By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2003 09:27:52 +0700 From: Viatcheslav Iatsko Subject: The Language of Language: Core Concepts in Linguistic Analysis
Cruz-Ferreira, Madalena (2003) The Language of Language: Core Concepts in Linguistic Analysis, Prentice-Hall (Division of Pearson Education).
Viatcheslav Iatsko, Department of English, Katanov State University of Khakasia.
This book, intended as an introduction to linguistics, doesn't assume any previous experience of language analysis and can be most appropriately used by undergraduate or high school students taking their first course in linguistics. Since the book lacks any exercises, assignments or activities it can be characterized as a collection of lectures rather than a textbook.
As the author claims in the Preface the purpose of the book is twofold: to acquaint the reader with the way linguists talk about the language and to stir reader's curiosity about language matters.
The book comprises 12 chapters outlining main branches of linguistics: morphology, phonetics and phonology, syntax, and lexical semantics Issues pertaining to the interdisciplinary and applied study of, such as language and the brain, bilingualism, language contact, child language acquisition second language learning, language variation and change are also overviewed. Data are taken principally from English. Each chapter ends with "Some food for thought" and "Readings" sections. The book has a subject index.
The first chapter "Language" outlines some characteristics of natural language, such as arbitrariness, displacement, duality, rule governing, and creativeness. The second chapter "Linguistics: the language of language" consists of two sections. The first one entitled "Science" can be safely skipped by the reader because it has nothing to do with language analysis describing some characteristics of science and pseudoscience. The second section "Linguistics, language and languages" touches upon the object, method, purpose of linguistics, role of the English language, areas of linguistic study.
It should be noted that this chapter contains some doubtful, vague and somewhat misleading statements. 1) "Prescriptivism is an ideology, it is not science" (p. 11). If the author means prescriptive grammar she is wrong. Prescriptive grammar is aimed at formulating rules of literary language to be used in language teaching (Borjars & Burridge, 2001, pp. 3-7). Prescriptive statements are the result of careful observation of differences between different varieties of a given language. 2) "Being the science of language, linguistics has:: a method: empirical, that is based on observation" (p. 15). This statement is an oversimplification because linguistics employs empirical as well as theoretical methods. For example analysis of constituents is sure a theoretical method because resulting trees represent internal hierarchical structures of sentences that can in no way be directly observed. 3) In section 2.3 entitled "Areas of linguistic study" the author missed a good opportunity to introduce the reader to the structure of linguistics enumerating practical applications of linguistic knowledge (speech therapy, language teaching, literary studies, etc.) instead of describing branches of linguistics outlined in the next chapters: morphology, phonetics, phonology, syntax, lexical semantics, text grammar.
Chapter 3 "Language and languages" touches upon language diversity, classification of language families, language variation features of spoken and written language, language contact, language change, standard language, universal grammar. Chapter 4 "The grammar of words: words and word-parts deals with morphology, word classes, morphemes. Chapter 5 "The grammar of words: word-building" concentrates on word formation and word types. Chapter 6 "Human speech sounds" focuses on phonetics and classification of speech sounds. Chapter 7 "The grammar of sounds" tells about phonology and phonemes. Chapter 8 "The grammar of sentences: slots and phrases" deals with syntax, constituent analysis, phrase structure.
This chapter has some disputable points. 1) The sentence "boy that ate the durian" marked as ungrammatical (p. 85) seems grammatical. 2) tree diagram of the noun phrase "the cheap durian" (p. 91) seems incorrect because the determiner is shown as a sister of Adjective and Noun. In fact the determiner relates to the rest of the noun phrase as a whole. The same goes to the noun phrase "a patched eye". Such cases are discussed in L. Brinton's (2000) "The Structure of Modern English" (p. 171). It should be noted that Brinton's book is referred to and extensively used by the author. Chapter 9 "The grammar of sentences: slots and functions" deals with verb types and functions within the sentence, such as adjunct, subject, object, complement. Chapter 10 "The grammar of meanings" focuses on lexical semantics, problems of lexical and structural ambiguity, semantic relations. Chapter 11 "Meanings in action" deals with text analysis, problem of cohesion and discusses such notions as displacement, presupposition, narrative, accommodation, convergence, divergence, taboo and euphemism. Chapter 12 "Language and speakers" discusses problems of language acquisition, language loss and language death, bilingualism, language learning, language acquisition, language change.
The book has he following advantages. 1) Plain and clear language, simple comparisons with facts from everyday life that help students to better understand described linguistic phenomena; 2) logical structure. The book starts with characterizing general features of science and linguistics and proceeds to linguistic subfields.
To better assess the book under review it would be good to compare it with a similar introduction to linguistics, for example with "Working with Texts: A Core Introduction to Language Analysis" by R. Carter et al (2001), which also doesn't assume any previous knowledge of language analysis. I personally would prefer "Working with Texts" because of the following advantages. 1) "Working with Texts" is much better illustrated. To stir readers' curiosity Carter et al use advertisements, cartoons, Web pages, etc. In Cruz-Ferreira's book the reader can find only diagrams and tables, the first of them appearing in the 5th chapter, previous chapters not being illustrated at all. 2) "Working with Texts" has extensive activities, answers and commentaries on activities that can successfully be used in classroom. Cruz- Fereira's book has "Some food for thought" sections that contain citations from different authors and it is often difficult to understand how to use them in the classroom. For example, "Some food for thought" section in chapter 1 contains the following citation from O. Wilde: "Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught". What is the message of this citation? That linguistics can't be taught, or that it isn't worth knowing?
Brinton, L. J.(2000) The Structure of Modern English: A Linguistic Introduction. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Carter, R. et al (2001) Working with Texts: A Core Introduction to Language Analysis. London & New York: Routledge.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER V. Iatsko is a professor in the Department of English and Head of Computational Linguistics Laboratory at Katanov State University of Khakasia located in Abakan, Russia. His research interests include text summarization, text grammar, TEFL, contrastive analysis of English and Russian syntax.