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  • Linguistics of the Himalayas and Beyond
  • Stephen Morey
Linguistics of the Himalayas and Beyond. Edited by Roland Bielmeier and Felix Haller. Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 196. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2008. Pp. xii + 442. $145.00 (hardcover).

This volume adds to growing body of work on Tibeto-Burman, a large language family whose languages show great typological diversity. In some cases, the volume provides some of the first serious scholarly work on a particular language (e.g., George van Driem’s chapter on Dzala and Dakpa), but it also contains papers rooted in the long history of Tibeto-Burman linguistics. The serious study of old Tibetan by Western scholars goes back to the nineteenth century (as discussed by Philip Denwood [pp. 47–66]); Ralf Vollman reminds us that native Tibetan traditions of studying their own languages go back much further (pp. 370–71).

The topics in the book range from language sketches to very detailed discussions of a particular feature. As example of the latter is the chapter by Martine Mazaudon (pp. 163–88) who posits a low glide related to the vowel [⋀] as [ j] is related to [i]—a phonetic segment not presently covered by the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (p. 164). She also extends theoretical paradigms, applying an alternative way of displaying vowel phonemes, the coordinate diagram (p. 174, based on Catford [1977]).

Using a well-organized data set, René Huysmans (pp. 153–62) clearly exemplifies the features of the stress system in Sampang. In the future, when recordings of such data [End Page 351] are archived, cited, and available, scholars will benefit greatly from being able to check this raw data and listen to phenomena such as stress patterns.

The chapters by Jean Robert Opgenort and George van Driem are sketches of a whole language and do not have an opportunity to make detailed points. Opgenort’s chapter (pp. 203–24) is a masterful survey of Chaurasia, although perhaps there could have been more in-depth discussion of, e.g., the demonstrative system—this contains words relating to ‘same level’, ‘up’, and ‘down’ (p. 207), expected in a mountainous area (see also Caplow’s chapter).

From van Driem (pp. 71–84) we get a very detailed sociolinguistic background of the linguistic mix on the border between Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. This is combined with a comparative word list, and includes several paradigms.

An important area of linguistics is the study of historical change: building up a picture of language families and subgroups. However, with Tibeto-Burman, a lack of data has led to the positing of relationships not necessarily based on sound practice. This has led to error, and we are grateful to Suhnu Ram Sharma in his chapter (pp. 265–78), in particular, p. 267) for correcting some of the errors that crept into previous works, in this case The Linguistic Survey of India (Grierson 1903–28). Much of Grierson’s monumental work needs to be revisited in light of more recent research, and there is a need for linguists to move beyond it and refer to up-to-date works in the areas of classification, language names, and so on.

Several papers emphasize the importance of discourse structure. Backed up by data and statistical analysis, Stephen A. Watters (pp. 381–98) shows that in Dzongkha, connectives and deictic markers and some other grammatical features, such as person marking, vary between the “legend narrative (offline)” and “direct speech (online discourse)” (p. 395). This is important for language description, often heavily based on narrative style. If there are different structures in direct speech, this needs to be reflected in grammatical description.

Anju Saxena’s chapter (pp. 247–64) analyzes a single story. Considerable attention is paid to the identity and prominence of particular participants (pp. 252–53), and the interplay of these participants is crucial to the argumentation, but I got to the end of the chapter without a clear idea of what the overall story was about. For example we hear that Sisters are “the globally prominent participants” (p. 253), but none of the examples involve them. This problem could have been avoided by providing a précis of the...


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