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Reviewed by:
  • Slavic nominal word-formation: Proto-Indo-European origins and historical development by Ranko Matasović
  • Marek Majer*
Ranko Matasović. Slavic nominal word-formation: Proto-Indo-European origins and historical development. [Empirie und Theorie der Sprachwissenschaft, 3]. Heidelberg: Winter, 2014. 221 pp. ISBN 9783825363352.

1. Introduction

The publication of a treatment of Slavic nominal word formation by Ranko Matasović (RM) is an important and welcome event for Slavicists and Indo-Europeanists alike. Among numerous other works spanning Slavic, Indo-European, and non-Indo-European linguistics, RM has authored the Poredbenopovijesna gramatika hrvatskoga jezika (Matasović 2008), still the only historical grammar of a Slavic language significantly engaging the Proto-Indo-European background and compatible with the current state of knowledge about the latter (the importance of the connection with Indo-European linguistics is also emphasized in the extended title of the work under review). The current synthesis of historical Sl word formation—as we learn from the opening paragraphs (15)—grew out of RM's work on the new, coauthored etymological dictionary of Croatian, the first volume of which has since appeared (ERHJ 1).

The book has already been the subject of three quite extensive reviews: by M. Mihaljević (2014), Ž. Ž. Varbot (2015), and Th. Olander and B. Nielsen Whitehead (2015).1 In order not to duplicate the effort of the aforementioned competent reviewers, every so often I shall refer the interested reader to their conclusions, particularly as regards those areas which they have dealt with at some length;2 in the present review, I concentrate on those aspects of the work regarding which more discussion is in order. [End Page 147]

2. Context and Relation to Earlier Works

In the initial passages of the book (15–17), RM states how he intends to position his new synthesis vis-à-vis the existing treatments of nominal word formation in Sl (Vondrák 1906,3 Sławski ZSP, Vaillant 1974, etc.), arguing that in spite of such considerable coverage of the field, a new study is still desirable.

RM's judgment on this issue is fully reasonable. Besides being dated to some extent (and universally very conservative at the IE end), the above-mentioned classic works are often less than ideal for scholars interested in PSl for comparative IE purposes rather than in the study of the Sl languages themselves. Vondrák 1924 and especially Vaillant 1974 are extremely rich in data drawn from the modern Sl languages which are less relevant from the PSl (or especially the IE) viewpoint; it is at times challenging to extract the securely old material from these sources. Sławski ZSP makes a stronger effort to isolate genuinely PSl derivational morphology, clearly separating it from processes occurring in later Sl languages (sometimes closely paralleling each other). However, the work is written in Polish and split among several volumes of SP. This and its lack of a table of contents and an index makes it rather unwieldy and relatively unknown among Indo-Europeanists. Besides, Sławski's treatment of word formation was to be illustrated by material amassed in the ambitious lexicographical work it was to accompany; but only a small part of the latter was ever completed, so that many of the PSl reconstructions found in Sławski ZSP are left with little illustrational evidence.

In the light of all this, RM's aim was to produce a book that would be more concise and focus on the indisputably PSl material, taking advantage of the data gathered in dictionaries such as ÈSSJa, SP, and Derksen EDSIL, while at the same time being up to date with regard to the present knowledge about PIE. All in all, the author has succeeded in creating such a work, and it will no doubt be perceived as a major contribution to the field.

3. Structure, Notation, and Presentation

The book is organized in a fashion typical of a basic diachronic treatment of derivational morphology of an IE language. Following an introduction (15– 20), the chapter on suffixation comprises the bulk of the work (21–169), divided into sections grouping suffixes into various classes based on their segmental shape (on the principles of subdivision, see below). It should be noted that reduplication is...


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