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Review of  Relevant Linguistics, 2nd Edition, Revised and Expanded


Reviewer: Sigal Uziel-Karl
Book Title: Relevant Linguistics, 2nd Edition, Revised and Expanded
Book Author: Paul W. Justice
Publisher: CSLI Publications
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
General Linguistics
Linguistic Theories
Morphology
Phonetics
Phonology
Sociolinguistics
Syntax
Subject Language(s): English
Book Announcement: 16.1331

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Date: Sun, 24 Apr 2005 23:32:55 +0200
From: Sigal Uziel-Karl <sigal@alum.mit.edu>
Subject: Relevant Linguistics, 2nd ed.

AUTHOR: Justice, Paul W.
TITLE: Relevant Linguistics, 2nd Edition, Revised and Expanded
SUBTITLE: An Introduction to the Structure and Use of English for Teachers
PUBLISHER: CSLI Publications
YEAR: 2004

Sigal Uziel-Karl, English Department, Kibbutzim College of Education, Tel
Aviv, Israel

OVERVIEW
"Relevant Linguistics" is an introduction to Linguistics intended
primarily for language teachers, teaching trainees and non-linguistics
majors. The aim of this textbook is to make knowledge about language and
linguistics more comprehensible and more relevant to this particular group
of students, and hence more appropriate for its specific needs. Focusing
on the structure and use of English, this textbook provides a clear and
accessible introduction to the major subfields of linguistics: phonetics,
phonology, morphology, morphophonology, and syntax, as well as to language
variation and English dialects. The book offers clear and simple
explanations of key concepts, supported by numerous step-by-step analyses
of examples from English to help students "experience" with language, and
thus to enhance their understanding of the subject matter. It includes
lots of exercises at various levels of difficulty, and many useful
appendixes which cover additional topics not addressed in the text. This
textbook answers a true need for designated textbooks and course material
for this student population, and will, no doubt, be of great use to its
intended audience - teachers, students and instructors alike.

PURPOSE AND CONTENTS
In recent years, as more and more teacher training programs are beginning
to realize the importance of linguistics for teaching trainees and
classroom teachers, there is a growing need for appropriate course
material for this particular student population. "Relevant Linguistics"
aims to address this need.
The textbook contains a preface to the student and instructor, seven
chapters, each devoted to one subfield of linguistics (phonetics,
phonology, morphology, morphophonology, and syntax, language variation and
English dialects), a number of appendixes, a glossary, a reference list,
an index, and lots of practice exercises of different kinds and of
different levels of complexity. Each chapter contains quick exercises in
the body of the text and a section of exercises at the end. In addition, a
set of more advanced problem sets are provided in the last appendix.

The preface outlines the general goals of the book and the pedagogical
plan behind it. It lays out the author's considerations in writing the
book, and dwells on the struggle between the need to present a complete,
comprehensive linguistic analysis and at the same time provide simple,
straightforward explanations that would cater to the needs of the book's
intended audience. It describes how the book should be used and recommends
a preferred order of teaching.

Chapter 1 addresses foundational issues in the field like what is
linguistics, the role of the linguist, the nature of language, the role of
words as representing meaning, prescriptivism versus descriptivism, spoken
versus written language, and the relevance of linguistics to the English
teacher. The author uses the discussion of these issues to clear up some
common misconceptions about linguistics, and make his readers aware of the
complexity of language and of the scientific nature of linguistic analysis.

Chapter 2 is devoted to phonetics, and specifically, to the sound system
of English. It covers the following topics: distinctive features of
English consonants - place and manner of articulation, voicing and
nasality, the connection between spelling and sound, phonemes as abstract
representations of sounds, vowels and their properties, diphtongs, and the
importance of schwa in English.

Chapter 3 is devoted to phonology. In this chapter, the author introduces
the notion "levels of representation" (surface versus underlying form),
and elaborates on the differences between phonemes and allophones. He
introduces the notion "phonological rule" and describes different rule
types. He then goes on to discuss four phonological rules of American
English: vowel nasalization, vowel lengthening, aspiration, and flapping,
and outlines a procedure for data analysis. Finally, he discusses English
spelling, and English phonotactics - syllable structure, constraints on
syllable structure, and stress patterns.

Chapter 4 explores various aspects of English Morphology: Major and minor
word classes (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs versus pronouns) and their
division into categories based on their form and function; word structure,
and morpheme types: free versus bound, lexical versus grammatical, root
versus affix, and inflectional versus derivational morphemes. In addition,
the author discusses the interrelation between morpheme form and meaning;
he outlines a method for the hierarchical representation of internal word
structure, and describes some common word-formation strategies in English.

Chapter 5 is devoted morphophonology. The chapter begins with some
definitions of key concepts in morphophonology like allomorphy and
allomorphic variation with affixes. The author then outlines a procedure
for conducting morphophonological analysis. Next, he leads the readers
through analyses of two examples of morphophonological rules from English:
the past tense and the plural. Finally, he elaborates on the connection
between spelling and morphophonology.

Chapter 6 is devoted to syntax. It introduces new lexical categories -
determiners, prepositions, auxiliaries, conjunctions, and expands the
discussion of categories already introduced in chapter 4 (nouns, verbs,
adjectives, adverbs, pronouns). Additional topics addressed in this
chapter include: sentence types, types of subordination, constituent
structure, hierarchical representation of phrase and sentence structure,
grammatical relations, structural ambiguity, phrase structure rules,
subcategorization and transitivity, and the role of transformations.

Chapter 7 focuses on language variation and English dialects. The first
part of the chapter includes a general overview - the author distinguishes
different languages from "dialects" of a particular language, describes
the dimensions along which languages may vary and the different levels of
variation. The second part includes an analysis of real data - Afro-
American English (AAE). The analysis draws upon the knowledge and skills
acquired in the preceding chapters and relates to the phonological,
morphological, and syntactic characteristics of AAE. The last part of the
chapter discusses the implications of dialect study to language teaching,
its role in reducing prejudice, and the notion of bi-dialectalism.

Appendixes - Each chapter has an appendix, which builds on the content
presented in the chapter and expands it either by presenting more advanced
approach to the same material, or by introducing new material previously
not addressed in the chapters.. Some of the issues discussed in the
appendixes include ambiguity, the history of English, phonetic alphabets,
ordering of phonological rules, internet resources for learning new words,
the and the English Tense/Aspect system. An eighth appendix includes
analysis questions in the different subfields of linguistics discussed in
the chapters.

CRITICAL EVALUATION

"Relevant Linguistics" was written with a specific population of students
in mind, and indeed it succeeds in providing its intended audience with an
accessible and relevant introduction to linguistics. In the textbook,
Justice manages to maintain the necessary balance between the need to
introduce theoretical issues in linguistics and analyze them using
scientific methods practiced in the field, and the constant need to show
their possible application to classroom situations and language teaching.
He achieves this balance by presenting the theoretical material in a very
gradual and structured manner and by skillfully explaining complex
theoretical concepts in a simple comprehensible manner, using examples and
lots of practice exercises. At the same time he takes care to lay out the
specific goals of each chapter at its outset, highlight areas of
linguistics that are most relevant to L2 learning and teaching, and
occasionally make suggestions for specific applications of the material to
classroom situations.

Despite its merits, the book does have some minor flaws. Thus, even though
the author explains the need to compromise completeness for simplicity of
explanation, the latter should be tantamount to inaccuracy. Some cases of
inaccuracy were found in the book: For example, the author uses the
term "expression" (p. 4) to refer to "words" stating that expressions can
have multiple meanings depending on the situation in which they are
uttered, when, in fact, the term expression is used in semantic theory to
refer to a word or a proposition detached from context. On p. 24 and in
several other occasions, the author uses the term "phonetic transcription"
when referring to phonemic transcription. On p. 107 the author refers to
category changes caused by affixation (N®V) as changes in "grammatical
function", when, in fact, these are changes in the lexical or grammatical
category of a word. The term "grammatical function" refers to the function
that a lexical element fulfills in the sentence
like "subject", "object", "predicate", etc. The author uses some non-
conventional terms and notations in the chapter on syntax. For example,
the equal sign (=) is used to mark "may be of the form" (e.g., S = NP+VP)
instead of the conventional arrow (-->), a fraction sign (-) is used to
mark choice instead of the conventional curly brackets { }, and a plus
sign (+) is inserted between the phrasal categories, where no sign is
generally used.

Some of the exercises seem to have been written with American students in
mind, since they assume familiarity with American life and culture. This
might make it more difficult for students outside the USA to tackle them.
For example, the author uses celebrity names and jokes to practice
rewriting of phonetic transcription in English orthography. These kinds of
items are culture bound, and may therefore require knowledge beyond
phonetics to be worked out (other exercises of this kind appear on p.268,
E7.2). Similarly, some exercises may be difficult for an audience of non-
native English speakers due to lack of sufficient exposure to the
language. For example, on page 42 (Ex. B) there is an exercise on the
representation of some sounds by multiple spellings. This exercise uses
vowel sounds. It is my impression that non-native speakers of English have
a much harder time perceiving the subtleties involved in the pronunciation
of vowels than of consonants in English. Therefore, it would have been
much easier for them to practice the use of different spellings of a
consonant instead (e.g., /k/ - k, c, ch, ck, que). Finally, the author
sometimes uses abbreviations without specifying the words they stand for
(e.g., DUI on p. 203, Ex 6.26).

Despite the discussion of various topics in semantics throughout the book
and in the appendixes, I feel that potential users of the book could have
benefited from a chapter on semantics. This chapter would introduce basic
terms in the field like ambiguity, homonymy, synonymy, antonymy that are
relevant for classroom teaching in an orderly and structured manner.
Another topic which I find relevant for the intended audience of this
book, and which has not been included in it is L1 acquisition.

A note on formatting is in order. In chapter 6 the author uses tree
diagrams to represent the hierarchical structure of sentences in English.
However, graphically, the diagrams do not present constituents that are on
the same syntactic level (e.g., NP, VP) as such, which makes it harder to
see that certain constituents belong together. In the text, bold-type font
is used both to emphasize terms that appear in the glossary and ones that
appear in the index, but these two groups do not always overlap, which
makes looking them up in the glossary or index a bit confusing. Finally,
in the preface to the second edition the author states that it
includes "corrections of typographical errors", however, reading through
the book revealed that quite a few errors remained.

All in all, this textbook answers a true need for designated course
material for a particular group of students, and indeed it succeeds in
providing teachers and teacher trainees with knowledge of the core
subfields of linguistic theory in a way that is more accessible, more
interesting and more relevant to them. It is highly recommended as an
introductory textbook, and will, no doubt, be of great use to its intended
audience - teachers, students and instructors alike.

REFERENCES

Fromkin, Victoria, Robert Rodman & Nina Hyams (2002) An Introduction to
Language, 7th Edition. Heinle and Heinle.

Loebner, Sebastian (2002) Understanding Semantics. Arnold and Oxford
University Press.

Radford, Andrew (1997) Syntactic Theory and the Structure of English.
Cambridge University Press.




 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER


Sigal Uziel-Karl is currently a lecturer at the Kibbutzim College of
Education in Tel Aviv, where she teaches linguistics at the English
teacher training program. Her courses include: Introduction to
linguistics, Morphology, Syntax and Semantics. She received her BA in
Linguistics from Tel Aviv University, her MS in Second Language
Acquisition from MIT, and her Ph.D. in First Language acquisition from Tel
Aviv University. Her research interests include various aspects of verb
acquisition (the verb lexicon, verb morphology, semantics and argument
structure), individual and crosslinguistic differences in acquisition, the
effects of parental input on early acquisition, and research methodology.


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