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Review of  English Inversion


Reviewer: Mohammad Rasekh Mahand
Book Title: English Inversion
Book Author: Rong Chen
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 14.2955

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Review:
DATE: SAT, 25 OCT 2003 06:36:23 -0700 (PDT)
FROM: MOHAMMAD RASEKH MAHAND
SUBJECT: ENGLISH INVERSION: A GROUND-BEFORE-FIGURE CONSTRUCTION

CHEN, RONG (2003) ENGLISH INVERSION: A GROUND-BEFORE-FIGURE
CONSTRUCTION, MOUTON DE GRUYTER, COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS RESEARCH.

MOHAMMAD RASEKH MAHAND, LINGUISTICS DEPARTMENT, BU-ALI
SINA UNIVERSITY, HAMADAN, IRAN.

INTRODUCTION:

THE BOOK TRIES TO ANALYSIS ENGLISH INVERSION IN THE
LIGHT OF COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS FRAMEWORK. THE
COGNITIVE MODEL PRESENTED IS GROUND- BEFORE - FIGURE
(GBF) MODEL, WHICH ASSERTS THAT SOMETIMES IT IS
COGNITIVELY EFFICIENT TO PRESENT GROUND BEFORE A
FIGURE. ITS AUTHOR, RONG CHEN , IS A MEMBER OF THE
FACULTY AT CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, SAN BERNARDINO.

SYNOPSIS:

THE BOOK UNDER REVIEW IS DIVIDED INTO FIVE CHAPTERS.
THE FIRST CHAPTER DISCUSSES SOME PRELIMINARIES OF
INVERSION. IT STUDIES SOME PECULIARITIES ON INVERSION,
SOME PREVIOUS RESEARCH, RELEVANT TENETS OF COGNITIVE
LINGUISTICS AND SOME OTHER ISSUES.

THE WRITER SAYS THAT THE PREVERBAL CONSTITUENT OF THE
INVERSION IS THE GROUND, AND THE POST-VERBAL
CONSTITUENT IS THE FIGURE. BY SUCH A LINEAR ORDER,
INVERSION DIRECTS THE HEARER'S ATTENTION TO THE
GROUND FIRST, IN WHICH THE HEARER FINDS A LANDMARK
ESTABLISHED IN THE PREVIOUS TEXT OR IN THE DISCOURSE
CONTEXT. WHEN THE FIGURE EVENTUALLY APPEARS, IT IS
PLACED IN THE FOCUS OF ATTENTION OF THE HEARER. THIS
COGNITIVE ANALYSIS TRIES TO PROVIDE A BASIS FOR A
UNIFIED ACCOUNT OF THE BEHAVIORS OF INVERSION IN ITS
SEMANTICS, SYNTAX, PHONOLOGY AS WELL AS PRAGMATICS.
SECTION ONE OF THE FIRST CHAPTER REVIEWS SOME ISSUES
OF INVERSION. INVERSION HAS DIFFERENT TYPES, BUT THE
SUBJECT OF THIS BOOK IS THE ANALYSIS OF FULL-VERB
INVERSION ONLY. SENTENCE (1) IS AN EXAMPLE OF THIS:
1. ON MY LEFT WAS TOM LOPEZ.

FULL- VERB INVERSION HAS TWO MAIN CHARACTERISTICS: 1)
A CONSTITUENT OF THE PREDICATE, WHICH CAN BE OF ANY
GRAMMATICAL CATEGORY, IS PLACED PRE-VERBALLY, 2)THE
SUBJECT NOMINAL IS PLACED POST-VERBALLY. INVERSION AS
A MARKED CONSTRUCTION, DISPLAYS A NUMBER OF
IDIOSYNCRATIC FEATURES. THE FIRST FEATURE IS CALLED,
POLARITY CONSTRAINT. INVERSION DOES NOT ALLOW NEGATION
OF ITS VERB. (SEE EXAMPLE 2)
2. *ON MY LEFT WASN'T TOM LOPEZ.
THE SECOND FEATURE IS CALLED TRANSITIVITY CONSTRAINT;
SIMPLE TENSE TRANSITIVE VERBS CANNOT OCCUR IN
INVERSION. (SEE EXAMPLE 3)
3.*THROUGH THE REVOLVING DOOR PUSHED TOM

THE WRITER HAS ALSO TALKED ABOUT AUXILIARY CONSTRAINT;
THE QUESTION WHETHER THE INVERTED VERB CAN TAKE
COMPLEX AUXILIARIES, AND EMBEDDEDNESS CONSTRAINT. HE
HAS ADDRESSED SOME ISSUES OF SEMANTIC, PHONOLOGICAL,
AND PRAGMATIC CONSTRAINTS.

IN REVIEWING THE EARLIER WORKS ON INVERSION, THE
WRITER DISCUSSES SYNTACTIC AND FUNCTIONAL ACCOUNTS.
BIRNER (1996) DISCUSSES INVERSION IN THE LIGHT OF
INFORMATION-PACKAGING AND ARGUES THAT "INVERSION
SERVES AN INFORMATION-PACKAGING FUNCTION, LINKING
RELATIVELY UNFAMILIAR INFORMATION TO THE PRIOR CONTEXT
VIA THE CLAUSE-INITIAL PLACEMENT OF INFORMATION WHICH
IS RELATIVELY FAMILIAR" (BIRNER 1996:77). AFTER
DISCUSSING BIRNER'S VIEWS, THE WRITER ARGUES THAT
HER ACCOUNT IS FLAWED AND THE COUNTEREXAMPLES IN HER
DATA THREATEN THE INTEGRITY OF THE STRUCTURE OF THE
ACCOUNT AS A WHOLE. IN SECTION THREE OF THE FIRST
CHAPTER, THE WRITER INTRODUCES SOME OF THE BASIC
TENETS OF COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS WHICH ARE: 1)
LINGUISTIC CATEGORIES AS RADIAL THAN DISCRETE, 2)
CONSTRUCTIONS AS INSTANTIATIONS OF COGNITION AND 3)
MEANING AS A RESULT OF INTERACTION AMONG SEMANTICS,
PHONOLOGY, SYNTAX AND PRAGMATICS.

CHAPTER TWO OF THE BOOK DISCUSSES INVERSION AS GBF
INSTANTIATION. THE WRITER DEFINES FIGURE AS THE PART
OF A DIFFERENTIATED VISUAL FIELD WHICH 'STANDS OUT
DISTINCTIVELY' FROM OTHER PARTS IN THAT FIELD.
GROUND REFERS TO THESE 'OTHER PARTS'. IN AN
UNINVERTED SENTENCE THE GROUND IS PRESENTED BEFORE THE
FIGURE. THE GBF MODEL IS ARGUED TO HAVE THE FOLLOWING
ELEMENTS:
1. BASICS:CS: THE GESTALT OF FIGURE AND GROUND.
2. CONDITIONS:
A. GROUND IS ANCHORABLE.
B.FIGURE IS NOT KNOWN TO THE HEARER AS PRESENT IN
THE GROUND.
3. PURPOSES:
A. TO ANCHOR THE GROUND WITH A LANDMARK KNOWN TO
THE HEARER, WHICH IS OFTEN DONE FOR THE PURPOSE OF
B. HELPING THE HEARER TO LOCATE THE FIGURE AND/OR
DRAWING HER ATTENTION TO IT.
4. RESULTS: INCREASED FOCUS OF ATTENTION ON
FIGURE AND GROUND.

IN THE REST OF THIS CHAPTER, THE WRITER INTRODUCES
DIFFERENT TYPES OF INVERSION: LOCATION-BE, PATH-VERB
(MOTION), AND NON-SPATIAL-BE. THE DIFFERENT VERSIONS
OF THESES PROTOTYPES ARE ALSO DISCUSSED. THE PHONOLOGY
OF INVERSION, ESPECIALLY ITS RELATION TO SENTENCE
STRESS AND INTONATION, IS ALSO DISCUSSED. THE WRITER
ARGUES THAT THERE MUST BE AT LAST ONE STRESSED WORD IN
PREVERBAL AND ONE STRESSED WORD IN POST-VERBAL
POSITION. THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE
GBF MODEL AND THE INFORMATION PACKAGING ACCOUNT OF
INVERSION IS THAT THE LATTER ANALYZES THE CONSTRUCTION
ONLY AT THE TEXTUAL LEVEL, IT IS NOT ABLE TO PROVIDE
ANSWERS TO A HOST OF PROBLEMS THAT THE CONSTRUCTION
POSES AT OTHER LEVELS OF LANGUAGE. THE GBF MODEL
PROVIDES A COHERENT COGNITIVE BASIS TO ADDRESS ALL
THESE PROBLEMS.

CHAPTER THREE HAS DISCUSSED FIVE SYNTACTIC CONSTRAINTS
ON INVERSION: THE POLARITY CONSTRAINT, THE
TRANSITIVITY CONSTRAINT, THE EMBEDDEDNESS CONSTRAINT,
THE AUXILIARY CONSTRAINT AND THE WEIGHT CONSTRAINT.
THE WRITER FIRST DISCUSSES THE VARIOUS OBSERVABLE,
SURFACE FACTS OF EACH CONSTRAINT, THEN RELATES THESE
FACTS TO THE GBF MODEL AND ARGUES THAT THE FORMER ARE
EXPLAINABLE IN TERMS OF THE LATTER.

IN CHAPTER FOUR, THE WRITER DISCUSSES THE USE OF
INVERSION IN THREE BASIC TYPES OF DISCOURSE. IT IS
ARGUED THAT IN DESCRIPTION, THE PROTOTYPE OF
INVERSION- THE LOCATION-BE TYPE IS USED. IN
NARRATION, BOTH THE LOCATION-BE TYPE AND THE PATH-VERB
(MOTION) TYPES ARE USED. IN EXPOSITION, THE
NON-SPATIAL-BE TYPE IS USED. THESE DIFFERENT FORMS OF
INVERSION ARE NOT TREATED SEPARATE FROM EACH OTHER.
THE SPECIFIC FUNCTION OF INVERSION DEPENDS ON THE
PURPOSE OF THE SPEAKER ENGAGED IN A PARTICULAR KIND OF
DISCOURSE.

CHAPTER FIVE OF THE BOOK IS THE CONCLUSION. THE WRITER
SUMMARIZES THE PREVIOUS CHAPTERS AND ALSO GIVES THE
GBF REPRESENTATION IN SOME OTHER LANGUAGES.


EVALUATION:

THE VOLUME UNDER REVIEW IS A COMPLETE STUDY OF
INVERSION IN ENGLISH FROM COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS POINT
OF VIEW. THE NUMBER OF ISSUES COVERED IN THIS STUDY IS
CONSIDERABLE. DISCUSSING THE INVERSION FROM COGNITIVE
POINT OF VIEW IS NOT SOMETHING WHICH IS PREVIOUSLY
TALKED ABOUT, AND THE BOOK IS A MILESTONE FROM THIS
PERSPECTIVE. ONE OF THE MAIN POINTS OF THE BOOK IS
PROVIDING SEVERAL REAL LIFE EXAMPLES FOR EACH
DISCUSSION, WHICH ALSO HELPS THE READER TO GRASP THE
THEORETICAL IDEAS MENTIONED IN THE BOOK.
HOWEVER, THERE IS ONE POINT I LIKE TO MENTION. IN THE
LAST CHAPTER OF THE BOOK, WHEN THE WRITER IS GIVING
EXAMPLES OF INVERSION IN SOME LANGUAGES OTHER THAN
ENGLISH, HE GIVES SOME EXAMPLES OF INVERSION IN
PERSIAN (TAKEN FROM BIRNER AND MAHOOTIAN 1996). THE
POINT WHICH IS NEGLECTED BY THESE AUTHORS, AS WELL AS
CHEN, IS THAT PERSIAN IS A FREE WORD ORDER LANGUAGE
AND "CONSEQUENTLY THERE IS PERHAPS NO INVERSION TO
SPEAK OF THESE LANGUAGES". THE EXAMPLES SITED FROM
PERSIAN ARE NOT INLINE WITH THE DEFINITION OF
INVERSION GIVEN IN THE BOOK AND THEY ARE NOT
CONSTRAINED WITH SYNTACTIC CONSTRAINTS LIKE POLARITY
AND TRANSITIVITY CONSTRAINTS. INDEED, THESE SENTENCES
ARE EXAMPLES OF SCRAMBLING IN PERSIAN (KARIMI 2003).

THE BOOK IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN
SYNTAX-PRAGMATICS INTERFACE. ALSO THE DATA INCLUDED IN
THE BOOK CAN PROVIDE AUTHENTIC LANGUAGE DATA
ACCESSIBLE TO OTHER RESEARCHERS.


REFERENCES:

BIRNER, B. AND SH. MAHOOTIAN (1996) FUNCTIONAL
CONSTRAINTS ON INVERSION IN ENGLISH AND FARSI.
LANGUAGE SCIENCES 18.1-2:127-138.

KARIMI, SIMIN (ED.) (2003) WORD ORDER AND SCRAMBLING.
BLACKWELL PUBLISHERS.






: THE GESTALT OF FIGURE AND GROUND.
2. CONDITIONS:
A. GROUND IS ANCHORABLE.
B.FIGURE IS NOT KNOWN TO THE HEARER AS PRESENT IN
THE GROUND.
3. PURPOSES:
A. TO ANCHOR THE GROUND WITH A LANDMARK KNOWN TO
THE HEARER, WHICH IS OFTEN DONE FOR THE PURPOSE OF
B. HELPING THE HEARER TO LOCATE THE FIGURE AND/OR
DRAWING HER ATTENTION TO IT.
4. RESULTS: INCREASED FOCUS OF ATTENTION ON
FIGURE AND GROUND.

IN THE REST OF THIS CHAPTER, THE WRITER INTRODUCES
DIFFERENT TYPES OF INVERSION: LOCATION-BE, PATH-VERB
(MOTION), AND NON-SPATIAL-BE. THE DIFFERENT VERSIONS
OF THESES PROTOTYPES ARE ALSO DISCUSSED. THE PHONOLOGY
OF INVERSION, ESPECIALLY ITS RELATION TO SENTENCE
STRESS AND INTONATION, IS ALSO DISCUSSED. THE WRITER
ARGUES THAT THERE MUST BE AT LAST ONE STRESSED WORD IN
PREVERBAL AND ONE STRESSED WORD IN POST-VERBAL
POSITION. THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE
GBF MODEL AND THE INFORMATION PACKAGING ACCOUNT OF
INVERSION IS THAT THE LATTER ANALYZES THE CONSTRUCTION
ONLY AT THE TEXTUAL LEVEL, IT IS NOT ABLE TO PROVIDE
ANSWERS TO A HOST OF PROBLEMS THAT THE CONSTRUCTION
POSES AT OTHER LEVELS OF LANGUAGE. THE GBF MODEL
PROVIDES A COHERENT COGNITIVE BASIS TO ADDRESS ALL
THESE PROBLEMS.

CHAPTER THREE HAS DISCUSSED FIVE SYNTACTIC CONSTRAINTS
ON INVERSION: THE POLARITY CONSTRAINT, THE
TRANSITIVITY CONSTRAINT, THE EMBEDDEDNESS CONSTRAINT,
THE AUXILIARY CONSTRAINT AND THE WEIGHT CONSTRAINT.
THE WRITER FIRST DISCUSSES THE VARIOUS OBSERVABLE,
SURFACE FACTS OF EACH CONSTRAINT, THEN RELATES THESE
FACTS TO THE GBF MODEL AND ARGUES THAT THE FORMER ARE
EXPLAINABLE IN TERMS OF THE LATTER.

IN CHAPTER FOUR, THE WRITER DISCUSSES THE USE OF
INVERSION IN THREE BASIC TYPES OF DISCOURSE. IT IS
ARGUED THAT IN DESCRIPTION, THE PROTOTYPE OF
INVERSION- THE LOCATION-BE TYPE IS USED. IN
NARRATION, BOTH THE LOCATION-BE TYPE AND THE PATH-VERB
(MOTION) TYPES ARE USED. IN EXPOSITION, THE
NON-SPATIAL-BE TYPE IS USED. THESE DIFFERENT FORMS OF
INVERSION ARE NOT TREATED SEPARATE FROM EACH OTHER.
THE SPECIFIC FUNCTION OF INVERSION DEPENDS ON THE
PURPOSE OF THE SPEAKER ENGAGED IN A PARTICULAR KIND OF
DISCOURSE.

CHAPTER FIVE OF THE BOOK IS THE CONCLUSION. THE WRITER
SUMMARIZES THE PREVIOUS CHAPTERS AND ALSO GIVES THE
GBF REPRESENTATION IN SOME OTHER LANGUAGES.


EVALUATION:

THE VOLUME UNDER REVIEW IS A COMPLETE STUDY OF
INVERSION IN ENGLISH FROM COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS POINT
OF VIEW. THE NUMBER OF ISSUES COVERED IN THIS STUDY IS
CONSIDERABLE. DISCUSSING THE INVERSION FROM COGNITIVE
POINT OF VIEW IS NOT SOMETHING WHICH IS PREVIOUSLY
TALKED ABOUT, AND THE BOOK IS A MILESTONE FROM THIS
PERSPECTIVE. ONE OF THE MAIN POINTS OF THE BOOK IS
PROVIDING SEVERAL REAL LIFE EXAMPLES FOR EACH
DISCUSSION, WHICH ALSO HELPS THE READER TO GRASP THE
THEORETICAL IDEAS MENTIONED IN THE BOOK.
HOWEVER, THERE IS ONE POINT I LIKE TO MENTION. IN THE
LAST CHAPTER OF THE BOOK, WHEN THE WRITER IS GIVING
EXAMPLES OF INVERSION IN SOME LANGUAGES OTHER THAN
ENGLISH, HE GIVES SOME EXAMPLES OF INVERSION IN
PERSIAN (TAKEN FROM BIRNER AND MAHOOTIAN 1996). THE
POINT WHICH IS NEGLECTED BY THESE AUTHORS, AS WELL AS
CHEN, IS THAT PERSIAN IS A FREE WORD ORDER LANGUAGE
AND "CONSEQUENTLY THERE IS PERHAPS NO INVERSION TO
SPEAK OF THESE LANGUAGES". THE EXAMPLES SITED FROM
PERSIAN ARE NOT INLINE WITH THE DEFINITION OF
INVERSION GIVEN IN THE BOOK AND THEY ARE NOT
CONSTRAINED WITH SYNTACTIC CONSTRAINTS LIKE POLARITY
AND TRANSITIVITY CONSTRAINTS. INDEED, THESE SENTENCES
ARE EXAMPLES OF SCRAMBLING IN PERSIAN (KARIMI 2003).

THE BOOK IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN
SYNTAX-PRAGMATICS INTERFACE. ALSO THE DATA INCLUDED IN
THE BOOK CAN PROVIDE AUTHENTIC LANGUAGE DATA
ACCESSIBLE TO OTHER RESEARCHERS.


REFERENCES:

BIRNER, B. AND SH. MAHOOTIAN (1996) FUNCTIONAL
CONSTRAINTS ON INVERSION IN ENGLISH AND FARSI.
LANGUAGE SCIENCES 18.1-2:127-138.

KARIMI, SIMIN (ED.) (2003) WORD ORDER AND SCRAMBLING.
BLACKWELL PUBLISHERS.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER


Mohammad Rasekh Mahand is a member of Linguistics
Department at Bu-Ali Sina Universty, Hamadan, Iran.
His research interests include syntax,
syntax-pragmatics interface and typology.