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Review of  Connectivity in Grammar and Discourse

Reviewer: Peter Kühnlein
Book Title: Connectivity in Grammar and Discourse
Book Author: Jochen Rehbein Christiane Hohenstein Lukas Pietsch
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 19.381

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EDITORS: Rehbein, Jochen; Hohenstein, Christiane; Pietsch, Lukas
TITLE: Connectivity in Grammar and Discourse
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2007

Peter Kühnlein, Center for Language and Cognition, Faculteit der Letteren,
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

The notion of ''connectivity'' that binds together all contributions in this
collection is outlined by the editors in their introductory chapter. In this
context, connectivity covers the ''role played by various linguistic elements in
interconnecting units of text and discourse,'' the forms that are involved and
their function. The term ''connectivity'' is thus broadly construed, which is
reflected in the diversity of the texts in the collection.

The volume consists of 5 sections, each devoted to special topics. Since I am
not an expert in all of these areas, I restrict myself to a short discussion of
selected issues at the end of the summary and will just report the main claims
of the individual papers.

Section 1 (''Aspects of language change and language acquisition'') consists of 4
chapters. The first, by Masayoshi Shibatani, discusses the process of
grammaticalization of certain converb constructions in Japanese, involving the
motion verbs _iku_ ('go') and _kuru_ ('come') and the conjunction _-te_. The
author argues that there are two patterns for grammaticalization in Japanese,
one being gradual grammaticalization where _iku_ and _kuru_ lose their meaning
as denoting motion, and one being a metaphorical extension of their meaning.

In the next contribution, ''Contact, connectivity and language evolution'', the
author, Yaron Matras, claims to introduce a rather novel approach to
contact-related language change. He proposes to switch from investigating
language change as (partial) convergence of language systems to investigating
the totality of communicative skills of bilingual language users. The chapter
ends with considerations about language evolution the author himself calls
''speculative''. Here, he draws on neurolinguistic evidence he claims to support
the special position he assigns to ''monitoring-and-directing operations'' that
are central in structural borrowing that ultimately lead to language change.

In the next chapter ''ALLORA - On the recurrence of function-word borrowing in
contact situations with Italian as donor language'', Thomas Stolz, like Matras,
addresses language contact situations and adoption of expressions in that
setting. Investigating occurrences of his target word _allora_ and related words
in Italian first and then in a number of languages that are in contact with
Italian, Stolz comes to the conclusion that in most of the languages he
subjected to his investigation the autochthonous repertoire of function words
was enriched by the Italian loan words. Due to the patterns he observed in
contact induced language change, he tentatively groups Spanish and Italian
together as regards their borrowing behavior.

The fourth and last chapter in this first section is ''Some notes on the
syntax-pragmatics interface in bilingual children'' by Natascha Müller. She
observes finite verb placement in bilingual German-French and German-Italian
children. Her findings support that there exists cross-linguistic influence in
the placement of finite verbs. There seem to be some indications that bilingual
children during acquisition use (implicit) syntactic derivations of one language
for the other as well. However, the results seem to be valid for only half the
children in Müller's sample, as she herself notes. It seems to be an interesting
research question why these patterns are exhibited in (only) half of the population.

The next section of the book, ''Pronouns, topics and subjects'' comprises only two
papers. The first of those is ''Distribution and function of clitic object
pronouns in popular 16th-18th century Greek narratives'' by Chrystalla A. Thoma.
It offers a comparison of findings regarding clitics in Early Modern Greek as
compared to earlier ones in Late Medieval Greek plus a functional account of the
phenomena in terms of a certain syntactical framework.

The other contribution in this section is Lukas Pietsch's ''Nominative subjects
of non-finite clauses in Hiberno-English''. The main argument of this paper is
that nominative case for pronominal subjects of embedded gerunds in
Hiberno-English are owed to structural transfer from Irish. It seems that this
transfer was facilitated by the presence of a great variability in pronoun
marking in 18th and 19th century Irish.

The third section of the book has the title ''Finiteness in text and discourse''
and in turn consists of two contributions. In ''Aspectotemporal connectivity in
Turkic: Text construction, text subdivision, discourse types and taxis'', Lars
Johanson distinguishes types of branching of subordinating conjunctions (left
vs. right branching) and finds that Turkic narrative style (exemplified by
Turkish narratives) typically exhibited the left branching pattern as opposed to
European languages. The latter are adopted by modern writers of Turkic, Johanson

Birsel Karakoc contributes the other paper in this section, also on Turkish and
with the title ''Connectivity by means of finite elements in monolingual and
bilingual Turkish discourse''. Her subject matter is the development of functions
of syntactic structures relevant for discourse develops between the ages of 5
and 8 in bilingual children. She finds that finite aspecto-temporal elements
function less as discourse-type constitutive elements for bilingual speakers
than for monolingual speakers of Turkish.

Section 4 (''Subordination - coordination''), comprising three contributions,
starts out with a paper by Celia Kerslake also on Turkish which has the title
''Alternative subordination strategies in Turkish''. She distinguishes two classes
of subordination types for Turkish, both of which she says robustly coexist. One
of them she allocates mainly for written, the other for spoken types of
discourse. She brings these findings together with general observations about
asymmetries between left- and right-branching languages.

The second chapter in this section presents a corpus based study of coordinating
devices from a variety of texts. It is written by Nicole Baumgarten, Annette
Herkenrath, Thomas Schmidt, Kai Wörner and Ludger Zeevaert and has the title
''Studying connectivity with the help of computer-readable corpora: Some
exemplary analyses from modern and historical, written and spoken corpora''. The
authors compare research methodologies in the respective areas and end up
claiming discourse coordination to be a level at which functional changes of
coordinating devices takes place and suggesting an ''abstract corpus linguistic
workflow'', discussing the differences according to corpus type.

Annette Herkenrath, one of the authors of the previous chapter, also contributes
a chapter of her own on ''Discourse coordination in Turkish monolingual and
Turkish-German bilingual children's talk: 'iste'''. Her main goal in this chapter
is to characterize the discourse structuring functions of the word _iste_, to
classify occurrences in a corpus of spoken data and explain some of its
discursive functions.

The final, fifth, section of the volume ''Adverbials, particles and
constructions'' contains four papers. Of those, the first is ''Modal adverbs as
discourse markers: A bilingual approach to the study of 'indeed''' by Karin
Ajimer. She proposes a study of 'indeed' where it is investigated in the light
of its translations in other (here: Scandinavian) languages. It is Aijmer's
methodological assumption that these translations shed light on the various
meanings of the word 'indeed'. They ''provide a complement to other ways of
studying meaning as well as semantic relations such as ambiguity and polysemy.''

Kristin Bühring and Juliane House contribute the second paper in this section,
'''So, given this common theme...': Linking constructions in discourse across
languages''. What they call ''linking constructions'' are defined as
''lexico-pragmatic patterns whose main function is to indicate the relationship
between some portion of prior and/or subsequent discourse.'' They thus comprise
the class of classical discourse markers, but they are more seen from a
systemic-functional and functional-pragmatic perspective. They report
interesting differences between (American) English discourse patterns and
comparable German ones.

''An utterance-transcending connector: Particle 'to' in utterance-final position
in Japanese business reporting'' by Yuko Sugita is the third paper in this
section. The quotative particle _to_ from Japanese is analyzed in a variety of
linguistic environments, where the basic construction is ''(proposition) TO
(verb)'' with ''(verb)'' being a verbum dicendi or cognoscendi. The author performs
a quantitative and a qualitative analysis, finding that _to_ in utterance-final
position is suitable to direct the listener to specific processing of information.

Thomas Johnen and Bernd Meyer contribute the fourth chapter in the section,
''Between connectivity and modality: Reported speech in interpreter-mediated
doctor-patient communication''. They analyze data from Turkish and Portuguese
where ad-hoc interpreters mediate between doctors and patients in hospital
settings. They report that in both languages markers at the same time are used
to establish interactional coherence and express speakers' stance.

The last paper in this section (and the book) is ''Matrix constructions'' by
Jochen Rehbein. He has a fresh look at those constructions from a functional
pragmatic perspective, exemplarily comparing an American English text with its
German translation. The author finds that matrix constructions tend to become
formulaic under certain conditions. He considers this a case of

Given the thematic proximity of the papers of Johanson, Karakoc, Kerslake and
Herkenrath respectively, I wondered whether the book wouldn't have profited if
these authors would have compared their views in the present volume. It is clear
that they know of each other, and given that all four are dealing with discourse
phenomena in Turkish it would have seemed natural to either merge their papers
or at least compare their views. (Herkenrath at least makes some remarks in the
direction of her colleagues.) It is not clear either why the papers are
distributed across the sections as they are. They might have deserved their own
section (''Discourse organization in Turkic''?) in the volume.

Baumgarten, Herkenrath, Schmidt, Wörner and Zeevaert claim that for their
corpora of written historical texts it would not be sufficient to have the same
data models as for contemporary texts. The argument is not clear, however. They
hold that sometimes it would be necessary to represent pieces of information
that have been added during editing, e.g. to have abbreviations, full forms,
orthographic variants and standardized lemmas side-by-side. I am not sure that
this means that the data model has to be different from that of a corpus of
contemporary text since the information one would annotate need not necessarily
differ. From the viewpoint of a reader, it would have been desirable to make two
papers out of this one: one paper dealing with the linguistic findings, and one
dealing with the methodological issues. As it is, half of the paper is
interesting for a linguist interested in coordinating devices, and the other
half for one interested in corpus linguistic methodology. (I'm lucky that
incidentally I'm interested in both.)

Karin Ajimer's main methodological assumption that the variety of possible
translations of an expression helps understanding the polysemy of that
expression is debatable. It might be the case that the ''target'' language into
which an expression is translated is indeed richer in expressing the same
meaning as the expression in the ''source'' language. The multitude of expressions
might then depend on the context that selects for different words in the target
language. Thus, 'indeed' might in fact be less vague or polysemous than assumed,
given that the corresponding translations into, say, Swedish, are not sensitive
to meanings of 'indeed', but to restrictions imposed by the context. The
argument given by Aijmer would be much more convincing if she could make it
plausible that the expressions in the target language are less vague than the
expression in the source language. This on the other hand seems difficult since
each of the translations into the target languages can at least under one
condition be translated into 'indeed'.

The book is a valuable collection of papers that is headed by an informative and
well-informed introduction of the editors. As a whole, the book is a major
contribution that is relevant for everyone working in the fields of language
contact or language change, but the individual papers are of relevance for
students from many more specializations: there is coverage of corpus linguistic
aspects, discourse theoretically interesting phenomena, philosophical topics and
many more. Despite the minor remarks I made above about how the order of
chapters, the organization of the book is very clear. Every library with a shelf
for language contact or language change should have a copy of this book.

Peter Kühnlein is a PhD candidate at the Center for Language and Cognition of
the Faculteit der Letteren, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. His interests are in
discourse theory, formal semantics and pragmatics, logics and philosophy of
science. His PhD thesis is concerned with complexity problems in discourse
structure, especially treehood properties.