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Review of  A Linguistics Workbook

Reviewer: Maria-Isabel Martinez-Mira
Book Title: A Linguistics Workbook
Book Author: Ann K. Farmer Richard A. Demers
Publisher: MIT Press
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Discipline of Linguistics
Issue Number: 22.2881

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AUTHOR: Farmer, Ann K. and Demers, Richard A.
TITLE: A Linguistics Workbook
SUBTITLE: Companion to *Linguistics, Sixth Edition*
YEAR: 2010

María Isabel Martínez Mira, Department of Modern and Foreign Languages,
University of Mary Washington


This workbook is the companion to ''Linguistics'' (sixth edition) by Adrian
Akmajian, Richard A. Demers, Anna K. Farmer and Robert M. Harnish (MIT Press,
2010). It is primarily aimed at students who might be taking an introductory or
an intermediate course in linguistics, and therefore use this workbook as a
supplement to practice the topics discussed in ''Linguistics: An introduction to
language and communication.'' After students have been exposed to the study of
language properties in the textbook, which mainly uses examples from English,
with this workbook students have the opportunity to test-drive their linguistic
knowledge and transfer it effectively to a variety of languages. The workbook is
divided into 9 sections which mirror the chapter sequence of its companion
textbook, i.e. the authors begin with the study of structural aspects, and
continue with two chapters on more cognition-based fields of linguistics (i.e.
pragmatics, psychology of language). After Chapter 9, the workbook contains
several appendixes (e.g. a chart of phonological features, phrase structure
rules for English, an index of languages), and a bibliography. With regards to
the distribution of the linguistic content, most chapters contain an average of
9-10 exercises, though Chapter 6 has only 2 on language variation and Chapter 4,
27 on syntax.


Overall, this workbook is a very well-organized, easy-to-follow supplement to
the original ''Linguistics'' textbook. The workbook itself provides useful and
well-selected examples to support and complement the textbook content. Such
examples are introduced in a pedagogically sound way, with clear descriptions of
the linguistic feature(s) discussed in the activity, specific directions of what
students need to do with that information; in these exercises, the goal and
purpose of the activity is contextualized and clear to the student. Students are
guided in their attempt to 'navigate' the exercise content with activities
organized in a way designed to bring the student along (in most, the content of
a section elaborates and expands on the issue discussed in the previous
activity, for example). In order to complete these activities, students have to
think critically and provide the right answer to the exercises for each chapter;
for example, students are challenged with tasks such as coming up with their own
description of a specific feature, or having to think inductively and write down
the (sequence of) rules governing linguistic phenomena such as phonological
change in a particular language. Not only does this contribute to completion of
the activity, but it also provides a platform for students to develop critical
and analytical skills that can be transferred to other academic/professional
goals, thus enhancing learning across the disciplines.

Another strong point of this workbook is its integrative approach to the study
of linguistics. An instance of this can be seen in the chapter on Pragmatics,
where the authors provide an example from Finnish to study the pragmatic
dimension of mood; in order to answer the questions, students need, among other
things, to be familiar with phonological features of vowels, intonation
patterns, and morphological features of interrogative pronouns, so they need to
go back and forth and review/refresh the content practiced in previous chapters.
In fact, with their questions and activities, the authors make sure that the
students do not see the different linguistics fields as independent entities,
but as areas that complement and support each other. Students have to integrate
and rely on all sorts of linguistic knowledge to come up with the right answer
to each activity, as the previous example on Finnish shows. As a result, the
activities on each chapter give students the opportunity to practice the
textbook content and see how the different linguistic phenomena work in context.
Therefore, these activities promote a more 'hands-on' approach to the learning
of linguistics, increase students' familiarity with theories and frameworks, and
make students more aware of the fact that they can indeed ''do things with
language.'' At the end of this process students realize that their efforts
actually serve a purpose. As the authors make clear, this eventually contributes
to the higher goal of helping students reflect on how human language is
organized, what methodological tools linguistics provides to study such thing,
and how all this contributes to the better knowledge and understanding of the
human mind.

The quality, rigor, simplicity of style, scope and availability of the practice
exercises in this workbook are plusses. With an approachable style that attracts
both neophytes in the subject as well as more advanced students of linguistics,
the authors do a great job providing meaningful sets of exercises that challenge
students and make the purpose of their research interesting, stimulating, and
rewarding. This is also the result of incorporating language examples drawn from
different world languages. From examples on affixation processes from Russian on
Chapter 1, a case of phonetic variation in Spanish on Chapter 2, discussing
morphophonology with an example from Japanese on Chapter 3, or analyzing
sentences that illustrate the declarative, interrogative, and imperative moods
in Copala Trique on Chapter 8 (just to name a few), the authors provide students
with opportunities to put their linguistic knowledge and analytical skills to
work. However, one weak point that can be pointed out is the number of
activities available for each section. Whereas most of them have a similar
number of activities available to the students (around 10 activities per chapter
for the Morphology, Phonetics, Phonology and Pragmatics sections), the number
clearly increases in Chapter 4 on Syntax and noticeably decreases in the
chapters on Language Variation, Language Change and Psychology of Language,
especially the latter (only one exercise available on speech errors, as the
''summary'' above). This means that students are given less chances to use their
linguistic knowledge in a practical and effective manner and, consequently, they
have fewer chances to ''do'' linguistics, which is what the authors identify as
their goal un the preface. It also makes it a little bit more difficult on the
professor, since (s)he has to do more work to find the appropriate exercises to
bring to class/assign to students on those particular chapters. Hopefully this
is something that can be improved in future editions of the book, and therefore
the sections with less exercises will contain useful opportunities for the
students to be challenged and subsequently enlarge their knowledge on that
particular field of linguistics. In spite of this drawback, the overall quality
and relevance of the activities for each chapter cannot be questioned . Also of
importance, the materials included in the 'Appendixes' section are useful tools
to solve many of the questions throughout the chapters. Those lists and tables
provide a good platform for understanding how language functions for both
students and professors.

A last asset of the workbook is its functionality. Although a clear correlate of
the ''Linguistics'' textbook (the fact that the workbook authors also participated
in the textbook can explain this), the exercises displayed on every chapter can
be used by professors who might be using a different textbook. The formatting
and the way the different activities are presented make this a perfect companion
to other linguistics textbooks that might be more focused on the theoretical
content, thus giving the students less opportunities to experience how language

In conclusion, ''A linguistics workbook: Companion to Linguistics, sixth edition''
provides both beginning and intermediate linguistics students with useful tools
and sufficient, meaningful practice so that they (1) understand the different
processes explaining how different languages structure their linguistic reality
differently, (2) describe those processes, (3) point out cross-linguistic
similarities between languages, and (4) establish comparisons/differences with
the students' own first language(s). Due to its functionality, this workbook is
appealing to different types of students and can be used in basic as well as
more advanced linguistics courses, always contributing to the linguistics
classroom with reliable materials in terms of thoroughness, sound methodological
approaches to the study of linguistics and easiness of explanations.

María Isabel Martínez Mira is an Associate Professor of Spanish at the Modern and Foreign Languages Department at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. She earned an M.A. in Hispanic Linguistics/Ph.D. and a Second Language Acquisition and Teacher Education certification from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her teaching/research areas include English-Spanish bilingualism, sociolinguistics/Spanish variation, teaching of Spanish for heritage speakers, and languages in contact. Her research on Spanish has been published in journals such as 'Spanish in Context,' 'Sociolinguistic Studies' and 'Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics.' She is currently working on the relation between language, ethnicity and identity within the US Hispanic community and conducting research on female testaments from the city of Murcia (Spain) within a Critical Discourse Analysis framework.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0262514826
ISBN-13: 9780262514828
Pages: 306
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