Language Variation in South Asia.

Author:Shapiro, Michael C.
 
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The publications of William Bright, until his retirement Professor of Linguistics and Anthropology at U.C.L.A., from 1966 to 1987 editor of Language, and in recent years editor-in-chief of the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, have spanned numerous subject matters, academic disciplines, geographic areas, and language families. His writings have dealt with such far-ranging topics as Dravidian grammar and historical phonology, Indian epigraphy and paleography, sociolinguistic and ethnographic theory, and Amerindian linguistics, folklore, and ethnography. To a considerable extent, the range of fields in which Bright has published has reflected the influence of two of Bright's teachers at Berkeley, Murray B. Emeneau and Mary R. Haas. The inspiration of these teachers has been evident in Bright's career-long insistence upon viewing linguistic structures, whether Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, or Amerindian, in broad social and historical contexts. In addition, Bright has insisted upon the necessity for describing languages in ways that profile patterns of internal variation (whether geographically or socially conditioned) and properties that have resulted from linguistic convergence.

The range of Bright's interests with regard to South Asian languages is well illustrated in the book at hand. It consists of reprinted versions of eleven papers first published between 1960 and 1988: "Linguistic change in some Indian caste dialects" (1960); "Sociolinguistic variation and language change" (with A. K. Ramanujan, 1964); "Dravidian metaphony" (1966); "Language, social stratification, and cognitive orientation" (1966); "Complex verb forms in colloquial Tamil" (with J. Lindenfeld, 1968); "Phonological rules in literary and colloquial Kannada (1970); "Hindi numerals" (1972); "The Dravidian enunciative vowel" (1975); "How not to decipher the Indus Valley inscriptions" (1981); "Archaeology, linguistics, and ancient Dravidian" (1986); and "Written and spoken languages in South Asia" (1988). The book begins with a preface, largely autobiographical in nature, in which Bright describes his debt to Emeneau and Haas,...

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