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Wed Jun 24 2009

Review: Sociolinguistics: Mesthrie (2008)

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        1.    Jakob Leimgruber, Varieties of English

Message 1: Varieties of English
Date: 24-Jun-2009
From: Jakob Leimgruber <>
Subject: Varieties of English
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EDITOR: Mesthrie, RajendTITLE: Varieties of EnglishSUBTITLE: Volume 4: Africa, South and Southeast AsiaPUBLISHER: Mouton de GruyterYEAR: 2008

Jakob R. E. Leimgruber, School of Linguistics & English Language, Bangor University

INTRODUCTIONThis volume is the fourth and last in a series of paperbacks describingvarieties of English world-wide. The series itself is a rework of the ''Handbookof Varieties of English'' (Kortmann et al 2004), rearranged by geographical area(vol. 1: The British Isles, vol. 2: The Americas and the Caribbean, vol. 3: ThePacific and Australasia, vol. 4: Africa, South and Southeast Asia) where the''Handbook'' had a volume each for phonology and grammar.

SUMMARYThe present volume keeps this distinction by being split into two parts: Part I,''Phonology'', comprises eighteen articles on individual varieties' phonologies.Part II, ''Morphology and Syntax'', revisits seventeen of these varieties from agrammatical point of view -- Philippine English is not considered in Part II;however, Butler English is, which isn't described in Part I. Both parts end witha synopsis by the editor. Each article ends with a few ''Exercises and studyquestions'', highlighting the series' declared aim to be used as a general textbook.

The book starts with a list of features, both phonological (xix-xxiv) andgrammatical (xxv-xxix), and with a ''General introduction'' (1-22) by BerndKortmann & Edgar W. Schneider. This introduction sets out the aims of the seriesand places it within the field of studies on varieties of English. It explainsthe series' emphasis on cross-varietal comparability, achieved by each author'sconcentration on major structural properties in the domains of phonology(systems, phonotactics, prosody, etc) and morphology and syntax(tense/aspect/modality, auxiliaries, agreement, etc). The general introductionconcludes with a description of the accompanying CD-ROM and with a list of''General references'' on the topic of English varieties.

The editor's ''Introduction: varieties of English in Africa and South andSoutheast Asia'' (23-31) sets the historical, geographical, and theoreticalbackground against which the volume is written. The first section outlines atypology of the Englishes found in the area (referred to as ''Africa-Asia''): ENL(English as a Native Language), ''spoken by British settlers and/or theirdescendants'' (23), ESL (English as a Second Language), resulting mainly from theeducation system and used typically as a lingua franca of the educated, andPidgin English, described as a variety arising ''outside of the educationalsystem'' and ''only partly derived from English'' (23). ESLs being the major objectof study in this volume, Mesthrie adds a section on ''Second languageacquisition'', where he outlines the necessity to focus on mesolectal speakers,and the problems associated with using RP and Standard British English as basisfor comparison. His introduction ends with an overview of the articles in thevolume's two parts.

Ulrike B. Gut begins ''Nigerian English: phonology'' (35-54) with an account ofthe country's linguistic ecology and the use of English within the populationand as a non-declared official language. An overview of the history of Britishcolonization follows, with special reference to the languages used in education.Gut emphasizes the heterogeneity of Nigerian English (NigE), reviewing studiesthat explain it with factors such as ethnic first language (Hausa, Igbo,Yoruba), level of education, and geographic-historical considerations, includingthe origin of English language teachers. She concludes this first section withan overview of (the lack of) Nigerian language policy. The section on phonologydraws on ''impressionistic'' (41) findings, due to the absence of corpora orempirical data: much of it is drawn from previous studies (particularly Jibril1986, Jowitt 1991). In the sub-section on vowels, the repertoires for EducatedHausa English and for Educated Southern NigE are given, followed by a detailedphonetic description for each lexical set; the sub-section on consonants,however, shows the realizations of phonemes for the three major ethnic groups,again based chiefly on Jibril (1986) and Jowitt (1991). The sub-section onprosody draws on more recent findings, among which Udofot (2003) and Gut (2003),and ends the chapter with an overview of tone.

Ben Elugbe's chapter (55-66) on the phonology of Nigerian Pidgin English (NigP)begins with a short discussion on the linguistic ecology present in earlycolonial times, particularly on the question of a pre-existing PortuguesePidgin. After an overview of the regional varieties of NigP, the consonantinventory is given; however, the sources quoted (Mafeni 1971, Omamor 1991) list24 phonemes and the author recognizes 25, while Table 1, listing them, shows 23plus three bracketed ones (/tS/, /Z/, /N_w/), for which no explanation issupplied. In the sub-section on vowels, it is the use of ''Standard BritishEnglish'' (59) for comparison of pronunciation that is most perplexing, alongwith Elugbe's use of vowel numbers rather than the lexical sets outlined in theintroduction (xix-xxii). There are some consistency problems with phonetictranscription, too: /y/ is occasionally used for IPA /j/ (59), and vowel lengthis sometimes indicated with a reduplicated symbol (/EE/, 60). After an accountof NigP's nasalized vowels and their assimilatory effect on precedingconsonants, Elugbe reviews discussions on tone and pitch and seems to argue forMafeni's (1971) view, concluding that NigP is not that different from English asfar as intonation is concerned.

In ''Ghanaian English: phonology'' (67-92), Magnus Huber begins with a thoroughhistory, followed by an extensive account of the current sociolinguisticsituation. Maps are used to illustrate the distribution of the country's severalindigenous languages, and their sociolinguistic status is explained. GhanaianEnglish's (GhE) position within this multilingual setting is then explained. Itsphonology is then investigated in detail, focusing on the most ''Ghanaian''features -- a sensible choice, given the heterogeneous character of GhE, touchedon briefly in the concluding section. The in-depth account treats vowels andconsonants in different sub-sections, explaining vowel mergers andmonophthongization in great detail, including considerations of spellingpronunciation, ethnicity, and age. Consonants are given a similarly thoroughtreatment, broken down into (deletion of final) plosives, nasals, fricatives(particularly RP /T/ and /D/ as well as /S/ and /Z/), affricates, andapproximants. (The absence of a recapitulatory table with the complete consonantinventory is, however, deplorable.) The section concludes with a look atsuprasegmentals, including stress and creaky voice. Huber then concludes thechapter with a section on ''major issues in current GhE research'', primarilyconsidering the prescriptive vs descriptive views on the variety, and its verystatus as a variety in its own right.

Huber then describes the phonology of Ghanaian Pidgin English (GhP, 93-101), ina chapter that follows much the same structure as his previous one: theintroductory section on GhP's history and sociolinguistic status is followed bythe phonological description, which focuses on the differences between GhP andGhE -- with the result that the sub-section on vowels repeats the same inventoryas for GhE, referring the reader to the previous chapter for comments. Thechapter concludes with a discussion of the stigmatization of GhP. (However, onewonders if GhP warranted a separate chapter: the author himself refers to GhP asusing ''the more basilectal variants'' (97) of GhE.)

In ''Liberian Settler English: phonology'' (102-114), John Victor Singler focuseson the English of the Settlers, African Americans who resettled Liberia in the19th century. After an extensive account of history and sociolinguisticbackground, the phonology section treats vowels, consonants, and suprasegmentalsin sub-sections of similar lengths. The chapter concludes with a mention of thevariety's rate of speech (though, unfortunately, empirical support for thegender differences mentioned is absent).

Augustin Simo Bodba's chapter on Cameroon English (115-132) is extensive, andoffers an in-depth account of both phonology and phonetics. For the vowels, eachlexical set is individually described in a separate paragraph, concluded by acomprehensive table listing the sets' realizations. (A minor error is in NEAR,where /iE ~ iE/ should be /iE ~ i/ (123)). The treatment of consonants isshorter, focusing on those that differ from RP. Stress is discussed at length,including stress movement and rules of stress placement. The chapter finisheswith an overview of the ''Trilateral Process'' proposed by the author (1994),which underlines the variety's autonomous status. The sociolinguistic history ofCameroon, absent from this chapter, is given in the one on Cameroon PidginEnglish (Kamtok) by Thaddeus Menang (133-149), where processes of restructuring,in particular vowel mergers, are given prominent treatment.

Josef Schmied then considers ''East African English'' (EAfE, 150-163), which isdefined as covering varieties in its ''heartland'' of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.The introduction covers their colonial history, language policies, historicaland current sociolinguistic situations, and language attitudes. Three ''reasonsfor East African forms of English'' are listed (157-158): substrate influence,language learning strategies, and written language influence. The remaining fivepages are devoted to phonology, with comprehensive inventories, includingphonotactic patterns. Schmied's explanation of the importance of EAfE phonology,that ''African varieties'' feature ''the most persistent [...] non-standardpronunciation'' (158), might however need to be put into perspective.

Four chapters on South African English (SAfE) follow: White SAfE (Sean Bowerman,164-176), Black SAfE (Bertus van Rooy, 177-187), and Indian SAfE (RajendMesthrie, 188-199), as well as Cape Flats English (Peter Finn, 200-222). Thefirst of these gives substantial historical information on the country and itslanguages (with particular reference to English and Afrikaans), whereas thesecond and the third chapters limit themselves to an explanation of theiranalytical framework, and include a history of Indian migrations into thecountry in the latter case. Their phonological sections differ, with Bowerman'schapter having a good vowels-consonant balance, whereas von Rooy includessuprasegmentals. Mesthrie's comprehensive account concludes with a section oncurrent research issues, in which he concentrates on the aspiration of /p, t,k/, surprisingly represented by . The chapter by Finn on Cape FlatsEnglish (CFE) considers the variety spoken in Cape Town's multiracial andmultilingual district of that name. The phonological description is preceded bya useful account of the speakers' origins and the district's settlement history.This is a thorough account of CFE phonology, and particularly useful due to itnot being very widely known.

Sheila Wilson's chapter on St. Helena English (223-230), though short, gives asuccinct overview of the island's history, followed by a description of eachvowel's lexical set. The KIT set is confusingly described as having tworealizations, both of which are represented by [I].

South Asian varieties are then investigated in Ravinder Gargesh's (IndianEnglish, 231-243) and Ahmar Mahboob & Nadra Huma Ahmar's (Pakistani English,244-258) chapters. Gargesh, begins with a typology of literature on IndianEnglish (IndE), rather than with the more common socio-histories, and moves thenstraight into the phonological system of IndE. The chapter attempts adescription of Pan-Indian English, taking regional and social variation intoaccount. This results in the list of lexical sets incorporating information,e.g., on the geographical distribution of individual variants. Prosodic featuresare covered in detail. Mahboob and Ahmar's chapter on Pakistani English (PakE)begins with a historical overview, followed by an explanation of the country'slinguistic ecology, before embarking on a ''preliminary description of PakEphonology'' (247). Vowels fall into two groups: invariant and varying in quality.No explanation is offered for the variation observed, something the authorsacknowledge in the conclusion (257).

The last three chapters of this first part are on Southeast Asian Englishes.Lionel Wee's chapter on Singapore English phonology (259-277) begins with thehistory of English in the island-state, and with an explanation of the currentlinguistic ecology and language policies. Two factual errors spotted (Brunei ishardly one of the countries that ''surround'' Singapore [261], and Lee Kuan Yew isno longer Senior Minister [262]) do not diminish the importance of the section.Wee then introduces the two main approaches to English variation in Singapore(lectal continuum vs diglossia), however without reference to recent work on thetopic (Alsagoff 2007). The phonemic inventory is largely and explicitly based onBao (1998), although Wee's vowel system contains three more than Bao's.Phonological processes are discussed extensively, although l-vocalization (seee.g. Tan 2005) is absent. The chapter concludes with an account of prosody,including an overview of stress assignment. A mention of tone (Goh 1998, Lim2007) might have been of interest.

Malaysian English (MalE) phonology is introduced by Loga Baskaran (278-291). Anaccount of the ethnic make-up of the country is followed by the author'sclassification of MalE into three lects (''official'', ''unofficial'', and ''broken'',282). The phonological description that follows does not, unfortunately, specifywhich of these lects it considers, except where consonant substitution isconcerned (287).

Ma. Lourdes G. Tayao begins her chapter on Philippine English (PhlE, 292-306)with an account of the country's language policies, before reviewing theliterature on PhlE phonology and explaining its regional/social varieties. Thevowel and consonant systems given in table form (296-299) take this variationinto account, showing the realizations for acrolect, mesolects, and basilectwhere appropriate. Lexical stress is given ample treatment.

Part I concludes with the editor's ''Synopsis: the phonology of English in Africaand South and Southeast Asia'' (307-319). It has a strong typological element,with the short vowel systems of Africa-Asia's Englishes being classified(6-vowel system and two types of 5-vowel systems). All lexical sets are listed,recapitulating the various varieties' realizations. Final obstruent devoicingand cluster reduction are highlighted as the most common processes, as is thetendency of these varieties to lean towards syllable-timed rhythm. The chapterends with a note on the phonological similarity of these varieties.

Part II, ''Morphology and syntax'', begins with M.A. Alo & Rajend Mesthrie'schapter (323-339) on Nigerian English grammar. It avoids a repetition of thephonology's extensive historical background, and sets out to explain why NigE isthe way it is. A list of contributing factors, mostly sociolinguistic, isfollowed by an overview of the variety's inherent variation. The section on TAM(tense, aspect, modality) concentrates mostly on modality, and to a lesserextent, aspect. What follows is a summary of primarily Jowitt (1991),considering auxiliaries, negative, variable relative markers, andcomplementation, before a section each on word order, HAVE and phrasal verbs,reduplication, and lexis.

Nicholas Faraclas' chapter on Nigerian Pidgin English morphology and syntax(340-367) calls NigP a ''dialect of Afro-Caribbean English Lexifier Creole''(340), and starts with an explanation of its internal variability. The TAMsystem is given in-depth coverage, particularly the analysis of anterior tense.Using plenty of examples from the author's fieldwork, the section on nounphrases is extensive and well structured. The ''range of meanings'', apart fromrealis mode of sentence-final ''o'' (366), could have benefited from more explication.

The chapter on Ghanaian English by Magnus Huber & Kari Dako (368-380) beginswith a section on the verb phrase, considering phrasal verbs, transitivity, TAM,auxiliaries, and negation. Sections on relativization, adverbial subordination,and agreement follow, as well as a longer one on the noun, with particularreference to articles. A section on topic-prominence and one on lexis, includingidioms, concludes this chapter.

Magnus Huber investigates the syntax and morphology of Ghanaian Pidgin English(381-394), contrasting it to NigP, with which it shares ''many similarities''(381). TAM, pronoun, and article systems are usefully presented in table form. Alonger subsection explains various types of reduplication, and the chapterconcludes with focus and topicalization.

John Victor Singler's chapter on Liberian Settler English (395-415) begins witha summary of the more extensive historical and sociolinguistic account providedin his phonology. The chapter is divided into four large sections: the verb(TAM, copula, and negation), adjectives, the noun (plurals, possessives, anddemonstratives), and relativization and complementization. A section on theAfrican American diaspora and one on local influences help explain the origin ofsome of its structural features.

The chapters on Cameroon English by Paul Mbangwana (416-427) and on CameroonPidgin English (Kamtok) by Miriam Ayafor (428-450) both start their analysiswith lexis: CamE idioms in creative writing are considered, as are processes ofborrowing and word-formation, followed by an extensive overview of the lexis inKamtok. Mbangwana then concentrates on CamE syntax, interrogatives, andpronouns, relying mostly on Sala (2003), whereas Ayafor has a large section onparts of speech, including nouns, pronouns, verbs, modifiers, prepositions, andconjunctions. She concludes the Kamtok chapter with a discussion of sentencestructure.

Josef Schmied's chapter on East African English (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania,451-471) begins with an acknowledgement that the grammar of a variety of thiskind can at best be described in terms of tendencies, rather than in terms of auniform or even independent norm. The data used is from ICE--East Africa, andillustrates ''broad categories of word class type'' (451), into which theremainder of the chapter is subdivided: morphology (VP, NP, pronouns, modifiers,and question tags), word order, discourse, and lexis (borrowings, semantics, andidioms). The chapter concludes with a section on further research, particularlywith reference to the sparse data (with a suggestion the world wide web mightprovide a useful database), language teaching, and intercultural communication.

Four chapters on South African English follow: White SAfE by Sean Bowerman(472-487), Black SAfE (488-500) and Indian SAfE (501-520) by Rajend Mesthrie,and Cape Flats English by Kay McCormick (521-534). In terms of internalstructure, Mesthrie's chapters follow the same pattern ofTAM-negation-relativization-complementation-agreement-NP structure-pronouns-wordorder also found in the chapter on NigE. Bowerman's chapter is slightlydifferently organized, but addresses the same issues; more emphasis is put onlexis, with a two-page list of borrowings. Similarly, McCormick has a section onthe lexicon, including borrowings and calques (particularly from Afrikaans), aswell as a list of English words whose use is different in CFE from Standard English.

Sheila Wilson & Rajend Mesthrie begin the chapter on St Helena English (535-546)by arguing for StHE's origin in contact between non-standard southern Britishvarieties and a pidginized variety. The section on TAM is largest, followed byagreements and auxiliaries. Plenty of examples illustrate each feature. Asection on vocabulary concludes the chapter.

Indian English morphology and syntax is analyzed by Rakesh M. Bhatt (547-562).An introductory section explains his analytical framework, including an attemptat qualifying IndE as diglossic. A historical overview precedes a list of datasources. Wh-movement is analyzed first, followed by tag questions andtopicalization (with particular reference to the particle ''only'', 554-556).Pro-drop processes and a brief account of null expletives follow, before a listof ''other miscellaneous features'' (559-560).

Priya Hosali then analyzes Butler English (563-577), a pidgin variety usedpredominantly by domestic classes in India. The introduction presents itshistorical background and current sociolinguistic status. A section on reductionand one on simplification follow, before the main section on syntax. The latterfocuses on negation, interrogatives, and dislocation. The conclusion brieflymentions ButlE's rule-governed status, which may however not prevent it fromextinction.

The chapter by Ahmar Mahboob on Pakistani English (579-592) consists of twomajor sections, one on syntax and one on lexis. The former includes aspect,complementation, and word order, followed by a subsection entitled ''syntax andmorphology'' -- this structure can be confusing (Part II: ''Syntax andmorphology'', chapter 16: ''Pakistani English: syntax and morphology'', section 2:''Syntax'', subsection 2.7: ''Syntax and morphology''), and it is not immediatelyobvious why do-support, articles, and prepositions are not simply part ofsection 2. The section on lexis conveniently differentiates between borrowings,affixation, preposed phrases, and semantic shift.

Singapore English is described by Lionel Wee (593-609), who divides his chapterinto five sections: the verb phrase (generally uninflected verb, lexical tenseand aspect, little agreement, copula-deletion), the noun phrase (articles,mass/count distinction, relativization), the clause (pro-drop, topic-prominence,interrogatives, passives), reduplication (nominal, adverbial, and verbal), andparticles (focusing on ''lah'', ''wat'', and ''lor''). In each case, examplesillustrate the feature described, although their source is not always clear(e.g. (1)-(10)).

The final chapter is by Loga Baskaran on Malaysian English (610-623). Anintroduction presents the country's ethnic composition and cites the varioussubstrate languages present, and lists the data sources. A section on the nounphrase (articles, pronouns, and mass/count distinction) and one on the verbphrase (tense, modals, and progressive) are followed by one on ''clause structurevariation'' (including wh-movement an interrogatives) and one entitled ''othersyntactic variational features'' (pronoun copying and ellipsis, adverbialpositioning, and discourse particles). The chapter concludes with a section onlexis, focusing on a typology of loanwords and on ''Standard Englishlexicalisation'', i.e. StE lexical items used ''in novel ways'' (620) in MalE.

Part II concludes with the editor's synopsis (624-635), which begins with theobservation that the similarity between chapters in this part warrants aclassification into three broad categories: L1 Englishes, L2 Englishes, andPidgins and Creoles. The problematic nature of this categorization isacknowledged, particularly the shift of some varieties from L2 to L1, andsimilarities with other varieties from other continents are highlighted. Thechapter then sets out to bring the observed features together in individualsections: TAM, the verb phrase, negation, subordination, the noun phrase,pronouns, adverbs, and word order and discourse. These essentially list thevarieties, summarizing their treatment of these features. Occasionally, patternsthat confirm the proposed three-way classification are highlighted (628, 629, 633).

EVALUATIONThis volume, together with its companion volumes, is an invaluable addition tothe bookshelf of anyone interested in the varieties of English. Students andscholars alike will find it a useful reference tool; its stated audience ofstudents makes it a perfect textbook resource for teachers. The minor flawsobserved do not compromise its status as one of the great publications in its field.

Particularly the comparability that was maintained across chapters deservesmentioning. Having twenty-four authors conform to the same conventions regardingabbreviations, lexical sets, and phonetic transcription, is remarkable. Thefeatures under investigation were clearly set by the editors, and adhered to.

As far as the structure of the book is concerned, its division into two parts(labeled ''phonology'' and ''morphology and syntax'') is not ideal to my mind. Whilethis has enabled experts in the field to give detailed accounts of theindividual varieties' phonologies and syntactic features respectively, it mighthave been a wiser choice to present each variety in a slightly longer singlechapter, with the division between phonology/syntax made within each chapter.This would have enabled students of a particular variety to get a completepicture of that variety, and prevented some of the overlap in introductorysections. More importantly, it would have avoided the regrettable fact thatPhilippine English only has a section on phonology, and Butler English only oneon morphology and syntax.

These and other minor issues (such as an unusually high number of monospaced IPAsymbols, which clash visually with the other, variable-width characters), donothing to diminish the volume and the series' importance within the discipline.The interactive CD-ROM that comes with the volume contains information andrecordings for all the varieties described in the four volumes. This additionmakes even a single volume an amazing teaching and reference tool.

At USD/EUR29.95 for the four volumes, this paperback series is much moreaffordable than its ''Handbook'' predecessor, and is one of these milestones thatis bound to become a standard reference work in the field.

REFERENCESAlsagoff, Lubna (2007) Singlish: Negotiating culture, capital and identity. InVaish, Gopinathan & Liu, eds. _Language, Capital, Culture. Rotterdam: SensePublishers_. 25-46.

Goh, Cristine C. M. (1998) The level tone in Singapore English. _English Today_53(1). 50-53.

Kortmann, Bernd & Edgar W. Schneider & Kate Burridge & Rajend Mesthrie & CliveUpton, eds. (2004) _A Handbook of Varieties of English. Vol. 1: Phonology. Vol.2: Morphology and Syntax_. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Lim, Lisa (2007) Mergers and acquisitions: On the ages and origins of SingaporeEnglish particles. _World Englishes_ 26(4). 446-473.

Tan, Kah Keong (2005). Vocalisation of /l/ in Singapore English. In Deterding,Brown & Low, eds. _English in Singapore: Phonetic Research on a Corpus_.Singapore: McGraw-Hill. 43-53.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERJakob R. E. Leimgruber is completing his D.Phil in English language at Oxford,and is a Lecturer in Sociolinguistics at the School of Linguistics and EnglishLanguage of Bangor University. His main research interests are contactlinguistics and the varieties of English, as well as sociolinguistic typology.His D.Phil research involves the modeling of variation in Singapore English.