How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.
Date: Wed, 01 Jun 2005 11:29:38 +0200 From: Monika S. Schmid Subject: Handbook of Varieties of English
EDITORS: Kortmann, Bernd; Schneider, Edgar W; Burridge, Kate; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive TITLE: A Handbook of Varieties of English SUBTITLE: A Multimedia Reference Tool YEAR: 2004 PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
Monika S. Schmid, English Department, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
To get straight to the point: The _Handbook of Varieties of English_ is a dream come true, especially so for those of us whose teaching responsibilities include courses on varieties of English around the world. As someone who belongs to this category, I have over the past years spent many weeks in libraries, scanning monographs and collected volumes for adequate teaching materials. Every year, I became become more concerned that Wells' excellent 1982 overview, while a wonderfully useful work, is getting somewhat outdated. If I had been asked to draw up a wishlist describing my ideal teaching tool, I would have fantasized about something comprehensive yet consistent; something covering both phonological and grammatical features; something with multimedia support and audio data from the described varieties (preferably in a comparable format); something treating established as well as colonial and post-colonial varieties; and something I could both teach from and point my students to for their essays and presentations.
The _Handbook of Varieties of English_ is all that. In the words of the editors, its aim is to provide "comprehensive up-to-date accounts of the salient phonological and grammatical properties of the varieties of English around the world" and to supply the linguistic community with "[r] eliable structural information in a somewhat standardized format" (p. 1). The editors have set their sights high - and managed to achieve them admirably.
The Handbook comes in two volumes, one on phonology and one on morphology and syntax. After a general introduction (Kortmann & Schneider) and a general list of references, both volumes fall into four parts, each containing between 11 and 18 descriptions of individual varieties (for a full list of the chapters and their authors see the Appendix below): The British Isles (eds. Kortmann & Upton), The Americas and the Caribbean (ed. Schneider), The Pacific and Australasia (eds. Burridge & Kortmann) and Africa, South and Southeast Asia (ed. Meshtrie). Both volumes end with synopses by the section editors, summarizing "the most striking properties of the sets of varieties of English spoken in the individual world regions" (4) and a global synopsis (Vol. I: Schneider, Vol. II: Kortmann & Szmrecsanyi). The volumes are accompanied by a Multimedia Reference Tool (CD-ROM), of which more below. Notable is the wide-ranging inclusion of second-language varieties and English-based pidgins and creoles, which account for more than half of the varieties treated.
The default (and, to the reader, most useful) case is for any one particular variety to be treated in both volumes, generally but by no means in all cases by the same author(s). In this respect, the section edited by Meshtrie is clearly the most consistent, while the Americas and Caribbean chapters (regrettably, perhaps) exhibit substantial variation across the two volumes.
The list of contributors (see Appendix) can only be called impressive, which makes it even more astonishing that a work to which more than a hundred scholars have contributed manages such overall consistency both in the structure and in the quality of the presentations.
One of the most striking characteristics of the _Handbook_ is its understanding of what constitutes a variety of English. While virtually all dialectologists and sociologists currently would pay lip service to the idea that there is no one inherently and linguistically privileged standard variety, most collections and writings about any number of varieties then proceed to take the standard as their point of departure, particularly when the focus is on the British Isles. Here, however, the structure of the sections follows a strictly geographical order, in the case of the British Isles, north-to-south, with Received Pronunciation appearing very much towards the end of the section. Similarly, it is unusual for varieties of English which originated several centuries ago (as the ones spoken, for example, in the British Isles) to be put on a par with more recent, e.g. (post)colonial, varieties, as is the case here.
In order to maintain consistency of information across chapters, all authors were asked to address the following issues in their contributions:
Vol I: - phonological systems - phonetic realization(s) and (phonotactic) distributions of a selection of phonemes - specific phonological processes - lexical distribution - prosodic features - intonation patterns - observations/generalizations on the basis of lexical sets Vol II: - tense - aspect - modality - auxiliaries - negation - relativization - complementation - other subordination phenomena - agreement - noun phrase structure - pronominal systems - word order - selected salient features of the morphological paradigms
How the editors managed to make all their authors stick to these guidelines is a marvel, but stick to it they did, making the overall appearance of the volumes quite amazingly consistent. In addition, most contributions, while focussing on the above features, contain an introductory section providing information on the socio-historical background of the variety under investigation.
This in itself would have constituted a phenomenally helpful and useful work. However, it is the synopses at the end of both volumes and the Multimedia CD-ROM accompanying the books where the true power of this tool becomes most evident: here, the worldwide distribution of variables is at the reader's fingertips. Both focus on the systematicity of certain features across a wide range of fairly disparate language varieties. This has been visualized in an especially handy format by means of interactive maps on the CD-ROM. Here, a comprehensive collection of 179 phonological and 76 grammatical features are available for selection, upon which they will appear on the world map as red (normal or widespread distribution of the selected feature), yellow (feature occurs occasionally) or grey (feature not documented). This allows the user, for example, to select a monophthongal realization of the FACE diphthong and see at a glance that this is really very widespread, especially in Central Africa, the Caribbean, and in Asian varieties, while _at_ as a relative particle is restricted to occasional use in Northern British and Appalachian English.
These maps are accompanied by a large collection of audio samples in three categories: free data (for 39 varieties), a reading passage (for 36 varieties which, in some cases, has been varied slightly) and lexical sets (for 38 varieties, some of which however are incomplete). The Intercontinental Vowel Comparison feature, furthermore, makes it possible to select for example the lexical set STRUT, click on the places on the world map for which the data are available, and hear it rendered consecutively in Ghanaian English, New York English and Standard Scottish English. (Campus licenses for the Multimedia Tool are available to libraries, I am informed on the Mouton de Gruyter website - price on request.).
It is difficult within the confines of 2,500 words to describe just how comprehensive and useful this tool is. Suffice it to say that this is the kind of reference work that comes along maybe once in a generation, and will revolutionize the ways in which we and our students can work with the English language.
If one were forced to pick something to criticize, the helpfulness of the index might be somewhat questionable. One cannot but wonder how many readers will actually want to look up the close to 100 instances of CURE. On the other hand, for example, there is no entry for Aitken's Law (although the same phenomenon does feature under Scottish Vowel Length Rule).
Furthermore, it is probably inevitable that an interactive tool, such as the CD-ROM, could not have been as stringently edited as the linear printed text, so there are some points which might merit addressing in future editions. For one thing, the user manual (available at www.mouton- online.de) is less than helpful to the user who encounters trouble and turns to it for help -- it bears, in fact, a slightly suspicious resemblance to a somewhat casually edited publishing proposal. The chapter 'Basic Concepts', which is referred to at several points both in the manual and in the section 'Preliminaries' on the CD-ROM, also seems to be missing (although it is represented in a very rudimentary version in the free demo on the publisher's website). Under the heading 'Audio Samples - Maps', the reader is referred to the online edition of the CD- ROM - accompanied, however, by a link which does not work. On the publisher's website, I could only find the demo version. I am informed by the publishers that they are working on a full online edition, but whether owners of the _Handbook_ will be able to get free access, I don't know.
The last point of criticism, although outside the control of the editors, is the fact that the exorbitant price of the Handbook will make it impossible for most of us ever to own what, really, should be on the bookshelf of every linguist working on the English language and its (contact) varieties. It is a great pity that such an outstanding work could not have been more competitively priced. Maybe we can hope for a more affordable paperback edition in the future? In the meantime, if your own budget does not stretch to the _Handbook_, make sure your library gets it. If they only buy one book this year, this should definitely be the one.
APPENDIX - Contents General intro (Kortmann/Schneider); Vol II: idem Introduction British Isles (Bernd Kortmann/Clive Upton); Vol II: idem English in Orkney/Shetland (Gunnel Melchers); Vol II: idem Scottish English (Jane Stuart-Smith); Vol II: (Jim Miller) Irish English (Raymond Hickey); Vol II: (Markku Filppula) Welsh English (Robert Penhallurick); Vol II: idem English dialects in the North of England (Joan Beal); Vol II: idem English West Midlands (Urszula Clark); Vol II: - East Anglia (Peter Trudgill); Vol II: idem South of England (Ulrike Altendorf/Dominic Watt) -; Vol II: Southwest (Susanne Wagner) -; Vol II: Southeast (Lieselotte Anderwald) Channel Islands English (Heinrich Ramisch); Vol II: - RP (Clive Upton); Vol II: - British Creole (Peter L. Patrick); Vol II: (Mark Sebba) Introduction: Americas/Caribbean (Edgar W. Schneider); Vol II: idem Standard American (William A. Kretzschmer); Vol II: - -; Vol II: Colloquial American English (Thomas E. Murray/Beth Lee Simon) New England (Naomi Nagy/Julie Roberts); Vol II: - New York, Philadelphia and other northern cities (Matthew J. Gordon); Vol II: - Rural Southern white accents (Erik R. Thomas); Vol II: - Urban South (Jan Tillery/Guy Bailey); Vol II: - -; Vol II: Appalachian English (Michael B. Montgomery) -; Vol II: Rural and ethnic varieties in the Southeast (Walt Wolfram) West and Midwest (Matthew J. Gordon); Vol II: - English in Canada (Charles Boberg); Vol II: - Newfoundland English (Sandra Clarke); Vol II: idem African American Vernacular English (Walter F. Edwards); Vol II: Urban African American Vernacular English (Walt Wolfram) -; Vol II: Earlier African American English (Alexander Kautzsch) Gullah (Tracey L. Weldon); Vol II: (Salikoko S. Mufwene) Cajun Vernacular English (Sylvie Dubois/Barbara M. Horvath); Vol II: - Chicano English (Otto Santa Ana/Robert Bayley); Vol II: (Robert Bayley/Otto Santa Ana) Bahamian English (Becky Childs/Walt Wolfram); Vol II: (Jeffrey Reaser/Benjamin Torbert) Jamaican Creole/Jamaican English (Hubert Devonish/Otelemate G. Harry); Vol II: (Peter L. Patrick) Eastern Caribbean English-derived language varieties (Michael Aceto); Vol II: idem Bajan (Renée Blake); Vol II: - Creoles of Trinidad and Tobago (Valerie Youssef/Winford James); Vol II: (Winford James/Valerie Youssef) Surinamese creoles (Norval Smith/Vinije Haabo); Vol II: (Donald Winford/Bettina Migge) -; Vol II: Belize and other central American Varieties (Genevieve Escure) Introduction: Pacific and Australasia (Kate Burridge/Bernd Kortmann); Vol II: idem New Zealand English (Laurie Bauer/Paul Warren); Vol II: (Marianne Hundt/Jennifer Hay/Elizabeth Gordon) Regional and social differences in New Zealand (Elizabeth Gordon/Margaret Maclagan); Vol II: - Maori English (Paul Warren/Laurie Bauer); Vol II: - Australian English (Barbara M. Horvath); Vol II: (Peter Collins/Pam Peters) -; Vol II: Australian Vernacular English (Andrew Pawley) -; Vol II: Hypocoristics in Australian English (Jane Simpson) Regional characteristics of Australian English (David Bradley); Vol II: - Australian creoles and Aboriginal English (Ian G. Malcom); Vol II: idem Bislama English (Terry Crowley); Vol II: idem Solomon Islands Pijin English (Christine Jourdan/Rachel Selbach); Vol II: (Christine Jourdan) Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea (Geoff P. Smith); Vol II: idem Hawai'i Creole (Kent Sakoda/Jeff Siegel); Vol II: idem Fiji English (Jan Tent/France Mugler); Vol II: (France Mugler/Jan Tent) Norfolk Island Pitcairn English (John Ingram/Peter Muhlhausler); Vol II: idem Introduction Varieties of English in Africa and South and Southeast Asia (Rajend Meshtrie); Vol II: idem Nigerian English (Ulrike B. Gut); Vol II: (M. A. Alo/Rajend Meshtrie) Nigerian Pidgin English (Ben Elugbe); Vol II: (Nicholas Faraclas) Ghanaian English (Magnus Huber); Vol II: (Magnus Huber/Kari Dako) Ghanaian Pidgin English (Magnus Huber); Vol II: idem Liberian Settler English (John Victor Singler); Vol II: idem Cameroon English(Augustin Simo Bobda); Vol II: (Paul Mbangwana) Cameroon Pidgin English (Kamtok) (Thaddeus Menang); Vol II: (Miriam Ayafor) East African English (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) (Josef Schmied); Vol II: idem White South African English (Sean Bowerman); Vol II: idem Black South African English (Bertus van Rooy); Vol II: (Rajend Meshtrie) Indian South African English (Rajend Meshtrie); Vol II: idem Cape Flats English (Peter Finn); Vol II: (Kay McCormick) St. Helena English (Sheila Wilson); Vol II: (Sheila Wilson/Rajend Meshtrie) Indian English (Ravinder Gargesh); Vol II: (Rakesh M. Bhatt) -; Vol II: Butler (Priya Hosali) Pakistani English (Ahmar Mahboob/Nadra Huma Ahmar); Vol II: (Ahmar Mahboob) Singapore English (Lionel Wee); Vol II: idem Malaysian English (Loga Baskaran); Vol II: idem Philippine English (Ma. Lourdes G. Tayao); Vol II: - Synopsis (Clive Upton); Vol II: (Bernd Kortmann) Synopsis (Edgar W. Schneider) Synopsis (Kate Burridge) Synopsis (Rajend Meshtrie) Global synopsis (Edgar W. Schneider); Vol II: (Bernd Kortmann/Benedikt Szmrecsanyi)
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Monika S. Schmid graduated in translation of literature in English, French and German from the Heinrich-Heine Universität Duesseldorf in 1996 and was awarded her PhD (summa cum laude) in English linguistics from that same institution in 2000. Since August 2000, she has been a lecturer in English linguistics (specialty area language variation) and researcher (specialty area: first language attrition) at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her recent publications include a monograph and a collected volume on first language attrition, published with John Benjamins, Amsterdam. In August 2005, she will be co-organizing the 2nd International Conference on First Language Attrition at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (www.let.vu.nl/conference/icfla2005).