ESSE Book Awards 2012

Article excerpt

English language and linguistics:

Award in Category A: Hugo Bowles. Storytelling and Drama: Exploring Narrative Episodes in Plays. John Benjamins, 2010. This book provides a highly successful combination of linguistic and literary approaches to the study of narrative episodes in a wide range of dramatic texts from Aeschylus to Pinter. The basic notions of narrative and dramatic discourse (Ch.1) together with the interactional model (2) provide the foundation for the analysis, which falls into two parts, the first (1-4) dealing with the overall methodology, the second (5-8), focusing on the tellability of the narrative episode. Insights from interactional sociolinguistics, narrative theory, conversation analysis, and discourse analysis are utilized in the discussion of the material. An innovative feature is the use of Conversation Analysis techniques for the local or micro-analytical analysis.

There is a rich inventory of examples of stories from older and more contemporary drama and some longer case studies. However, the numerous illustrations are occasionally somewhat decontextualized, giving the impression of a series of single-case studies. For linguists it may be somewhat unsatisfactory that the examples of story-telling are not collected systematically.

The book is written with great elegance in a style which makes it accessible both to an audience already familiar with conversational analysis and discourse analysis and newcomers to the field. It is clearly structured moving from a micro-linguistic to a macro-linguistic or interactional perspective in the analysis.

The author's thorough discussion of a variety of theoretical and methodological postulates together with the detailed classification of narrative types and subtypes are particular strengths of the study. The work shows that linguistic techniques can contribute to literary analysis. The findings should therefore also be relevant to literary scholars.

Honourable Mentions:

* Alwin Frank Fill. The Language Impact. Evolution-System-Discourse. Equinox, 2010.

* Anita Naciscione. Stylistic Use of Phraseological Units in Discourse. Benjamins, 2010.

Award in Category B: Carlos Prado-Alonso. Full-Verb Inversion in Written and Spoken English. Peter Lang, 2011.

This book is a corpus-based study of full-verb inversion types of written and spoken discourse. The terminological premises are clearly set out and the previous work on the subject is thoroughly analysed and commented on. The corpus investigation of written and spoken corpora is based on two main groups: non-obligatory and obligatory full inversions. The results indicate that speech and writing do not differ strongly in the number of full inversions but rather in the different types of full inversion used.

The study is a truly impressive piece of research. Although the topic in general has attracted a lot of research, the study of full inversion in speech has been neglected. The overview of previous work within different formal and functional theories is excellent and also 'pedagogical' for readers who for example are not experts in formal generative theory or cognitive linguistics. The author's argumentation is convincing and the monograph is a pleasure to read. The corpora are well chosen. The ICE corpus is, for example, excellent for identifying full inversion automatically. The corpus also makes it possible to give detailed information about the frequencies of different types of inversion in speech and writing (or fiction and non-fiction) and test hypotheses in previous work. The author makes excellent use of the Finnish linguist N-E. Enkvist's Principle of Experiential Iconicity to explain variation in the linguistic order of elements. The idea that the full inversion structure can be regarded as a construction with variations from a more salient or prototypical construction is very promising for future research. …