Posted: Jul 14, 2021 1:00 am
by don't get me started
1. Pragmatic Meaning and Cognition – Sophia S.A. Marmaridou
2. Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany and Japan - Randall Hansen
3. Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics – René Dirven and Marjolijn Verspoor (Eds.)
4. Age of Static: How TV Explains Modern Britain – Phil Harrison
5. The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating our Species and Making us Smarter – Joseph Henrich
6. Heroic Failure and the British - Stephanie Barczewski
7. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain - Maryanne Wolf
8. Language Soup: A Taste of How Diverse People Around the World Communicate - Kathryn A. T. Knox
9. A Place for everything: The curious History of Alphabetical order – Judith Flanders
10. Contrastive Analysis - Carl James
11. Impossible Languages- Andrea Moro
12. Languages in the World: How History, Culture and Politics Shape Language – Jukie tetel Andresen and Phillip M. Carter
13. HHhH - Laurent Binet (Translated from the French by Sam Taylor)
14. Impoliteness: Using Language to Cause Offense – Jonathan Culpeper
15. Ethosyntax: Explorations in Grammar and Culture – N. J. Enfield (Ed.)
16. Second Language Speech Fluency: From Research to Practice – Parvaneh Tavakoli & Clare Wright.
17. At Day's Close: Night in Times Past – A. Roger Ekirch
18. Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation – Michael Agar
19. Possessives in English: An Exploration in Cognitive Grammar - John R. Taylor
20. I saw the Dog: How Language Works – Alexandra Aikhenvald.
21. The German War: A Nation under Arms, 1939 – 1945 – Nicholas Stargardt
22. Civilizations – Laurent Binet

23. Adjective Classes: A Cross-linguistic Typology - R. M. W. Dixon & A. Aikhenvald (Eds.)

370 pp.

I’ve been picking away at this for a while now, reading a chapter here and a chapter there. Challenging stuff, but really interesting. From the point of view of traditional language learning, the classes of words, especially nouns, verbs and adjectives seem to be fairly discrete and self-evident. But it turns out that clear cut distinctions are not always so easy to make - especially in the case of adjectives. In this book each chapter is dedicated to the adjective system, of a particular language. There are chapters on some ‘big’ languages like Japanese, Korean, Wolof and Russian, and also chapters on less-well know languages such at Tariana, Papantla Totonac, North-East Ambae and so on. (Amazonia, Mexico, Vanuatu respectively.)

There is a wealth of detail about how some languages have a very restricted set of adjectives – this seems hard to get to grips with, but an example from Japanese will suffice. English has two adjectives that differentiate between animate and inanimate – young and new. For the opposites English doesn’t differentiate and uses the same adjective for both – old. (An old man and an old book.) Japanese likewise differentiates between inanimates for the lower value (atarashii- new, wakai- young), but for the opposites there is only an adjective for inanimates – furui (furui hon = old book.) For animates there is no adjective for ‘old’. Instead, you describe a person of advanced years as ‘take years’. (Toshii yori) saying something like ‘There was a take years woman who lived in a shoe.’ (Japanese also has words (adjectives?) that differentiate ‘hot’ from ‘hot to the touch’ and ‘cold’ and cold to the touch.) The whole crossover between English and Japanese adjectives is a fascinating area.

It was interesting to read about all of the different systems that exist for expressing concepts that English would deploy an adjective for and all of the bells and whistles that go into making the concepts expressible within the grammar of a language.

One of the underlying themes of the book was that adjectives sometimes drift verb-wards and take a lot of the grammar and morphology that verbs also use. In the Senegalese language Wolof, verbs and adjectives are only marginally distinguishable by applying very subtle analytical criteria. Adjectives behave like verbs in a way that is kind of alien to English. “The door is white” comes out as something like ‘The door whites.’ In Wolof. (A crude comparison, but it gets the point across.)

The chapter on Russian brought me out in cold sweats as I remembered my attempts to get to grips with the grammar of that language. It is really heavily inflected, and it seems like to have to do multiple things to every word in a sentence to get it to be grammatical. Knowing a word in its dictionary form is only ever the starting point in Russian.

A very interesting and thought-provoking book. Many a post it placed for future reference.

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