In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

712 LANGUAGE, VOLUME 62, NUMBER 3 (1986) environment of a preceding short vowel and a following /t/ (starting at least in the early 1200's, and perhaps even as early as 900). But her attempts to explain this shift are centered, first, on completely unsupported speculation about fortis/lenis variation ofDu. voiceless grave fricatives in certain environments, and second, on the fact that Germanic languages in general show a tendency to neutralize consonantal oppositions before III. But this latter consideration leaves completely unexplained why the opposition between Du. IxI and IiI was neutralized in favor of IxI, which is usually taken as a much more marked segment than IiI. Here as elsewhere , B more or less ignores the concept of hypercorrection, although it is precisely in instances like this that such a notion seems to have great explanatory potential. Nevertheless, B presents satisfying explanations for several cases where Du. IiI either did not shift to IxI, or else first shifted but later was restored. Again, most instances involve either avoidance of homophony (ziften 'to sift' vs. ziehten 'to reap') or analogical pressures against allomorphy between related word forms. Still, as B points out, it is significant that Standard Dutch still retains the labial-to-velar change in kopen 'to buy' vs. kochte, gekocht 'bought' (past, past participle). In other cases, B is able to offer convincing explanations for exceptional forms by invoking such factors as folk etymology and inter- or intra-linguistic (i.e. interdialectal ) borrowing. In the final Ch. V, 'Explanation and prediction of the sound changes: A preliminary approximation', B attempts to unite lexical/ semantic, morphological, and sociolinguistic considerations like thosejust mentioned—along with purely phonetic and phonological considerations —into an integrated 'model of the multiple causes of sound change'. However, since she does not hierarchize or even give a relative weighting to the various factors, her model can hardly be judged integrated, much less explanatory or predictive. Still, it is good to have all these disparate causal factors assembled, and B certainly presents one of the most concise but comprehensive discussions of them currently available in the literature. She is especially to be lauded for her inclusion of a substantial amount of instrumental and/or experimental phonetic data bearing on perceptual confusions between labial and velar consonants, even ifher sources are by now rather outdated (e.g. Miller & Nicely 1955). It is this same aspiration to completeness in describing and explaining the counterdirectional labial/velar changes in English and Netherlandic that leads one both to praise and criticize B's book. By restricting her attention to Germanic, where labial-to-velar shifts like that in Dutch are extremely rare, B misses the possible contribution to be gained from considering such (partially conditioned) changes as f > ... > h in Spanish and, presumably, ? > (f >)...> h in Japanese, where an intermediate stage with ? (and/or [xw]) seems probable. Because B excludes such typological data, her account of both English and Dutch labial/velar sound shifts probably underrates the role of acoustic/auditory factors in phonological change. But even if B's effort falls somewhat short ofthe mark, her book—by setting such ambitious goals both for itself and for future work—has advanced the cause of historical phonology considerably. [RichardD. Janda, University ofNew Mexico.] The English language. By Robert Burchfield. Oxford: University Press, 1985. Pp. xiii, 194. £9.50. This briefbook about the English language is directed to the general audience of 'students at schools and universities, and ... people in other walks of life, who wish to acquire a knowledge ofthe pedigree and credentials oftheir own language ' (vii). Since B is the editor of the current four-volume supplement to the Oxford Dictionary , it is understandable that the greater part of his attention should be devoted to the lexicon, especially that of 'the standard written language ' (22). In fact, the only definition of language which B offers is 'a system ofwords'. His opinion of present-day linguistics is low; he finds that 'since 1945 linguistics as a subject has been riven and dismembered by disastrous civil wars between eminent scholars, most of them still unresolved, and the theoretical outlook is gloomy' (3). Following abriefintroduction, 'Some preliminary considerations,' the substance ofthe book...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 712-713
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.