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Review of  Dialects Across Borders

Reviewer: Daniela Cesiri
Book Title: Dialects Across Borders
Book Author: Markku Filppula Juhani Klemola Marjatta Palander Esa Penttilä
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Linguistic Theories
Subject Language(s): Dutch
Language Family(ies): Romance
Issue Number: 19.369

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EDITOR(S): Filppula, Markku; Klemola, Juhani; Palander, Marjatta; Penttila, Esa
TITLE: Dialects Across Borders
SUBTITLE: Selected papers from the 11th International Conference on Methods in
SERIES: Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 273
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2005

Daniela Cesiri, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of
Salento, Lecce, Italy

As stated in the title of the volume itself, the 'leitmotif' that joins together
the papers contained in the volume is ''Dialects across borders'', a theme that
had already been used as a special topic of the Conference, and that was chosen
by the organizers (and editors of the volume) because it better reflects the
linguistic situation of the area hosting the Conference itself, that is ''a
historical border area between two states and two different linguistic and
cultural traditions'' (pg. vi). The thirteen selected papers included in the
volume were grouped into three different parts, each of which reflected the
'type of border' it dealt with.

Part I contains five articles revolving around the theme of ''Dialects across
political and historical borders''.

Peter Auer's contribution on ''The construction of linguistic borders and the
linguistic construction of borders'' analyzes the German linguistic situation, in
particular the existing links between the nation-state and the actual
geographical space which appears to be a physical as well as a mental structure.
By comparing the dialectal perceptions of informants from areas formerly
belonging to the Eastern and Western parts of Germany, the author points out
that, although at present they are all part of the German 'nation-state', the
southwest German informants consider the Swabian and Low Alemannic dialects as
different from their own because of the former German political separation,
although, dialectologically speaking, they are actually very similar. Auer
concludes his analysis by arguing that cognitive constructions often contribute
to delimit dialect communities, hence influencing the dialect continuum of that

''Static spatial relations in German and Romance: towards a cognitive
dialectology of posture verbs and locative adverbials'' by Raphael Berthele
combines dialectology and language contact methods of study, providing also a
cognitive theoretical framework, in order to examine concepts of motion in space
and static relation in Standard High German and a group of Swiss German
dialects, with a comparison source provided by data from Romance languages
present in the neighboring areas, such as French, Italian, and Romansh. Evidence
from the comparison of the data shows that, in expressing spatial relations,
Swiss German dialects and Romansh prefer verb phrase constructions formed by a
verb followed by a locative prepositional phrase plus an adverb that result in
being semantically redundant. Conversely, Standard High German, Standard Italian
and Standard French present rare (if any) occurrences of such constructions,
since they rather favor a simple prepositional phrase. The Swiss German and
Romansh data are ascribed by the author to adstratal influences emerged from the
complex Swiss linguistic situation.

''Ingressive particles across borders: Gender and discourse parallels across the
North Atlantic'' by Sandra Clarke and Gunnel Melchers deals with the until now
rarely studied pulmonic ingressive articulation, arguing that ingressive
discourse particles, found in a zone extending from the eastern Baltic to the
Atlantic coast of the United States, are an areal feature that is to be ascribed
to a language contact situation. Evidence extracted from the study suggests to
the two authors the conclusion that this phenomenon took place in a
cross-dialectal situation where transmission involved social and pragmatic factors.

''On the development of the consonant system in Mennonite Low German
(Plautdietsch)'' by Larissa Naiditch is part of a wider synchronic and diachronic
study that focuses on an insular German dialect, today spoken in Siberia,
Kazakhstan, the USA and Mexico by the independent religious community of the
Mennonites. The author bases her research on data extracted from tape recordings
and notes taken in Kazakhstan and in Germany among informants immigrated from
the former Soviet Union, as well as from literature in Plautdietsch,
investigating the development of the consonant system of this variety, that bore
traces of a number of dialects from the areas where the Mennonite community
resided during its migration history.

''English dialects in the British Isles in a cross-variety perspective: A
base-line for future research'' by Sali Tagliamonte, Jennifer Smith and Helen
Lawrence aims at establishing historical links between the new and old world
varieties of English through the comparison of syntactic features from six
varieties of English spoken in the North of England, Scotland and Northern
Ireland. The research shows that the verbal -s feature is one of the best
candidates as a diagnostic feature of such a relationship, whereas NEG/AUX
contraction, ''for to'' infinitives, and zero adverbs present more problems in the
linguistic analysis of similarities and differences in the varieties considered.
In their conclusion, the authors suggest that significant results could be
achieved only in the examination of variable constraints occurring in linguistic
features common to Old and New World varieties.

The five articles included in Part II share the topic of ''Dialects across social
and regional borders'':

''Dialects across internal frontiers: Some cognitive boundaries'' by Dennis E.
Preston investigates the ongoing vowel changes in the urban dialects of the
Northern Cities Chain Shift in the U.S.A. The approach followed involves
theoretical frameworks from various disciplines, namely dialectology,
sociolinguistics and the so-called 'folk linguistics' (that is, laypeople
knowledge of linguistics), that the author summarizes in the single term
'sociophonetics'. In particular, Preston investigates the correlation of age,
commitment to the residence in a certain locality, and the influence of ethnic
background and social connections on the speaker's accommodation process in the
latter adoption of vowel change. A further development is given by reflections
on the ability of a speaker to imitate a dialect different to his own, and the
perception that this imitation produces to the speakers of that dialect, as well
as gender factors involving the speaker's perception.

''On 'dative sickness' and other kinds of linguistic diseases in Modern
Icelandic'' by Finnur Friđriksson enquires into changes in the use of
case-inflections in the grammar of modern Icelandic. Analyzing in particular the
use of the dative, accusative and genitive in subject position in some regional
and social Icelandic dialects, the authors seeks to reveal how their supposed
threat to the stability of Icelandic case system is actually not motivated and
supported by field data, due to the infrequency of such occurrences in the
dialect material examined. The author proposes that such unmotivated alarmism is
rather to be attributed to the educational system's efforts in eliminating
non-standard usages in the pupils linguistic habits.

In ''Can we find more variety in variation?'', the author, Ronald Macaulay
investigates the influence of external factors to linguistic variation with its
implication in sociolinguistic studies. Glasgow English provides the data for
the author's research, whose starting point has been the careful selection of
the right methodology in data collection. Macaulay, in fact, believes that the
communicative situation must be a 'peer-event', where all the participants are
at the same level and no figure of interviewer is perceived. The author, then,
proposes to study external factors such as age, gender, and social class in
connection with each other and not as separate aspects, together with new ones
(related mainly to discourse feature) that have not been considered in previous
sociolinguistic studies

''Pronunciation of /ɛi/ in avant-garde Dutch: A cross-sex acoustic study'' by
Vincent J. van Heuven, Renée van Bezooijen and Loulou Edelman deals with an
acoustic study of 32 speakers of Dutch participating in a television talk show,
focusing in particular on diphthong /ɛi/ produced by those guests who speak an
emerging variety of Dutch, known as Polder Dutch. Acoustic measurements allowed
the authors to observe in detail this phenomenon, which, according to the
authors, represents another sociolinguistic case of linguistic change spread by
female speakers.

The last paper in Part II, ''A tale of two dialects: Relativization in Newcastle
and Sheffield'' by Joan C. Beal and Karen P. Corrigan examines regional variation
in two northern urban dialects of English, which is part of a wider ongoing
project on dialects in Northern England. Presenting data extracted from the
analysis of relativization strategies in speakers of the urban dialects of
Tyneside and Sheffield, this article demonstrates that more detailed
distinctions in these two varieties (already detected in phonological studies)
are eventually confirmed at a morphosyntactic level.

Part III contains the last three articles of the volume and focuses on the major
topic of ''Dialects across language boundaries'':

''Crossing grammatical borders: Tracing the path of contact-induced linguistic
change'' by Ruth King introduces the question of linguistic constraints on
grammatical borrowing phenomena in a bilingual situation. The author examines in
particular the linguistic situation of Prince Edward Island French (Canada)
where two different villages show distinctive usages of either French or
English: one has French origins and uses at home either the sole French language
or both French and English, whereas in the other village, the community is
losing institutional support for French, that is gradually but increasingly
being substituted by English even in conversation at home. However, the analysis
of Preposition Stranding data leads the author to the conclusion that there is
no direct syntactic borrowing from English, but only the dominance of lexical
borrowing as the cause of syntactic change in Prince Edward Island's language.

''The _after_-perfect in Irish English'' by Patricia Ronan is a study dealing with
the typical Irish _after_-perfect construction that is used to mark 'hot news'
events. The phenomenon is renowned and has already been the core of numerous
contributions. To the better understanding of this perfective form, however, the
author introduces new possible implications emerging in Dublin speakers. Ronan
examines her data taken from observation of speakers from different varieties of
Irish English and from interviews to elderly people living in Dublin (belonging
mainly to the working-class) collected by the American sociologist K. Kearns.
Evidence from these sources draws the author to the conclusion that Irish
English after-perfect at present includes denotations of both 'hot news' events
and a more general perfective meaning.

Last in the section and in the volume, ''Dialect history in black and white: Are
two colours enough?'' by J. L. Dillard is a critical comment on recent theories
on the origins of African-American Vernacular English (AAVE). The author argues
that plurilingualism in the historical factors contributing to the formation of
such a variety rather than the traditional substratum theory is to be considered
a primary factor in the creation of this variety. To support his statement,
Dillard brings evidence from the fact that seventeenth- and eighteenth-century
West-African slaves had more contacts with indigenous Americans than with
Europeans, hence the major influence was not provided by the English language,
but by multi-language contacts with different Indo-European languages, as for
instance in the case of the West Indian Islands.

The task of uniting articles dealing with such different issues as those
involved in the major theme of 'dialects across borders' is certainly not an
easy one. The editors, however, have managed to keep an internal coherence in
the volume itself, at the same time giving enough space to phenomena concerning
many languages (from the most to the least renowned), as well as presenting an
almost complete view of all the factors involving processes of language contact
and all the socio-linguistic implications deriving from this situation. Each of
the articles contained in the volume meets international scholarly standards and
provides not only results on the research undergone by the different authors,
but simultaneously offers tentative suggestions for further research. Although
this book is not suitable for students, or scholars, approaching for the first
time the discipline of dialect studies, it is all the same highly recommended
for those who are interested in new perspectives and theoretical approaches to
language contact studies.

Daniela Cesiri works at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures,
University of Salento (formerly named University of Lecce), Italy. She is
currently completing her Ph. D. dissertation, where she analyzes discourse and
syntactic features of the nineteenth-century texts contained in a ''Corpus of
Irish Fairy and Folk Tales'' of her own compilation. Her main research interests
include English historical linguistics, lexicology, lexicography and historical
dialectology with a particular focus on Irish English and its linguistic, as
well as socio-cultural, interrelations with other varieties of the English
Language in the British Isles.