- The Slavonic languages ed. by Bernard Comrie, Greville G. Corbett
The hardcover edition of this book first appeared in 1993. The present review describes the contents of the 2002 edition, since the 1993 edition was not reviewed in Language. It also mentions a few innovative recent developments in Slavic linguistics that are not represented since no modifications of the original text were undertaken.
The volume brings together concise yet thorough descriptions of individual Slavonic (Slavic) languages prepared by leading specialists in the field: David Huntley (Old Church Slavonic), Ernest A. Scatton (Bulgarian), Victor A. Friedman (Macedonian), Wayles Browne (Serbo-Croatian), T. M. S. Priestly (Slovene), David Short (Czech, Slovak), Gerald Stone (Sorbian, Cassubian), Robert A. Rothstein (Polish), Kazimierz Polanński (Polabian), Alan Timberlake (Russian), Peter Mayo (Belorussian), and George Y. Shevelov (Ukrainian). There are also chapters on alphabets and transliteration systems (Paul Cubberly), Proto-Slavonic (Alexander M. Schenker), and the survival and development of Slavic languages in émigré communities (Roland Sussex). One possible addition would have been a separate chapter on Carpatho-Rusyn (Ruthenian), which in recent years has come to be recognized as a fourth East Slavic language. In any event, the brief comments on Ukrainian dialects do not do justice to the complex linguistic situation found in the transition zone between East Slovak, Polish, and Western Ukrainian.
The original inspiration for this book appears to derive from R. G. A. De Bray’s Guide to the Slavonic languages (London: Dent & Sons; New York: Dutton, 1951) [End Page 795] which is somewhat similar in scope and format.
The volume abounds in clearly presented paradigms, charts, and maps and is a thoroughly satisfactory source for accurate information on all the languages covered. Even after ten years in print, it remains the best single-volume reference on the Slavic family. The editors’ introduction (1–19) likewise continues to provide an excellent overview of the field. At the same time, it is tempting to wish this new paperback version were truly a second edition rather than a reprint of the original text, which faithfully reflects Slavic linguistics only up to the early 1990’s. A new edition might have included more recent insights. Some notable examples of such scholarship that come to mind deal with the typology of clitics (Steven Franks and Tracey Holloway King, A handbook of Slavic clitics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), treat cognitive types of aspectual systems (Stephen Dickey, Parameters of Slavic aspect, Stanford: CSLI, 2000), or present an alternate theory of the evolution of Common Slavic accent and syllable structure (Christina Bethin, Slavic prosody, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). The many changes underway in Russian and other Slavonic languages since the collapse of communism likewise, of course, are not appraised since the scholarship represents the early 1990’s instead of today. Nevertheless, the book is still the best overall survey of Slavic available in English—and one now at last made more accessible in price, as well.