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Reviewed by:
  • The handbook of English linguistics
  • Elizabeth Closs Traugott
The handbook of English linguistics. Ed. by Bas Aarts and April McMahon. (Blackwell handbooks in linguistics.) Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006. Pp. xviii, 806. ISBN 1405187875. $49.95.

As the editors, Bas Aarts and April McMahon, point out in their introduction, while 'English language' and 'English language and linguistics' are administrative terms in Europe (less so in the US), 'English linguistics' is a widely practiced field of research. It is a highly influential, and often essential, component of general theoretical discussion because much linguistic work has been done on English. This insight-giving and often thought-provoking handbook was compiled with an eye to representing research on English linguistics that is currently productive and of wider theoretical significance. While they have cast their net wide, the editors decided for reasons of length to give only limited coverage to variation, including work on World Englishes. Not included are several areas of current interest, such as first and second language acquisition, applied linguistics, parsing, and neurolinguistics. The editors say they excluded historical research because of the existence of van Kemenade and Los's (2006) Handbook of the history of English; however, there are two historical chapters (by Christian Mair and Geoffrey Leech and by Donka Minkova and Robert Stockwell) and change is discussed at some length in many papers. The volume is devoted primarily to aspects of present-day English syntax, phonology, and semantics, and to methodological issues arising in various domains of work, such as crosslinguistic typology, and especially use of corpora. The volume is theoretically eclectic, representing both 'formal' and 'functional' approaches. It consists of thirty-two papers organized in five parts: 'Methodology', 'Syntax', 'Phonetics and phonology', 'Lexis and morphology', and 'Variation, discourse, stylistics, and usage'.

Part 1, 'Methodology', starts with KERSTI BÖRJARS on 'Description and theory'. She distinguishes theory, architecture, and description, especially as represented by minimalism (characterized as a 'theory'), lexical-functional grammar (an 'architecture'), and optimality theory (a 'meta-theory'), and discusses the problem of determining within each approach what counts as explanatory adequacy. Börjars demonstrates that a distinction between theory and description is not easily made and advocates for literacy in the various models. This is a paper that every graduate student should read: an important moderator between extremist views. TONY MCENERY and COSTAS GABRIELATOS discuss 'English corpus linguistics' and the way it has impacted research and reference works. ANDREW LINN briefly sketches the history of 'English grammar writing'. CHARLES F. MEYER and GERALD NELSON focus on 'Data collection', and complement McEnery and Gabrielatos by providing extensive examples and zeroing in on problems of representativeness in compiling corpora.

Part 2, 'Syntax', is the longest, with ten papers. In keeping with the purpose of the volume as a whole, BAS AARTS and LILIANE HAEGEMAN discuss 'English word classes and phrases' from several theoretical perspectives. Word classes are characterized as 'abstractions over sets of words displaying some common property or properties' (117), and sample problems attendant on deriving those abstractions are discussed, for example, classifying a and the as adjectives, articles, or determinatives. Another problem addressed is accounting for the gradience of categories. In his chapter on 'Verbs and their satellites' D. J. ALLERTON emphasizes the richness and diversity of verbs when considered from the perspective of their valency (argument structure), tense, aspect, and cooccurrence with adverbials. The central claim is that syntactically verbs in English determine the number and kind of their coconstituents and semantically give a label to eventualities they represent (152). Hence the verb 'shapes the syntactic structure of the clause in which it appears' (146). The syntax-semantics interface is further discussed in PETER COLLINS's chapter on 'Clause types'. 'Coordination and subordination' is, however, treated in a strictly [End Page 874] syntactic way by RODNEY HUDDLESTON and GEOFFREY K. PULLUM. This is one of the few chapters in which alternative perspectives are not discussed at length, as represented in Haiman & Thompson 1988. Therefore arguments that sentence-initial I know and I think may be adverbials, and in any...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 874-877
Launched on MUSE
2009-01-07
Open Access
No
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