whole and its constituents. The findings of the study by Iman Rasti will prove
useful for teaching of writing, as EFL students can benefit from an awareness
of appropriate use of questions in order to create an interaction with the
reader and build convincing arguments.

Part IV contains corpus-based studies of various lexical, grammatical, and
semantic phenomena, which are related to textual research, as they partly
answer the question in the title of the collection: What’s in a text? However,
the last chapter of this part (chapter 16) is not actually a corpus based
study. Although the author says that his study is based on “a corpus of nearly
100 very recent neosemantic verbs found on the Internet fora and in online
articles” (p. 231) it is not technically a corpus-based study (see the
definition of ‘corpus’ at
http://www.anglistik.uni-freiburg.de/seminar/abteilungen/sprachwissenschaft/ls
_mair/corpus-linguistics). This does not reduce the value of the research done
by the author of this chapter, it is just not a corpus-based study. A true
corpus-based analysis, like the one Iryna Dilay provides on English cognitive
verbs, can be a fruitful area of research that would tackle a wide range of
problematic linguistic issues. Her analysis sheds light on various
grammatical properties of cognitive verbs: their valency, aspectual types of
cognitive predicates, deviations from the norm in the use of progressive
aspect, metaphorical extensions and statistically significant lexical
collocations.

In Part V of the collection the authors attempt to extend the attention of
linguists beyond traditional texts, but the last contribution to this section
does not seem to be exactly a linguistic inquiry. Media discourse has indeed
always been a very interesting issue for a linguist, but this last chapter
looks more like an inventory of paralinguistic elements of printed media
discourse. It would be a good starting point to study the impact of such
elements upon the message rendered by linguistic means.

The primary aim of the authors of this collection was to invite their readers
to carefully consider both the richness of text as such and the diversity of
text studies, performed by scholars representing various approaches to
language and languages, and this goal was accomplished. The publication
contains a large amount of data and ideas, satisfying the desires of linguists
that may have diverse aims, methodologies and theoretical approaches. The
collection is especially welcome for doctoral students of text-related
phenomena. The varied geographical background of the contributors gives a
reasonably good picture of the nature of text-based research in different
parts of Europe. Even though the editors say in the introduction that the
division of the volume is “somewhat arbitrary“ (p. 2), it still appears quite
orderly.

The contributors may not have discovered totally novel phenomena or processes
related to text, but they certainly have confirmed that the text is the key
linguistic tool of the expression of meaning and of communication. Articles
authored by doctoral students and junior lecturers from Central and Eastern
Europe and more experienced researchers from the UK and Sweden coexist quite
nicely in this collection and offer a good insight into various traditions of
text analysis.

REFERENCES

Coşeriu, E. 2009. Omul şi limbajul său. Studii de filosofie a limbajului,
teorie a limbii şi lingvisticii generale, Colectia Logos, Iaşi: Editura
Universităţii ''Alexandru Ioan Cuza''.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Elena Gheorghita is Assistant Professor at State University of Moldova,
Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, English Philology Chair, and a
practicing conference interpreter. Among her research interests are:
translation studies, translation as process (namely in light of theory of
strategic games), the fractal nature of language and communication,
environmental and military terminology, linguistic research methodology.
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