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Review of  Language Variation – European Perspectives II

Reviewer: Eva-Maria Suarez Budenbender
Book Title: Language Variation – European Perspectives II
Book Author: Stavroula Tsiplakou Marilena Ph Karyolemou Pavlos Pavlou
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Discipline of Linguistics
Issue Number: 21.2886

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EDITOR: Tsiplakou, Stavroula; Karyolemou, Marilena; Pavlou, Pavlos
TITLE: Language Variation - European perspectives II
SUBTITLE: Selected papers from the 4th International Conference on Language
Variation in Europe (ICLaVE 4), Nicosia, June 2007
SERIES TITLE: Studies in Language Variation 5
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
YEAR: 2009

Eva-María Suárez Büdenbender, Department of English and Modern Languages,
Shepherd University


''Language Variation - European Perspectives'', appears in the ''Studies in
Language Variation'' series published by John Benjamins. It is an edited volume,
with an introduction and 18 articles, all presented at the 4th International
Conference of Language Variation in Europe (ICLaVE 4) in 2007. The papers cover
linguistic variation in a wide range of linguistic subdisciplines, such as
phonetics/phonology, morphosyntax, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics.

The book begins with an introduction by the editors. They underline the wealth
of research and the variety of linguistic approaches that manifested themselves
in the presentations at the conference and highlight the success of the
conference as a venue for the presentation and discussion of a wide array of
studies on linguistic variation in Europe. A table on page 2 presents an
overview of the papers including authors, linguistics research area, linguistic
variety studied, and the phenomenon under investigation. Moreover, the editors
give a short summary of each article in the volume.

In ''Clefts in Cypriotic Greek'', Yoryia Agouraki investigates the existence of
focus clefts in Cypriotic Greek and the agrammaticality of syntactic focus in
this variety. She compares this to the reverse situation in Standard Greek,
which allows for syntactic focus but is generated adjoined to the cleft clause
and not extracted out of the cleft clause. Agouraki's analysis assumes that the
relevant position within the cleft clause is occupied by a null constituent that
matches the features of the clefted constituent and that the focus
interpretation is the result of a late merger. She also offers an analysis of
microvariations in structures that involve focus movement in which she shows
that these universal quantifiers occupy a Topic position, whereas expressions
with preverbal stressed existential quantifiers, negation, Negative Polarity
Item, 'only'-phrases, and anaphoric/deictic pro-forms occupy a position in Force/C.

''Lexical Change, discourse practices and the French Press: 'Plus ça change, plus
c'est la même chose'?'' by Fabienne Baider addresses the issue of discourse about
female politicians. As a case in point, the author examines the linguistic
representation of two major candidates in the last French elections, Nicolas
Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal, in the French press. Her detailed analysis reports
the occurrence of the candidates' names in the corpus with respect to syntactic
position and theta role. An analysis of the semantic fields in which the names
appear reveals that journalistic discourse tended to portray the female
candidate, Royal, as a ''communicator'' and the male candidate, Sarkozy, as an
active ''planner'' and ''strategist''. These results expose a highly salient and
arguably gender-dependent difference in linguistic representation of the

''Arbitrary subjects of infinitival clauses in European and Brazilian
Portuguese'', by Silvia Regina Cavalcante and Maria Eugênia L. Duarte, analyzes
the representation of arbitrary subjects of infinitival clauses in spoken and
written European and Brazilian Portuguese based on sources including
contemporary data from European and Brazilian Portuguese and Classical and
Modern European Portuguese of the 16th to 19th centuries. The results reflect an
increased use of nominative arbitrary pronouns in variation with a null subject
in Brazilian Portuguese. The authors relate this to the partial pro-drop nature
of Brazilian Portuguese and the availability of inflected infinitives in this

A historical morphosyntactic analysis is offered by Griet Coupé in ''Modal verbs
in long verb clusters: An innovation in Early Modern Dutch''. In contrast to
English, present-day Dutch modals can be non-finite and may appear under other
auxiliary verbs in long verb clusters. These features are an innovation. The
author relates the characteristics of modern Dutch modals with changes that can
be observed in the double modal structure ['zullen' + modal infinitive + main
verb]. 'Zullen' is shown to have undergone a semantic change from modality to
futurity/irrealis. Coupé demonstrates how this first appeared in the southern
regions of Brabant and spread to the central Dutch-speaking regions in Early
Modern Dutch.

Morphology and morphosyntax are also central to Gunter De Vogelaer's ''Changing
pronominal gender in Dutch: Transmission or diffusion?'' The author compares data
from the 1930s on pronominal gender in East and West Flanders with his own data,
collected in 2006 from participants in the Dictionary of the Flemish Dialects
network established in the 1970s. The results reveal three main developments:
standardization from Standard Dutch on the adnominal and pronominal gender
system of Flanders dialects; inter-dialectal influence, whereby Eastern Flanders
nouns in particular have a tendency to adopt the gender used in the more
prestigious Brabantic dialects; and dialect-internal change in the
resemantisation of pronominal gender in West Flanders. The author relates his
findings to the work of Labov (2007), seeing the first two phenomena as examples
of diffusion and the latter change through 'transmission'.

Gaberell Drachman also investigates a morphological issue in ''Meaning variation
and change in Greek morphology''. The central question is how and why meaning
variation can arise within a dialect, and, more precisely, how certain prefix
and stem variations can display either idiosyncratic or compositional meaning.
The author hypothesizes that the difference is due to place of affixation in the
syntax (cf. Marantz 2001). An arbitrary meaning arises if affixation takes place
at the root (''Root Merger''), but if affixation is to a functional category (i.e.
a ''Post-Categorial Merger''), then compositional meanings are the result. The
author goes on to apply this analysis to a variety of different structures (root
compounds, N+V>V compounds, ''incorporation'' structures, compounds with the
preposition 'dia') and his hypothesis yields correct predictions about such
semantic variation.

Eva Eppler presents a quantitative account of the syntax of a contemporary
German-English mixed variety in ''Syntactic variation in German-English
code-mixing''. The focus of is the monolingual and code-switch behavior of
speakers of an Austrian Jewish community that settled in London in the late
1930s. The analysis reveals that bilingual participants possess two identifiable
linguistic systems. Detailed quantitative analysis implementing the
lexically-based Word Grammar framework (Hudson 2007) shows that the principles
guiding code-switching are probabilistic rather than universal. All grammatical
relations in both languages are mixed, although there is a clear preference to
switch adjuncts, extractees, and extraposees, both left and right sentence

''Sources of phonological variation in a large database for Dutch dialects'' by
Frans Hinskens and Marc van Oostendorp tackles some issues emerging from
research based on online databases. The study investigates (a) to what extent
the various investigators involved in the project contributed to slight
deviations in data collection, and (b) the effect of these variations in data
collection on the variability of the data in the corpus. Results indicate the
importance of transcriber and corrector effects on the analysis and the role of
dialectal geography. The authors argue for a careful analysis of database
findings and simultaneously propose the addition of original fieldwork
recordings to neutralize some of these caveats of data collection.
Alternatively, the authors suggest more consistent transcription.

''Broad vs. localistic dialectology, standard vs. dialect'' by Brian D. Joseph
also tackles a fundamental issue, first delineating the two foremost approaches
to dialectology: (a) the broad approach, which relates some morphological
phenomena in the Balkans with large-scale trends observed all over Europe and
(b) a localistic approach that not only investigates the standard languages
spoken in the Balkans, but also includes dialectal variation especially in
border areas between states. His data analysis focuses on a host of
convergence-induced phonological patterns emerging due to bilingualism and
different degrees of familiarity with contact languages among speakers. He finds
that the latter approach allows more detailed insights into contact induced
emergence and spread of features that support the idea of a Balkan ''Sprachbund''
as a number of intersecting clusters of small and localized areas of contact.

Adrian Leeman offers preliminary results on ''Intonational variation in Swiss
German'', a research area by and large neglected by previous linguistic studies
on Swiss German. The analysis is performed on spontaneous speech of Bernese and
Valais Swiss German spoken by high school students. Valais Swiss German speakers
were found to stress lexical words more consistently with accent commands.
Moreover, pitch range accounted for most of the intonational differences between
the dialects. The data also provided insight into how Valais and Bernese Swiss
German speakers control their intonation more on a local rather than global
level due to higher Accent Command and Phrase Command amplitude values.

Language attrition and death are addressed in Maria Maglara's ''Morphological
reduction in Aromanian'', examining the extent of loss of Aromanian, a Romance
language spoken in smaller communities all over the Balkan Peninsula, among
several generations of native speakers. Maglara investigates aspects of
Aromanian derivational morphology: 19 nominal suffixes that derive nouns and
adjectives (diminutive and augmentative suffixes, suffixes denoting origin, and
suffixes for collective nouns). Results confirm a dramatic reduction in the
number of suffixes used by the youngest speakers group, as well as the loss of
the semantic differentiation and the use of some morphemes interchangeably by
these speakers. The results allow further insights into patterns of
morphological changes in Aromanian and thereby evidence of linguistic attrition
in this variety.

An invited paper, ''Greek dialect variation'' by Angeliki Malikouti-Drachman,
offers an account of spontaneous gemination in the dialects of Cyprus and Kos
within Optimality Theory. Malikouti-Drachman argues that word stress is
irrelevant for gemination and that the occurrence of spontaneous gemination are
part of Multiple Parallel Grammars (co-grammars) for lexical gemination in
Greek. The environment for spontaneous gemination is a disyllabic trochaic
domain, formed either on the left or the right word edge (also Drachman &
Malikouti-Drachman 1999). Based on this, the only difference between the
varieties spoken in Cyprus and Kos is directionality of the trochaic gemination
domain, word-initial for Cyprus and word-final for Kos.

A theoretical contribution on data collection is given by Herman Moisl in ''Using
electronic corpora to study language variation''. Using data from the Newcastle
Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English (NECTE), a corpus of dialect speech from
North-East England, he completes an analysis of the use of 153 phonetic
variables by the 63 speakers recorded and transcribed in the corpus. The results
and interpretation of the multivariate analyses performed confirm that
exploratory multivariate analyses provide a useful tool with corpus-based data.

In ''Language attitudes and folk perceptions towards linguistic variation'',
Papapavlou and Sophocleous explore young educated speakers' attitudes towards
different registers of Greek Cypriot Dialect (GCD) compared to Standard Modern
Greek (SMG). The results indicate that speakers using ''heavy GCD'' were given the
lowest prestige as they were perceived to be less educated speakers living in
villages. The qualitative data culled from focus groups also reveal linguistic
insecurity among bi-dialectal speakers of both GCD and SMG. These students have
a heightened awareness of the low prestige attributed to of GCD by speakers of
SMG. The findings illustrate young Cypriots' negative perceptions of GCD
speakers and their influence on language attitudes and language choice.

''Salience and resilience in a set of Tyneside English shibboleths'' by Charley
Rowe compares variants of [DO] as dialectal markers. In particular, he
investigates phonolexical fossilization, salience, and sociolinguistic status of
the forms 'divn't', 'diz(n't)', and 'di' as well as allophones/allomorphs of
'don't' and ' (in)to' in corpus data collected in 1969 (Tyneside Linguistic
Survey) and PVC (Phonological Variation and Change) collected in 1994. The
results reveal an overall higher percentage of users over time with a
simultaneous reduction in frequency of use, which points to the fact that
'divn't' has fossilized and 'di' is fossilizing. Also, the continuing (if
reduced) use of these markers speaks to their status as shibboleths for the
Tyneside community. Sociolinguistic data corroborates a ''change from below'' in
the [DO] shibboleths, with a notably higher percentage of upper working class
and lower middle class speakers using these forms.

An examination of an ongoing dialectal change is offered by Christian Schwarz
and Tobias Steck in ''New approaches to describing phonological change. The
realization of Middle High German î in the Alemannic dialects of Southwest
Germany''. The reflexes of Middle High German (MHG) î as a diphthong forms part
of an important isogloss that delineates the border to those areas where î is
maintained. The data in this paper are subjected to both real time and apparent
time analyses. The computerized method integrates large samples of quantitative
and geographical data as well as knowledge-based data and spontaneous speech
data into the overall analysis. The results indicate that MHG î shows a
unidirectional change towards diphthongization, with the exception of one more
conservative area which maintains a monophthong.

In ''Variation and grammaticization: The emergence of an aspectual opposition'',
Rena Torres Cacoullos investigates the conditioning of variation between the
Spanish Progressive construction 'estar' ('to be (located)') + gerund and the
simple present. The multivariate analysis compares the use of both structures in
sources from the 15th, 17th, and 19th centuries and also tracks the factors
conditioning variation between the progressive and the simple present tense. The
results reveal the gradual emergence of the progressive / non-progressive
opposition. Whereas initially the progressive is a locative construction
accompanied by locatives and post-verbal full NP subjects, over time, the
locative meaning weakens while, simultaneously, aspectual meaning strengthens.
She sees these results as an example of how specific patterns of variation
emerge from grammaticization and give rise to change.

In ''Towards establishing the matrix language in Russian-Estonian
code-switching'', Anastassia Zabrodskaja uses the Matrix Language Frame model
(MLF model, Myers-Scotton 1993, 1997, 2002) to explore different possibilities
in determining the matrix language. Her analysis shows that in most of her data,
the matrix language is clearly definable. However, certain constructions pose
problems for MLF -- e.g., examples of ''double marking'' where a grammatical
function is marked by two functionally equivalent but structurally different
strategies from two languages -- and can best be described as instances of
''congruent lexicalization'' (Muysken 2000).


These articles together underline the breadth of variationist work currently
being done on European languages and dialects. A wide range of linguistic
analyses are represented: phonetic and phonological, morphological,
morphosyntactic, and syntactic variation. Moreover, several papers (e.g.,
Hinskens & Van Oostendorp and Moisl) examine methodological problems in data
collection and the analysis of large data sets. Also, Papapavlou & Sophocleous
and Rowe examine the role of language attitudes in their data.

The chapters are well-written and contain appropriate statistical analyses,
tables, and discussion. Although some require a detailed knowledge of the
subject area, many are accessible to less specialized readers. All can serve as
examples of linguistic research to graduate students and others. Particularly
the papers addressing methodological issues and innovations will be helpful to
others facing similar problems in analysis and interpretation of data.

Along with my overall positive impression of the content of the articles, I have
a concern about the organization. Although the editors present short summaries
of the articles by linguistic subfield (phonetics, phonology, morphology, etc.)
in the introduction, the volume does not follow this order and the articles
appear alphabetically by last names of the first authors. This is unfortunate: A
grouping by linguistic subfield, e.g., perhaps into sections on phonetics /
phonology, morphology, etc. would give the reader a better overview of the

Overall, this publication is a wonderful example of the interesting and
important findings emerging from current variationist studies on European


Hudson, R. 2007. Language Networks: The new Word Grammar. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.

Labov, W. 2007. Transmission and diffusion. In Language 83, 344-387.

Marantz, A. 2001. Words. Ms., MIT.

Myers-Scotton, C. 1993. Duelling languages: Grammatical structure in
code-switching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Myers-Scotton, C. 1997. Duelling languages: Grammatical structure in
code-switching. Oxford: Clarendon.

Myers-Scotton, C. 2002. Contact Linguistics: Bilingual encounters and
grammatical outcomes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Muysken, P. 2000. Bilingual Speech: A typology of code-mixing. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Eva-María Suárez Büdenbender currently holds the position of Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish at Shepherd University. Her research interests include sociolinguistics, dialectology, language/dialect contact, and bilingualism.