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On the Offensive

By Karen Stollznow

On the Offensive " This book sheds light on the derogatory phrases, insults, slurs, stereotypes, tropes and more that make up linguistic discrimination. Each chapter addresses a different area of prejudice: race and ethnicity; gender identity; sexuality; religion; health and disability; physical appearance; and age."


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Review of  Traveling Conceptualizations


Reviewer: Maria Prikhodko
Book Title: Traveling Conceptualizations
Book Author: Andrea Hollington
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Linguistic Theories
Sociolinguistics
Cognitive Science
Anthropological Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Creole English, Jamaican
Issue Number: 27.2475

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Review:
Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry

SUMMARY

In Traveling Conceptualizations: A Cognitive and Anthropological Linguistic Study of Jamaican Andrea Hollington scrutinizes how African influences shaped Jamaican “ways with words” from a cognitive-linguistic perspective. The author slowly reaches the goal by structuring the monograph linearly, from introducing the study rationale, background, and significance in Chapter 1; data collection methods and the researcher’s self-positioning in Chapter 2; to Chapter 3 to illuminate the crucial theoretical lenses: cultural conceptualizations, interrelation of language, culture and cognition. Then, Chapter 4 steps into Jamaican contexts to envisage language domains to be under investigation. After brief Chapter 5, where the author discusses embodied concepts like hybridity and agency, Chapters 6 conceptualizes serial verb constructions (SVCs) in Jamaican settings as influenced by Western African languages. Chapter 7 changes track to explore Jamaican naming practices like ethnonyms and toponyms. Finally, the final chapter summarizes the book and concludes with further implications.

The monograph opens with the introductory chapter defining a major theme, linguistic conceptualizations of various individuals and communities in Jamaican settings as influenced by African heritage. Then, the author lays out how the book is organized.

The title of Chapter 2, Methods and Data, speaks for itself. The author delineates the process of data collection and research positionality. First, in order to triangulate the data, together with conducting semi-structured and unstructured interviews, the author reports several journeys to Jamaica in 2011 and 2012; she describes recordings of oral narratives, like folk stories and personal stories, observations of media sources that represented Jamaican language platforms, and participant observations and unstructured discussions. The chapter ends with critical insights into research positioning.

Chapter 3 aims at establishing the theoretical basis for the study, cultural conceptualizations (metaphor, metonymy, categories, schemas, cultural models and events) and cognitive processes such as meaning making through conceptual systems embedded in particular cultures.

In Chapter 4, Hollington scrutinizes the sociohistorical settings of the research site – Jamaica. Following this is a discussion of empirical studies on African influences on Jamaican contexts (divided into two subsections: Previous studies on African influences in Jamaica; and A New Perspective). The first subsection addresses the process of forming “the creolist paradigm as well as on linguistic contributions concerning the African heritage in Jamaica” (p. 3) through analyzing its linguistic subdomains, such as lexicon, phonology, semantic structures, linguistic practices as embedded in religious and ethnic communities. The second subsection, shifts to a new research perspective to take up a holistic view on how African influences may be traveling into Jamaican residents’ daily practices.

Chapter 5, Body Parts and Conceptualizations, illuminates how the movement of body parts becomes embodied in linguistic expressions used in Jamaican contexts. To demonstrate the significance of this, the author envisages the cognitive-linguistic role of embodiment in African conceptualizations and languages (i.e. the Ewe, Ntrubo and Chumburung); and then, she traces cultural hybridization and agency in the Jamaican body. The author summarizes the examined body parts metaphors and their cultural conceptualizations in Jamaican and West African languages in a table. The purpose of the table is to identify parallel constructions, rather than to generalize about semantically transparent units in Africa and the African Diaspora in the New World.

Chapter 6 concentrates on the daily usage of serial verb constructions (SVCs) as “strategies of coding and expressing a range of semantic as well as grammatical relations and functions.” (p. 133) Defining the constructions, the author also surveys most typical features of SVCs (symmetrical lexicalization, grammatization of a verbum dicendi) in wider contexts of West Africa (Kwa, West Benue-Congo, Gur, Adamawa, Ubangi, and in sub branches of East Benue-Congo including Cross-River, Jukunooid, and Nigerian Plateau languages). The remainder of the chapter categorizes most frequent SVCs in Jamaican contexts: (a) assymetrical (instrumental (‘to take’); motion (‘change of state’ verbs); purposive (‘to hide’); benefactive (‘to give’); comparative (‘to pass’, ‘to surpass’); complementizer (‘se say, that’); (b) symmetrical; (c) argument-sharing and switch-subject; and (d) focus.

Chapter 7 examines kinship, names and conceptualizations of identity in the research settings. Starting with kinship concepts ‘mother’ (Mama Africa) or ‘father’ in folklore and (oral) literature (Anansi) and what they may symbolize (human behavior, relations), the discussion proceeds to the domains of the spiritual world and leadership (reconnecting with ancestors after death. The next theme is naming in Jamaica: personal names, Kromanti and Nyabingi. As associated with a specific historical character, the Kromanti element is considered essential for Jamaican Maroon’s cultural practices. The last element embedded in the naming practices is Nyabingi, which the author defines to be a strong marker of African identity (recognized in music).

EVALUATION

This book is an invaluable contribution to the fields of cognitive linguistics and cultural anthropology, because it exemplifies how one particular cultural context with its embedded linguistic practices may be scrutinized. The author marks down how the wider sociohistorical context of West Africa influenced and inspired Jamaican communities to maintain linguistic traditions of naming, interacting and embodying meanings.

From a methodological point of view, this book is an asset for graduate students majoring in the related fields of study. The author scrutinizes the process of establishing the epistemological basis of the study: cognitive meaning making processes and cultural conceptualizations of metaphor, metonymy, categories, schemas, cultural models and events. Then, the author succinctly describes a very complex data collection process, which, definitely, is helpful for scholars seeking appropriate models of gathering artifacts and procedures.

However, besides critical reflection on self-positioning in the research, there were few other critical insights into the context. For instance, the author might have specified cognitive differences in transferring naming practices in different cultural communities of Jamaica. Instead of describing what practices exist, the author might have distinguished how certain representatives (for example, of elder generations) had acquired the same meaning over time or space.

While there is a lack of critical discussion of the empirical results, I highly recommend this monograph for methodological information in conducting qualitative studies.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Maria Prikhodko is a PhD candidate in Composition and TESOL at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation focuses on qualitative explorations of internationally mobile students’ multilingual literacies in the context of US freshman composition. She currently teaches two sections of Composition II (research writing) through the pedagogy of equality and sustainability.