Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Review of Language and History, Linguistics and Historiography
EDITORS: Langer, Nils; Davies, Steffan & Vandenbussche, Wim TITLE: Language and History, Linguistics and Historiography SUBTITLE: Interdisciplinary Approaches SERIES TITLE: Studies in Historical Linguistics - Volume 9 PUBLISHER: Peter Lang. YEAR: 2012
Sónia Duarte, Centro de Linguística da Universidade do Porto (Portugal).
The reviewed volume collects the proceedings of an International Conference bearing the same name, held at the University of Bristol (2-4 April, 2009) and organized by the Historical Sociolinguistics Network (HiSoN) with the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
This five hundred page volume gathers twenty-three papers by thirty different authors from the two research fields identified in the publication’s title. The aim of this volume is precisely to explore the intersections between those fields. Nevertheless, the great majority of authors are linguists, or dedicate themselves primarily to linguistics, and the same is true of the editorial team, as one can confirm in the ''Notes on Contributors'' at the end of the volume (pp. 483-488).
The papers are organized according to five major topics. In the following, I will summarize each of the chapters within the five parts of the book.
Part 1: ''Language and History, Linguistics and Historiography: Theoretical Outlook and Methodological practice''
Stefan Davies, Niels Langer & Wim Vandenbussche, ''Language and History, Linguistics and Historiography: Interdisciplinary Problems and Opportunities'' (pp. 3-13)
In this introductory chapter, the editors of this volume describe how research in history and linguistics has evolved from a past state of “mutual isolation'' (p. 4) to the present state of awareness of the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach. Throughout the paper Davies, Langer & Vandenbussche try to illustrate such benefits with specific case-studies of integrated research, and, simultaneously, give an account of other efforts from researchers in both fields that fill the gap between history and linguistics, stressing the contribution of the authors in this volume and the areas of potential common interest dealt with here.
Patrick Honeybone, ''History and Historical Linguistics: Two Types of Cognitive Reconstruction?'' (pp. 15-47)
After some terminological clarifications concerning the fields of history and (structural) historical linguistics, as well as some insight into different theoretical approaches, the author focuses on the differences and similarities between the two fields, pointing out how each one engages in a different type of cognitive reconstruction of the past: conscious versus unconscious. According to Honeybone, ''historians try to re-enact the very same thought of the past; linguists do not try to re-enact the same mental linguistic processes'' (p. 44).
Nicholas M. Wolf, ''History and Linguistics: The Irish Language as a Case Study in an Interdisciplinary Approach to Culture'' (pp. 49-66)
Throughout the paper, Wolf explains the focus on Irish language by Irish historians on the grounds of a widespread perception of an intimate association between language and nation, and language and identity. He offers a critical overview of historiographical explanations for language shift (from 1954 to the present), pointing out major discoveries and also simplifications and inconsistencies resulting primarily from a problematic approach to the relationship between language and culture, which requires the joint effort of both linguists and historians.
Brian D. Joseph, ''Historical Linguistics and Sociolinguistics: Strange Bedfellows or Natural Friends?'' (pp. 67-88)
The author focuses on the rapprochement between historical linguistics and sociolinguistics, pointing out that both are interested in variation and change, but also that each one studies a different kind of variation and approaches change differently, using different data. Simultaneously, the paper questions notions and practices that affect the study of change by historical linguistics, sociolinguistics and social history in order to reveal the complementarity between these disciplines.
Nicola McLelland, “From Humanist History to Linguistic Theory: The Case of the Germanic Rootword” (pp. 89-109)
This paper deals with the impact of historiographical representations of the past in linguistic studies. Although the study aims to reinforce the usefulness of cooperation between the two disciplines, it also alerts us to the existence of situations in which ''politically motivated readings of history could skew German linguistic study'' (p. 90). To do so, McLelland demonstrates how sixteenth and seventeenth century historiography’s exploitation of patriotic discourse around Tacitus’ ''Germania'' influenced the monosyllabic Germanic rootword linguistic theories from the sixteenth century to the present.
Agnete Nesse, ''Editorial Practices and Language Choice: 'Low German Language Monuments' in Norway'' (pp. 111-126)
This essay focuses on the role of the editor, demonstrating how social, theoretical and ideological background determine editorial practices, as far as linguistic choices are concerned, and how all these factors affect the use of texts by both linguists and historians. The author also emphasizes that editorial practices are determined by target readers (historians or linguists). In order to do so, Nesse analyses a corpus of nineteenth and twentieth century editions of Norwegian manuscripts of historical documents written in Low German during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Part 2: ''Standardization and authenticity''
Robert Evans, ''Official Languages: A Brief Prehistory'' (pp. 129-145)
This paper underlines that a scientific approach to the political status of languages requires a joint effort from both historians and linguists. Evans supports his thesis with cases of formal recognition and regulation of some languages, mainly in Great Britain and Central Europe. The author points out that linguists’ thoughts on these processes reveal the misuse of concepts such as ''national'' or ''official language'', therefore also revealing linguists’ distance concerning the historical background of such concepts and the need for historical relativization.
Tomasz Kamusella, ''Classifying the Slavic Languages, or the Politics of Classification'' (pp. 147-174)
This essay studies the processes of emergence and configuration of several classificatory systems of Slavic languages, mainly by comparing the genealogical tree-model with the ‘wave’ model. By doing so, the author demonstrates how, in this case, political-cum-cultural criteria prevailed in the application of taxons such as ''subfamily'' or ''language/dialect''. Kamusella explains that the classificatory systems of Slavic languages result from nineteenth century linguists’ attempts to provide ethnolinguistically based nationalisms with scientific support for their theses, while also pointing out that amongst the factors crucial to the survival/disappearance of those theories was precisely compliance/non-compliance with nationalist tenets.
José del Valle, ''Linguistic History and the Development of Normative Regimes: The Royal Spanish Academy's Disputed Transatlantic Authority'' (pp. 175-191)
The author comments on the Spanish Academy’s attitude toward American Spanish speaking countries, namely by focusing on one particular event of the academy’s history in America; its absence at the Spanish Academies’ Congress of 1951 in Mexico. After a historical overview of the institution and its ideological basis -- described as ''panhispanismo'' and ''hispanofonía'' -- the essay centers on the Spanish Academy’s attitude concerning the Mexican event, and goes on to deal with the linguistic representations that dominated such debate, while also analyzing its impact on the standardization process and its ideological implications and historical significance.
Juan R. Valdez, ''Colouring Language: Pedro Henríquez Ureña's Representations of Spanish and Dominican Identity'' (pp. 193-207)
Focusing on the relation between ‘standard’ and ‘variety’, this essay constitutes an approach to the ideological and social-historical meaning and background of some aspects of Henríquez Ureña’s linguistic theory concerning Dominican Spanish. Valdez points out evidence of the existence of a ''link between linguistic description and extra-linguistic cultural and racial categories'' (p. 200) in Henríquez Ureñas’ work, thus interpreting his linguistic representations within processes of ''iconization'' of white and Hispanic cultures and ''erasure'' of African heritage. The author also emphasizes the role of language and language representations on Dominican governmental policies since the nineteenth century, and consequently, the importance of interdisciplinary approaches.
Laura Villa, '''Because When Governments Speak, They Are Not Always Right': National Construction and Orthographic Conflicts in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Spain'' (pp. 209-227)
Combining a ''linguistic, political and historical approach'' (p. 210) and using ''linguistic ideologies as an analytical tool'' (p. 212), this paper deals with the concept of linguistic standardization associated with mid-nineteenth century linguistic policies and orthographic theories, while focusing on the debate that followed the rejection of the orthographic proposals of Madrid’s Literary and Scientific Academy of Primary Education, as well as the officialization of the Royal Spanish Academy’s orthography. The author examines the arguments and tenets of such controversy, focusing primarily on its extra-linguistic dimension and emphasizing the linguistic authority dispute, the role of the school-system, and standardization as a tool to language ideologies and policies.
Gijsbert Rutten & Rik Vosters, ''As Many Norms as There Were Scribes? Language History, Norms and Usage in the Southern Netherlands in the Nineteenth Century'' (pp. 229-253)
Assuming a historical-sociolinguistic perspective, this paper compares eighteenth and nineteenth century grammatical and orthographical tradition in Northern and Southern European Dutch-speaking territories, with the main thrust being the latter. The essay focuses on how the sparse body of existing research on the southern territories’ linguistic tradition has been affected by two ''language ideological myths'' (p. 230) concerning the orthographical situation of this period: i) normative diversity; and ii) chaotic writing practices. After historical-sociolinguistic contextualization of such myths and after some hints on their political and ideological background, the authors present, examine, and reject those myths in light of the data provided by both metagrammatical texts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and a corpus of judicial and administrative documents from the 1820s .
Anneleen Vanden Boer, ''Language and Nation: The Case of the German-Speaking Minority in Belgium'' (pp. 255-267)
This paper addresses the situation of the Belgian, German speaking minority from the perspective of the relation between language and national identity, focusing on its role in the nation-building process, while using data provided by a survey conducted among German and non-German speaking Belgians. According to the author, the results reinforce widespread stereotypes on the subject.
Part 3: ''Demographics and Social Dynamics''
Richard Ingham, ''The Decline of Bilingual Competence in French in Medieval England: Evidence from the PROME Database'' (pp. 271-292)
This essay deals with the reasons for the prevalence of French between 1250-1370, its subsequent decline, and its sociolinguistic status in English Medieval society. To do so, Ingham tries to accomplish the following: i) understand, through corpus research, the process of L2 transmission after the Norman Conquest while supporting his conclusions through noun gender agreement marking case studies from the electronic version of the ''Parliament Rolls of Medieval England'' -- PROME (petitions from the years 1310-1399); and ii) explain the results on social, demographic and linguistic grounds via special use of the contributions of contemporary L2 acquisition studies.
Rembert Eufe, ''Merovingian Coins and Their Inscriptions: A Challenge to Linguists and Historians'' (pp. 293-321)
In this paper, Eufe gives a detailed account of a joint project between historians and linguists who embarked upon the study of the inscriptions on the Merovingian coins collection from the Bode-Museum in Berlin. The study focuses on the origin of anthroponyms and explains how the information provided by toponomy sheds light on the role of the monetary system.
Remco Knoohuizen, ''The Use of Historical Demography for Historical Sociolinguistics: The Case of Dunkirk'' (pp. 323-340)
This paper explains how, after the annexation in France in 1662, ''Dunkirk shifted from being a predominantly Dutch-speaking to a predominantly French-speaking town'' (p. 333), focusing on both the integration process of Francophone immigrants in the town of Dunkirk around and after 1662, and the French speaking community’s linguistic traits during the same period.
Part 4: ''Language History from below''
Judith Nobels & Marijke Van der Wal, ''Linking Words to Writers: Building a Reliable Corpus for Historical Sociolinguistic Research'' (pp. 343-361)
In this study, the authors give an account of work on a huge and scarcely studied collection of seventeenth century, private Dutch sailing letters (i.e. loot letters) kept in the British National Archives. The essay deals with the methodological problems of building an autographical corpus and presents both the advantages of an interdisciplinary approach on solving those problems and the value of such integrated research to studies on Dutch language history.
Helmut Graser & B. Ann Tlusty, ''Sixteenth-Century Street Songs and Language History 'From Below''' (pp. 363-388)
This paper deals with a sample of German street songs of rude content, which were passed down over time until the early modern period, and then preserved among Augsburg’s records of court interrogations. The first chapters comment on this particular form of popular culture and put songs, their singers, and their reception into historical context. The latter chapters focus on linguistic data, paying special attention to graphemics and orthography as a means of identifying traits of sixteenth century written or spoken German, as well as standard or dialectal features and information on normative choices.
Juan Manuel Hernández Campoy, ''Mood Distinction in Late Middle English: The End of the Inflectional Subjunctive'' (pp. 389-406)
This paper explains the loss of the subjunctive mood throughout language history using corpus research. Here, the study of the subjunctive in a collection of fifteenth century family letters and notes entitled ''The Paston Letters'' serves as a case study to, in a broader perspective, ''analyse the evolution from mood distinction to mood neutralization during the transition from Middle to Early Modern English in terms of heterogeneity and variability'' (pp. 391-392).
Part 5: “Language and Ideology”
Lisa Carroll-Davis, ''Identifying the Enemy: Using a CDA and Corpus Approach to Analyse Sandinista Strategies of Naming'' (pp. 409-427)
In order to illustrate the usefulness of discourse theory for the study of social phenomena and to probe the use of language as a political and ideological tool, the author addresses political conflict in Nicaragua through the study of Sandinista print propaganda from 1980 to 1983 through a combination of corpus linguistics and critical discourse analysis. After theoretical, historic-political and methodological considerations, the paper approaches the linguistic data with an emphasis on naming strategies in Sandinista speech as a means of self-empowerment and delegitimization of Somoza’s government and supporters, while exposing biases and identifying patterns in that same speech.
Krassimir Stoyanov, ''Ritualized Slogan Lexis in the Bulgarian Press during the Times of Violent Contradiction in Ideologies (1944-1947)” (pp. 431-446)
After an introduction to the historical frame and the historical role of the Bulgarian press, Stoyanov develops the idea of language as part of a ritual and shows how ritualized language may be manipulated by political agendas, such as in the case of the Communist Party in Bulgaria. Finally, the author analyzes a corpus, describing the typology of both the slogans and the ritualized lexis within, while also presenting verbal and non-verbal ritualization strategies.
Kristine Horner & Melanie Wagner, ''Remembering World War II and Legitimating Luxembourgish as the National Language: Consensus or Conflict?'' (pp. 447-464)
This essay approaches this particular language ideological debate while focusing on the ''discursive moves'' (p. 449) behind it, establishes a ''discursive link'' (p. 453) between such debate and certain symbolic historical events that aroused the association of language and national identity/nationalism, and identifies controversial issues. For that purpose, Horner & Wagner use as material both ''media representations linking the rise of Luxembourgish to events during World War II and ethnographic interviews with a World War II letter writer focusing on his language choices'' (p. 449). The press material as well as the interviews date back to the first decade of this century.
Michela Giordano & Federica Falchi, “Language as a Social Tool in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Italy” (pp. 465-482)
This paper compares the theoretical arguments and linguistic strategies in favor of women’s rights in John Stuart Mill’s and Salvatore Morelli’s parliamentary addresses, as well as the context and the reception of their ideas and work. The authors focus on the discourse categories (mainly topoi and lexicalization) of two of each author’s speeches, while using the theoretical and methodological framework of critical discourse analysis and emphasizing a view of language as both a tool and a product of social construction.
As far as similar publications are concerned, like the editors state (p. 4), their present attempt to promote an interdisciplinary approach was preceded by other edited volumes in the field of historical sociolinguistics: Linn & McLelland (2002), Deumert & Vandebussche (2003), Langer & Davies (2005), and Elspaß et al. (2007). However, in this volume, the focus on interdisciplinarity is specifically oriented toward the fields of history and linguistics.
Though the call for papers of the original conference tried to encourage joint efforts between historians and linguists, there is but one such case in the volume: Graser & Tlusty. However, it should be stressed that in other cases, such as Eufe, papers present results of on-going joint projects. Such an integrated approach is a common ground to all papers in this volume.
As for the distribution of the papers, through the five main topics, it should be noticed that the first two subjects clearly dominate, presenting approximately twice as many papers as the other three.
The papers within this volume showcase a variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives, as well as a variety of linguistic traditions. Throughout, several American and European languages are covered through a chronological framework that extends from the Middle Ages to the present. Given this diversity, the final alphabetical index of subjects (pp. 489-503) is a useful tool. Also, the fact that all papers are written in English and that there is an English translation of all transcriptions of other idioms turns out to be very handy.
Despite the wide range of subjects, the volume shows cohesive flow. Two things contribute strongly to that positive outcome: i) all papers support an interdisciplinary approach, even those which explicitly deal with the perils of such a perspective (e.g. McLelland); and ii) the existence of internal references, which reinforces papers’ intertwining.
Although my evaluation is generally positive, it is noteworthy to mention the lack of an explicit reference to the role of the history of the language sciences (or history of linguistics), nor to that of linguistic historiography as conceived by Koerner (1995: 3-4); the former being ''the actual ‘res gestae’ of linguistic research throughout the ages'' and the latter the ''principled manner of writing the history of the study of language''. This is quite evident in Honeybone (p.17, n. 2) when he refers to the expression ''linguisticography''. Nevertheless, the volume does include several articles that could be ascribed to the two above-mentioned fields, namely the ones of Honeybone himself, McLelland, Kamusella, Del Valle, Valdez, Villa, and Rutten & Vosters.
As for the different fields of historical linguistics, there seems to be, throughout the volume, a stress on historical sociolinguistics, which is only natural since HiSoN organized the Conference.
Overall, this volume meets its goals, providing an up-to-date, wide overview of integrated historiographical and linguistic research, while illustrating the advantages of an interdisciplinary approach. Furthermore, it gives hints on how to perform such a task and suggestions for further research. In doing so, the reviewed work constitutes useful material for historians and linguists.
Elspaß, Stephan et al. 2007 (eds.). Language Histories from Below. (1700-2000). Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter.
Koerner, Konrad. 1995. Professing Linguistic Historiography. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Langer, Nils & Winifred Davies (eds.). 2005. Linguistic Purism in the Germanic Languages. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter.
Linn, Andrew & Nicola McLelland (eds.). 2002. Standard Germanic. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Sónia Duarte is a doctoral student at the University of León (Spain) and a
member of the Center for Language Sciences at Oporto University (Portugal).
She presented her Master's thesis in 2008, at the University of Évora
(Portugal), on Nicolau Pexoto’s Spanish grammar (Oporto 1848) -- the first
specifically meant for Portuguese --, and is now working on her PhD
dissertation on the references to Spanish language and Spanish
gramaticography in Portuguese grammars from the seventeenth century to
1848. Her primary research interests include history of the language
sciences, applied linguistics, and contrastive studies.