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Review of  Exploring Language Change

Reviewer: Jill M. Hallett
Book Title: Exploring Language Change
Book Author: Ishtla Singh Mari C. Jones
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Issue Number: 18.3338

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AUTHOR: Jones, Mari C. and Ishtla Singh
TITLE: Exploring Language Change
PUBLISHER: Routledge
YEAR: 2006

Jill Ward, Graduate Student, Department of Linguistics, University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign

The authors describe this book as ''a useful mixture of established theoretical
overview, new data, and new perspectives on their combination'' (xi.). To that
end, they present seven chapters regarding various aspects of language change,
such as motivations for change and language life cycles. Each chapter begins
with an introduction and ends with a discussion, and features one to four
relevant case studies, as well as some additional detail where appropriate.
After a very short introduction follows a list of abbreviations. Jones and Singh
have appended a section on useful websites related to the general content of
each chapter and the case studies.

The introduction (ix-xi) raises issues to be elaborated in ensuing chapters,
namely the acceptance that language does change, both deliberately and
'unconsciously'. Jones and Singh state their attempt to include well-known
examples of language change alongside lesser-known change in marginalized languages.

Chapter 1, ''Internally motivated change'' (1-28), begins with an introduction of
terminology focusing on internally and externally motivated change. The authors
suggest that it is easier to find reasons for externally-motivated change. A
case study on the Great Vowel Shift follows, detailing developments of
Neogrammarian and Structuralist accounts. Discussion of drift precedes a case
study on the word order change in Icelandic and another case study on
grammaticalisation in Urdu. Much attention is given to native speaker creativity
through such processes as analogy, leveling, backformation and folk etymology,
including analysis of Old English, Old High German, and Middle English. Lexical
derivation in Haitian French Creole is addressed in another case study, and in
the chapter's closing discussion, the authors suggest further consideration of
extralinguistic factors as motivating language change.

The topic of chapter 2, ''Externally motivated change'' (29-54), is change that
occurs due to the influence of another language. Historically, this notion was
considered outrageous (by Müller 1861, for example), but by the second half of
the 20th century, it was generally acknowledged that contact induced language
change. Jones and Singh delve into borrowing, or the incorporation of foreign
words into a native language. Glossing over the very few isolated cases of
language contact without lexical interference, the authors elaborate the reasons
for borrowing, the reception of borrowing in endangered languages, the ways in
which borrowings are manifested, the types of words most commonly borrowed into
a language, how to tell which words are borrowings, morphological borrowing, and
calquing or loan translation. Examples come from Asiatic Eskimo borrowings from
Russian. The effect of convergence on syntax is also discussed in this chapter,
addressing the convergence area or 'Sprachbund' before describing the situations
in the Balkans and Kupwar in two case studies. Subsequent treatment of
codeswitching (touching on points by Myers-Scotton 1993 and others) and mixed
languages such as Media Lengua, Ma'a, and Michif precede a discussion regarding
the lack of mutual exclusion of internally and externally motivated change. The
chapter concludes with two case studies of systematic changes in Guernsey Norman
French (Guernesais) and Middle English.

Chapter 3, ''Language birth'' (55-77), focuses on the first of the life cycle
metaphors for language, using as an example the divergence of Latin dialects
into the various Romance languages. The first case study in this chapter centers
on Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Germanic and (Old) English. Upon reconstruction of
the Proto-Indo-European ''family tree,'' some groups appeared to have had language
contact, whereas others did not. Reconstruction showed changes from
Proto-Germanic to Old English through the remarkably consistent first Germanic
consonant shift and Grimm's Law. Tok Pisin is highlighted in the next case
study, a lingua franca in an area of almost 1000 languages that began as a trade
language. The linguistic resources of Tok Pisin increased as the use of
different purposes grew, and it is considered an expanded pidgin because the
majority of its speakers are native speakers of another language. The next case
study features Scots, a lowland dialect that exists alongside Gaelic in
Scotland, and is now being promoted and officially acknowledged. In the
discussion that follows, the question is raised about what makes a new language.
The answer, of course, is complicated by such issues as how a language differs
from a dialect, what to do with varieties of a language (as in, for example,
World Englishes), and to what extent a language is standardized, promoted, and

The opposite end of the language life cycle is addressed in Chapter 4, ''Language
death'' (78-104). A relatively new field of exploration, language death
encompasses language obsolescence (essentially 'gradual dying') and the complete
loss of a language. The four scenarios for language death include sudden death
(due to major loss of speakers in a catastrophic way), radical death (due to
political repression or genocide), gradual death (contact loss) – the most
common scenario, and bottom-to-top death (loss in intimate contexts with
ceremonial use retained). A subsection follows detailing the setting and
structure of language obsolescence. Listed are sociopolitical settings such as
invasion, colonization, industrialization, negative self-identity, and diglossia
as reasons for obsolescence and the imperfect speakers it engenders. Linguistic
changes such as simplification, generalization, grammatical interference,
phonological interference, and lexical substitution are explained as they relate
to language obsolescence. Case studies include East Sutherland Gaelic and
Pennsylvania German as different manifestations of language obsolescence.
Dialect death is discussed next, as it may be synonymous with language death,
but not if the standard language takes over the dialect. Case studies include
French and Welsh as illustrative of the effects of standardization on dialect death.

Chapter 5, ''Language planning and revitalization'' (105-132), introduces this
relatively new field as it relates to principles, positions, and decisions that
lead to language policy. Strategies and aims of language planning are featured,
including revitalization, acquisition planning, vernacularisation, status
planning, and corpus planning. Objectives of language planning may be linguistic
pluralism (as in Belgium), assimilation and purism (as in Soviet Russian),
vernacularisation (as in the officialisation of Haitian Creole),
internationalism (as in languages of wider communication), and revitalization
(as in Jersey Jèrriais). The following case study elaborates on the language
policy situation in the United States, where an official language is not in the
Constitution, nor is there any official policy, but there are very strong
implications for English language policy. Numerous English-only proponents in
the United States keep language policy at the forefront of discussion, but there
continue to be questions about which variety of English would become the
standard if such laws should come to pass. The authors then move to a case study
of Jèrriais in Jersey in terms of its revitalization efforts. The final case
study of this chapter focuses on language planning in the Seychelles, just off
Madagascar, which experienced a French and British colonial history. Seselwa,
the French-lexified creole, is now being pushed in schools (where test scores
have increased), culture, and government. Stumbling blocks to the full inclusion
of Seselwa include language attitudes, ''colonial hangover'', and identity
planning. Discussion ensues.

''Language revival'' is tackled in Chapter 6 (133-152), which differs from
revitalization in that languages slated for revival have no remaining speakers
of any kind, whereas revitalized languages are in some form of obsolescence. The
most famous case of revival is Hebrew, with Cornish its only remote parallel.
Cornish is the focus of the case study. Several factors led to the demise of
Cornish, which lost its last native speaker in 1789. Well-documented before its
death, Cornish's revival was originally led by Jenner in 1904, who endorsed the
revival based on the last documented incarnation of the language. There were
problems with the reconstruction effort, namely in pronunciation, grammar, and
new vocabulary to meet the needs of the changing times. Unlike the revival of
Hebrew, in which the goals were quite concrete and obvious, Cornish's goals were
vague: a Cornish-speaking Cornwall is impractical; the revival of Cornish could
only be a symbol of the area's culture. The question of whether a revival of
Cornish is feasible elicits responses about its fate as solely a second language
and more questions about its actual authenticity, given the debate over the most
logical form to promote. The closing discussion attests that Hebrew is the only
true revived language we have to date.

Chapter 7 explores ''Language invention'' (153-182), with the disclaimer that
invented languages have not been historically included in linguistic study –
perhaps for good reason – but that the creativity involved is worthy of note in
a book on language change. Acknowledging the stigma that people who invent
languages are often ''geeky,'' the authors give a history of invented languages
from the 1800s to the present and the purposes for endeavoring such a monumental
task, namely the escape of ideology inherent in natural language, the quest for
a global lingua franca, or other forms of solidarity. The first case study
examines Esperanto, an 1887 invention by Zamenhof, a Jew living in Polish
Lithuania. Esperanto is a synthesis of Indo-European tongues promoted vigorously
after World War I, with tremendous support in the form of schools and societies,
and now enjoys exposition on the Internet. There remain problems with Esperanto,
including Eurocentrism and androcentrism, and despite attempts to keep it free
from ideology, the language can still be used for malicious purposes, as the
authors suggest was demonstrated by Germans during World War I. Following the
study on Esperanto is another case study, that of Láadan. Invented by feminist
linguist and novelist Elgin in 1999, Láadan was postulated to test weak
linguistic relativity and to see if a 'gynocentric' language would take hold in
feminist circles to allow users to speak freely about 'women's issues' not
possible to voice in androcentric languages. Elgin likened current languages to
the Newspeak of Orwell's _1984_, in which linguistic constraints prevented
speakers from expressing thoughts and ideas. She introduced Láadan in a science
fiction novel, and over a ten-year period, waited for the language to take hold.
It didn't, for reasons such as its inconsistency, its ''slightly-off'' feel, and
the larger question – that of whether a feminine reality is actually so
different that a separate language is needed. Included in the chapter's
discussion is the observation that inventors of languages are often extremely
conservative when relegating their creations to the masses.

Exploring Language Change is not intended to be used as a textbook, but students
of historical linguistics, language policy and planning, and language contact
will find it a useful supplement. Conspicuously missing is a cohesive
introduction and conclusion, but what is lacking in scope is compensated in
depth. The case studies provide practical illustrations of each chapter's
content, and instructors can easily supplement material with their own case
studies. Some of the case studies (i.e. the section on Láadan) give a great deal
more information than may be necessary to achieve the purpose of illustration.
Overall, the variety of languages was impressive, inclusive of such minority
languages as Jèrriais and Guernesiais in the Channel Islands and Seselwa in the
Seychelles; however, Jones and Singh refrain from extending analysis far outside
the reaches of Indo-European languages or their creoles. What differentiates
this book from others (e.g. Hock 1991) is the emphasis on less-explored areas in
historical linguistics such as language death, revival, and invention.
Additionally, readers who prefer to focus on one language or variety at a time
will find this book appealing.

Hock, Hans H. 1991. _The Principles of Historical Linguistics_. Berlin: Mouton
de Gruyter.

Müller, F. Max. 1861. _Lectures on the Science of Language_. London: Longman.

Myers-Scotton, Carol. 1993. _Social Motivations for Code-switching: Evidence
from Africa_. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Orwell, George. 1961. _1984_. NewYork: New American Library.

Jill Ward is a graduate student in Linguistics at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign, where she focuses on sociolinguistics. Her main research
interests include World Englishes, African-American English, and language in

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