Review of Case, Typology and Grammar
Siewierska, Anna & Jae Jung Song (eds.). 1998. "Case, Typology, and Grammar.
In Honor of Barry J. Blake." Typological Studies in Language 38.
Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 379 pages.
Reviewed by Chris Bongartz, University of Wisconson
Contributions by Keith Allen (1), Peter Austin (2), Edith L. Bavin (3),
Byron W. Bender (4), Kate Burridge (5), Bernard Comrie & Maria Polinsky (6),
Nicholas Evans (7), Richard Hudson (8), William McGregor (9), Andrew Pawley
& Jonathan Lane (10), Anna Siewierska (11), Jae Jung Song (12), Stanley
Starosta (13), Sandra A. Thompson (14), Tasaku Tsunoda (15).
The fifteen original articles in this edited volume are dedicated
to Barry J. Blake (La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia), honoring his
scholarship on the occasion of his 60th birthday. With "Case, Typology, and
Grammar" the editors, Anna Siewierska and Jae Jung Song, have chosen a title
representing the impressive range of contributions to the book, many of
which are directly related to Blake's work. A comprehensive bibliography,
listing his publications from 1966 until the present, complements Blake's
vita given in the editors' preface. The frequent references to Blake's work
in the individual papers distinguish the honoree as an extremely perceptive
descriptive grammarian for Australian Aboriginal languages. But they also
portray him as a theory-oriented scholar with significant contributions to
the conceptualization of language typology and case.
Like Blake's own research the collection embraces both applied
work in language typology and more theoretical concerns. Reflecting the
field he has worked in over the past three decades the papers in the volume
range from meticulous description of grammatical phenomena in individual
languages to generalizations about language change and other theoretical
claims based on the observations from the data. Each paper has its own
reference list. A shared list of abbreviations, a notable language index
listing more than 150 languages, and a subject index link the individual
contributions and round out the volume.
Its diversity is the volume's major asset, in both topical variety
and depth of investigation. Is Lexicase Theory superior to Role and
Reference Grammar when classifying case marking systems (13)? What does the
developmental route of kumpa-' (to sit') in Jiwarli reveal about the
grammaticization of auxiliaries (2)? Why does "The Guiness Book of Records"
(Young, 1997) list Tabasaran as the language with the most noun cases (6)?
Must the separation of lexis, syntax, and discourse be questioned to explain
particular grammatical features (10) and to account for typological
universals (14)? These questions and many more are raised in the articles,
and the suggested answers will be of interest to scholars in language
typology, historical linguistics, discourse analysis, language acquisition,
and theoretical syntax, semantics, and morphology. However, the articles
come without abstracts, and there are no introductions to the many
contributors from around the globe. Although the subject index serves as a
basic orientation, one might wish for greater accessibility nevertheless,
patient reading will be rewarded with the volume's hidden treasures.
The collected articles are arranged in the usual alphabetical
order of a "Festschrift" an organization that does not reflect the
cohesive ties between the contributions. Thematic cohesion marks four
different groups: The first group of articles focuses on particular
grammatical constructions. Topics include the aforementioned auxiliary
development (2), initial mutation in Iwaidja verbs (7), Warrungu applicative
constructions (16), and benefactive marking with possessive classifiers
(12). Some of the implications which the authors in this group derive from
their data are strikingly unusual and call for further investigation - for
example the role of 'correspondence mimicry' (Alpher & Nash, 1984) in
multilingual settings (7).
Articles in a second group discuss their data in terms of
different theoretical considerations. Here, reanalysis of inverse
case-marking (Givon, 1994) as a source of ergative case-marking (11) is
questioned, and profiling of thematic roles for 'be' and "possessive"
'have' in Role an Reference Grammar (Foley & Van Valin, 1984) is put under
scrutiny (1). Semiotic Grammar (McGregor, 1997) and NP roles in clauses
account for applicative constructions in Warrwa (9), and Lexicase Theory
can explain active case-marking as a variant of ergativity (13).
Theoretical validity depends, of course, on the empirical relevance of any
given framework. The cross-linguistic variation of structure-sharing and
non-structure sharing accounts of control structures such as "We persuaded
Pat to come" poses different problems for different syntactic accounts an
insightful perspective offered in (8).
The third group of related articles looks into how language works
from a variety of perspectives. One article calls for more attention to the
role of iconicity and other criteria suggested by the Prague School (for
example Jakobson, 1966) in markedness and language development (4). Another
points to "typology of use" in language acquisition, illustrated by the
acquisition of overt and covert syntactic arguments in Warlpiri (3). A
third article in this group argues that variation in event structure
conventions motivates grammar in terms of lexical and syntactic structure,
as the example of serial verb constructions in Kalam illustrates (10). But
discourse functions must be observed in interaction. While questions, for
example, invite responses in a conversations, negative constructions do not
have the same interactive qualities. The universal differences observed in
the structure of interrogatives and negation, often explained in terms of
syntactic scope, can in fact be related to their different functions an
intriguing explanation of structure given in (14).
Finally, a small group of two articles aims to debunk popular
linguistic myths. "Throw the baby from the window a cookie", for example,
is not a common syntactic structure in the English of speakers of
Pennsylvania German (5). It is not stereotypes, but language functions in
the community and outside that can explain the actual effects of language
contact observed in Waterloo County, Canada. And while the Daghestanian
languages of the Northeast Caucasian area do have up to eighteen different
case-markers, it is more interesting to explain the different combinations
in terms of the three parameters orientation, direction, and distality, than
to look at all possible different combinations and arrive at a record number
of different case noun cases (6).
The thematic diversity of the articles is reflected in the various
methodological routes taken. While the study of acquisition, for example,
is based on production data from child language acquisition in just one
language, other studies are informed by data from as many as forty different
languages (12). Some of the language data are quite rare making the book
a valuable source of data. Many articles include graphic illustrations of
case and other syntactic relationships, and the quality of the editing is
generally very good the only exception being the occasional typos, such as
"grand children" (p.88). Also slightly disruptive in the reading process
are some arbitrarily placed graphs and figures (eg., p. 65, p. 288). Such
misplacements appear in stark contrast to remarkably carefully edited
articles such as (6).
Overall the papers in the volume are highly readable and
up-to-date, with a potential role in future research, and are very
informative in their own right. Interesting in terms of the diversity of
analyses offered, rich in data and references, the book suits its purpose in
a fine manner - an excellent tribute to the honoree's excellent scholarship.
Alpher, Barry and David Nash. 1984. "Lexical Replacement and Cognate
Equilibrium in Australia." In Precirculated Papers for the Australian
Linguistics Society Conference, Alice Springs, August 1984, 17-44.
Foley, William A. and Robert D.Van Valin Jr. 1984.
Functional Syntax and Universal Grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Givon, Talmy. 1994. "The Pragmatics of De-Transitive Voice:
Functional and Typological Aspects of Inversion." In Talmy Givon (ed.),
Voice and Inversion. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Jakobson, Roman. 1966. "Implications of Language Universals for
Linguistics." In Joseph Greenberg (ed.), Universals of Language, 2nd
edition. Cambridge: MIT Press.
McGregor, William. 1997. Semiotic Grammar. Oxford: Oxford
Young, Mark (ed.). 1997. The Guiness Book of Records. (US edition).
New York: Bantam Books.
Chris Bongartz is a lecturer at the Department of English, University of
Her research interests include language contact, typology, syntax, and
Christiane M. Bongartz, PhD
Department of English
University of Wisconsin-Madison
6111 Helen C. White Hall
Madison, WI 53706
phone: (608) 263-2848
fax: (608) 263-3709
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