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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AUTHOR: Trudgill, Peter TITLE: Dialects SERIES: Language Workbooks PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis) YEAR: 2004
Charlotte Brammer, Department of Communication Studies, Samford University
This second edition of Peter Trudgill's Dialects has the stated goal of serving as an introduction to the field for beginners. As Trudgill states in the Preface, "If it is successful, readers should acquire a taste for *doing* dialectology," and guiding readers in the "doing" of dialectology is a persistent focus in the text. The text's mere 63 pages, plus appendices, belies its coverage.
The text contains twelve short chapters, ranging from five to seven pages each, divided between discussion and exercises. The chapters begin with a shaded box that defines the main discussion point. For example, Chapter 1: Studying English Dialects highlights the following text: "Like all languages, English is very varied. It comes in many different regional and social varieties. All these varieties are linguistically equivalent. No variety of the language is linguistically superior to any other." Not surprisingly, the chapter then addresses how dialectologists study languages in their many varieties in order to describe differences and to understand how the differences emerge.
The answers to select exercises are provided in the back of the text, but each chapter also contains exercises that require students to collect, or in some cases recall, real linguistic data. For example in Chapter 1, students are asked to determine the dialect origin of a poem (Scots), a prose passage (American), and another passage (Cockney) and then to watch an American or Australian television program and to note words and expressions that are unique to those dialects. For exercises without specific answers, students are asked to apply the concept discussed in the chapter and to develop their own answers.
After establishing the basis of dialectology, the text then defines and, more importantly, encourages students to explore key concepts of applied linguistics. Chapter 2 delves into social and regional dialects and accents, and distinguishes standard (BBC) English dialects from other dialects. The author notes that while other dialects are not standard, they are not inferior. Indeed, Trudgill demonstrates how successful nonstandard dialects are in communicating, and in one of the exercises, he invites students to: "Discuss why it is, given that Standard English is so widely used in education and in the media, that most people in Britain continue to speak nonstandard dialects" (p.10). Chapter 3 continues this focus on the varieties of English within Britain by looking at styles, formal to informal to slang, and registers, technical and non-technical, for example. Students are then asked to identify style and register choices in select prose passages. Chapter 4 differentiates between traditional dialects, those spoken by older people in rural areas, and mainstream dialects, which Trudgill claims are more similar to Standard English and are spoken by younger, urban speakers.
Chapters 5 and 6 discuss dialect maps, how they are created and how they can reveal information about the spread and development of dialect features. Chapter 7 continues the discussion of dialect maps with more recent developments in British English, primarily th-fronting. In many ways, this chapter serves as a prelude to the phonological discussion of Chapter 8 in which Trudgill remarks on the spread of the loss of r in words like arm and the loss of h in hill, among others.
In chapters 9, 10, and 11, grammatical differences among dialects receive more attention. After discrediting the myth that nonstandard dialects "don't have grammar," Trudgill demonstrates how these dialects have different grammars, or in come cases different elements to their grammars, but are in no way deficient. Each of these chapters emphasizes variations in verb tense (Chapter 9), rules (Chapter 10), and regularity (Chapter 11).
Chapter 12 moves away from the technical side of grammatical rules and addresses the very interesting concept of language contact and, more pointedly, hyperadaptation, "where speakers try to modify their speech in the direction of a different dialect and get it wrong because they overdo it" (p. 61). Trudgill then asks students to identify instances of hyperadaptation and to discuss the additive l in words such as Americal and pastal in the Bristol dialect. The text ends here, with Trudgill providing a list for "further reading" for those who are interested.
Not surprisingly, Trudgill successfully distills the relatively complex field of dialectology down to the bare minimum for beginners. He does so by simplifying key concepts in the field, giving basic examples to demonstrate each of those concepts, and providing exercises that help beginners see how dialectology is accomplished. This strength can also be a weakness, however, if the reader is looking for anything more than basic information. This would be useful as a workbook in a beginning linguistics course, but it would need substantive lectures and additional reading to prepare students to adequately elaborate on some of the exercises. For example, in many of the exercises, Trudgill assumes students can differentiate the various British dialects. Some students may not, particularly if they are not native speakers of British English. In light of the text's purpose as a workbook, this particular critique is certainly mitigated.
A more perplexing issue, perhaps, is the almost off-hand reference to American and Australian English, as if there is only one American English and one Australian English, and absolutely no mention of other Englishes, Indian, for example. Given the text's almost complete focus on various British English dialects, one is left to wonder why American and Australian Englishes were mentioned at all. Perhaps a short chapter on World Englishes could have provided space to address this part of dialectology more appropriately, including adding an exercise to ask students to identify phonological, grammatical, and semantic among some of these Englishes. Given the increasing emphasis on globalization, it is surprising that this topic did not garner any attention in this workbook.
This critique aside, the workbook is valuable and will no doubt be very useful for many beginner students in dialectology.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Dr. Brammer is Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Howard College of Arts and Sciences, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama, USA. Her research interests include writing pedagogy, technical and professional communication, and sociolinguistics.