LINGUIST List 24.487

Mon Jan 28 2013

Review: General Linguistics: Ender, Leemann & Wälchli (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 28-Jan-2013
From: Annis Shepherd <>
Subject: Methods in Contemporary Linguistics
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Book announced at

EDITORS: Ender, Andrea, Leemann, Adrian, and Wälchli, BernhardTITLE: Methods in Contemporary LinguisticsSERIES TITLE: Trends in Linguistics/Studies and Monographs [TiLSM] 247PUBLISHER: De Gruyter MoutonYEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Annis Shepherd, University of Southampton

SUMMARYThis volume is aimed at those who are interested in extending theirunderstanding of methodology in linguistics. It covers not only areas oftheoretical linguistics (phonology, syntax, morphology, etc.), but also otherssuch as historical linguistics, psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics. Theaim is not to develop new theories, but rather to reflect on the processesinvolved in their development, and the benefits that such reflection can havefor our analyses. Dedicated to Iwar Werlen, the book aims to reflect hisconstant awareness of, and willingness to participate in debates about, themany different methodologies available to the modern linguists.

The volume is split into five sections. The first set reflects onnon-traditional approaches in “core domains”, phonetics, phonology,morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics. The second deals with“Cross-Linguistic and Language-Internal Diversity”, considering the techniquesused in areas such as multilingualism and second language acquisition. Sectionthree covers the importance of methodological considerations in dynamicapproaches to linguistics, including psycholinguistics and historicallinguistics. The fourth section is entitled “Writing” and discusses how bestto study visual language. The final group, “Language, Space and Society”,examines different ways of analysing language use in society.

In the first paper, “Methodological reflections on the phonetic-phonologicalcontinuum, illustrated on the prosody of Swiss-German dialects”, BeatSiebenhaar and Adrian Leemann consider the desirability of maintaining astrict distinction between phonetics and phonology. The authors discuss theneed to take methodological considerations into account when creating a corpusof spontaneous speech and deciding how best to analyse the data gathered. Thispaper questions the assumption that underlying stress patterns predictfundamental frequency (f0) movement.. It concludes that a quantitative model(such as the Fujisaki intonation model) allows for more accurate analysis thanothers, as it allows for minor prosodic differences to be captured moreaccurately.

In “Phonological typology, rhythm types and the phonetics-phonologyinterface”, Stephan Schmid discusses the role of linguistic rhythm in languagetypology, with the aim of showing that phonetic and phonological approachescan be used in a complementary fashion. After a brief discussion of thedifferent techniques in diverse areas of linguistic typology, Schmid offersthree case studies of Italo-Romance dialects (vowel systems, syllable typesand the application of rhythm metrics) to show that a non-standard method --using a sample of languages taken from the same language family -- can be usedto investigate hypotheses formed using the more frequently adopted approach,namely using a broad range of languages taken from as many different languagefamilies as possible. He shows that this method allows us to situateindividual dialects within the “typological space” of the world’s languagesand validate findings from other typological studies.

Moving away from phonology, Bernhard Wälchli’s paper “Indirect measurement inmorphological typology” discusses the limitations of direct measurement andthe legitimacy of indirect measurement (including its use in other domains).Wälchli uses a case study of parallel texts taken from the Bible to show thatan indirect measurement methodology can be employed to measure the degree ofsynthesis seen. He applies a text-to-device approach (i.e., takes word-formsas the basic linguistic unit and derives the internal linguistic structurefrom them) working through three levels of analysis. The author concludes bydiscussing the advantages and limitations of the indirect measurementapproach, with suggestions for ways to further develop its application tomorphological typology.

In “Is a syntactic dialectology possible?”, Claudia Bucheli Berger, ElviraGlaser and Guido Seiler consider why dialect syntax should be studied at all,as it has been debated whether there is any such thing as dialect-specificsyntax. They conclude that the best way to determine this is throughcross-dialectal micro-comparison. Through a study of Swiss German dialects,they discuss the application of the “Zurich Written Questionnaire Method”(developed by the authors) to dialect syntax. They show that it can producereliable syntactic data by comparing the results of their analysis with thoseof another, more traditional, methodology. The authors conclude with adiscussion of how best to present their data cartographically, consideringdifferent map types and symbols.

“Methods for modalities” (by Johan van der Auwera and Gabriele Diewald)considers various ways of investigating modality. According to the authors,modality is of interest as it can be used to study both form and meaning, butan approach which allows for an investigation of both at the same time canhave interesting results. They begin by discussing the different techniquesthat have been applied in studies of modality (native speaker intuition,corpus studies of both comparable and parallel texts and “specialistconsultation” -- using either linguists or grammarians to gain indirect accessto native speaker judgments) and the role of the computer in corpus studies.They then discuss the application of these methodologies in specific studies,to show that a combination can allow new perspectives on modality.

In “The making of a festschrift, is it a ritual?”, Andrea Ender and BernhardWälchli consider whether editing a festschrift such as the volume reviewedhere can be considered a ritual act. By concentrating on the intentions andactions of the editors when redacting a festschrift in “a broader pragmaticsense”, they investigate its symbolic nature. This paper includes a discussionof the methods in the analysis (self-observation, questionnaires completed byeditors of other festschrifts, discourse analysis and spontaneous definitionsprovided by different members of an academic community), a consideration ofthe usual and/or expected components of a festschrift, as well as a briefoverview of the (increasingly negative) attitudes towards them. It then moveson to consider various definitions of the term ‘ritual’, before analysing theextent to which festschrift editing can be considered ritualised. The authorsconclude that, whilst the manner in which the editing is done may beconsidered partially ritualised, each festschrift could be said to reinvent inpart the production of the final product.

The first paper of Part 2, Fernando Zúñiga’s “Language description andlinguistic typology” considers the methodological challenges faced by thoseinvestigating language description and linguistic typology. The authordiscusses three particular areas that cause issues for linguists: thecollection of data; sampling; and crosslinguistic comparison. He analyses datacollection with some of his own previous research, showing that severaltraditional approaches have at least one shortcoming. His discussion ofsampling is less specific, concentrating more on the general issues faced inavoiding bias. The final part concentrates on crosslinguistic comparison, howit should be undertaken and some of the challenges involved.

In his paper “Multiple languages and multiple methods: Qualitative andquantitative ways of tapping into the multilingual repertoire”, RaphaelBerthele considers the different methods that can be used to investigatemultiple language usage, based on the current debate over thequalitative-quantitative divide. After a section considering methodologicaltriangulation and some of the other ways (and combinations of techniques) ofeliciting data, Berthele moves on to two case studies highlighting the resultsthat can be obtained when more than one method is adopted. He concludes with adiscussion of the issues involved in studying multilingualism.

“Koineization and cake baking: reflections on methods in dialect contactresearch” (David Britain) discusses the data collection issues that need to beconsidered when studying dialect contact, with a focus on koineization (theformation of a new dialect through prolonged contact between two differentdialects). Britain’s motivation is that, whilst the distinction betweenlanguage contact and dialect contact is often unclear, the two are usuallystudied separately, and draw on very different methodologies. After adiscussion of the different types of dialect contact, the author discusses insome detail the techniques used (and the issues inherent in adopting them) instudies of linguistic accommodation, second dialect acquisition, new dialectformation, supralocalization and innovation diffusion. He concludes with adiscussion of whether the cooking metaphors frequently used in studies ofkoineization are appropriate.

Andrea Ender’s paper, “Variation in a second language as a methodologicalchallenge: Knowledge and use of relative clauses”, addresses the littlestudied issue of how second language learners cope with variation in theirinput and how this affects their language acquisition. She does this through aconsideration of a previously undertaken study of relative clause acquisitionin learners of German in Switzerland. After a discussion of terminology, anoverview of the context and why relative clauses are problematic, she outlinesher study, the methodology adopted to collect her data and the rationalebehind its use and her general findings. She concludes that the variation seenis a result of a combination of linguistic, cognitive and social factors, andthat therefore a combination of methods was required to investigate it.

“Polish tea is Czech coffee: advantages and pitfalls in using a parallelcorpus in linguistic research” (Ruprecht von Waldenfels) considers thestrengths and weaknesses of using parallel text corpora. Von Waldenfelsdiscusses the issues raised when translating equivalence of meaning betweenlanguages and the problems caused by specific characteristics of translatedtexts. Using examples taken from studies using ParaSol, a corpus focussing onparallel texts in primarily Slavic languages, he shows how these issues can beresolved. This paper also briefly discusses the differences between the use ofparallel corpora and questionnaires, and concludes that the two arecomplementary.

Beatrix Busse begins Part 3 with “Historical text analysis: Underlyingparameters and methodological procedures” , which considers the study ofpragmatic phenomena in historical corpus analysis, something that has beenmade possible through advances in methodological techniques. Busse discussesthe advantages of what she terms the “modern historical linguistic approach”.She then moves through an investigation into stance adverbials in Early ModernEnglish to show that it is possible to overcome the issues involved instudying historical changes pragmatic phenomena through a combination ofquantitative corpus-based searches and qualitative analysis.

In “Using methods of historical linguistics in Indo-European and Tibetan”,Roland Bielmeier exemplifies the merits of the comparative method, through ananalysis of sound change in Indo-European and Tibetan. He concludes thatsyllable structure is an important factor in sound change in both languagefamilies, but that it would be unhelpful to compare sound change in Tibetan tothat seen in Indo-European, as Tibetan typically sees conditioned changes,unlike Indo-European.

“Etyma, shouldered adzes and molecular variants” (George van Driem) exploresthe challenges in investigating areas of prehistory about which little isknown with a multi-disciplinary approach. The utility of using disciplines asdiverse as linguistics, genetics and paleobotany has been questioned: vanDriem uses this paper to show that (in one case at least), some interestingparallels can be found. Drawing on work in etymology, molecular genetics,archaeology and human genetics, the author shows that it may be possible toconstruct competing accounts of the past. He concludes that, whilst aninterdisciplinary approach has potential, caution is required in theinterpretation of its results.

In “Experimental methods in psycholinguistics”, Constanze Vorwerg discussesthe role of the experiment in psycholinguistics. She covers a wide range oftopics, such as the rationale behind using experiments to gather data, commonterminology, and different types of experiments available depending on thetype of data desired and the area of psycholinguistics under consideration.Vorwerg follows the process from beginning to end, from the considerationsthat need to be taken into account when designing an experiment to methods ofdata interpretation and how they can feed into theory development. Sheconcludes with a brief discussion of other experimental areas of linguisticsand their role in interdisciplinary research.

Part Four begins with Daniel Perrin’s paper, “Coming to grips with dynamicsand complexity. Methodological challenges to real-life writing research”. Hefirst gives basic details of four well-known frameworks used to investigate“real-life” writing, considering the principal reasons for their use overothers. He then moves on to discuss in detail Dynamic Systems Theory (DST)through a case study of an experienced journalist producing a piece aboutdemonstrations in Lebanon. He concludes that DST has a genuine role to play ininvestigating written language.

In “Evolving methods for written representations of signed languages of theDeaf”, Penny Boyes Braem addresses some of the issues (e.g., the use ofnon-manual gestures and privacy violations) that need to be overcome whenresearching signed languages. She provides a critical overview of recentstudies and methodologies, including those which represent individual signs,and those which attempt to replicate sentences and longer texts. She concludesthat, through a combination of the existing writing systems with advances madepossible by new technologies, it may now be possible to produce “adequate anduseable written representations of signed languages”.

In the first paper of section 5, “Crossing perspectives on onomasticmethodology: Reflections on fieldwork in place name research”, Elwys DeStefani compares the traditional aims and methods in onomastic research(namely historical changes investigated through isolated phonetictranscriptions of place names) with an alternative, called “interactionalonomastics” by the author. A synchronic study is discussed employinginteractional onomastics to discover how place names are used in naturallyoccurring conversation. De Stefani concludes that an interactional approachhas shown that place names are just one way of referring to place, and thattherefore a traditional onomastic approach needs to take this intoconsideration. He also suggests some areas for future research that have beenhighlighted by this new approach.

Matthias Grünert’s paper, “Does the territoriality principle work in practice?The principle’s application to the Romansh area in the Swiss Canton ofGrisons” considers the controversial territoriality principle (which, inlinguistic terms, obliges administrative, political and/or juridical bodies touse a number of languages, depending on the traditional and actual linguisticmake-up of the region), how it functions and its application in the context ofthe Swiss canton of Grisons. Grünert concludes that, although other Swisscantons abide by the territoriality principle, there are factors in Grisonsthat complicate its application.

The final paper, “Procedures of methodological triangulation insociolinguistic research on multilingualism” (Georges Lüdi, Katharina Höchleand Patchareerat Yanaprasart) shows that, contrary to the impression ofEnglish use in Swiss workplaces created by studies relying on only one method,an approach that adopts several different complementary methodologies showsthat English is not used in the same way as the country’s national languages,but rather as a form of lingua franca. Other insights are also discussed thatcould only have been made by adopting such a combination.

EVALUATIONOverall, this is an extremely wide-ranging collection, potentially useful toanyone considering the role of different methodologies in a large number ofareas of linguistics. A note of caution is, however, necessary. The blurb onthe back cover could give the impression that the book provides an overview ofcurrent and widely accepted techniques. This is not the aim, and the bookfocusses more on innovative and unusual approaches in a range of differentlinguistic sub-fields.

The focus on innovative techniques makes the book most suitable for advancedstudents and experienced researchers. The majority of papers are written at alevel that presupposes a relatively high level of prior knowledge of thesubject material, and whilst it is not strictly necessary to be able to followthe theoretical detail of any examples given, such ability helps the reader togain more benefit from the many insights contained in each paper. Having saidthat, some papers, such as Vorwerg’s, are considerably more accessible toreaders with less-developed subject knowledge. This volume is definitely moresuitable for researchers wishing to gain an insight either into the importanceof methodology as a whole, or into the benefits and disadvantages of aspecific approach. It is less suitable for students wishing to gain anoverview of the more common techniques used in a particular domain oflinguistics: whilst one or two papers may provide this, the majority do not.As I have already said, though, this was never the aim of the book, despitethe somewhat misleading blurb.

It seems that one of the principal aims of the editors was to produce a volumewhich could stimulate debate about the importance of an open consideration ofwhich methodology is most appropriate in a given context, rather than animplicit assumption that there is only one suitable option. It remains to beseen whether this debate will now take place, but if it does, this volume hasprovided ample material to allow linguists from all domains to participate,rather than syntacticians having a separate debate from sociolinguists, etc.The choice to include papers from all domains also enables the reader to learnabout methodologies that may not be particularly common in their specificdomain, but that might still be useful to them.

It is by no means an easy challenge to organise papers from such a diverserange of domains into a coherent volume. However, the editors have largelybeen successful: the division of the book into five themed sections is logicaland the different sections generally work well together, although some (e.g.section 1) are more coherent than others (e.g. section 5). The introductionfurther clarifies this, describing in some detail the contents of each sectionand each paper.

Ideally, I would have liked more consensus as to what constitutes a discussionof methodology. Whilst all the papers considered the topic in some way orother, the approaches varied from that taken, for example, by Vorwerg, whoprovides a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of a range ofapproaches when considering a specific issue, to that of Lüdi et al., whichshows how a specific combination can be used to advance progress, withoutdiscussing any alternatives at all. All have their merits, but it might havebeen nice to have a greater level of consistency.

It is refreshing to see an open and focussed discussion on the importance ofchoosing the right methodology. It is all too easy to adopt a particularmethod of data collection and analysis, without making it clear why thatparticular way has been chosen. This is especially the case when the oneadopted is a common one, such as the role of intuition in many generativesyntactic analyses. It is also a welcome change to see a consideration ofmethodology that covers such a comprehensive range of topics: many previousworks (e.g. Maguire and McMahon 2011) cover the subject in a specific context,or the merits and limitations of a specific technique (e.g. Schütze 1996), butfew cover such a wide range of contexts, methodologies and areas oflinguistics. Overall, then, this book is a welcome addition to existing worksconsidering the importance of an open discussion of methodology inlinguistics.

REFERENCESMaguire, Warren & April McMahon. 2011. Analysing Variation in English.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schütze, Carson T. 1996. The Empirical Base of Linguistics: GrammaticalityJudgments and Linguistic Methodology. Chicago and London: The University ofChicago Press.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERAnnis Shepherd is a Ph.D. student at the University of Southampton. Herresearch interests include the division of labour between syntax andmorphology, intra-speaker variation and non-standard varieties of English. Herthesis deals with syntactic intra-speaker variation in English, focussing oncase variation in coordinated structures.

Page Updated: 28-Jan-2013