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International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, 4 vols.

Readers of this journal will find much of interest in this comprehensive reference work. It covers, of course, the languages and language-families of the world, but also the various theoretical (e.g., discourse theory, formal and functional grammars, etc.) and methodological (e.g., historical linguistics, neurolinguistics) questions that affect the study of language. The history of the study of languages is also covered, both in biographical notices of major (deceased) linguists, such as Sapir and Jones (both William and Daniel), and in articles on the various "schools" and trends of linguistic study. Major articles are generally signed (the "Directory of Contributors" runs to fourteen pages) and are accompanied by up-to-date bibliographies. Volume 4 contains, as well, an extensive glossary by David Crystal; a "Synoptic Outline of Contents" (pp. 363-77; arranged by "topic," by "language," and by "language family"); and an index that exceeds 100 pages. Balance and comprehensiveness seem both to have been achieved--no small undertaking.

Just to give the flavor of the method and process of the Encyclopedia (one's interest naturally turns to what he knows best), here is the coverage of the Indo-Iranian language family: the general article (by George Cardona; vol. 2, pp. 212-13--somewhat shorter than the Encyclopaedia Britannica article of the same author, but that includes much of what is covered here in separate articles); a longer article on the Indo-Aryan languages (also by Cardona; vol. 2, pp. 202-6); each sub-family treated in separate (unsigned) articles (Central, East-Central, East, North, Northwest, and South--these are, however, little more than lists of particular languages--a recurrent feature of the Encyclopedia); Pali, Sanskrit and Sinhalese are covered in major articles (by K. R. Norman, Madhav Deshpande, and James Gair) not referred to one of the headings above. Various contemporary languages (Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Nepali, and Marathi) are the objects of signed articles (by P. J. Mistry, Y. Kachru, T. K. Bhatia, A. S. Dil, M. H. Klaiman, M. K. Verma, and R. V. Pandharipande). "India" also figures under the "History of Linguistics," in a 2 1/2-page article by Rosane Rocher. The average size of most articles surveyed is two to three pages, with bibliography, providing, for the individual languages, an outline of their grammar and their relation to neighboring languages.

One can gain from this a sense both of how much is covered, and how much is not: any Encyclopedia has its limits. Assamese and Oriya are major casualties; the "Dardic" languages are not worth an entry, despite their problematic status (they are mentioned only in the language-list under "Northwest Indo-Aryan"); "Hindi" is (apparently) the official Hindi of administrative usage--no hint is given of the great dialectal variation, in time and space, of the "language." Deshpande's article on Sanskrit is a masterpiece of concision--nothing (aside from a misprint or two--from which the Encyclopedia is remarkably free, as far as I can tell) is actually wrong--but I have to wonder if it makes sense to me only because I can fill in the blanks. Six pages, covering orthography (with tables), samdhi, noun and verb morphology, and syntax (and even a paragraph on Sanskrit's unique social status)! But then, perhaps this is just what an encyclopedia should do: whet the appetite, and show the way to the table--but not provide the feast.

Finally, it does seem odd to this reviewer that an Encyclopedia of Linguistics would not have a separate entry for "Panini."
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Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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