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Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users."
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
SUMMARY 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).
EVALUATION 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.
REFERENCES 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.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
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'.