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  • Nominalization in Asian languages: Diachronic and typological perspectives
  • Elizabeth Zeitoun
Foong Ha Yap, Karen Grunow-Hårsta, and Janick Wrona, eds. 2011. Nominalization in Asian languages: Diachronic and typological perspectives. Typological Studies in Language 96, xvii + 796 pp. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. ISBN 978-90-272-0677-0, $158.00, hardbound.

This volume reflects a huge editorial endeavor and years of collaborative effort in investigating versatile morphemes that function as nominalizers, relativizers, and sentence-final particles. While the original project focused on East Asian languages (Japanese, Korean, and Chinese), it later expanded to include about 60 languages. The present collection contains an introductory article followed by 25 papers dealing with various aspects of nominalization in languages spoken in Asia and the Pacific, which are subdivided into major linguistic groups: Sinitic (Part I), Tibeto-Burman (Part II), Indo-European (Part III), Korean and Japanese (Part IV), Austronesian (Part V), and Papuan (Part VI). It is rounded out by two useful indexes: one on subjects and one on languages.

The papers vary in terms of linguistic and time-depth coverage. Some deal with specific languages. Among these, several concentrate on synchronic data (see, for instance, Stephen Morey's article on Numhpuk Singpho, Seongha Rhee on Korean, or Fuhui Hsieh [End Page 606] on Kavalan) while others also offer a historical perspective (see Mark Post's article on Galo or Marie M. Yeh on Saisiyat). Some papers provide a contrastive analysis between two languages (for example, Mandarin vs. Cantonese; Korean vs. Japanese; Okinawan vs. Japanese). A few deal specifically with diachronic data (for example, Old and Middle Chinese). A number of papers present typological studies (for example, on Tibeto-Burman languages) or discuss nominalization in a particular language (for example, Toqabaqita) in a larger context (Southeast Solomonic/Oceanic languages).

Although this monograph includes a large number of languages and covers an array of interesting phenomena and topics, the organization of the volume itself is problematic, the sample of languages is not well balanced, and the editorial work lacks rigor. I will develop these three points before turning, in the remainder of this review, to a summary of each of the papers contained in the volume. The editors (1, 49.50) make it clear that they chose an areal, rather than a thematic, arrangement for the papers. However, there are a number of problems with such an arrangement. Most of the papers that are included in this volume address common issues, and the general themes (nominalization types, nominalization strategies, grammaticalization paths of nominalization, referential and nonreferential uses of nominalization, and the like) that run through many of the papers could (or should) have led to a different display leading to a more coherent and systematic presentation of the data across languages. The editors have tried, at times, to justify the inclusion of certain papers as related to the theme of the volume (47), even though it is apparent that they do not fit in. That is true of the paper written on Abui by František Kratochvíl, which focuses primarily on the discourse-structuring functions of demonstratives. It is only in the conclusion that the author compares the functions of demonstratives in Abui to those of nominalizations in other (unnamed) languages. Moreover, even if the classification is areal, the ordering of the papers is not always adequate. The paper written by Michael Noonan contains a useful appendix depicting the possible genetic relationships among the Bodic languages (Tibeto-Burman), many of which are discussed in Carol Genetti's typological overview that appears as the first article in the section on the Tibeto-Burman languages. In the same vein, the paper contrasting Mandarin and Cantonese by Sze-Wing Tang could have preceded the one dealing only with the grammatical marker ge3 in Cantonese, as it contains much more background information.

As far as the sampling of languages is concerned, it is not clear how it was made and why certain languages were included while others were not. To give but one example, three Formosan languages are discussed in this volume: Kavalan, Budai Rukai, and Saisiyat. Issues on nominalization in the first two languages have already been addressed in a volume on nominalization in...


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