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Review of  Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication

Reviewer: Shamila Naidoo
Book Title: Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication
Book Author: Adrian Akmajian Richard A. Demers Ann K. Farmer Robert M Harnish
Publisher: MIT Press
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Issue Number: 12.3152

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Akmajian, Adrian, Richard A. Demers, Ann K. Farmer, and Robert M.
Harnish (2001) Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and
Communication, 5th ed. MIT Press, paperback ISBN 0-262-51123-1,
xiv+604pp, $35.00

Shamila Naidoo, IsiZulu Programme, University of Natal,
Durban, South Africa & REUPUS, University of Stellenbosch,
South Africa

Linguistics An Introduction to Language and Communication is
a textbook intended for students taking an introductory
course in linguistics. It's main purposes, according to the
authors, are firstly, to present linguistic concepts that
they deem to be amongst "the most fundamental within the
field at this time". Secondly, the book is concerned with
"method of argumentation, justification and hypothesis
testing within the field".

The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 is entitled The
Structure of Human Language and consists of eight chapters
Chapter 1 What is Linguistics
Chapter 2 Morphology: The Study of the Structure of Words
Chapter 3 Phonetics and Phonemic Transcription
Chapter 4 Phonology: The Study of Sound Structure
Chapter 5 Syntax: The Study of Sentence Structure
Chapter 6 Semantics: The Study of Linguistic Meaning
Chapter 7 Language Variation
Chapter 8 Language Change

Part 2 is entitled Communication and Cognitive Science and
consists of 4 chapters:
Chapter 9 Pragmatics: The Study of Language Use and
Chapter 10 Psychology of Language: Speech Production
and Comprehension
Chapter 11 Language Acquisition in Children
Chapter 12 Language and the Brain
The appendix is entitled the Written Representation of

Chapters 2-12 contain a section on Study Questions and/or
Exercises. A Further Reading List is also included at the
end of each chapter.

Chapter 1 What is Linguistics
Chapter 1 offers a synopsis of the content and headings in
the book and a simple, almost superficial, explanation of
the term linguistics.

Chapter 2 Morphology: The Study of the Structure of Words
The authors identify five fundamental questions:
- What are words?
- What are the basic building blocks in the formation of
complex words?
- How are more complex words built up from simpler parts?
- How is the meaning of a complex word related to the
meaning of its parts?
- How are individual words of a language related to other
words of the language?
The chapter then focuses on attempting to address these
questions. In so doing it deals with fundamental concepts
like complex words and morphemes, grammatical categories,
neologisms, inflectional morphology and derivational
The concluding section of this chapter is entitled Special
Topics (also found in 8 other chapters). In this section
problems are expanded on and current trends introduced. The
Special Topics section of Chapter 2 includes discussion on
problematic aspects of suffixes and the theme of anaphora is
briefly explained.

Chapter 3 Phonetics and Phonemic Transcription
This chapter commences with explanations on articulatory
aspects of speech production. It then moves onto
identifying the consonants, vowels and diphthongs of
American English, presenting also the phonetic script for
these sounds. Brief, almost insignificant, mention is made
of consonants and vowels in other languages. A section
entitled The Form of the English Plural Rule: Three
Hypotheses, examines the distribution of the plural
morpheme. In so doing the authors focus on their concern
with 'argumentation, justification and hypothesis testing'.
Phonetic variation is dealt with. The Special Topics
section includes discussion on the Vowels before /�/,
Contractions and Consonant Clusters.

Chapter 4 Phonology: The Study of Sound Structure
The two questions that premise this chapter are:
- How can sounds be described?
- What framework should be used to describe sound patterns?
In addressing the first question, the authors' introduce
readers to distinctive feature theory. The next question,
on rule formulation, is dealt with using the English Plural
Rule example, encountered in the preceding chapter. Thus,
the Form of the English Plural Rule is re-examined, this
time using distinctive features. The nonlinear aspect of
phonology is introduced through discussion on the Syllable
and Foot. And, the Special Topics section briefly deals
with Tone.

Chapter 5 Syntax: The Study of Sentence Structure
Commencing with an examination of the concepts of linguistic
competence and linguistic performance, this chapter examines
the aspects of syntactic structure and syntactic rules. The
latter looks at the linear and nonlinear formulation of
rules. The English Question Rule (forming a question from a
declarative sentence) is initially formulated in terms of
the ordering of the verbs, auxiliary verbs and subject. The
nonlinear aspect of syntax, tree diagrams, is then dealt
with. Under the Special Topics section, basic concepts are
extended with the examination of wh-Questions, Anaphora and
X-bar theory.

Chapter 6 Semantics: The Study of Linguistics Meaning
Chapter 6 begins with a somewhat academic examination of the
concept 'meaning'. The semantic features of words and
sentences are then explained. Thereafter, the fundamentals
of a semantic theory are outlined. Under the Special Topics
section, six aspects are dealt with. These include Mood and
Meaning; Singular and General; Deictics and Proper Names;
Definite Descriptions: Referential and Attributive; Natural
Kind Terms, Concepts, and the Division of Linguistic Labor;
and Anaphora and Coreference.

Chapter 7 Language Variation
Starting with a discussion on dialect, this chapter
progresses onto a detailed exposition on the studies of
Labov. These include his study of the New York City /�/ and
Inner-City English. Rules for the latter, namely Tag-
Controlled Deletion, Deletion of Be and Deletion and
Recoverability of Information are identified and discussed.
Inner-City English is then compared to other dialects.
Language varieties like Lingua Franca, Pidgins, Creoles,
Jargon, Slang, Taboo Language and Code Switching and
Borrowing are also explained.

Chapter 8 Language Change
This chapter deals with historical linguistics. It
commences with a brief discussion on perspectives on the
origins of language. Language similarity is then examined,
progressing to an exposition of comparative linguistics and
language reconstruction. The Indo-European language family
is focused on. Thereafter, the themes of language change
and language spread are discussed. Finally, the linguistic
history of English is dealt with concentrating on lexical,
semantic, phonological, morphological and syntactic changes.

Chapter 9 Pragmatics: The Study of Language Use and Communication
The theoretical perspectives of the Message and Inferential
Models are initially expounded in this chapter. Discourse
and Conversation is then discussed focusing on language and
context, openings, turn-taking and closings. The Special
Topics section includes discussion on the following:
Performatives; Speech Acts; Meaning, Saying and Implicating;
Pragmatic Presupposition and Speaker Reference.

Chapter 10 Psychology: Speech Production and Comprehension
Focusing on the performance model, this chapter commences
with an examination of message production and message
perception. Semantic interpretation and pragmatic
interpretation are then discussed. Theoretical perspectives
and experimental work figure significantly in this chapter.
For example, in the discussion on semantic interpretation,
the theme Concepts is presented from the points of view of
the Traditional, Probabilistic and Exemplar models. The
Special Topics section contains discussion on The McGurk
Effect; Open- and Closed-Class Items; The Psychological
Reality of Empty Categories and Connectionist Models of
Lexical Access and Letter Recognition.

Chapter 11 Language Acquisition in Children
Two theories on language acquisition are initially described
in this chapter. These are Skinner's theory on Behaviorism
and Chomsky's Language Acquisition Device (LAD). The latter
is dealt with in greater detail. It is from Chomsky's LAD
perspective that the acquisition of phonetics, phonology,
morphology and syntax are discussed. In addition, LAD is
expanded under the Special Topics section where its
principles and parameters are discussed. The stages of
language acquisition are discussed. The experiments on the
language acquisition of the primates Washoe, Koko and Kanzi
are detailed.

Chapter 12 Language and the Brain
This chapter deals with the biological aspect of language
and addresses three fundamental questions:
- the location of speech and language in the brain
- encoding and decoding of speech and language by the
nervous system
- are the components of speech, for example, syntax and
phonology, neuroanatomically distinct and thereby subject to
separate impairment.

In answering the first two questions physiological detail is
provided. To answer the third question, four distinct
aphasia syndromes are expounded - Broca's aphasia,
Wernicke's aphasia, conduction aphasia and anomia, each
affecting a different attribute of the language process. In
the section on Special Topics, experimental techniques used
to understand the language process are discussed. These
include Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Magnetic
Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Event-Related Potentials (ERP).
Finally Broca's aphasia is briefly discussed in relation to
an example from Japanese.

Appendix The Written Representation of Language
In this section the origin of writing is examined and the
ancient writing systems of several languages are considered.

In their Note to the Teacher the authors state explicitly
the objectives of their book - namely, introducing students
to the various fields of linguistics, introducing concepts
and focusing on argumentation, justification and hypothesis
testing. And these objectives they certainly accomplish.
They further absolve themselves of criticism by highlighting
and justifying their almost exclusive use of English
examples in the text.

Linguistics An Introduction to Language and Communication
has numerous noteworthy features. Firstly, the use of
questions at the commencement of several chapters is a
successful technique to give the reader the gist of the
chapter and to maintain focus as the chapter progresses.
Secondly, the information content in each chapter follows
logically, with clear subheadings, progressing from the
traditional to the more recent. Thirdly, every linguistic
topic is followed by study questions and/or exercises.
These provide excellent revision for the chapters. The
Further Reading lists at the end of each chapter are
comprehensive and invaluable to the reader. The Glossary at
the end of book serves a similar handy function. Fourthly,
one of the book's main merits is its clarity of exposition.

However, there are a few shortcomings. Firstly, my
impression is that Linguistics An Introduction to Language
and Communication is very much that - an introduction to
linguistics. This leads to my second criticism - the book,
at certain points, lacks depth. Chapter 4 Phonology: The
Study of Sound Structure, for example, does not focus
adequately on nonlinear phonology, a trend that has
prevailed strongly since the 80s. It is unacceptable to
find a 2001 edition of a book not even mentioning feature
geometry in the context of a discussion on distinctive
feature theory. Similarly, tonology is a vibrant field, and
although relegated to the Special Topics section, its
treatment is rather superficial. Granted, this is an
introductory textbook and tonology is not distinctive in
English, but I am of the opinion that any credible phonology
course will comprehensively deal with Suprasegmental
Phonology. In Chapter 7 Language Variation, discussion on
racist and sexist varieties of language is omitted. The
latter are attention grabbers and can be related to
semantics and pragmatics. My third issue with the book is
the converse of the second - that of laboring on certain
points. For example, in Chapter 3 Phonetics and Phonemic
Transcription, the provision of Table 3.2 on the Consonants
of English is adequate and the accompanying, exhaustive
five-page explanation could have been condensed. Similarly,
it might have been more useful to include a vowel chart.
The inclusion of the spectrogram, in Figure 3.8., was a
trifle unnecessary as spectrograms, per se, are not dealt
with. Fourthly, I could not reconcile the need for emphasis
on theoretical perspectives in chapters dealing with
Semantics, Pragmatics and Psychology of Language, and the
lack thereof in other chapters. For example, the
theoretical frameworks of phonology and syntax are not made
explicit. I found this an inconsistency in style.

Finally, as this is the 5th edition of the book, I decided
to glance through a previous edition, in this instance the
3rd edition, published a decade ago. I was rather
disappointed to see that not too much had changed. Granted,
there was expansion of certain concepts, for example,
Neologisms in Chapter 2. In Chapter 5 there are complete
new additions. And exercises have been changed and/or
added. But, one could still use the 3rd edition and not be
too far off from the latest edition.

Linguistics An Introduction to Language and Communication is
a good textbook, but I would be inclined to use it
conjunction with other books.

Akmajian, A, R.A.Demers, A.K.Farmer and R.M.Harnish (1990)
Linguistics An Introduction to Language and Communication,
3rd edition. MIT Press

Biographical Statement
Shamila Naidoo is a doctoral student at REPUS, concentrating
on Feature Geometry. Her language of specialization is
isiZulu, an Nguni language. Her other interests include
second language teaching.


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