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Review of  The Slavonic Languages

Reviewer: Tania Avgustinova
Book Title: The Slavonic Languages
Book Author: Bernard Comrie Greville G. Corbett
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation
Language Family(ies): Slavic Subgroup
Issue Number: 14.1480

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Date: Mon, 19 May 2003 10:21:26 +0200
From: Tania Avgustinova
Subject: Comrie and Corbett, ed. (2002). The Slavonic Languages

Comrie, Bernard and Greville C. Corbett, ed. (2002) The
Slavonic Languages. Routledge, Routledge Language Family

Announced at

Reviewed by Tania Avgustinova, Saarland University / DFKI

As the editors point out, this book is designed to meet
different requirements of a variety of readers. Being a
comprehensive source on the Slavonic language family, it
could primarily be used as a straightforward reference
book. But it could also serve as a general introduction to
Slavonic languages, as a typological guide, as well as in
comparative research.

Chapter 1 (by Comrie and Corbett) introduces the
geographical and demographic distribution of the Slavonic
languages, reflecting the political situation in early
1993. Chapter 2 (by Cubberley)is a comprehensive and
detailed presentation of the various alphabets and
addresses transliteration issues. Chapter 3 (by Schenker)
introduces the reconstructed ancestor of the Slavonic
languages known as Proto-Slavonic; it bridges the Indo-
European language family and its Slavonic branch. The
following chapters are grouped according to the traditional
distinction made between South Slavonic, West Slavonic and
East Slavonic languages.

The South-Slavonic part includes chapter-long presentations
of Old-Church-Slavonic (Chapter 4 by Huntley), Bulgarian
(Chapter 5 by Scatton), Macedonian (Chapter 6 by Friedman),
Serbo-Croatian (Chapter 7 by Browne) and Slovene (Chapter 8
by Priestly). As for the West-Slavonic collection, it
contains descriptions of Czech (Chapter 9 by Short), Slovak
(Chapter 10 by Short), Upper and Lower Sorbian (Chapter 11
by Stone), Polish (Chapter 12 by Rothstein), Cassubian
(Chapter 13 by Stone) and Polabian (Chapter 14 by
Polan'ski). The East Slavonic part includes the respective
presentations of Russian (Chapter 15 by Timberlake),
Belorussian (Chapter 16 by Mayo) and Ukrainian (Chapter 17
by Shevelov).

The final Chapter 18 (by Sussex) deals with Slavonic
languages in exile and could thus be of particular interest
not only to Slavicists, but to sociolinguists in general.

A special feature of the volume as a whole is that all
chapters describing the individual Slavonic languages (i.e.
from Chapter 3 to Chapter 17) are highly structured, with
each author providing uniform detailed information on the
same important set of topics. In particular, each of these
chapters is written according to a single general plan. It
begins with an introductory section providing a brief
account of the current status of the language and of its
historical development. A section on phonology follows,
dealing with the phoneme inventory and morphophonemic
alternations from both synchronic and diachronic
perspectives. Then, a section on synchronic morphology
deals with nominal and verbal inflection as well as
derivation, with special reference to the major historical
developments. A section on syntax follows, dealing with
various patterns of combining words into phrases and
sentences and discussing extensively the syntactic
properties of the language. This is followed by a
discussion of vocabulary (lexis) including the relation
between inherited Slavonic and borrowed vocabulary, with
lists of basic lexical items from three well-defined
lexical fields: colour terms, body parts and kinship terms.
Accompanied by a map, an outline of the main dialects
presents their most salient characteristics. Finally, a
bibliographic section is provided.

This organization supports phenomena-oriented acquisition
of relevant information across Slavonic languages. Non-
Slavicists are further assisted by the systematic
transliteration and glossing of the examples. The
bibliographies after each chapter provide useful
indications of further generally accessible sources.
The book is made particularly handy and accessible by
inclusion of a comprehensive index. It can be recommended
for use in teaching, comparative research and typological


ABOUT THE REVIEWER Tania Avgustinova received her Ph.D. in Slavic and Computational Linguistics at Saarland University. In 1998 she was awarded an individual grant from the German science foundation (DFG) to work on modular language-family oriented grammar design at the Department of Computational Linguistics and Phonetics in Saarbruecken. Currently, she is a senior researcher at the DFKI Language Technology Lab.