Greek Particles—R.S. Sriyatha Babel Vol I, No 2 Contents

The Semantics and Pragmatics of Voice Systems: A Functional Analysis, by Carrie Cameron. 170 pages. Houston, Texas, USA: Rice University Press, 1990.

This well-written volume takes as its goal the attempt “to reconcile and integrate the diverse phenomena that have been taken under the heading of voice”; more specifically it focusses “on certain voice phenomena that have been considered marginal or ignored altogether, in order to contribute some fresh ideas to an old problem.” A laudable goal, this, and indeed Cameron does an excellent job in the main. Her overall framework and conclusions seem quite reasonable, and I recommend her work highly to anyone interested in this topic. Since I could hardly do her work justice in the small space available to me here, I will not even attempt to summarize it; instead, I will now turn to the few small complaints I have about it.

The book comprises five chapters, the first a clear and concise introduction to voice, the remaining four discussions of voice in Japanese, Russian, Hungarian, and English. I don’t know any Japanese, so I can’t say much about that chapter. English and Russian I learned as foreign languages, and as far as my knowledge extends, Cameron’s analysis seems correct. It is with Chapter 4, concerning Hungarian, of which I am a native speaker, that I take issue. The chief problem here is one of sources. Specifically, Cameron did not consider my 1989 work The Semantics and Pragmatics of the Hungarian Voice System: A Functional Analysis. Admittedly, this work has not been translated into English (I translated the title above for the benefit of those not fluent in Hungarian), and Cameron does apologize for not being able to read publications not so translated. Yet it would have helped her analysis if she had read it, especially since my conclusions are so similar to hers. Admittedly, my work is still only available in manuscript form, my efforts to find a publisher being thus far unsuccessful, but if Cameron had asked I would have gladly sent her a copy. It certainly would have been appropriate for anyone attempting a study of Hungarian voice to consult the most comprehensive and brilliantly insightful work available. Even so, Cameron seems to at least be in the ballpark in Chapter 4. Such errors as I have found are not so significant as to ruin her book; many of them are probably attributable to her informant for Hungarian, whoever it may have been, who seems to be a speaker of some very weird nonstandard dialect. Or perhaps it is I whose dialect is weird; in any case, some of Cameron’s “acceptable” examples struck me as utterly unacceptable.

Be that as it may, I recommend Cameron’s work highly. It represents a significant if slightly flawed addition to our store of linguistics knowledge.

Reviewed by Zoltan Lazar, Budapest, Hungary

Greek ParticlesR.S. Sriyatha
Babel Vol I, No 2 Contents