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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EDITOR: Xu, Dan TITLE: Space in Languages of China SUBTITLE: Cross-linguistic, Synchronic and Diachronic Perspectives PUBLISHER: Springer YEAR: 2008
Irina Borozdina, Department of Foreign Languages, Kursk State University, Russia
SUMMARY This book presents a collection of papers on the study of various linguistic and cognitive aspects of the category of space in different languages of China, including Chinese Sign Language. In spite of the fact that there have appeared a considerable number of works devoted to the investigation of the representation of space in a variety of languages (see e.g. Saint-Dizier 2006, Talmy 2000, Taylor 1993, Vandeloise 1994) the ways the category of space is represented in languages of China have not been paid so much attention as yet. The authors of the volume focus their attention on lexical, semantic and syntactic ways of representing spatial relations. In addition, the researchers investigate the lexico-grammatical status of spatial terms and the process of grammaticalization they have undergone. To achieve the ultimate goals the authors combine cross-linguistic, synchronic and diachronic approaches.
The volume begins with Dan Xu's Introduction ''How Chinese structures space'' where the author discusses the status and some typological aspects of Modern Chinese and the ten major dialects of China from synchronic and diachronic perspectives. Dan Xu summarizes the main topics discussed in the book: grammaticalization, typology of motion events, adpositions and the influence of phonological changes on language syntax. From the author's point of view grammaticalization is an important topic for discussion as most Chinese prepositions have originated from verbs through the process of grammaticalization. As far as typology of motion events is concerned Xu proposes (Xu 2006) that Chinese has undergone a typological change from a 'Verb-framed language' to a 'Satellite-framed language' (see e.g. Talmy 2000), though some Chinese motion verbs do not match the S-language pattern. Due to the fact that a pure word order ('Verb + Object' or 'Object + Verb') is difficult to find in Chinese the term 'adposition' is used in reference to prepositions, postpositions and other localizers. Xu also states that syntactic choices of the way to represent space in Chinese are often triggered by phonological changes and constraints.
Section A ''Space: A Cross-linguistic perspective'' begins with an article ''Chinese localizers: Diachrony and some typological considerations'' by Hilary Chappell and Alain Peyraube. The authors focus their attention on the study of the morphological structure, syntactic position and semantic features of Chinese localizers, which are a special category of words expressing the relative position of objects. The paper presents a detailed analysis of the evolution of localizers from Archaic to Modern Chinese, combined with a cross-linguistic analysis of localizers in some other Sinitic languages. One of the conclusions of the authors is that localizers create a system of spatial representation in Chinese which is different from those in the Indo-European Languages.
Danqing Liu's article ''Syntax of Space across Chinese Dialects: Conspiring and Competing Principles and Factors'' deals with universality and diversity of spatial impressions across major Chinese dialects (Mandarin, Wu dialects and Cantonese) in the framework of typology. As the author states, to mark spatial roles Chinese relies on syntactic means, namely, word order and function words or semi-grammaticalized words. The author arrives at a conclusion that the main factors dominating the syntactic behavior of spatial roles in Chinese dialects are the Relator Principle which governs the use of the postposition, the Principle of Economy which causes the omission of the preposition, prosodic syntax, the degree of grammaticalization, and word order harmony. The analysis shows that the role and importance of the factors vary with dialects.
Christine Lamarre's research ''The linguistic categorization of deictic direction in Chinese with reference to Japanese'' is devoted to a cross-linguistic analysis of deictic motion in the two typologically different languages. Traditionally Modern Chinese is regarded as a Satellite-framed language while Japanese is a Verb-framed language (see Talmy 2000). The most fruitful results of the author's analysis are as follows: the way a language encodes deictic paths cannot be totally predicted by the way it encodes nondeictic paths, though the encoding of deictic motion is not totally free of the typological features of the language. Another interesting assumption of the author is that from the typological point of view Chinese should be treated as a language exhibiting split encoding of deictic direction.
The article ''The locative words in the Waxiang dialect spoken in Guzhang, Hunan'' by Yunji Wu is aimed at contributing to the study of spatial frames of reference and the way space is conceptualized and structured in the Waxiang dialect. The author is interested in the research of the language representation of such spatial notions as 'east', 'west', 'south', 'north', 'top', 'bottom', 'inside', 'outside', 'front', 'back', 'left', 'right' and the expression of distance. The researcher discovers an interesting fact about the frames of reference in the Waxiang dialect: as the Waxiang-speaking communities are located in the mountainous areas 'mountains' and 'rivers' are used as references in referring to directions and locations. The comparative analysis carried out in the paper shows that the locative words in the Waxiang dialect are more complex than in Mandarin or the Xiang dialect group. Yunji Wu shows that the Waxiang dialect has a peculiar system of demonstrative pronouns and several words to express 'up' and 'side'.
In the paper ''From locative to object markers: the parallel development of two postpositions in Bai'' Jingqi Fu and Lin Xu point out how different locative meanings can develop into dative and accusative markers. The authors show that there are two postpositions in the Bai language which are attached to nouns or noun phrases and which can have either the locative meanings of 'on X' vs. 'around X' or can be used as object markers denoting direct and indirect object, respectively. From the authors' point of view the roles of direct and indirect object in a sentence are connected with the spatial notions of contact vs. absence of it. The data from other Tibeto-Burman languages are used in the comparative analysis of the process of grammaticalization of locatives into object markers.
In his article Shun-chiu Yau analyzes the role of the visual space in the development of sign languages. The aim of the paper is to demonstrate how sign languages use their spatial, manual and bodily features for the syntactic development. Much attention is also given to the study of the change of the word order in some sign languages. The author also suggests that gestures once played a crucial role in the emergence of human languages and therefore the study of sign languages can contribute to general linguistics.
Section B ''Space in Synchronic and diachronic Chinese'' begins with Dan Xu's article ''Asymmetry in the expression of space in Chinese – the Chinese language meets typology''. The author's attention is drawn to the fact that some Chinese motion verbs do not fit either into Modern Chinese typology of a satellite-framed language or Old Chinese typology of a verb-framed language. Thus, she investigates such motion verbs as 'come' and 'go' and some space terms on semantic and syntactic levels. The results of the study show that these lexical items present asymmetry on both the levels. As the author points out asymmetry in language reflects the asymmetry of human perception of space. In addition, she studies the way time can be presented in Chinese. The research is carried out in the cognitive paradigm.
Chaofen Sun's paper ''Two conditions and grammaticalization of the Chinese locative'' focuses on the distributional properties and typological features of the Chinese locative particles in reference to some cross-linguistic studies. The author argues that Chinese locative particles are neither postpositions nor circumpositions such as those in Amharic and proposes two conditions which account for the distribution of the Chinese locative constructions: a selectional condition and a multi-syllabic constraint. The author gives some historical evidence to show the process of grammaticalization of the locative constructions.
The article ''Origin and evolution of the locative term _hòu_ 'back' in Chinese'' by Fuxiang Wu is devoted to the study of the source model and semantic changes of the locative term _hòu_ from a cross-linguistic perspective. The author is particularly interested in the semantic and morphosyntactic changes that took place when _hòu_ occupied the head position in genitive structures. Fuxiang Wu comes to the conclusion that the source model of _hòu_ is motional process and it does not completely correspond to the major source models of BACK-REGION grams (body part terms, environmental landmarks and relational part terms (see e.g. Svorou 1986, 1993)). Nevertheless, the author argues that motional process as a type of source model can be found in some other languages. Another important conclusion of the author is that the most fundamental mechanism in the formation of various meanings of _hòu_ is metonymy.
The final article of the volume is ''The inessive structure in Archaic and Medieval Chinese: an evolutionary study of inessive demonstrative uses from Archaic to Early Modern Chinese'' by Qingzhi Zhu and Wenjie Chen. The authors' ultimate goal is to investigate the development of the Chinese demonstrative pronouns. As the authors state, in the archaic and medieval periods the inessive demonstrative pronouns shared the same form with the personal pronouns and were monosyllabic. Qingzhi Zhu and Wenjie Chen point out that Chinese have developed a system of specified inessive demonstrative pronouns which are all disyllabic. The authors make a successful attempt to find out the reasons of this change and its stages.
EVALUATION The volume is a successful scientific venture which has been anticipated by many researchers who are interested in the study of various properties of the language representation of the category of space in Chinese as well as in other languages. That is the reason why its value cannot be overestimated. Chinese spatial prepositions, postpositions and localizers are very specific classes of words and have various semantic and syntactic characteristics which make them different from locative terms in other languages and which still remain a mystery in many ways. Until recently Chinese spatial terms had been undeservedly neglected by the researchers or had been given only a formal linguistic account in which they were viewed as a functional class of words, deprived of any lexical meaning. Fortunately enough the situation has been changing gradually and the articles presented in the volume show what a complex and at the same time fruitful object of study Chinese prepositions, postpositions, localizers and other spatial terms can be.
It is worth mentioning that the volume unites researchers working within different linguistic branches, paradigms and theories, such as etymology, semantics, syntax, language typology, sign language, cognitive linguistics, psycholinguistics, and some others. This gives an opportunity to study Chinese spatial terms from all the possible angles, thus, giving a vivid and adequate picture of their semantics and syntax, highlighting the most important achievements and showing the aspects which need further investigation.
What is more, the language material presented in the book is taken from different languages and dialects spoken on the territory of China, even those belonging to different language families. Such a variety of involved language material helps to solve some of the problems connected with the cross-linguistic study of spatial terms. It is also a considerable contribution to the field of language teaching and translation, as it is common knowledge that in different languages the systems of prepositions and postpositions sometimes perform considerably different functions and semantic features. In addition, the cross-linguistic approach can help to solve a more general task of studying the way the representatives of different linguo-cultural communities structure space and other extra linguistic domains. Another item which is worth mentioning is that one of the papers of the volume is devoted to the influence of the visual space on the sign language development.
Another advantage of some of the articles is that the authors resort to the help of the native speakers of the studied languages and a wide range of linguistic statistical data. Linguistics has already become a scientific branch which aims at receiving the most adequate and precise results, which is why experimental research and native speakers' responses are widely used to avoid any ambiguity caused by the researcher's intuition.
Of special interest are the results of the study of the syntax of Chinese spatial terms. In this volume syntactic features of prepositions and postpositions are studied with the help of different up-to-date approaches, the results of which can be used for the study of the same groups of words in other languages.
One more interesting aspect of the reviewed volume is that it combines works in which locative terms are studied both in isolation and in phrases. It gives an opportunity to see how locative terms interact with other lexical items, what their individual semantic features are, and how context changes their semantic features.
It is important to mention that the book has not raised any strong criticism in the mind of the reviewer, for the works presented in it express pluralistic ideas on the problems of semantics and syntax of spatial terms, and all of them show the achievement of the definite goals stated by the authors. As has already been stated, the volume provides the reader with a deep theoretical insight into the study of the language representation of space and it will foster further research based on the linguistic data from other languages. Moreover, the variety of empirical data presented in the book constitutes a rich source of information for the scholars from various branches of linguistics and other studies related to it. The fact that the authors of the articles present an English translation of all the Chinese examples considerably widens the circle of readers of the book.
REFERENCES: Saint-Dizier, P. (2006). _Syntax and semantics of Prepositions_. Toulouse, France: Springer, CNRS.
Svorou, S. (1986). On the evolution paths of locative constructions. _Berkeley Linguistics Society_, 12, 515-527.
Svorou, S. (1993). _The grammar of space_. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Talmy, L. (2000). How Language Structures Space. _Toward a Cognitive Semantics_. Vol. 1, 177-254. MIT Press.
Taylor, J.R. (1993). Prepositions: Patterns of Polysemization and Strategies of Disambiguation. In C. Zelinsky-Wibbelt (ed.), _Natural Language Processing: The Semantics of Prepositions_. Vol.3. The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter. Pp. 151-175.
Vandeloise, C. (1994). Methodology and Analyses of the Preposition. _Cognitive Linguistics_, 5 -2, pp. 157-184.
Xu, Dan. (2006). _Typological changes in Chinese syntax_. Oxford University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Irina Borozdina is an Associate Professor teaching English and Linguistics at the Department of Foreign Languages at Kursk State University, Russia. Her main research interests include cognitive semantics, psycholinguistics, intercultural communication and the relationship between language and cognition. In her thesis ''Semantics of Spatial Prepositions'' she studied the meanings of English and Russian prepositions denoting space relations within the cognitive paradigm. Her article ''Conceptualization of Space and the Semantics of English and Russian Prepositions'' was published in _Text Processing and Cognitive technologies_ which is the paper collection of proceedings of the VII International Conference ''Cognitive Modeling in Linguistics''. Her most recent work is an article ''Forms and meaning of language presentation of spatial relations'' has been published in the journal _Issues of Cognitive Linguistics_.