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  • The Persian contributions to the English language: An historical dictionary by Garland Cannon, and Alan S. Kaye
  • Mousa A. Btoosh
The Persian contributions to the English language: An historical dictionary. By Garland Cannon and Alan S. Kaye. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2001. Pp. x, 190. ISBN 3447045035. $56.80.

This lucid and comprehensive book introduces readers to both ancient and recent Persian contributions to English, either directly or through a mediating language. What should be appreciated most about this work is the clarity and the outstanding methods employed in collecting and analyzing the relevant data, which consist of 811 entries, along with 133 distant loan words.

The book comprises six sections with an introduction and references. The introduction (1–20) is divided into two parts. In the first part ‘The corpus’, the authors provide detailed description and justification of the sources and methods of their study as well as the criteria for accepting items in their dictionary. The second part, ‘The dictionary entry’, is concerned with the format of the dictionary and the sequences of information that follow each entry.

The first section of the main text, ‘Historicalsemantic analysis of the data’ (21–51), is divided into three subsections. The first presents the data chronologically in fifty-year periods. In the second subsection, the data are arranged semantically into four divisions which, in turn, consist of thirty-five different fields. The third illustrates that entries are also assigned temporal, regional, and stylistic labels, that is, obsolete, Indian, and slang, as well as numbers indicating the naturalization scale based on the notions of productivity and currency.

The second section, ‘Linguistic analysis of the data’ (53–60), examines language sources, grammar, and variant forms. Concerning the language source, the study (53) indicates that 73.61% of the data has been transferred to English via at least one other language. As for the grammar, the data show that except for twenty-two multiple word classes, each entry is assigned one part of speech. In the final subsection, the authors discuss the problem of variant forms, for example, afreet/efreet, and the procedures used in determining the correct headword for each item.

The third section (61–155) presents the core of the research, ‘The historical dictionary of 811 Persian loans’. In the fourth section, ‘Checklist of 811 Persian loans’ (157–71), the loans are organized in a list where only the most frequent form (if determinable) of the multiform headwords is cited. Each headword is followed by the date, source, and degree of ‘naturalization’. The fifth section, ‘Short dictionary of 133 distant loans’ (173–81), presents items that went through non-English hybridization and/or substantive changes in form by the transmitting language. The final section, ‘Earliest known English literary use of Persian loans’ (183–84), lists a number of the earliest Persian loans that appeared in the literary works of a number of prominent authors, such as Chaucer.

Given the richness of its detail, this book provides the most comprehensive source ever published on this subject. The authors have achieved their primary goal, ‘to advance the historical study of comprehensive, chiefly lexical borrowing between languages in [End Page 835] contact’, thereby making the book potentially useful to historical linguists and others with an interest in language contact.

Mousa A. Btoosh
University of Texas, Arlington


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