- The second Glot International state-of-the-article book: The latest in linguistics ed. by Lisa Cheng, Rint Sybesma
The present volume contains a series of short essays on current topics in generative linguistics, with the main emphasis on semantics and syntax (eleven essays), plus a few essays on phonology (two), morphology (one), and language acquisition (one). The stated aim of the collection is to ‘give an overview of recent developments in fifteen areas of linguistics’, for each area chosen to ‘address questions like what the main issues were five, ten, fifteen years ago, what hypotheses have been put forward over the years, what solutions have been proposed for what problems’, and to each article attach ‘an extensive up-to-date bibliography’ (vii).
For collections of this sort to be maximally useful it would seem necessary (i) for the scope of the papers to be clearly defined, and (ii) for the format of the papers to be as standardized as possible. This collection is inconsistent on both of these counts. Some chapters, like David Lightfoot’s on acquisition (‘The development of grammars’), are avowedly the author’s own take on the topic and make little effort to be representative of current work across the field, while others, like Paul Portner’s on ‘The semantics of mood’, attempt to give a more general picture of work in the area. In terms of their ‘state of-the-article’-ness, some like Lightfoot’s, or Henriette de Swart’s on discourse and donkey anaphora, are rewritings, to what extent is not specified, of previous work; while others like Portner’s, or Jonathan David Bobaljik’s on floating quantifiers, seem to have been written especially for this collection. As for format, some chapters, like Ljiljana Progovac’s on ‘Structure for coordination’ are organized mainly as stages of an argument, while Anna Szabolsci and Marcel den Dikken’s on ‘Islands’ provide a high degree of ‘framing’ for the reader, including subsections such as ‘Preview’, ‘Bird’s eye view’, ‘Evaluation’, and so on.
Equally serious inconsistencies, at least for the editors’ stated aims, lie in the bibliographies. Some of these, like de Swart’s, are simply called ‘References’, and some like Bobaljik’s distinguish references from the bibliography proper, while most do not distinguish between the two. These editing problems are perhaps symptomatic of a general indeterminacy in the scope of the collection and its intended readership. As for theoretical orientation, most authors seem to be working within a principles-and-parameters or a minimalist framework within the generative-linguistics tradition, but many do not specify, and none feel obliged to set out, the main features of their framework. The subtitle of the collection, The latest in linguistics, is thus seriously misleading, even if we take ‘linguistics’ to be default for ‘generative linguistics’, since it is more a ‘selected topics in . . . ’ than a comprehensive or up-to-date overview. Only in the friendliest spirit is it suggested that, if a third collection appears, it be renamed GLOTWU: ‘Generative linguists of the world unite!’