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Review of  The Linguistics of Football

Reviewer: Mark Irwin
Book Title: The Linguistics of Football
Book Author: Eva Lavric Gerhard Pisek Andrew Skinner Wolfgang Stadler
Publisher: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag GmbH + Co. KG
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Issue Number: 22.527

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EDITORS: Eva Lavric, Gerhard Pisek, Andrew Skinner & Wolfgang Stadler
TITLE: The Linguistics of Football
SERIES: Language in Performance 38
PUBLISHER: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag
YEAR: 2008

Mark Irwin, Faculty of Literature & Social Sciences, Yamagata University


Probably the first attempt at a linguistic analysis of football (soccer), this
volume is a collection of some 34 papers, along with an introduction and a
'Football and Language Bibliography' compiled by the Innsbruck Football Research
Group. Individual papers are relatively brief, averaging around 10 pages each,
including references. All are written in English. Although the content is highly
eclectic, the editors inject a degree of order by dividing the volume into six
sections (number of papers in parentheses): football terminology (9), football
language (8), football discourses (6), football and media (6), media and
discourse: emotions (3), football and multilingualism (2).

The nine papers in the 'football terminology' section straddle a number of
linguistic subfields. Schmidt presents the Kicktionary, a trilingual corpus;
Szczesniak & Callies examine 'manner of obtainment' constructions in sports
reporting; Uchechukwu looks at Igbo verb roots within the football domain; the
papers by Dosev and Bernard introduce footballing lexis in Bulgarian and in
French, respectively; and three papers, those by Pintarić, Sȩpek and El Sayad,
look at loanwords in the language of football: English and German in Croatian,
English in Polish, and English in Egyptian Arabic, respectively. The final paper
by Gamal complements El Sayad's, treating the recent coining of Egyptian Arabic
football terms.

The papers presented in the 'football language' section lean heavily towards the
use of idioms and metaphor. The papers by Nordin, Vierkant and Anchimbe examine
metaphor in football commentary: in Swedish and German, in German, and in
Cameroon and on the West Bank (Palestine), respectively. Two papers, by Matulina
& Ćoralić and by Levin, look at idioms and high frequency phrases, in Croatian
and German, and in English, respectively. Both Calderón and Sonnenhauser treat
the onomastics of football, the former cross-linguistically, the latter in
German. The remaining paper in this section, by Shamsuddin & Kamaruddin, looks
at the language of football in Malaysian newspaper reports.

As its title suggests, the papers in 'football discourses' are heavily focused
on discourse analysis. Richard focuses on representations of nationhood and
national stereotyping in an analysis of the commentary of the 1976 European Cup
final between Bayern München and Saint-Étienne; Agnelli on the construction of
identities in Italian print media. Hallett & Kaplan-Weinger offer a discursive
analysis of football halls of fame. Two papers analyse football chants in the
context of regional identity and stereotyping: Schiering examines those of the
German club Schalke's fans, and Luhrs those found across a range of English
clubs. The section closes with Duda's examination of words for sports
enthusiasts in Polish.

Three of the papers in the fourth section, 'football and the media', deal with
grammar/syntax. Müller looks at the interaction between grammar and football in
German and English radio commentaries; Walker, the use of the present perfect in
English football commentary; and Wiredu & Anderson, adjectives in Ghanaian
English football reports. Makarova looks at speech errors in Russian sports
commentary. Finally, while Chovanec analyses online minute-by-minute sports
commentaries, focusing on ideational and interpersonal functions, Gerhardt
examines the interplay between live TV football commentary and the accompanying

In the fifth section, 'media and discourse: emotions', Theodoropoulou looks at
'triumphalese' in the Greek commentary to the Greece v. Portugal Euro 2004
final, Jung examines the 'spectacularization' of football in Spanish and
Argentine commentaries, while Lavric et al. analyse the expression of emotions
across six different languages during the Zidane sending off in the 2006 World
Cup final.

'Football and multilingualism', the final section, contains just two papers.
Giera et al. introduce their research project on multilingual communication
within football teams; and Thaler outlines a framework in which football can be
integrated into TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language).


Although many are short -- some too short -- and quality is varied, the editors
are to be praised in bringing together such a wealth of, on the whole, novel,
interesting and well-written papers. This was certainly no mean task, given the
multilingual background of the contributors. Not only does the collection
examine the linguistics of football from, as hinted at above, sociolinguistic,
semantic, syntactic, corpus linguistic, discourse analytic, lexical, onomastic,
pedagogical and psycholinguistic perspectives, it also examines the topic in a
plethora of different languages: English, German, French, Arabic, Polish, Igbo,
Croatian, Bulgarian, Swedish, Italian, Russian, Spanish and Greek. Given its de
facto status as the most powerful language in football, it is perhaps surprising
that so little Spanish material is included, and the obvious Eurocentric bent is
to be lamented (Arabic and Igbo are the only non-Indo-European languages covered).

The penultimate paper in the collection, by Giera et al. (a.k.a. the Innsbruck
Football Research Group), offers, in my view, the clearest vision of what a
future volume might have in store: the increasing multilingual make-up of top
European club teams (and a few of the richer clubs outside Europe) illustrates
well the necessity for continuing research on (mis)communication:
team-internally, between players and managers/coaches, and between players and
match officials.

Mark Irwin is an associate professor at Yamagata University, Japan. His research interests include football, as well as the historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, historical sociolinguistics and phonology of Japanese.