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Review of  Linguistics

Reviewer: Mayumi Masuko
Book Title: Linguistics
Book Author: Martin Atkinson David Britain Harald Clahsen Andrew Radford
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Issue Number: 10.1953

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Radford, Andrew, Martin Atkinson, David Britain, Harald Clahsen, and
Andrew Spencer (1999). Linguistics: An Introduction. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. 438+xvi pages.

Mayumi Masuko, Waseda University

A Synopsis

A novel aspect of this textbook is its unique organisation and wide
coverage. The book starts with an 'Introduction' that presents the
main questions any linguist should ask, and briefly explains the
competence-performance distinction and sub-branches of linguistics. It
also introduces 'hyphenated' disciplines which merit only a cursory
mention in introductory textbooks, i.e. developmental linguistics (or
language acquisition), psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics and
sociolinguistics. They are introduced because data and/or research in
these disciplines are used later to supplement those of theoretical
linguistics. The main part is divided into three parts: Sounds
(Chapters 1-7), Words (Chapters 8-16) and Sentences (Chapters 17-26).
Each chapter ends with an Exercise and each of the three parts
provides 'Further reading and references'.

In the first part called 'Sounds', Chapter 1 forms the 'Introduction'
and Chapter 2, titled 'Sounds and suprasegmentals', introduces the
very basics of phonetics as the title implies. Chapter 3, 'Sound
variation', focuses on sociological variables influencing linguistic
variables. Chapter 4, 'Sound change', explicates dialectal variation
and changes within particular dialects (e.g. spirantisation in
Liverpudlian accent), and NOT the usually expected Great Vowel Shift.
Chapter 5 titled 'Phonemes, syllables and phonological processes',
starts with a discussion of allophonic variation, phonotactic
constraints and syllabification, followed by a fairly formal
explanation of features. It even succinctly explains the concepts of
underspecification and default in relation to sound variation. Chapter
6, 'Child Phonology', covers basic phonological processes such as
assimilation and harmony to account for children's production. Chapter
7, 'Processing sounds', discusses psycholinguistic experiments, and
identification and discrimination, to account for human speech
perception. A model of speech production called the 'scan-copier
model' (p.128f) is used to account for spoonerisms and other speech
errors. The chapter ends with an illustration of segments ordinary
human beings are or are not aware of; an example of the former being
rhyme and the latter, phonemes.

Part 2, 'Words', also starts with an 'Introduction' (Chapter 8).
Chapter 9, 'Word classes', explicates parts of speech, or as they call
them, "lexical categories". The distinction between functional
categories and content words is introduced, and followed by a slightly
more detailed explanation about verbs. Chapter 10, 'Building words',
is mainly concerned with morphology. Morphemes, morphs and smaller
units (e.g. bound morpheme and suffix) are presented. Derivation and
inflection are given as exemplifying morphological processes. Chapter
11, 'Morphology across languages', compares three different types of
morphological systems: isolating, agglutinating and inflectional
languages. Different types of morphological operations, such as
concatenative and non-concatenative, are also explained. Chapter 12,
'Word meaning', covers lexical relations: entailment, hyponymy,
meronymy, antonymy and complementarity. An account of semantic
features is followed by problems with lexical decomposition, and
prototypes are put forward as a better lexical semantic
representation. Chapter 13, 'Children and words', discusses
acquisition order; it shows that at least one of the lexical relations
introduced in the previous chapter, i.e. hyponymy, is utilised by
children in their taxonomy. Chapter 14, 'Lexical processing and the
mental lexicon', deals with issues associated with processing and
production. Two different models are offered, serial-autonomous and
parallel-interactive. A model of mental lexicon is presented, which
distinguishes "concepts" and "lexical entries". The former does not
figure in the mental lexicon, and the latter is divided into two:
lemma and form. Speech errors are used to support this. Chapter 15,
'Lexical disorders', begins with discussion of aphasia, divided into
two major types. The first is agrammatism, exemplified by Broca's
aphasia, sufferers of which produce speech that lacks functional
categories. Wernicke's aphasia is the most famous example of the
second type called paraphasias; the patients have problems with
content words. Children suffering from Specific Language Impairment
(SLI), on the other hand, have specific problems with inflectional
morphology, but it is shown that this is different from agrammatism.
Chapter 16, 'Lexical variation and change', concerns lexical
variation, and the concept of register and contact are introduced to
explain this. Contact is also used to account for morphological
variation that is observable in African American Vernacular English
(AAVE) and East Anglian English.

Part 3, 'Sentences', also begins with an Introduction (Chapter 17).
The omission of conversations or discourse from the data covered in
this book is justified by the argument that a discussion of larger
linguistic units necessitates the introduction of extralinguistic
knowledge, which falls outside the scope of linguistics. 'Basic
terminology' in Chapter 18 includes grammatical functions such as
arguments (subject and complement) and predicate, and topic and
comment. Clauses are classified using three oppositions: main vs.
complement and tensed vs. untensed, which is the same as the
finite/non-finite distinction. Another important grammatical concept,
aspect, is explicated with examples involving participles. Chapter 19,
'Sentence structure', examines in detail merger, a syntactic operation
that combines words to form a phrase. A labelled tree diagram is
presented as a convenient means to represent syntactic structure.
Coordination is employed as a test for constituency, and merger is
constrained by feature checking. The topic of Chapter 20, 'Empty
categories', is perhaps one of the most contentious issues in
contemporary syntactic theories. These types of covert constituents -
PRO, trace and empty auxiliary among others - are needed to
characterise nominals as D-projections, i.e. a noun phrase is a
phrasal expansion of a determiner. Similarly, clauses are phrasal
expansion of INFL, a category covering finite auxiliaries and the
infinitival "to". Chapter 21 discusses another important syntactic
operation, "Movement". This type of operation is involved in auxiliary
inversion and polarity items (head and operator movement), and
passivization (argument movement, or A-movement). Thus, the derivation
of syntactic structure in this framework is driven by merger and
movement. Chapter 22, 'Syntactic variation', further examines
inversion, as realised in AAVE and Modern Standard English (MSE).
Early Modern English (EME) is shown to have a null nominative pronoun
called "pro"; this exemplifies null subject languages, which follows
from the null subject parameter. Parameters appear to explain
linguistic variation in this syntactic framework. Hence, the name
"principle and parameters theory (PPT)". Chapter 23, "Logical form",
discusses issues related to interpretation of meaning. Curiously,
however, a representation used for this purpose, "Logical Form (LF)",
is defined as a covert syntactic level which is produced from an overt
syntactic structure by covert movement operations. Wh-questions in
Chinese provide evidence for covert movement. Chapter 24, 'Children's
sentences', focuses on two types of structural parameter setting: head
parameter and null subject in non-finite clauses. Also explained is
children's use of objective case with infinitives, and omission of
determiners in non-finite clauses. Both of these can be explained by
positing a feature [+/- fin]. Starting with a very brief explanation
of the Derivational Theory of Complexity, Chapter 25, 'Sentence
processing', presents results from click studies to show that clause
boundaries are psychological real segmental units. Experimental
results are also drawn in support of traces. Preferred interpretations
in structural ambiguity are explained by local attachment. Processing
difficulty associated with centre embedding and garden-path sentences
are briefly discussed also. The final chapter, 'Syntactic disorder',
examines aphasia, which was discussed earlier in Chapter 15. This
time, however, the focus is on sentence comprehension. Using
structured experiments, it is shown that, contrary to the accepted
wisdom, Broca's aphasia is not modality-specific; rather, it affects
comprehension as well as production. Yosef Grozinsky's work is cited
to show that different manifestations of agrammatism in different
languages do share one deficit; namely, agrammatics have
underspecified feature values in positions that require specified
values. Again, earlier in Chapter 15, Wernicke's aphasia was
introduced as an example of paraphasias. Here it is shown that it also
affects patients' grammar, and hence is called paragrammatism. These
patients have problems with retrieving content words from their mental
lexicon, and they stop and start a different sentence. Yet another
condition introduced in Chapter 15, SLI, is re-examined. Apparent word
order problems observed in German-speaking SLI children turn out to be
a result of their difficulty with inflection. The generalisation that
SLI affects inflection is thus proved valid. At the end of the chapter
is a short 'Conclusion' for the entire book, maintaining that the
position taken in this book faithfully follows Chomsky's view:
linguistics is concerned with factors internal to human brains that
affect linguistic choice.

An Evaluation: Few Blemishes

This book has five authors, but there appear to be no discernible
stylistic differences among Chapters (or within each Chapter, for that
matter). It offers lucid explanations and reads smoothly. There are a
few minor issues that I noticed, and they seem to be related to one
larger issue. I shall start with the minor ones.

As an introductory textbook, the citation method of this book is a
little short of being helpful. For example, on p. 338, "the research
of Peter Sells and his colleagues" is cited. No mention of the
publication date, but this is forgivable as it is later given as
"Sells, Rickford and Wasow (1994)" in 'Further reading and references'
on p.422. Moreover, full bibliographical entry for Sells et al. (1994)
can be found in the Bibliography. However, in the 'Further reading and
references' for Part 1, on p.135, the source of information regarding
intonation change mentioned in Chapter 4 is identified as "Britain
(1998)" and that of the Milton Keynes dialect as "Kerswill, P. and A.
Williams (forthcoming)". Sadly, this time neither Britain's nor
Kerswill & Williams' work is included in the Bibliography. This is
disappointing, as their research seemed interesting, judging from the
way the authors of this book present it.

Even more unfortunate are the proponents of "different theoretical
accounts" mentioned in the Introduction to Part 3 (p.280): "Joan
Bresnan and her colleagues", and "Ivan Sag and Carl Pollard" and their
associates. None of their works are included in the Bibliography.
Since the authors decided not to ignore the existence of alternatives,
this is indeed a pity. Surely the production cost would not have been
substantially increased by the inclusion of one representative work
each for these two frameworks, say, Pollard & Sag (1994) and Bresnan (1982)?

Perhaps related to this is the fact that the authors do not explicitly
state their theoretical affiliation from the outset. Trained linguists
will already be aware of this affiliation, but not novices to the
field. True, the authors mention "the Chomskian approach" on p.2 and
Chomsky's name appears again and again, but it is not until p. 371
that "the overall organization of a grammar" appears with a diagram.
Considering this book is subtitle "An introduction", it might have
been better to put the organisation of the theory much earlier.

Both of these issues may have the same origin, to which I shall turn presently.

The Intended Audience?

One issue that still puzzles me is the nature of the authors' intended
audience. In 'A note for course organisers and class teachers on the
use of this book' (pp.xv-xvi), a suggestion is made that the three
parts of the book are more or less independent, and each part "could
be integrated as the introductory segment of more specialised courses
in phonology, morphology or syntax." This might be feasible in a small
linguistics department where one person teaches phonology and
morphology, and another teaches syntax and possibly semantics. I have
direct knowledge of only two linguistics programmes in England where
such a use could be easily envisaged. I wonder, however, whether it
would be possible in a large department where the theoretical
orientation of each teacher may greatly differ. Being more than 400
pages long, this book will not come cheap, and it would be a shame if
undergraduate students were forced to buy it as the course book, read
only one Part for their course, and left the rest unread.

Furthermore, though the beauty of this book is its wider than usual
coverage incorporating four hyphenated disciplines, I wonder how those
teaching undergraduate introductory courses might find it. At the very
beginning, it might be more beneficial to students to be exposed to a
narrower theory. Teachers can, of course, select which parts of the
book to use. Nevertheless, it might affect the flow of the text which
otherwise is lucid. It would be fair to note here that the authors
imply that the book might not be suitable for a 'real' introductory
course; perhaps they intended it as a textbook for an advanced
introductory course, if that is not a contradiction in terms.

Alternatively, the authors suggest that the book might be an ideal
source book for teaching assistants or tutors/supervisors. This I find
more practicable and appealing. Similarly, this textbook would be
eminently suitable as a self-study aid for postgraduate students
because of its coverage and an abundance of data and exercises.

I had not expected to enjoy reading a book intended to be an
introductory textbook. However, enjoy it I did, and at the same time I
learnt more about sub-disciplines outside my specialisation than I had
ever done during my postgraduate studies. Personally, I would hesitate
to use this book for an undergraduate introductory course, but this
might reflect my limitations as a teacher, rather than those of the
book. I would recommend this textbook especially to teachers like
myself who have not had time to follow recent developments,
particularly outside their own field.


Bresnan, J. (ed.) (1982) The Mental Representation of Grammatical
Relations. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Pollard, C. and I. Sag (1994). Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Sells, P., Rickford, J. and T. Wasow (1994) 'An optimality theoretic
approach to variation in negative inversion in AAVE', manuscript,
Stanford University.

About the reviewer

Mayumi Masuko did her postgraduate studies at the University of
Cambridge, where she received an MPhil and a PhD in linguistics. She
currently teaches English and linguistics at Waseda University in
Tokyo. Her main research interest lies in semantics and pragmatics and
their interaction with syntax and morphology. She has been involved in
a research project on generative lexicon in Japanese funded by the
Ministry of Education.