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Review of  A Linguistics Workbook, 4th edition

Reviewer: Shamila Naidoo
Book Title: A Linguistics Workbook, 4th edition
Book Author: Richard A. Demers Ann K. Farmer
Publisher: MIT Press
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Issue Number: 12.3153

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Farmer, Ann K., and Richard A. Demers (2001) A Linguistics Workbook,
4th ed. MIT Press, paperback ISBN 0-262-56143-3, xi+280pp, $21.95
(1st ed. 1986).

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

[This book is published as a companion to Linguistics: An Introduction
to Language and Communication, reviewed in the previous issue --Eds.]

The authors, Farmer and Demers, succinctly capture the
purpose of the workbook - it is "intended to make doing
linguistics possible". The workbook should thus be used in
conjunction with the textbook, Linguistics An Introduction
to Language and Communication. A Linguistics Workbook
contains 74 practical exercises, using examples from several
languages, and thematized under the following chapters:
Chapter 1 Morphology
Chapter 2 Phonetics
Chapter 3 Phonology
Chapter 4 Syntax
Chapter 5 Semantics
Chapter 6 Language Variation
Chapter 7 Language Change
Chapter 8 Pragmatics
Chapter 9 Psychology of Language

This review does not provide a detailed critique of the 74
exercises, except to say that the exercises provide an
excellent teaching/learning aid. Brief comments on each
chapter, concentrating on noteworthy inclusions follow.

Chapter 1 Morphology
There are ten exercises in this chapter. They deal with
form and meaning, open and closed words, ambiguity, and
derivational and inflectional morphology. The exercises
dealing with derivational and inflectional aspects are
particularly good as they include examples from English,
Russian, Tohono O'odham and Turkish. The student thus has
the advantage of applying the same concepts in different

Chapter 2 Phonetics
This chapter contains six exercises. Three of these deal
with transcription. Two deal with phonetic variation and
require the application of the concepts complementary
distribution, allophones and rule formulation. One exercise
deals with the Japanese writing system and focuses on the
role of symbols and diacritics.

Chapter 3 Phonology
Chapter 3 consists of 10 exercises from 5 languages. Six of
these exercises deal with phonological rules. In tackling
questions on phonological rules, the student also has deal
with the following:
- identifying distinctive features
- using distinctive features to describe sounds and
phonological environments
- examining the distribution of sounds
- formulating phonological rules
- considering and identifying morphological aspects in a
phonological context
There are two exercises on the syllable and feet topic. The
final two exercises deal with phonetic variation and
orthography & pronunciation - a return to the phonetic

Chapter 4 Syntax
Chapter 4 has 25 exercises from 13 languages. The first 8
exercises are examples from English and require the
generation and analysis of tree structures. Among the
constituents dealt with in these exercises are NPs; VPs;
PPs; Possessive NP with PP; Verb-Particle; VP PP; S-Adverbs
and VP Adverbs. The next 6 simple sentence exercises are
drawn from other languages. Using deductive techniques,
students are required to predict forms, for example verbs,
nouns and pronouns. Concepts like word order are focused
on. These exercises are then followed by 2 complex sentence
exercises. Complex sentences contain relative clauses.
Again, using deductive techniques, students are required to
identify verb forms, phrases and words. These exercises are
more complex in that syntactic properties and grammaticality
are examined. 4 morphosyntax exercises then follow. The
student is required to identify, not forms, but verb,
subject, object and tense morphemes. The ordering of
morphemes and phonological factors that affect morphemes are
also considered in these exercises. The next tree diagram
exercise, based on the C-Command, uses English as an
example. Finally, there are 4 exercises on the reflexive,
using examples from English, Russian and Japanese.
Exercises based on the latter two examples are particularly
interesting in that they commence with the simple task of
identifying words. Thereafter, the comparative aspect
surfaces - examining/comparing restrictions between Russian
and Japanese, and English. Also syntactic differences among
the Japanese sentences and their yield in terms of meaning
are analysed.

Chapter 5 Semantics
Chapter 5 consists of 6 exercises. It commences with an
exercise that uses cartoons to elicit responses on
compositional and noncompositional meanings. This is
followed by exercises on ambiguity, homophony and polysemy
and evaluative and emotive meaning. The final exercise
examines grammaticalization in Navajo, Mandarin Chinese and

Chapter 6 Language Variation
There are two exercises in this chapter. One deals with
pronouns in English. The other entails translating a
passage from British English to American English.

Chapter 7 Language Change
This chapter contains two exercises in which the student,
using Grimms Law as a starting point, has to determine the
descendant English word and describe the meaning change.
The two exercises are based in the same question, but the
examples given in the second exercise are more complex.

Chapter 8 Pragmatics
Chapter 8 consists of 12 exercises. Two exercises use
cartoons to examine how messages are conveyed. Other
exercises deal with literal/nonliteral communication;
indirectness; pronouns; proverbs, performative and
perlocutionary verbs. 4 exercises are based on Moods and
use examples from Finnish, Copola Trique, Mandarin Chinese
and Navajo. The final exercise, dealing with grammatical
relations and unacceptable sentences, uses Navajo as an

Chapter 9 Psychology of Language
Chapter 9 contains one exercise on speech errors.

Herein is contained some helpful information in the form of
phonetic and feature charts, rule writing conventions and
short explanations on the Message Model and Major Moods.

A Linguistics Workbook comes highly recommended. Although
designed for use in conjunction with Linguistics: An
Introduction to Language and Communication (reviewed in the
previous issue), this workbook can be used on its own or with
books. The lucid manner in which exercises are structured leads
me to suggest that in certain sections it might be advisable for
the student tocomplete exercises from the workbook first, and then
move onto theoretical matters. The progressive complexity of
exercises is also commendable.

A Linguistics Workbook is a fantastic tool for teachers and
students. It contains exercises from several languages,
thus introducing students to the structural properties of
those languages. Students are often required, in the
exercises, to apply the same linguistic concepts to
different languages, thereby assessing the extent to which
linguistic principles may or may not be universal.
One noteworthy shortcoming of A Linguistics Workbook is that
the Phonology section is too preoccupied with linear
application. If this book is to serve the intermediate
level as well, then nonlinear phonology must be adequately

The 3rd edition of A Linguistics Workbook was published in
1996. A few minor changes have been made in the newer
edition. Overall, most of the exercises from the 3rd
edition (68 to be exact) have been reproduced, almost
identically, in this 4th edition.

Farmer, A.K and R. A.Demers (1996) A Linguistics Workbook,
3rd edition. MIT Press

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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