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Review of  Varieties of English

Reviewer: Richard W Hallett
Book Title: Varieties of English
Book Author: Bernd Kortmann Edgar W. W. Schneider
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 23.3263

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EDITOR: Schneider, Edgar W.
TITLE: Varieties of English 2
SUBTITLE: The Americas and the Caribbean
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
YEAR: 2008

Richard W. Hallett, Linguistics Department, Northeastern Illinois University

In the ‘General introduction’ (1-22) to this volume, which is the second in a
series of four volumes, Bernd Kortmann and Edgar W. Schneider discuss the goal
of the volumes in this series and their accompanying CD-ROMs; i.e. to ‘provide
comprehensive up-to-date accounts of the salient phonological and grammatical
properties of the varieties of English around the world’ (1). The volume
reviewed here focuses on ‘all main national standard varieties, distinctive
regional, ethnic, and social varieties, major contact varieties (pidgins and
creoles), as well as major varieties of English as a Second Language’ (2) found
in the Western Hemisphere. In the following chapter, ‘Introduction: Varieties
of English in the Americas and the Caribbean’ (23-33), Edgar W. Schneider
justifies the classification and examination of the following varieties
according to the region in which they are used.

The next seventeen chapters focus on the phonological patterns of varieties of
English in the New World: ‘Standard American English pronunciation’ (37-51) by
William A. Kretzschmar, Jr.; ‘New England: Phonology’ (52-66) by Naomi Nagy and
Julie Roberts; ‘New York, Philadelphia, and other northern cities: Phonology
(67-86) by Matthew J. Gordon; ‘Rural Southern white accents’ (87-114) by Erik R.
Thomas; ‘The urban South: Phonology’ (115-128) by Jan Tillery and Guy Bailey;
‘The West and Midwest: Phonology’ (129-143) by Matthew J. Gordon; ‘English in
Canada: Phonology’ (144-160) by Charles Boberg; ‘Newfoundland English:
Phonology’ (161-180) by Sandra Clarke; ‘African American Vernacular English:
Phonology’ (181-191) by Walter F. Edwards; ‘Gullah: Phonology’ (192-207) by
Tracey L. Weldon; ‘Cajun Vernacular English: Phonology’ (208-218) by Sylvie
Dubois and Barbara M. Horvath; ‘Chicano English: Phonology’ (219-238) by Otto
Santa Ana and Robert Bayley; ‘Bahamian English: Phonology’ (239-255) by Becky
Childs and Walt Wolfram; ‘Jamaican Creole and Jamaican English: Phonology’
(256-289) by Hubert Devonish and Otelemate G. Harry; ‘Eastern Caribbean
English-derived language varieties: Phonology’ (290-311) by Michael Aceto;
‘Bajan: Phonology’ (312-319) by Renée Blake; ‘The creoles of Trinidad and
Tobago: Phonology’ (320-338) by Valerie Youssef and Winford James; and ‘Suriname
creoles: Phonology’ (339-382) by Norval Smith and Vinije Haabo. After each
chapter is a set of exercises and study questions. At the end of this phonology
section is Edgar W. Schneider’s ‘Synopsis: Phonological variation in the
Americas and the Caribbean’ (383-398), in which he states that each of the above
contributors were asked to employ Wells’ (1982) lexical sets to identify the
various vowel types.

The second section focuses on the morphology and syntax of the varieties of
English in the Americas and the Caribbean. Fourteen chapters comprise the bulk
of the second half of this volume: ‘Colloquial American English: Grammatical
features’ (401-427) by Thomas E. Murray and Beth Lee Simon; ‘Appalachian
English: Morphology and syntax” (428-467) by Michael B. Montgomery; ‘Rural and
ethnic varieties in the Southeast: Morphology and syntax’ (468-491) by Walt
Wolfram; ‘Newfoundland English: Morphology and syntax’ (492-509) by Sandra
Clark; ‘African American Vernacular English: Morphology and syntax’ (510-533) by
Walt Wolfram; ‘Earlier African American English: Morphology and syntax’
(534-550) by Alexander Kautzsch; ‘Gullah: Morphology and syntax’ (551-571) by
Salikoko S. Mufwene; ‘Chicano English: Morphology and syntax’ (572-590) by
Robert Bayley and Otto Santa Ana; ‘Bahamian English: Morphology and syntax’
(591-608) by Jeffrey Reaser and Benjamin Torbert; ‘Jamaican Creole: Morphology
and syntax’ (609-644) by Peter L. Patrick; ‘Eastern Caribbean English-derived
language varieties: Morphology and syntax’ (645-660) by Michael Aceto; ‘The
creoles of Trinidad and Tobago: Morphology and syntax’ (661-692) by Winford
James and Valerie Youssef; ‘Surinamese creoles: Morphology and syntax’ (693-731)
by Donald Winford and Bettina Migge; and ‘Belize and other central American
varieties: Morphology and syntax’ (732-762) by Geneviève Escure. The book’s
final chapter is Edgar W. Schneider’s ‘Synopsis: Morphological and syntactic
variation in the Americas and the Caribbean’ (763-776).

As the goal of this volume is quite ambitious, i.e. to provide a wide-ranging
overview of the varieties of English in the Western Hemisphere, it is both too
easy and quite unfair to criticize a lack of depth of analysis of any one
variety. Rather, the book is able to accomplish a broad survey of these
varieties so that interested scholars may understand the relationships between
and among the Englishes of this part of the world. As an example of such an
unfair criticism, Gordon’s chapter on Western and Midwestern American phonology
fails to mention the tensing of high lax vowels before the voiceless palatal
fricative found in parts of the state of Indiana (see Ladefoged 1993:88), a
feature with which this reviewer is very familiar. Again, to focus on such
minor omissions is to lose sight of the wealth of information this volume
contains; as Gordon specifically states at this beginning of his chapter, ‘…this
vast territory is by no means linguistically homogenous; indeed almost all of
the speech characteristics described here occur variably across the regions
considered and across speakers within any given region’ (129).

Concerning the phonology section of this volume, there is no better
comprehensive yet digestible compilation on varieties of English in the Americas
and the Caribbean than that found in this volume. The use of Wells’ (1982)
lexical sets in describing the vowels of each variety is not only important for
consistency, but also for easy cross-reference and comparison of the varieties.
There are significant differences in the length of the chapters in this
section, e.g. the text of Blake’s chapter on the phonology of Bajan, the
English-related creole spoken in Barbados, is only six pages in length, while
the text of Smith and Haabo’s chapter on the phonology of Surinamese creoles
spans forty-two pages and includes sixty-eight tables comparing phonological
features of English, Sranan, Ndyuka, and Saramaccan.

While the phonology section is quite comprehensive and by nature employs
uniformity of description, this consistency is lacking in the chapters on
morphology and syntax. The chapters in the second half of the book describe
various syntactic features of these Englishes, thereby removing the ease of
comparison among the varieties offered by the phonology section. Likewise,
there is not a direct correspondence to the chapters in the first half of the
book. For example, there are no chapters on the morpho-syntax of Cajun
Vernacular English or Bajan. Nonetheless, this section does contain valuable
information about varieties of English that are still under-researched.

Overall, this volume is a very helpful addition to the canon of world Englishes
studies. The synopses that follow both sections of the volume summarize and
(re)present the main ideas discussed in the preceding chapters, each of which is
well chosen to provide a broad overview of varieties of English found in the
Americas and the Caribbean. Particularly useful are the exercises that follow
each chapter, as well as the CD-ROM. The chapters and exercises will supply
great homework and/or discussion points for classes on a variety of linguistic
topics, e.g. world Englishes, dialectology, and language variation.

Ladefoged, Peter. 1993. A course in phonetics, 3rd edition. Fort Worth:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Wells, John C. 1982. Accents of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Richard W. Hallett is Professor and Coordinator of Linguistics at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. His research interests include world Englishes, second language acquisition, sociolinguistics, and the discourse of tourism. He is the co-author of 'Official Tourism Websites: A Discourse Analysis Perspective'.

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