Review of Meaning Through Language Contrast
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2003 15:25:50 -0700 (PDT)
From: Svetlana Kurtes
Subject: Meaning Through Language Contrast, 2 vols.
Jaszczolt, K. M. and Ken Turner, ed. (2003) Meaning Through Language
Contrast, vol. 1 and 2, John Benjamins Publishing Company, Pragmatics
and Beyond New Series 99, 100.
Svetlana Kurtes, Language Centre, University of Cambridge, UK
The two volumes bring together selected papers from the Second
International Conference in Contrastive Semantics and Pragmatics that
took place at Newnham College, Cambridge, from 11 to 13 September 2000.
The Conference was organized by the editors, Katarzyna M. Jaszczolt and
Ken Turner (henceforth: the editors), and was envisaged as a further
elaboration on the same range of topics covered in the first conference
of the kind (cf. Jaszczolt and Turner, ed. 1996).
There are 42 papers in total: 19 in Volume 1 (arranged in 6 parts:
Negation; Temporality; Modality; Evidentiality; Perspectives on
eventualities; Topics in grammar and conceptualisation) and 23 in
Volume 2 (arranged in 4 parts: Grammaticalizaton; Metaphor in contrast;
Cross-cultural pragmatics and speech acts; The semantics/pragmatics
boundary: theory and application). A language index, name index,
subject index and bibliographic references are appended.
The papers examine various linguistic phenomena from the contrastive
and inter-lingual analytical perspectives, drawing on from a variety of
theoretical frameworks (most commonly cognitive and generative) or
utilizing a 'detheorized' approach. A great majority of contributions
take a synchronic point of view, but a significant number of papers
'testify to the growing importance of diachronic analysis' (p. xi),
particularly in the fields of historical semantics and pragmatics,
language change and speech act theory.
Part I (Negation) comprises contributions by L M Tovena
('Distributional restrictions on negative determiners') and Joao Peres
(Towards a comprehensive view of Negative Concord'). Tovena takes the
typology of determiners proposed by Chierchia (1998) as a starting
point and tests it against a new set of data, discussing in particular
the distribution and interpretation of English 'no', Italian 'nessuno'
and French 'aucun' and determiner-like uses of Italian 'niente'. Peres
addresses two main issues: 'firstly, which phrases are licensed in a
Negative Concord chain [...], and, secondly, which noun phrases that
are licensed in negative concord chains can assume the role of
licensers in the same kind of configuration' (p. 41). Examples are
taken from Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.
Part II (Temporality) comprises a selection of papers discussing topics
in contrastive analysis of temporal and aspectual verbal phenomena,
observing some of them from semantic and pragmatic perspectives as
well. Telmo Moia's contribution ('On temporal constructions involving
counting from anchor points -- semantic and pragmatic issues')
elaborates on the issue of two closely related subtypes of temporal
expressions involving counting of temporally ordered entities (e.g.
weekdays, years, seasons, etc) in Portuguese and English. The same set
of languages is analysed contrastively in Ana Teresa Alves's paper ('On
the semantics and pragmatics of situational anaphoric temporal locators
in Portuguese and English'), putting an emphasis on 'anaphoric temporal
expressions that refer back to time intervals that are defined by
eventuality descriptions, and try[ing] to describe their semantic and
pragmatic licensing conditions' (p. 61). Ilinca Crainiceanu ('Remarks
on the semantics of eventualities with measure phrases in English and
Romanian') looks into the aspectual interpretation of state and event
descriptions occurring in the Present Perfect Tense in English and its
Romanian equivalents, the Prezent and the Perfect Compus. The measure
phrases discussed are the English 'for' and their Romanian translation
equivalents 'de/timp' and 'de/pentru'. The Present Perfect Tense in
English is further analysed in Hortensia Curell's contribution, where
it is contrasted with its Catalan equivalent in a corpus-based
analysis. Part II finishes with Frederick Kang'ethe Iraki's paper ('A
contrastive reading of temporal-aspectual morphemes in Swahili: the
case of "-li" and "-me"', in which the author observes the pragmatics
of the two Swahili temporal morphemes comparing and contrasting them
with the Passe Simple and Passe Compose in French within the framework
of the Relevance Theory (Sperber & Wilson 1989).
Rui Marques's and A Capone's contributions address semantic and
pragmatic issues of modality in the Volume's Part III. Marques, in
particular, looks into constraints of mood selection in two sets of
languages. More specifically, the author defines differences in the
distribution of indicative and subjunctive in Romanian, Hungarian and
Modern Greek on the one hand, and French, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan
and Italian on the other. Capone looks into the instances of the
Italian clitic 'lo' in combination with a verb of prepositional
attitude (such as 'sapere' know, 'sentire' hear, 'capire' understand,
etc), observing that it 'seems to connect anaphorically with a previous
thought already vocalized in discourse and presupposed by the speaker
and the hearer at the moment of utterance' (p. 147).
Part IV (Evidentiality) comprises contributions by Sergei Tatevosov
('Inferred evidence: language-specific properties and universal
constraints' and Aurelia Usoniene ('Extension of meaning: verbs of
perception in English and Lithuanian'). Tatevosov elaborates further on
the category of evidentiality, focusing on the main types that can be
found cross-linguistically: direct evidence, represented by the
instances in which the situation in question is directly known by the
speaker, inferred evidence, in which the knowledge about the situation
is obtained via inference, and reported evidence, representing the
instances in which the knowledge about the situation is obtained via a
verbal report form some external source (cf. p. 177). Among the
observed languages are Bagwalal, Mari and Tatar. Usoniene, however,
focuses on the meaning of verbs of perception in English and Lithuanian
in terms of the semantic opposition of direct vs. indirect perception.
The analysis is corpus-based.
Part V (Perspectives on eventualities) comprises several papers
examining a range of topics clustering around verbal transitivity.
Marta Maleczki ('Information structure, argument structure and
typological variation') presents arguments 'in support of the
assumption that there are universal constructions in human languages,
possibly used for different purposes, depending on the characteristics
of the particular language' (p. 223). Two typologically distinct
languages, English and Hungarian, are analysed contrastively, showing
that 'in English, the basic structural varieties are used to express
differences in the argument-structures of verbs; in Hungarian, the same
structural alternatives express variations in the information structure
of the sentences' (ibid.). Andrea Sanso elaborates further on the
functions of the passive. The author briefly comments on existing
linguistic theory on the passive (Givon 1981; Siewierska 1984;
Shibatani 1985), pointing out its main shortcomings. A new view on the
passive is then proposed, drawing on from cognitive linguistics and
postulating a semantic core capable of explaining its uses, looking
contrastively into Italian and Spanish. The topic of Mayumi Masuko's
contribution is verbal valence in English and Japanese, showing that
'verbs in English and Japanese can be used as intransitive when they
are sufficiently informative and refer to states, rather than events in
their narrower sense' (p. 272). The phenomenon exemplified by the same
set of languages is further discussed in Patricia Mayes's paper ('The
transitive/intransitive construction of events in Japanese and English
discourse'). The author concludes that 'level of transitivity is not an
inherent property of a language; rather, it is a cluster of semantic
and morphosyntactic features [...] that are realized differently in
different situations' (p. 288).
The concluding part (Topics in grammar and conceptualisation) of the
Volume comprises four papers discussing topics in semantics and
pragmatics of grammar. Didier Maillat ('Towards a universal DRT model
for the interpretation of directional PPs within a reference frame')
performs a semantic analysis of temporal relations utilizing Discourse
Representation Theory. The Japanese pseudo-relatives, also known as
'gapless' relatives, are examined in Akiko Kurosawa's contribution in
the framework of Dynamic Syntax. The Japanese examples are compared
with English. The phenomenon of pronominal reduplication, or clitic
doubling, is addressed in Javier Gutierrez-Rexach's paper. The author
examines it cross-linguistically, giving examples from Spanish,
Romanian and Greek, and utilizing an Optimality Theory framework.
Finally, Eva Lavric discusses the results of an error analysis looking
into texts in business French produced by German-speaking students,
focusing on the errors in the area of nominal determiners, especially
indefinite plural determiners (Ger. 'einige'; Fr. 'quelques'). The
analysis performed was putting an emphasis on issues in contrastive
Volume 2 starts with a number of contributions raising issues in
grammaticalization. Steve Nicolle looks contrastively into two
individual Bantu languages, Digo (spoken along the Kenyan and Tanzanian
coast) and Fuliiru (spoken in the eastern part of the Democtratic
Republic of the Congo). The author focuses on grammaticalization
involving verbs of movement, direction and position. The evolution of
complex conditional connectives, in particular Italian 'qualora' and
English 'supposing that' is presented in Jacqueline Visconti's paper,
giving the results of a contrastive diachronic analysis that identified
the basic semantic structure underlying this evolution. Thorstein
Fretheim, Stella Boateng and Ildiko Vasko elaborate on the process of
grammaticalization that have affected the truth-conditional adverbial
anaphor 'then' in English and the corresponding lexical items in three
other languages: Norwegian, Hungarian and Ewe (a Niger-Congo language
spoken in Ghana). Ake Viberg discusses issues in the polysemy of
Swedish verbs from a cross-linguistic perspective. More specifically,
the Swedish verb 'komma' and its English, German, French and Finnish
equivalents are presented and commented on.
Part II (Metaphor in contrast) comprises a number of papers looking
into cognitive and pragmatic analytical perspectives of figurative
language cross-linguistically. Kay Wikberg ('Studying metaphors using a
multilingual corpus') elaborates on the ways in which metaphors are
learnt and looks into their translation equivalents that appear in
multilingual corpora, starting from English and observing their
renderings into Swedish and Finnish. In Andreas Musolff's paper a
sample of media texts are analysed, focusing on the ways in which
'family' imagery is employed to argue EU policy issues. Malay and
English figurative language is taken as an illustration 'how cognitive
semantics may be used to compare the relationship between thought,
symbol and referent in two rather unrelated languages' (p. 141) in
Jonathan Charteris-Black's contribution. Anna Espunya and Patrick
Zarbalbeascoa finish the section with a discussion on the approaches to
the translation of metaphorical expressions, taking English and Spanish
stock market journalistic texts as an example.
Susumu Kubo opens Part III (Cross cultural pragmatics and speech acts)
with a discussion on directions on regulations in speech act theory.
Similarities and differences between the final-sentence particles 'ne'
in Japanese and 'ba' in Chinese and pointed out in Mutsuko Endo Hudson
and Wen-ying Lu's discussion. Politeness of requests in black South
African English and Sepedi, one of the official languages of South
African Republic, is examined by Luanga A Kasanga, who reports on the
results of empirical research done within Ervin-Tripp's (1976) and
Wierzbicka's (1985) theoretical outlines. 'Cultural scripts for French
and Romanian thinking behaviour' is the title of Tine Van Hecke's
contribution, utilizing yet again Wierzbicka's (1991; 1992; 1996)
theoretical assumptions in order to propose a model of analysis that
will be able to explore 'both differences in ways of communicating and
the underlying differences in attitudes and value' (p. 237). French and
Romanian are taken as an example. Ronald Geluykens and Bettina Kraft
are looking into sociocultural variation in native and interlanguage
complaints, observed as Face Threatening Acts. Examples are taken from
German and English. Requests are discussed further by both Saeko
Fukushima, who does a cross-cultural study, focusing on the major
characteristics of collectivist cultures (such as Japanese) vs.
individualist ones (such as British), and Michael Betsch, who looks
into questions as indirect requests in Russian and Czech. The language
of the positive emotions domain is discussed in Les Bruce's
contribution, presenting the results of a study of the language of love
in Melanesia, that took into account some 20 languages including
English. Everyday rituals, represented by greetings and farewells, in
Polish and English are looked into from a contrastive point of view by
Ewa Jakubowska, who utilizes the cognitive framework model (Langacker
1987) as a tool in analysing her data. Speech act shifts from a
historical-contrastive perspective, taking Old Spanish and Middle
English as an example, are discussed in Verena Jung and Angela
Schrott's contribution. The section finishes with a presentation of the
results of a contrastive study of multi-party talk in Estonian and
American English, done by Piibi-Kai Kivik and Krista Vogelberg.
The concluding part of Volume 2 (The semantics/pragmatics boundary:
theory and applications) comprises four papers topically clustering
around new approaches to contrastive semantics and pragmatics. Klaus
von Heusinger takes the concept of specificity as a semantic-pragmatic
category and performs a cross-linguistic analysis. Grounding, one of
the organizing principles of discourse meaning, is discussed in the
context of the semantics-pragmatics interface by Esam N Khalil. K M
Jaszczolt ('On translating "what is said": tertium comparationis in
contrastive semantics and pragmatics') proposes further theoretical
developments of the major concept of contrastive analysis, viz. the
platform of reference or tertium comparationis (Krzeszowski 1990; James
1980; Fisiak 1984). The author makes an initial distinction between
applied contrastive studies, synonymous with the term 'contrastive
analysis', dealing with the practical consequences of differences
between contrasted languages for teaching purposes, bilingual analysis
or translation' (p. 441) and theoretical contrastive studies 'performed
on the level of phonology, lexicon, syntax, semantics, pragmatics or
text linguistics' (ibid.). The following hypotheses are then proposed:
a) semantic equivalence is the equivalence of 'what is said'; b)
pragmatic equivalence is the equivalence of what is implicitly
communicated (p. 444). Polish and English are taken into account when
testing the above claims. Finally, Volume 2 finishes with Bergljot
Behrens and Cathrine Fabricius-Hansen's paper aiming 'to contribute to
the explication of the discourse theoretic concept 'Elaboration' and
the semantic description of relevant connectives in German and English'
The two volumes present a remarkable contribution to the theory and
practice of contrastive studies, expanding their horizons and
competently redefining their status among other linguistic disciplines
at the beginning of the new century. The editors brilliantly managed to
make a representative selection of papers that fully preserved the
richness, diversity and originality of ideas presented by the
participants of the Second International Conference in Contrastive
Semantics and Pragmatics. The volumes can no doubt be taken as a model
of the genre.
There are at least a few characteristics that make this collection of
papers quite outstanding. Firstly, it gives a clear insight into the
current issues in contrastive studies across the globe, authentically
mirroring a truly international nature of the Conference itself.
Secondly, the number of contrasted languages presented in the selected
contributions is simply impressive. What is particularly praiseworthy
in this context is the fact that quite a number of less widely spoken
languages are analysed contrastively and, perhaps even more
importantly, not only against a standard limited number of languages of
international communication, but also a range or various regional
lingua francas and other less commonly taught languages. Finally, in
spite of a huge variety of topics covered and theoretical traditions
utilized, the volumes are stylistically very coherent and thematically
well organized into smaller units, which make them extremely readable.
This is an achievement to be attributed to both the editors and the
Without any hesitation we recommend the volumes to their intended
international readership, researchers and practitioners in the fields
of contrastive linguistics, semantics and pragmatics and other tangent
disciplines. The volumes should be seen as a very welcomed contribution
that gives us a deeper insight into some of the major concepts of the
mentioned study fields, setting at the same time high standards for
contrastive studies in the 21st century.
Chierchia, G. 1998. 'Plurality of mass nouns and the notion of
"semantic parameter"'. In S Rothstein (ed), Evens and grammar, Kluwer,
Dordrecht, pp. 53-103.
Ervin-Tripp, S. 1976. 'Is Sybil there? The structure of some American
English directives', Language in Society, 5, 25-66.
Fisiak, J. (ed) 1984. Contrastive linguistics: prospects and problems,
Givon, T. 1981. 'Typology and functional domains', Studies in language,
5 (2), 163-193.
James, C. 1980. Contrastive analysis. Longman, London.
Jaszczolt, K. M. and K. Turner (ed) 1996. Contrastive semantics and
pragmatics, 2 volumes, Pergamon Press, Oxford.
Krzeszowski, K. 1990. Contrasting languages: the scope of contrastive
linguistics, Mouton, Berlin.
Langacker, R. W. 1987. Foundations of cognitive grammar, vol 1,
Stanford University Press, Stanford.
Shibatani, M. 1985. 'Passives and related constructions: a prototype
analysis', Language, 61 (4), 821-848.
Siewierska, A. 1984. The passive. A comparative linguistic analysis,
Croom Helm, London.
Sperber, D. and D. Wilson 1989. La pertinence, communication et
cognition, Minuit, Paris.
Wierzbicka, A. 1985. 'Different cultures, different languages,
different speech acts', Journal of Pragmatics, 9, 145-179.
----- 1991. Cross-cultural pragmatics: the semantics of human
interaction, Mouton, Berlin.
----- 1992. Semantics, culture and cognition: universal human concepts
in culture-specific configurations, Oxford University Press, New York.
----- 1996. 'Contrastive sociolinguistics and the theory of "cultural
scripts": Chinese vs. English'. In M. Hellinger and U. Ammon (eds),
Contrastive sociolinguistics, Mouton, Berlin, 313-344.
| ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Svetlana Kurtes holds a BA in English Philology and an MA in Sociolinguistics from Belgrade University and an MPhil in Applied Linguistics from Cambridge University. She worked as a Lecturer in English at Belgrade University and is currently affiliated to Cambridge University Language Centre. Her research interests involve contrastive linguistics, sociolinguistics, pragmatics/stylistics, translation theory and language pedagogy.