By Sari Pietikäinen, FinlandAlexandra Jaffe, Long BeachHelen Kelly-Holmes, and Nikolas Coupland
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."
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2003 16:26:09 -0500 From: "Greenberg, Marc L" Subject: The Handbook of Historical Linguistics
Joseph, Brian D. and Richard D. Janda, ed. (2003) The Handbook of Historical Linguistics, Blackwell Publishing, Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics.
Marc L. Greenberg, University of Kansas
[This review was not posted when it was received because of technical problems with the LINGUIST List server. We apologize for the delay in posting it to the List. ]
This book presents the state of the art of diachronic linguistics with a collection of twenty-six essays by leading practitioners in North America (20), Europe (4), Australia (1) and New Zealand (1). Its primary audiences are students of and specialists in linguistics who wish to gain a command of current issues in diachronic linguistics. Although not intended as a textbook per se, it could be used as such with a sufficiently bright group of students. Moreover, specialists in non-linguistic historical disciplines will find at least the lengthy introductory article useful and enlightening. Most of the articles are written in a non-technical manner, or at least the narrowly technical terms are defined in the text, making them accessible to the general educated reader. The introductory essay in Part I ties together the issues dealt with in the papers, as well as embeds the discussion of the enterprise of diachronic linguistics in other historically oriented sciences. Part II deals with methods for studying language change (essays 1 - 5), Part III with phonology (6 - 9), Part IV with morphology and lexicon (10 - 13), Part V with syntax (14 - 17), Part VI with pragmatics and semantics (18 - 21), and Part VII with issues of explanation in diachronic linguistics (22 - 25). The collective bibliography (pp. 744 - 842) is followed by a Subject Index (843 - 855), Name Index (856 - 878) and a Language Index (879 - 881).
The choice of topics to be included was informed by the program outlined, according to the editors, in Weinreich, Labov and Herzog 1968, and are summarized in 5 broad themes: (1) the extent (minor or major) of the role played by children in linguistic change, (2) the relationship between externally and internally motivated changes, (3) the relationship of linguistic theory to views of language change, (4) the question of when change can be said to (have) occur(ed), and (5) causation of change (119 - 125). Topics that fall outside of the purview of the volume, at least as separate chapters, are lexical diffusion, typology per se, the origins of human speech, diachronic pragmatics (per se, though pragmatic issues are at least touched upon in chapters on grammaticalization), prosodic change, and linguistic paleontology (115 - 119).
Most of these matters are treated within a number of the individual chapters. Rather than have each of the seven major sections written by an individual author, the editors commissioned articles by researchers with various and sometimes conflicting theoretical viewpoints in order to give a sense of the range of ideas and approaches currently at the forefront of the field (120 - 123). An attempt was made to pay sufficient attention to the achievements of research on Indo-European languages as well as to balance Indo-European material with consideration of work based on other world languages. The editors point out that the resulting balance is evident in the language index, which is "quite robust" (126).
Part I: Introduction:
Richard D. Janda's & Brian D. Joseph's introductory essay "On Language, Change, and Language Change - Or, Of History, Linguistics, and Historical Linguistics" (4 - 180) discusses broad questions of language change in relation to history and other historically oriented disciplines, such as evolutionary biology, paleontology, and geology. These parallels help to illuminate and contextualize debates on broad issues such as uniformitarianism and punctuated equilibrium. These broad issues help to tie together the more narrowly focused topics in the chapters as well as frame meta-theoretically the controversies that arise in the dialogues among different approaches, those exhibited in the book and otherwise. In their own writing and, to an extent, the selection of authors, the editors espouse an aversion to too literal interpretations of the parallels between diachronic linguistics and other diachronically-oriented disciplines in (especially) the natural sciences. A prominent place in this regard is given to controverting the ("pseudo-organicist") views of Roger Lass (such as the following: "[... L]anguages [...] ought to be viewed as potentially having extended (trans-individual, trans-generation) 'lives of their own'" ): "we see this book as a whole - and especially this introductory essay - as an answer to his claims" (121, 175 n. 137).
Part II: Methods for Studying Language Change:
The main body of the book begins with the cornerstone of historical linguistics, "The Comparative Method" (183 - 212) by Robert L. Rankin, refreshingly presented on Native American illustrative material. Just as refreshingly, Rankin demonstrates the application of the method across all components of grammar, from phonology through morphology and semantics to syntax, rather than focusing primarily on the first of these, as is often the case in textbook treatments of the method. Certain of the limitations of the method are dealt with, including the pitfalls arising from the loss or merger of phonological segments, naturalness in syntax (vs. phonology), the perception of excessive uniformity in the reconstruction of proto-languages, and temporal limits on the method itself. Rankin's article segues naturally into S. P. Harrison's "On the Limits of the Comparative Method" (213 - 243), limitations, the author hastens to add, "determined by the very properties of the method that make it work" (213). "Internal Reconstruction" (244 - 261) by Don Ringe illustrates, primarily on Indo-European material, the weaker auxiliary method to the comparative method. In "How to Show Languages are Related: Methods for Distant Genetic Relationship" (262 - 282) Lyle Campbell takes on the problems of distant genetic relationship (DGR), which has received a greater share of attention in the popular press than other areas of linguistics. The article is in part a review of the epistemological underpinnings of established methods for showing language relatedness (covered to a large extent in the previous chapters) and in part an admonition to avoid "excessive zeal for long-range relationships [that] can lead to methodological excesses" (263). As illustrative material spurious results in the works of Joseph Greenberg (no relation to the reviewer - well, perhaps a distant one) are a leitmotif, though others' work is taken apart as well. "Diversity and Stability in Language" (282 - 310) by Johanna Nichols treats the problem of what elements of language tend to be stable vs. unstable (i.e., leads to diversity) over time. In contrast to some of the more traditional topics in the volume, this essay is of a programmatic nature "intended to spur the kind of cross-linguistic work required to estimate stability and identify recurrent strong and weak points in linguistic structure" (282). Nichols sets out four measures of stability, graded scalarly, whether an element of grammar is prone to inheritance (or loss), borrowing, substratum effects or "selection," i.e., "the process whereby elements that embody language universals, cross- categorial harmony, unmarked terms, and other typological desiderata are incorporated into a language" (286 - 287).
Part III: Phonological Change:
"The Phonological Basis of Sound Change" (313 - 342) by Paul Kiparsky takes issue with the Neogrammarian notion of exceptionlessness of phonetic sound change, demonstrating his views on top-down, abstract organization of phonology. The article is a slightly revised republication of Kiparsky's article in Goldsmith's Handbook of Phonological Theory, also in the Blackwell series. Kiparsky's arguments are reviewed and amplified in Mark Hale's "Neogrammarian Sound Change" (343 - 368). "Variationist Approaches to Phonological Change" (369 - 400) by Gregory R. Guy reviews the approach to observation and analysis of sound change in progress in the sociolinguistic variation school begun by William Labov. This article, as the previous two, discusses the relationship between Neogrammarian phonetics and phonology. About half of the article is devoted to the examination of sociolinguistic factors in sound change and concludes with reflections on the purposeful blurring of the Saussurean distinction between synchrony and diachrony inherent in the approach of viewing change in progress. "'Phonologization' as the Start of Dephoneticization - Or, On Sound-Change and its Aftermath: Of Extension, Generalization, Lexicalization, and Morphologization" (401 - 422) by Richard D. Janda attempts to reconcile the heterogeneity of views reflected in debates on sound change, in part represented in the Phonological Change section of this book, and deals with the seemingly intractable problem of causation in change. Towards a solution, Janda offers a phonological parallel to the "Big Bang" model of the origin of the universe (op. rev.: one longs for a domestic term, such as the "Primordial Plosion," but, alas, there is not the same ring to it). The "Big Bang" theory proposes that purely phonetic conditions hold for a brief moment, after which higher-order phonological and sociolinguistic conditions shape the further outcome of phonological processes of change.
Part IV: Morphological and Lexical Change:
Raimo Anttila's "Analogy: The Warp and Woof of Cognition" (425 - 440) treats the meta-theoretical notion of analogy, a treatment grounded in gestalt psychology and Piercian semiotics, as the template for human cognition and the innate vehicle for all linguistic change. Though the author points out that since 1980 "analogy had been pretty much banned in America" (438), his not infrequent references to Finnish research indicate that the notion has not been there so maligned. A complement to Anttila's chapter is Hans Henrich Hock's "Analogical Change" (441 - 460), which presents an overview of linguistic applications of analogy, especially as regards language change in morphology and phonology. Here, as in the chapters in the previous part on phonology, a portion of the chapter is devoted to the "Neogrammarian controversy" (453). "Naturalness and Morphological Change" (461 - 471) by Wolfgang U. Dressler addresses the primarily Central-European-based approach to language structure and language change expressed in terms of relative statements such as "phenomenon X is more or less natural than Y." The theory has its origins in Prague Structuralism, i.e., the notion of markedness, and developed in the late 1970s among German-speaking linguistics, such as the Dressler, Willi Mayerthaler, Wolfgang Wurzel and Ozwald Panagl (incidentally, the theory has recently returned to the Slavic world, as evidenced by the works of Janez Oresnik and his students, e.g., Oresnik 2001). Functionalist in approach, the theory offers explanation of change through grading of preferences and derives probabilities of types of change. "Morphologization from Syntax" (472 - 492) by Brian D. Joseph discusses how matters of syntax become matters of morphology, e.g., a syntactic construction such Latin clara mente 'with a clear mind' (a noun phrase in ablative singular masculine agreement) gives rise to the French adverb-forming suffix -ment (clairement). The author recognizes the similarities between his morphologization and grammaticalization (as discussed in the chapters by Bybee, Fortson, Harrison, Heine, Hock, Mithun, Rankin and Traugott), but offers a concise discussion of the distinction between the two approaches, which centers on objections to the putative inviolability of the cline of grammaticalization (475 - 484).
Part V: Syntactic Change:
David Lightfoot's article, "Grammatical Approaches to Syntactic Change" (495 - 508), is arguably among the most theory-driven in the volume, viewing change in the narrow scope of language acquisition in children from the perspective of the principles and parameters model. Like the previous chapter, Susan Pintzuk's "Variationist Approaches to Syntactic Change" (509 - 528) operates in the principles and parameters framework, but the author points out that this model is not essential to variationist methodology. She shows that there is evidence to support the hypothesis that parameter settings do not change abruptly, instead, change occurs as a result of competition between alternative parameter settings during periods of syntactic variation. The ideas are demonstrated primarily on Germanic material, especially Old English. "Cross-linguistic Perspectives on Syntactic Change" (529 - 551) by Alice C. Harris outlines an approach to universals of syntax that is avowedly data- driven (and, as such, is a counterweight to Lightfoot's chapter), which applies inductive methods to arrive at universals of syntactic change. In her view, change is a three-step process involving (covert) reanalysis, actualization, and the resultant coexistence of newer and older structures ("syntactic doublets"). She illustrates the derivation of a syntactic universal on the example of the development of perfect constructions in Georgian, Aghul, French and German. Marianne Mithun's "Functional Perspectives on Syntactic Change" (552 - 572) approaches change from the viewpoint of communicative efficacy and makes the case that diachronic elucidation of grammatical phenomena has greater explanatory power than synchronic, a product of the functionalist approach, unconstrained by the rigors of particular theoretical schools. A Yup'ik case study demonstrates routinization and reanalysis in the development of a subordinative structure, a type of change that is treated elsewhere in the volume under the rubric of grammatic(al)ization (see below), though the author works in a broader framework, skeptical of the predictive power of grammaticalization theory. She concludes that "[s]yntactic change can be stimulated and facilitated by a wide variety of factors, often working in concert. Their presence in a language does not guarantee that a given change will take place, only that it may be rendered more likely" (572).
Part VI: Pragmatico-Semantic Change:
In "Grammaticalization" (575 - 601) Bernd Heine describes grammaticalization theory as "neither a theory of language nor of language change," but rather an enterprise with the goal of describing "the way grammatical forms arise and develop through space and time, and to explain why they are structured the way they are" (575). Some space in the article is given to the history of the line of inquiry, which he dates to the late eighteenth century with Ã^Étienne Bonnot de Condillac, through the nineteenth-century historical-comparativists, and, finally, the boom period from the 1970s onward. Both the viewpoints of adherents of grammaticalization, such as the author, as well as those of opponents are given. Heine gives an illustration, among others, of the development of the Greek "tha-future," meant to controvert Brian Joseph's assertion that "there is no process of grammaticalization" (584). One can compare Joseph's explanation in chapter 13, given there as an example of morphologization from syntax (479 - 484). The juxtaposition of the two views highlights the dialogical approach of the book and, particularly, the theme, mentioned above, of differing theoretical perspectives contained in it. Joan Bybee's "Mechanisms of Change in Grammaticization: The Role of Frequency" (602 - 623) examines the way that extreme frequency in grammatic(al)ization occurs, using a case study of 'can' in Old and Middle English, and the mechanisms of change that are associated with frequency increase, including phonological, morphosyntactic, and semantic change. Further, these issues are discussed with respect to grammaticalized constructions. A logical sequel to the previous chapter, "Constructions in Grammaticalization" (624 - 647) by Elizabeth Closs Traugott treats theoretical issues of the gradual development of grammatical morphemes from combinations of lexical or grammatical morphemes (i.e., constructions), highlighting pragmatic contexts. The author concludes that grammaticalization is "[t]he process whereby lexical material in highly constrained pragmatic and morphosyntactic contexts is assigned grammatical function, and once grammatical, is assigned increasingly grammatical, operator- like function" (645). In "An Approach to Semantic Change" (648 - 666) Benjamin W. Fortson, IV takes a polemical stand with a number of standard views and practices in the study of semantic change, claiming that such views and practices have often "obscure[d] the nature and our understanding of semantic change as a non-gradual event" (660). In particular, he focuses on the issues of the role of children in semantic change, grammaticalization, and, in particular, directionality and frequency in grammaticalization.
Part VII: Explaining Linguistic Change:
"Phonetics and Historical Phonology" (669 - 686) by John J. Ohala deals with the phonetic basis for sound change, not from the Neogrammarian analytical perspective, as was discussed in a number of the chapters mentioned above, but from with regard to "scientific phonetics," as the author terms his view of experimental empirical phonetics, i.e., the type of phonetics, in contrast to "taxonomic phonetics," that continues to develop as new information and discoveries are integrated into it. The author treats variation in speech production and perception as factors offering input for sound change and then asks which of the two constitutes sound change (the answer is: perception). In "Contact as a Source of Language Change" (687 - 712) Sarah Grey Thomason frames contact-induced change, change across language borders, as different from contact among varieties of a single speech area only in degree and not type, drawing parallels in both internally and externally motivated change (sec. 1.1). Sections are devoted to types and mechanisms of interference (code- switching, code alternation, passive familiarity, "negotiation," primary and secondary language acquisition, deliberate decision), sources of change in language attrition, and contact language genesis vs. contact induced change. "Dialectology and Linguistic Diffusion" (713 - 735) by Walt Wolfram & Natalie Schilling-Estes discusses models for the description and analysis of change in dialects. Traditional models of linguistic diffusion are discussed, and their inadequacies are highlighted, as well as a more innovative one, the gravity model, favored by the authors. Sociolinguistic components are discussed in sections on amplifiers and barriers to diffusion, and contra- hierarchical diffusion. Their approach, illustrated on the basis of their work Oklahoma English speech, is multidimensional, considering "an array of geographical, social, and linguistic factors" and their emphasis is on "a dynamic model of diffusion [that] must encompass the systematic variability that characterizes language change"(733). In "Psycholinguistic Perspectives on Linguistic Change" (736 - 743) Jean Aitchison presents her take on issues connected with psycholinguistic or cognitive matters connected with language, dividing causation in language change into three overlapping layers, sociolinguistic, linguistic proper, and, the top layer, psycholinguistic/cognitive. As such, the chapter is meta- theoretical, going "beyond strictly linguistic explanations," though the author modestly notes that an "Olympian view" of the situation is unattainable. She deals with the problem of child language, touched upon in several of the preceding chapters, and demonstrates the fallacy of the reductive view that all change takes place in children ("babies do not initiate changes. Groups of interacting speakers do, particularly adolescents" ). Another section is devoted to speech processing, a considerable part of which is given to John Hawkins' questions/observations on processing issues with implications for historical linguistics, e.g., "if languages are striving toward cross- category harmony, why do they then not achieve their goal? Why do some become inconsistent and change their word order?" (742).
This book has arguably earned the definite article in its title - to my mind it summarizes much of the best thinking in diachronic linguistics today. (On the other hand, one presumes diachronists are acutely aware of the passing of time, making inevitable a later moment when the views contained in it will become superannuated and another [i.e., "a"] handbook will need to be written. Alternatively, perhaps "The Handbook..." is to be understood, less presumptuously, as "The Blackwell Handbook..."? That the latter interpretation is correct is implied in the editors' reflection on the title, in which they refer to the work as "a handbook" or "a manual" .) The articles are engagingly written, in particular, the introductory essay by Joseph and Janda, which is enlivened by the most eclectic of quotations and a fair dollop of wordplay, the latter of which range from the merely dreadful ("holy ... holey ... wholly" ) to what should carry a heavy sentence ("...let us cease any and all uninform'd tarryin' in -isms" [37, a play on 'uniformitarianism']).
The quotations often underscore the common-sense bias (with regard to theory, not wordplay) of the authors. Among my favorites is that of Confederate General George Pickett, who, in response to the question of who was responsible for his defeat at the battle of Gettysburg replied "I think the Union Army had something to do with it" (9), parallel to Joseph and Janda's view that it is not grammar itself that effects change, but that "speakers have something to do with it" (10). These rhetorical treats - for the linguist, in any case (for others, perhaps, rhetorical threats) - do not detract from, but, rather, add to, the weighty topics that the authors cover in a fair degree of depth. Though they deal extensively with the relative progress in and the parallelisms (and absence of parallelisms) between linguistics and evolutionary biology, paleontology, geology, and other disciplines, the authors magnanimously refrain from belaboring the point that it was largely Darwin who was the heir to theories of linguistic evolution and not linguists who took their cue from Darwin (otherwise discussed in Janda 2001). One of the consequences of selection of authors for the volume is that non-mainstream theories tend not to be mentioned. As an example, there is no reference to relexification theory, an absence echoed in the complaint of proponents of the theory: "[...] while the existence of relexification as a process has been widely accepted [...] there has been no real attempt to further investigate this curious process on its own right, in order to determine the linguistic and sociolinguistic prerequisites for its application, the role of it might have played in the evolution of various languages, and to explore its implications for the theory of grammar" (Horvath and Wexler 1997: 1 - 2). Of course, no (hand)book can be all things to all people.
All in all, the volume gives an excellent snapshot of the achievements to date and the burning issues of the present moment in our understanding of historical linguistics. Arguably the most exciting thing that the reader may take away from reading the book are the notions that there is so much more to do, so much more to understand, and that, as a consequence, historical linguistics remains a dynamic and forward-looking field for practitioners today and yet to come. Further, although the balance of Indo-European with other languages covered has been duly noted, there is a sense that with the accretion of knowledge of world languages and understanding of their historical development, much of what is considered universal to language (change) may yet be challenged. One notes, for example, a not uncommon lament from outside of the study of Indo-European languages, of the following sort: "[...] only a handful of scholars have worked in a field that encompasses several hundred Asian languages, while generations of scholars have polished the field of Indo- European. Only epistemological faith in the homogeneity of language and of language evolution can lead us to believe that the same explanatory principles which have been shown to work in Indo-European will be vindicated by Asian languages too, given time and manpower"(Mazaudon and Lowe in press: 4). One may take this statement not as a lament, but an invitation to exploration.
Kiparsky's chapter on sound change: the author notes that "Jakobson's  work ['Remarques sur l'évolution phonologique du russe comparée à celle des autres langues slaves'] is rarely taken notice of in the literature on sound change, and [is] not aware of any explicit attempts to refute it" (327). In at least Slavic-linguistics circles in North America such refutation is everyday sport, an example of which may be seen in Timberlake 1978.
A suggestion to the series editors: it is commendable that the endnotes are presented in a point size nearly as large as the main text and are thus easy on the eyes, however, a few trees could be saved by justifying the text and thus reducing the white space in the right margin of the columns. The benefits would be aesthetic as well.
Horvath, Julia and Paul Wexler, eds. 1997. Relexification in Creole and Non-Creole Languages. With Special Attention to Haitian Creole, Modern Hebrew, Romani, and Rumanian. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
Janda, Richard D. 2001. Beyond "Pathways" and "Unidirectionality": On the Discontinuity of Language Transmission and the Counterability of Grammaticalization. Language Sciences 23/2-3, Mar-May, 265-340.
Mazaudon, Martine and John B. Lowe. In press. Regularity and Exceptions in Sound Change. In Marc Domenici and Didier Demolin, eds., Investigations in Sound change, (Actes du congrès de la société de linguistique de Belgique, Bruxelles, 8-11 dec 1993). Oxford University Press
Oresnik, Janez. 2001. A Predictable Aspect of (Morpho)syntactic Variants. Ljubljana: Slovenska akademija znanosti in umetnosti.
Timberlake, Alan. 1978. On the History of the Velar Phonemes in North Slavic [in Russian with English synopsis]. In Henrik Birnbaum, ed., American Contributions to the Eighth International Congress of Slavists, vol. 1, Linguistics and Poetics. Columbus, OH: Slavica Publishers.
Weinreich, Uriel, William Labov and Marvin I. Herzog. 1968. Empirical Foundations for a Theory of Language Change. In Winfred P. Lehmann and Yakov Malkiel, eds., Directions for Historical Linguistics: A Symposium: 95-195. Austin: University of Texas Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Marc L. Greenberg holds a Ph.D. from UCLA in Slavic linguistics and is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Kansas. His interests are in Slavic historical linguistics and dialectology. His recent book, A Historical Phonology of the Slovene Language (Heidelberg: Carl Winter UniversitÃ¤tsverlag, 2000), was designated the "Best Book in Slavic Linguistics" in 2002 by the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages. He is a founding editor of Slovenski jezik / Slovene Linguistic Studies, published by the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and the University of Kansas.