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  • Geographical Typology and Linguistic Areas, with Special Reference to Africa ed. by Osamu Hieda, Christa König, Hirosi Nakagawa
  • Jeffrey Heath
Geographical Typology and Linguistic Areas, with Special Reference to Africa. Edited by Osamu Hieda , Christa König , and Hirosi Nakagawa . Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Studies in Linguistics 2 . Amsterdam : John Benjamins , 2011 . Pp. vi + 320 . $143.00 (hardcover).

This is a collaboration between a Japanese university and a collection of western linguists, brought together for a 2009 conference in Tokyo. It has the feel of an actual conference, complete with a blessing from the university president and a presentation of the university’s Center for Corpus-Based Linguistics. The chapters are broadly united by a language-contact focus, ranging from specific language pairs to broad areal linguistics.

About two-thirds of the volume deals with grammatical effects of contact. The authors appreciate that native and foreign structures interact in a complex way, only occasionally resulting in perfect calques (isomorphism). Alexandra Aikhenvald’s pro-grammatic “Areal Features and Linguistic Areas: Contact-Induced Change and Geographical Typology” (pp. 13–39) proposes a leaky four-part typology of contact-induced processes: reanalysis; reinterpretation and extension (of inherited morphemes and categories); grammaticalization (see below on Heine’s chapter); and grammatical accomodation (contamination by a phonologically similar foreign form). Yaron Matras, in “Explaining Convergence and the Formation of Linguistic Areas” (pp. 143–60), advocates a more cognitive approach to borrowing and pattern transfer, with a top-down emphasis on communicative strategies. [End Page 397]

Bernd Heine’s “Areas of Grammaticalization and Geographical Typology” (pp. 41–66) considers whether suspiciously similar grammaticalizations within an area are single-step calques (“polysemy copying”) or parallel multistage compressions with light prodding from contact languages. Much of the paper is concerned with African reflexive-object constructions (‘he cut him’, ‘he cut his body’, ‘he cut his head’, ‘he cut his life/soul’, or ‘he cut-reflexive’ with a verbal derivational affix). While ‘body’ reflexives dominate central and southern Africa, Heine finds that ‘head’ reflexives are dominant in two zones (western Sahel and Ethiopia), separated by an eastern Sahel zone with mostly ‘life/soul’ reflexives. Even Arabic dialects obey these regional patterns. Complicating factors are reflexive or logophoric syncretisms, and the discovery since the chapter was written of Russian-like transpersonal reflexives in some Dogon languages (Togo Kan, Tomo Kan).

Tom Güldemann’s “Proto-Bantu and Proto-Niger-Congo: Macro-Areal Typology and Linguistic Reconstruction” (pp. 109–41) is a serious reflection on macrolevel reconstruction methodology. Niger-Congo is unusual in that several linguists have argued for a protolanguage with heavy-duty affixal morphology that has been whittled down in some of the descendants still in West Africa, such as Kwa, but preserved in mainstream Bantu, which spread far to the east and south. Outside of Africa, the usual pattern is for linguists to posit an ideal “golden age” protolanguage well endowed with free particles, each with a simple gloss, that later became compacted into morphologically messy daughter languages. Güldemann is cautiously sympathetic to the view that Proto-Niger-Congo was semisynthetic, and that mainstream Bantu developed its more baroque affixal morphology later under the influence of long-lost substratum languages.

Matthew Dryer’s “Noun-Modifier Order in Africa” (pp. 287–311) reflects the transition in professional linguistic typology from Greenbergian worldwide ordering correlations to area-specific correlations. The latter imply that deep historical relations (genetic and contact) can trump synchronic functional pressures. Methodologically, this requires not only a large number of languages but also consideration of distributions across genetic stocks. Using detailed maps, Dryer shows that modifiers (adjectives, numerals, definites, possessors) have a stronger tendency to follow nouns in sub-Saharan Africa than in other continents, when intersecting features (e.g., verb-object versus object-verb order) are controlled for.

Brief mention will suffice for the other grammatical chapters. Christa König’s “Case Marking and Linguistic Geography” (pp. 67–90) considers two pairs of adjacent Cushitic and non-Cushitic languages where structural case-marking systems have converged unidirectionally. Kazuhiro Kawachi wrestles inconclusively with definitions of linguistic area in “Can Ethiopian Languages Be Considered Languages in the African Linguistic Area? The Case of Highland...


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