Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Date: Mon, 5 Dec 2005 22:26:48 -0800 (PST) From: Pramod Pandey Subject: Perspectives in Linguistics: Papers in Honor of P. J. Mistry
EDITORS: Laury, Ritva; McMenamin, Gerald R.; Okamoto, Shigeko; Samiian, Vida; Subbarao, K. V. TITLE: Perspectives in Linguistics SUBTITLE: Papers in Honor of P. J. Mistry PUBLISHER: Indian Institute of Language Studies YEAR: 2003
Pramod Pandey, Centre of Linguistics and English, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
The present volume is a collection of papers in honor of P. J. Mistry, linguist and educator. Mistry spent most of his professional life in the Linguistics Department of California State University, Fresno and played a key role in developing it. The contributions to the volume are from his colleagues, collaborators and students on various aspects of linguistic research, including linguistic theory, historical linguistics, historiography, applied linguistics, and forensic linguistics.
The first four papers introduce the reader to Mistry's contributions to South Asian linguistics as a linguist and as a general bibliographer for South Asia for the MLA (James Gair & Barbara Lust 'Felicitations for P. J. Mistry', 13-14), to Gujarati linguistics (Babu Suthar 'P. J. Mistry' 1- 4), to Gujarati poetry (Jagdish Dave 'P. J. Mistry' 1-4), and to the growth of his department at Fresno (Fred Brengelman 'Schoolmaster linguists in England, 1550-1675', 25-36). These accounts of Mistry's contributions commonly share the view of his qualities of head and heart. Although the volume is not organized around topics, as is generally the case with festschrifts, a majority of the remaining papers can be classified into the following groups: core synchronic linguistics, historical linguistics, Discourse Analysis, language teaching, research methodology, and miscellaneous.
The core-linguistics papers present analyses of structural phenomena in phonology, morphology and syntax. For example Sarju Devi & K. V. Subbarao ('Reduplication and case copying: The case of lexical anaphors in Manipuri and Telugu', 55-81) examine the role of reduplication and Case copying in the formation of lexical anaphors in languages from two different language families, Tibeto-Burman and Dravidian, in terms of universal principles, with the aim of presenting evidence for the mental organization of Language. Matazo Izutani ('Ga-o conversion in Japanese desiderative constructions revisited', 117-124) deals with the phenomenon of case marking known as ga/ o (Nom/Acc) conversion in Japanese. Bharati Modi ('Gender in Gujarati', 247-260) presents an account of gender assignment and gender agreement in Gujarati. Yukiko Morimoto ('Markedness hierarchies and optimality in Bantu', 261-280) shows the phenomenon of Subject- Object reversal in Bantu languages, found to be problematic in formal linguistics, to be fully accountable within the approach of Optimality Theory (OT). Bokyung Noh ('Event Grammar: English depictive prdicates are thematically dependent', 281-296) closely examines the phenomenon of Depictive Predication Construction (e.g., Tom sat on the bench drunk; Tom ate the vegetable fresh) in terms of thematic roles and accounts for the two types, subject (better Agent)-oriented and object (better Theme)-oriented, in terms of two event arguments, one (Agent-oriented) at the IP level and the other at the VP level. Golston & Thurgood (Reduplication as echo: Evidence from Bontok and Chumas, 81-106) explain the phenomenon of reduplication in Bontok and Chumash, two rich reduplicative systems, within the framework of OT, as a violation of *ECHO, which forbids the concatenation of similar groups of sounds.
There are four papers devoted to Discourse Analysis -- by James Cornish ('Questions of coherence: A pilot study of text relations and ratings in and of timed writing texts', 37- 54), Hirokuni Masuda ('Displacement: The principle of theme organization in internalized discourse', 217-234), Gerald McMenamin ('A forensic analysis of writing style: An Indian-English case', 235-246) and Yoko Tada ('Turn- taking by the visually impaired', 339-352). Cornish bases his study on the hypotheses that there are describable differences in the production and interpretation of coherence in texts written by a speaker of L1 Korean and a speaker of L1 American English, and that these differences can be smoothed out using the analytical technique and language of Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST). Masuda presents an analysis of Displacement - an alteration in the underlying sequence of an event in a physical context in a discourse situation. The phenomenon, with delayed theme as one of its consequences, is found to conform to the principles of Narrative Representation Theory (NRT), originating in the work of Dell Hymes, and thus provides supporting evidence for it.
McMenamin's study reports a successful attempt at answering two research questions arising from the following situation. A New Delhi Company (ND) produces to a Tokyo firm (T) a letter of agreement having been reached between them before the death of the CEO of T. T failed to recognize the agreement and questioned the authenticity of the documents produced by ND. The research questions for the forensic linguist are: Could one of the two parties be excluded as the authorship source of the two writings? And could one of the parties be recognized as the source? The author shows how a stylistic analysis using style markers for diagnosis including markers of format, punctuation, spelling, word form and syntax, lead unambiguously to the following results: T writers are excluded, and ND writers are identified as the source of the material document. Tada presents an account of turn-taking by the visually-impaired. The paper gives a review of the comparative literature on language development by blind children and a critical discussion of the turn-taking signals and mechanisms in operation in conversation among the visually-impaired.
A noticeable feature of the present volume is the inclusion of papers on historical linguistics, as well as a paper on historiography. The latter by Fred Brengelman ('Schoolmaster linguists in England, 1550- 1675', 25-36) gives an account of the contributions by schoolmaster linguists in England, 1550-1675, who made the first serious effort ''to categorize the sounds of English, to make sense of (and help rationalize, the spelling system, to develop a pedagogical grammar, and to deal with all the questions raised by the effort to standardize written English...''. The papers on historical linguistics, like the ones on core synchronic linguistics, have theoretical orientation. Thus, Natsuko Ishida ('The gerund in Chaucer's English from the viewpoint of Cognitive Grammar', 107-116), through an examination of the gerund in Chaucer's English, shows how the framework of Cognitive Grammar helps explain the finding that the development of the gerund in English has been sensitive to the external context/ environment in which it appears. L. V. Khokhlova ('The distribution of analytic and synthetic passives in Indo-European languages of western India', 139- 158) shows that the synthetic type passive is predominant in all the languages of western India.
Se-Kyung Kim ('Murmur transfer in Classical Sanskrit', 159-174) offers an Optimality Theoretic (OT) account of a long-standing phenomenon of ''murmur assimilation'' in Sanskrit as a case of transfer rather than deletion, as is assumed in many analyses. Kim argues that the phenomenon of murmur transfer necessitates a two level analysis in the grammar, namely, the root-level and the word-level. The constraint ranking at the two levels is consistent following a general principle of grammar. At both levels, MAX(F) dominates IDENT(F). At the root level, IDENT(F) is not active as the inputs contain a floating feature. The constraint is operative at the word-level, after the position of the murmur feature is fixed at the root level. Ritva Laury ('Layering, obsolescence and renewal: Oblique cases and adpositions in Finnish', 175- 184) investigates the grammaticalization of two adpositions in Finnish, and their interaction with oblique cases and demonstrates the crucial role of discourse in determining the path of grammatical development of morphosyntactic devices as a result of patterns of use. Fengxiang Li ('A diachronic examination of the motivations for the rise and development of V_V compounds in Chinese', 185-202) hypothesizes in a preliminary study of the development of verb compounding in Chinese two main motivations- linguistic and socio- political.
The volume has three papers on language teaching, with both theoretical and pedagogic orientations. Kazue Kanno ('Effects on the acquisition of verb gapping', 125- 138) examines the acquisition of gapping by taking up four exemplary cases: Mandarin, with no gapping, German, with bidirectional gapping, English, with unidirectional gapping of the forward type, and Japanese, with unidirectional gapping of the backward type. Kanno arrives at the following results: a) The gapping option is easier to acquire when the direction is from the subset (Mandarin) to a superset; b) Languages allowing mirror image options , such as Japanese and English, are the most difficult cases. Ellen Lipp & Debbie Ockey ('Using strategy instruction to help ESL students understand teachr comments and create revision plans', 203-217) present a report of a teaching strategy for a course on writing, where the written comments by teachers are not always easy to comprehend. Students were advised to adopt the strategy of think aloud activities and further verbal interaction with the teacher, which led to considerable improvement in the written skills of the students. The study by Robert Russell ('L2 Japanese syntactic Attrition', 311-326) reports the finding regarding the absence of any evidence of attrition of syntactic skills in Japanese as a second language, based on the data on particle usage, the number of clauses and the number of different subordinate clause types used.
Finally, William Rutherford ('Crossing boundaries and keeping priorities', 327-339) describes the turn of academic events in the recent development of linguistic research, where inter-disciplinary research is the inevitable movement among centers of academic inquiry. Rutherford notes that this is so not because crossing the boundaries is necessary for significant research today, but because there are no boundaries. The proliferation of research on language, in the author's opinion, should not be seen as centrifugal or flying apart but as centripetal or coming together, mainly owing to the sustained serious attention being paid to language as the focus of inquiry.
The twenty-six papers are of almost uniformly high quality, and varied approaches. The variety is reflected in the fact that the volume needed five editors to put the papers together.
A majority of the papers focus on novel ways of handling familiar problems. Thus Golston & Thurgood's analysis argues for a lexical view of reduplication as opposed to the grammatical view as assumed in Alan Prince and Paul Smolensky's 1993 seminal work on OT. A general theme running through many of the papers is that core linguistic phenomena are better analyzable if the analyses include the dimension of language use and evolution. For instance, Matso Izutani argues that the recalcitrant cases of Case marking in Japanese can be accounted for by taking recourse to functional notions such as focus and exhaustive listing, and a discourse constraint banning multiple foci in a clause/ sentence. The point in Bharati Modi's analysis of gender assignment in Gujarati is that the phenomenon is dependent on historical, semantic (pragmatic?) and phonological factors. Yukiko Morimoto shows that Subject-Object Reversal in Bantu languages displays sensitivity to markedness hierarchies, which are a problem in formal approaches to grammar, but which can be incorporated into a formal theory of grammar, such as OT. Cornish successfully shows that RST ''can give us a fresh way of talking about the process and problems of essay evaluation of different speakers''. The paper by Kim makes an interesting claim regarding the morphological structure being determined by constraint interaction rather than being given in the lexicon.
Rutherford's paper is an apt conclusion for the various contributions to the present volume. One notices a general concern for a 'de-fenced' view of language that requires concerted efforts towards a better understanding of the central issues in the study of language. The view that emerges in this regard is that the existing differences in the approaches to linguistic analysis should not be seen as contending, rather as complementary. These differences may have to do with the issue of the theoretical goal of linguistics (explanation of linguistic knowledge versus explanation of linguistic texts), the nature of linguistic knowledge (innate and autonomous versus acquired through experience/ use and interactive with other domains of knowledge), the relevant data (Native speaker's intuition versus linguistic structures), the nature of explanation (Deductive-Nomological versus teleological and statistical), or linguistic evidence (Internal versus External , i.e. use, damage, change, etc.), among others.
The contributions to the volume are thus contributions to the discipline, a sincere tribute to a sincere linguist and humanist.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Pramod Pandey is Professor of Linguistics at the Centre of Linguistics and English, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi since June 2001. He holds graduate and research degrees in the fields of English and Linguistics from Pune and Hyderabad, India. He has also held post- doctoral and visiting fellowships at various institutions in Europe and the USA for short durations. He has taught various courses in theoretical and applied linguistics. His main area of research are linguistic theory, phonology, and English language teaching. He is currently working on a book entitled, "Sounds and Their Patterns in the Languages of India".