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Reviewed by:
  • Pazih dictionary
  • Robert Blust
Paul Jen-kuei Li and Shigeru Tsuchida. 2001. Pazih dictionary. Language and Linguistics Monograph Series No. A2. Taipei: Institute of Linguistics (Preparatory Office), Academia Sinica. ISBN 957-671-790-6. xii + 391 pp. NT 700, US$25, cloth.

The language formerly known as Pazeh is reportedly down to its last fluent speaker, Mrs. Pan Jin-yu, born in 1914. The work under review is thus an extremely welcome contribution to the documentation of one of the most seriously under-described and endangered aboriginal languages of Taiwan.1

Both authors (hereafter L&T) have worked intermittently on Pazeh over a period of many years. A manuscript vocabulary compiled by Tsuchida in 1969 has been available to interested researchers on a personal basis for several decades, and was previously the most extensive source of lexical information available on this language. The present work represents a collaboration in which Li has added his own fieldnotes to the manuscript vocabulary of Tsuchida, and the two then worked together with Mrs. Pan to complete their analysis.

Following four pages of "Notes on the use of the dictionary" in English and Chinese, the book is divided into the following sections: 1. General remarks (two pages summarizing the documented history of the Pazeh people beginning in the late Ching Dynasty, the dialect situation, and previous research on the language), 2. Phonology (seven pages of general remarks on the phoneme inventory, phonological alternations, and syllable patterns, together with a summary of the reflexes of PAN phonemes), 3. Morphology (fourteen and one half pages listing the known prefixes, infixes, and suffixes, together with a brief discussion of reduplication), 4. Syntax (thirty and one half pages discussing the focus system, case markers, personal pronouns, aspect, imperatives, interrogatives, negatives, causative constructions, nominalization, ligatures, and relative clause formation), 5. The position of Pazeh (one and one half pages on the linguistic position of Pazeh). The dictionary proper contains a Pazeh-Chinese-English section of 278 pages (about 1,950 bases, plus many other affixed forms), an English-Pazeh index of 31 pages, a page of addenda, two short texts totaling 16 pages, and a list of linguistic publications (not restricted to Pazeh) by the pioneering Japanese Formosanist Naoyoshi Ogawa (1869-1947), to whom the volume is dedicated. A separate one-page errata sheet is inserted.2

Because neither Li nor Tsuchida is a native speaker of English, the task of writing a volume of this size with English as the language of elucidation was a formidable one. Problems with the English are rare and relatively minor, and the authors are to [End Page 531] be both thanked for their willingness to write in a language that they do not speak natively, and congratulated for their success in doing so.

"Notes on the use of the dictionary" provides a helpful set of guidelines for using the dictionary, including a complete list of abbreviations. The only obscure point that I found in this section is the distinction between root, stem, and derived form, each of which is said to be given in boldface type. It is clear that the root is the headword, but what is the distinction between stem forms and derived forms when every boldface entry that follows the headword is derived by some process of affixation? Presumably the stem is an affixed form that serves as the basis for further word-formation, but with no information on cycles of affixation this distinction is lost on the reader.

One comment in the General Remarks deserves some notice. It is stated (p. 1) that "the only surviving competent informant named Pan Jin-yu ... that we work with cannot answer sophisticated questions or produce elaborate constructions." I first heard such remarks in personal communications from Li before working on the language myself in 1998-99, and was given to believe that Mrs. Pan was little more than a semi-speaker, capable at best of producing monoclausal sentences with a limited vocabulary. What I found in my own work with her was something quite different: a vital and delightful octogenarian who, despite being the "last leaf on the tree," was able with a bit of effort to recall...