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A bundle of book reviews

From:taliesin the storyteller <taliesin-conlang@...>
Date:Saturday, August 4, 2007, 18:56
For the last two weeks I've been on vacation (all over on
monday, boo hiss), and vacation is an excellent time to catch up
on some conlang-related reading. I asked for tricky sentences a
while back and have been tracking down suitable papers since,
so: with no further ado, here's reviews of a handful of
linguistics books.

Cardinaletti, Anna; Guasti, Maria Teresa (eds.) 1995. Small

Resultatives (I walked my shoes *flat*) and depictives (They eat
fish *raw*) are two types of small clauses. The book in question
must have been very popular at my uni.'s library since the
hardcover was falling to pieces, there were pencil-marks and
annotations everywhere and there was the smell of old paper
having been stored in musty student's dens... ick. For
comparison, there were other books in the same series next to
it, all untouched.

Unfortunately all the papers in the collection was using the
minimalism framework, which basically meant I spent my
skimming-time wondering whether their oh so logical solutions
was to problems caused by minimalism itself, complete with "we
won't bother to explain this example, really, as it's this
little tree over here and these greek letters over there that
you want, really".

Though, there was at least one good paper in it: "Remarks on
clause structure" by Tim Stowell. This is basically a discussion
of what small clauses are, blissfully free of binary branching
trees and with plenty of examples.

The book is so old that you cannot expect to find it in digital
format but if you have the means and are interested in small
clauses the Stowell-paper is worth a (xeroxed) copy.

Dixon, Robert M. W.; Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. (eds.) 2004.
Adjective classes: a cross-linguistic typology

Dixon, R. M. W.; Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. (eds.) 2006.
Complementation: a cross-linguistic typology

Aikhenvald, A. Y.; Dixon, Robert M. W. (eds.) 2006. Serial verb
constructions: a cross-linguistic typology

These three are in the same series and have the same structure.
The first chapter in each (which can all be found online)
details the typologies themselves: what is meant by the term,
how it manifests in different languages, what types of languages
have what variants etc. All good though sometimes the examples
discussed  are from later chapters in the books, meaning quite a
bit of page-flipping.

The other chapters each detail one language and how that
language deals with the theme of the book. The languages chosen
are from all over and quite distinct in their natures, so it's
possible to look up the type of language one is interested in to
see examples and discussions of how the theme is handled in that
type of language. There's your isolating langs (Mandarin,
Cantonese, Lao, Thai etc.), your scary monstrosity of both head-
and dependent-marking amazonian super-agglutinative with
sandhi-langs (often Tariana, Aikhenvald's specialty), Ewe
(representing the West-African SVC-club and written by Felix
Ameka... who is working on a reference-grammar maybe? He seems
to be everywhere Ewe is discussed these days), some germanic
language or other on behalf of PIE, in addition to the English
examples used in the first chapter, one or a handful of
Australian languages (Dixon's students, maybe?) and some
representatives from Papua New-Guinea, the Pacific and the
non-Amazon Americas.

S'all good but the non-first chapters are very dependent on the
first chapter, so reading all of them gets repetitive. Better to
pick 'n choose (and to have one's own copy of the first chapter
of each, for reference).

Himmelmann, Nikolaus; Schultze-Berndt, Eva (eds.) 2005.
Secondary predication and adverbial modification: the typology
of depictives

In structure this resembles the three books above, while in
theme it's like the book on small clauses. Basically it
discusses adjuncts, complements, adverbials, adjectives,
copulas, almost-copulas, which is which and when, how
and what various langs separate/combine/do with the mentioned
categories/word classes/phenomena.

The first and last chapters are great: The first chapter
introduces the problem and gives an overview on how various
langs encode adverbial *meaning* and unexpected other things
that turn out to behave somewhat like (manner) adverbials. The
last chapter zooms even further out and compares the various
uses of adjectives, depictives and adverbials. Both chapters use
semantic maps for this. The rest of the chapters are a bit more
standalone than the chapters in the "cross-linguistic typology"
-series so takes a bit more skimming to find the good bits.

So, there ya go. The last four are well worth a peek. There'll
be quite a few additional pages about the finer points of
Taruven grammar thanks to these books, pages I'll announce when
they are sufficiently complete to serve as examples of the
themes in question.