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Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users."
Date: Mon, 07 Mar 2005 08:53:00 -0800 From: Ed Vajda Subject: A Grammar of Qiang with Annotated Texts and Glossary
AUTHOR: LaPolla, Randy J., with Huang, Chenglong TITLE: A Grammar of Qiang with Annotated Texts and Glossary SERIES: Mouton Grammar Library 31 PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter YEAR: 2003
Edward J. Vajda, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington
[This review was originally submitted in July 2004, but not received. We apologize to the reviewer, author and publisher for the delay in posting it. --Eds.]
DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK
Qiang is an endangered Sino-Tibetan language spoken in the northern part of China's Sichuan Province. This full-length reference grammar is based on extensive fieldwork conducted with speakers of the Yadu subdialect of northern Qiang. The author, Randy LaPolla, is already well-known for his extensive work on Sino-Tibetan languages in general (Thurgood and LaPolla 2003) and Dulong-Rawang in particular (LaPolla 2000). The other contributor, Chenglong Huang, is a native speaker informant whose expertise and hospitality were instrumental in helping the author complete his research. The data included in the book come from Mr. Huang or members of his family, with whom L stayed during much of his fieldwork.
The book contains five chapters, a collection of six annotated Qiang texts, and an extensive English-Qiang glossary arranged by semantic field. There is also a map of Sichuan Province showing the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, where most of the 70,000 or so native speakers live (xv), and two plates showing black-and-white photographs of Qiang villages (xvi-xvii).
Chapter 1 (1-20), entitled 'Introduction', discusses Qiang society and culture. Subsections describe the geographic setting, speakers' livelihoods, traditional occupations, foods, houses, clothing, and kinship system. A chart (4) gives the Qiang alphabet together with corresponding IPA symbols. The alphabet, devised in the 1980s, is based on a single regional dialect. With little opportunity for use as the basis of a literary tradition, the script has done little to stem the intensifying language shift over to Mandarin Chinese. There is also brief discussion of previous work done on the language (16-17).
Chapter 2 (21-37) discusses the phonological system. Qiang phonology is rather complex for a Tibeto-Burman language. There are 39 consonants, distributed over seven places of articulation: labial, dental, retroflex, palatal, velar, uvular and glottal. Consonants form a wide variety of anlaut as well as auslaut clusters. The latter are not inherited from Proto-Tibeto-Burman, but instead derive from diachronically later conflations of disyllables into monosyllables. The vowel system is equally complex, with eight cardinal vowel articulations. Length (short vs. geminate) is phonemic at each articulation. There are also phonemically rhotacized vowels, a wide variety of diphthongs, and even one triphthong. Because both on-glides and off-glides are prevalent, Qiang syllable structure is quite diverse, particularly given the concomitant complexity of consonant articulations and clusters. A system of vowel harmony operates in word formation. On the prosodic level, there is a non-melodic word stress rather than a system of phonemic tones.
Chapter 3 (39-117) discusses nominal morphology. This includes pronouns, but excludes adjectives, which are a type of stative verb morphologically. Nouns lack grammatical gender, though certain derivational suffixes identify living beings as biologically male or female. Noun stems may consist of single roots or contain two nouns, with the modifying noun always preceding its semantic head. Numerals follow the noun and must in turn be followed by a classifier morpheme. Simple adjectives also follow their head noun, though relativized modifiers as well as possessive nouns marked in the genitive preceded the head noun. A chart (39) gives the general structure of the noun phrase as follows: genitive phrase + relative clause + NOUN + adjective + demonstrative or definite marker + (numeral + classifier)/plural suffix. Qiang is both head-marking as well as dependent marking. Postpositions may attach to a noun phrase to identify it as actor or undergoer, recipient, benefactor, instrument, or a variety of other roles. The form and functions of these postpositions are neatly summarized in a chart (114). Functional sentence perspective requires that the first noun phrase or postpositional phrase in the sentence be the topic, regardless of its semantic role. Postpositions can be used optionally to identify which semantic role the topic expresses.
Chapter 4 (119-220) tackles the most involved aspect of Qiang morphology: the finite verb complex, which contains both prefixes as well as suffixes. A chart (120) lists sixteen morpheme classes, including the verb root itself. The verb root is preceded by four prefixal classes: intensifying adverb, directional prefix, negative prefix, and the continuative aspect marker. There are twelve suffix positions that include such functions as evidentiality, aspect, and causativity. Different types of evidentiality are expressed using distinct position classes: inferential evidential in suffixal slot seven, visual evidential in suffixal slot eight, and hearsay evidential in suffixal slot eleven - the last position in the verb form. There are also two positionally and morphologically distinct sets of pronominal agreement markers that coordinate with non-actor (the third to last slot) and actor (the next to last slot). Verb stems are usually strictly transitive or intransitive, though there are a small number of ambitransitive (labile) verbs, which can function either as transitives or intransitives. A verb root plus third-person agreement suffix would constitute the minimal verb complex, so that even the shortest finite verb forms are polymorphemic. One of the interesting features of the Qiang verb is its system of eight directional prefixes, which are cognate with prefixal forms in other Qiangic and denote the following spatial notions: "vertically up, vertically down, upstream, downstream, toward the center, out from center, in, out". Many verbs can only combine with a single prefix, often with lexicalized meaning; others are capable of combining with all eight prefixes.
Chapter 5 (221-48), entitled "The clause and complex structures," pulls together information about noun and verb phrases given in the earlier chapters, and also discusses sentential syntax. Topics discussed here include the use of nominalizations in relative constructions, coordination strategies, complex structures consisting of multiple clauses, and the structure of narratives in general. Quite a bit of information is also provided on focus marking and topic/comment structure.
The next section (249-328) is a collection of six previously unpublished Qiang texts. Each text is presented with morpheme divisions and interlinear morpheme glosses, followed by a literal English translation. Text topics range from creation myths ("The creation of the world", "The legend of the origin of all things") to animal tales ("Uncle Snake") and tales of everyday life ("The story of a lazy man", "An orphan", "The old man of the Chen family").
The English-Qiang glossary (329-88) is arranged according to the following semantic classes: natural phenomena, wild animals, birds, domestic animals, insects, fish, plants, farming, food, food preparation, eating and storage utensils, buildings and structures, furniture, tools, trade and business, town and road, travel, language and communication, religion, festivals, games and play, body parts, actions involving body parts, grooming, life and death, warfare, kinship, types of people, verbs of interaction between people, stative verbs (i.e., adjectives), time phrases, movement, quantifiers, pronouns, and adverbs and particles. This is followed by an alphabetized English-Qiang index (389-420), a section of endnotes (421-32), a bibliography that cites most easily accessible work published previously on Qiang (433-42), and an index to the grammatical sections of the book (443-45).
This grammar contains a thorough description of a particular subdialect of the northern dialect of Qiang. Information of this extensive detail and clarity is not available on this language from any other English source. L also includes, in passing, quite a few remarks of a historical-comparative nature that shed light on the genetic relationship between Qiang and other members of the Qiangic branch of Tibeto-Burman. Despite the complex dialectal situation, L provides little information on the local diversity of Qiang dialects, which are only now being exhaustively surveyed by the Qiang Dialect Atlas Project. The main thrust of this book is to provide a detailed synchronic reference of a single language form, unencumbered by discussion of dialectal variations. This is to be expected, since the series in which this volume was published is designed primarily to provide descriptive references to contemporary languages in the form of a thorough grammatical sketch accompanied by annotated texts and dictionary materials - all of which L succeeds in providing. Considerable space is devoted to pragmatic structure and its influence on morphosyntax and word order patterns. Also useful is L's use in the grammatical explanations of narrative examples taken from the folktales he includes as complete narrative texts in the volume's second section. Like any superbly written descriptive grammar, this book will be of great value to typologist and linguist in general, but in particular to Sino-Tibetanists and anyone interested in Qiang language or culture. It is certain to remain the standard reference on this language for many years to come.
LaPolla, Randy J. (2000) Valency-changing derivations in Dulong-Rawang. Changing valency: Case studies in transitivity, ed. by R. M. W. Dixon & Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald, pp. 282-311. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Thurgood, Graham and Randy J. LaPolla (2003) The Sino-Tibetan Languages. London & New York: Routledge.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Edward J. Vajda is professor of linguistics, Russian language, and Eurasian studies at Western Washington University. He is an editor of the journal Word. His research interests include minority languages of the former Soviet Union and other areas of Eurasia. For the past several years he has been intensively involved in descriptive research on the structure of Ket, a language isolate spoken by a few hundred people in Central Siberia near the Yenisei River.