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BOOK NOTICES 495 Understanding pragmatics. By Jef Verschueren. (Understanding language series.) London: Arnold, 1999. Pp. xiv, 295. As the preface says, this textbook is written with a wider scope than other introductions to pragmatics. It also aims at presenting this discipline in a coherent system. Given his own numerous contributions to the advancement of pragmatics, the author is fully entitled to do so. The result is an engaging book to read. After an introductory chapter on the relation between pragmatics and general linguistics, Verschueren describes the four traditional areas of pragmatics , i.e. deixis, speech acts, implicit meaning, and conversation, together with the more recent studies of politeness and argumentation (Ch. 1). There follows an outline of the general concern of pragmatics, namely to understand the meaningful functioning of language under these aspects: a dynamic process operating on context-structure relationships at various levels of salience (Ch. 2). Readers interested in a general overview of the extent of pragmatics will benefit much from these two chapters which form Part 1 of the book. Up to this point the conceptual apparatus and terminology are quite straightforward . Part 2 (Chs. 3-6) contains more detailed expositions of the four aspects of meaningful functioning of language mentioned above. Here pragmatics appears as a discipline whose task is to shed light on all questions of language use. It is true that this discipline has stimulated a new awareness on the importance ofcontext in the study of meaning. But whether pragmatics can give a systematic account for 'the dynamics of meaning generation' is not altogether clear. Other disciplines which have long since dealt with this area, such as the philosophy of language and cultural anthropology, may have more chance in sorting out the issues. The all-embracing task set for pragmatics in this book seems to go beyond what its practitioners would normally concede. Part 3 is a survey of topics and trends in pragmatics . Areas of investigation within language proper, such as the ordering of particles, performativity, and linguistic interaction, are put under the label of micropragmatics (Ch. 7). Macropragmatics, on the other hand, deals with intercultural and international communication, ideologies, and societal debates in general (Ch. 8). Occasionally one gets the impression that the presentation is meant as a synthesis of the author's views rather than what is actually going on in the field. The final chapter of the book traces the development ofpragmatics as an interdisciplinary research (Ch. 9). Each of the nine chapters ends with a summary followed by suggestions for further reading and research topics. The sixteen-page bibliography gives an idea of how productive the field of pragmatics has become. [Agustinus Gianto, Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome.] A grammar of Koyra Chiini. By Jeffrey Heath. (Mouton grammar library 19.) Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1999. Pp. xiv, 453. Heath is well known for his accomplishments as a fieldworker and descriptive linguist, among which a grammar of Nunggubuyu, an Australian aboriginal language (reviewed in Language 62. 654-63, 1986), and two books on Moroccan Arabic are particularly noteworthy. There is a direct link between the latter research efforts and his current focus on the Songhay (also Songhai, Songoi, Sonrhai, or Koroboro) language family of West Africa which comprises some dozen or so languages. They are spoken mainly in Mali and Niger, but also in BĂ©nin, Algeria, and 'perhaps ' also Burkino Faso (1). According to H, they may be Nilo-Saharan, but this remains controversial (2). This is, I believe, a more accurate view than the opinion expressed in William Bright, ed., International encyclopedia of linguistics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992:IV:28), which classifies the language definitely as Nilo-Saharan. There are also two other unclarities in this article: (1) Whether or not Songhay is a single language is allegedly controversial but not according to H. (2) It is indeed spoken in Burkino Faso in addition to Nigeria. It seems to me the second point needs further investigation. H explains in the introduction how he became interested in Songhay. He originally went to Timbuktu (long associated with picturesque caravans crossing the Sahara) in 1986 to work on Hassaniya Arabic, an extension of his Moroccan Arabic research (8). Since there...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 495-496
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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