Ruth Laila Schmidt and Razwal Kohistani: A Grammar of the Shina Language of Indus Kohistan.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Bashir, Elena
Pub Date: 01/01/2009
Publication: Name: Acta Orientalia Publisher: Hermes Academic Publishing Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Hermes Academic Publishing ISSN: 0001-6438
Issue: Date: Annual, 2009 Source Volume: 70
Topic: NamedWork: A Grammar of the Shina Language of Indus Kohistan (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Schmidt, Ruth Laila; Kohistani, Razwal
Accession Number: 300652478
Full Text: Ruth Laila Schmidt and Razwal Kohistani: A Grammar of the Shina Language of Indus Kohistan. Beitrage zur Kenntnis sudasiatischer Sprachen und Literaturen, 17. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag. 2008. ISBN 978-3-447-05676-2.

This book is the result of the collaboration over many years of these two authors--one a linguist specializing in Shina grammar and dialectology, and the other a native-speaking writer of Kohistani Shina and a development professional. Rich in data not accessible anywhere else, it also offers some particularly outstanding analytical sections. In this reviewer's opinion, the chapters on the geographic and historical setting (chap. 1), the sound system (chap. 2), pronouns and deixis (chap. 4), and verbs (chap. 6) are especially rewarding. To summarize in advance, this is the first, and so far only, book-length treatment of Kohistani Shina. Together with the recent body of work including Degener (2008) on Gilgit Shina, based on the work of G. Buddruss with Muhammad Amin Zia; Radloff and Shakil (1998) and Radloff (1999) on Gilgit Shina; Liljegren (2008) on Palula; earlier detailed treatments of Kohistani Shina by Schmidt (2001, 2004, 2006); joint efforts by Schmidt and Kohistani (1995, 1998, 2001) and by Schmidt and Zarin (1981); and work on eastern Shina by Hook (1990, 1996, 1997), it is making Shina one of the better-studied of the Dardic languages.

I begin by listing the content of and commenting briefly on the various chapters. Chapter 1 discusses (i) the location and dialect groups of Shina, (ii) the oral history of Kohistan, (iii) the introduction of Islam, and (iv) the present status of Shina. The discussion and analysis of the oral history surrounding the introduction of Islam is enriched by the linguistic and genealogical evidence which these authors are uniquely able to provide. If a reader were to read only one chapter of this book, chapter 1 would be my recommendation. Chapter 2, on the sound system, modifies the earlier analysis by Schmidt and Zarin (1981). This revised analysis is based on results obtained by using the CECIL system of computerized acoustic analysis. The authors conclude that Kohistani Shina has a pitch accent system, rather than independently varying pitch and stress (p. 28). This result can be profitably compared with the analyses of Radloff (1999) and Baart (2003). Chapter 3, on nouns and postpositions, discusses the case system in terms of the layered model articulated in Masica (1991: 232-5). It presents extensive paradigms of the four declension classes of masculine nouns and four classes of feminines. The function of case marking is accomplished by a basic nominative-oblique (layer 1) opposition, layer 2 case suffixes, a small set of infrequently used case suffixes, and (layer 3) postpositions, some of which follow the nominative or oblique form and some of which follow the layer 2 case suffixes. Chapter 4, on pronouns and deixis, presents some of the most intriguing material of the book. The discussion of how the parameters of visible/non-visible, proximal/distal, and source of knowledge interact is tantalizingly short. The authors themselves invite further research on this topic. In particular, the relation of these categories identified in Kohistani Shina to categories like evidentiality and indirectivity identified in other languages of the northern mountain areas including the Hindu Kush and Karakorams, including Kalasha and Khowar (Bashir 1988a, 1988b, 2007), begs for exploration. Chapter 5, on adjectives, among other topics includes discussion of the symmetrical a-, as- adjective sets which, like the demonstratives and adverbs, are marked for proximal and remote deixis. Chapter 6, on verbs, is the longest single part of the book. It identifies and meticulously describes four main verb classes: root-accented, stem-accented, irregular, and shortened. Several sub-types of the root-accented and stem-accented classes are distinguished. Chapter 7 groups together adverbs, participles and verbal nouns. This grouping of topics seems somewhat problematic. One wonders why, for example, participles were not included in the chapter on verbs, and verbal nouns in the chapter on nouns. Chapter 8 discusses compound verbs, used in the usual sense of South Asian linguistics, i.e. a verb consisting of a stem, or a conjunctive participle (CP) plus an inflected vector or "light" verb. The material in this chapter is entirely new, and the authors conclude that compound verbs in Kohistani Shina are an emerging phenomenon, similar to that in Kashmiri or Marathi and lacking some of the properties of the more mature compound verb systems in languages like Hindi or Marwari (cf. Hook 1993). Finally, chapter 9, entitled "conjunctions", discusses eight morphemes, some of which are clearly conjunctions but some of which seem better called "particles".

Many questions come to mind while reading the book, which one hopes will be addressed in the authors' future work, perhaps even in a response to this review. (1) Several points of especial interest concern the CP. (i) On p. Ill, forms of the CP which agree with plural subjects are mentioned. This is highly unusual in South Asian languages, and several examples in context and comparative discussion would have been welcome. In the one example I do find, (43) on p. 157, the fact that the form thee-t 'having done-pl' appears both as a non-finite verb and as a sentence-final apparently finite verb raises questions in my mind about the analysis, (ii) On p. 186 we learn that there are two CPs of bojoon 'to go', bojii (imperfective) and gyee (perfective). These are illustrated on p. 190 in exx. (69) and (70). However, one is left wondering about this interesting phenomenon of two CPs. First, are there any other verbs which have two CPs? Second, does example (69), with the imperfective CP, glossed as T will go and work', mean that the person will go and work on multiple occasions (as the imperfective label would suggest), or does the imperfective CP occur because the main verb th-oo-s T will do' is in a non-perfective tense? (iii) The analysis of some points could have been strengthened by drawing together related or relevant forms. For instance, on p. 104, the fact that the CP of thoon 'to do' is used to form adverbs from adjectives is mentioned, almost in passing. Then, on p. 107, we find example (57), in which bee the CP of boon 'to be, become' is used to form an adverb, in this example modifying an intransitive verb. It seems likely that the adverbs formed from the CP of thoon 'to do' occur with transitive verbs and those from the CP of boon 'to be, become' with intransitive verbs. This pattern occurs in Khowar, for example, where kori, the CP of korik 'to do' forms adverbs used with transitive verbs, and bid the CP of bik 'to be' forms adverbs used with intransitives. But in the absence of explicit discussion or confirmation of this point, this remains an unconfirmed hypothesis, (iv) One remarkable example, (42) on p. 157, contains a relative clause constructed with a CP functioning adjectivally. I reproduce it below because of its great interest and difference from relative clause forming strategies that I have encountered elsewhere in the languages of this area. This deserves much more attention.

(42) [xaar-daxoor bee] karaa-e at-yaa city-in scattered be-CP ram-pl. bring-IMP-pl. 'Bring the rams [which are scattered around the city].'

(2) Continuing with the topic of relative clauses, on p. 76 we read: "Suffixed to a verb, the indefinite particle functions like a relative pronoun, showing that the subject of the subordinate verb is the same as that of the main verb (comparable to U. vala)." Given the comparison to Urdu vala and the fact that in Gilgit Shina forms consisting of a future plus -ak/-ek function as agent nouns, the connection of this Kohistani -A: with agentivity invites further exploration. On p. 210, example (5) contains a relative clause which appears to follow the relative-correlative pattern found in many Indo-Aryan languages. The word used as the relative pronoun, joo is actually the Shina interrogative word 'what', which phonologically resembles the y'-initial relative forms of other I-A languages. Since relative clauses in some Dardic languages, for example Khowar and Kalasha, are constructed with k- (interrogative) forms, this Kohistani Shina relative clause with joo 'what' raises the question of whether it is a variant of the k- word strategy, an influence from those I-A languages employing an inherited j- (relative) word strategy, or both. I look forward to the authors' writing more in detail about relativization strategies in this language.

(3) In light of the information on p. 120 that in Gilgit Shina there are two distinct infinitives, hanook 'to be, exist' and book 'to be, become', one wonders whether the adjectival particle hoo 'like, -ish' may originate in a root 'be'. Interestingly, this particle can convey both of the superficially opposite meanings of approximation and intensification. (4) The particle akoor, the dative of akee 'self, is analyzed as a "voluntary action" marker (pp. 90, 203). The voluntary action analysis seems to work with the sentences on p. 203 translated with 'want'; however, in example (42) on p. 104, glossed as 'both we sisters are so happy', it seems difficult to interpret being happy as a voluntary action. The meaning in this sentence seems to be something like 'in our hearts, between/among ourselves'. It seems that the characterization of akoor needs to be broadened.

(5) Is Kohistani Shina primarily an aspect-based, or a tense-based language? On p. 204, in the discussion of conditional sentences, we read: "If the verb in the condition clauses is in the past tense [emphasis mine], the speaker has reason to think it will be fulfilled." This case is illustrated in exx. (91) and (92). However, in the morphby-morph analysis of both of these examples, the forms are called "PERF" rather than "PAST". This, taken together with the fact that the temporal reference is actually to future time, and the similar use of the perfective participle in Urdu, for example, for this type of conditional, raises the question of whether this form is best analyzed as "past" or "perfective". Some discussion from the authors directed at this question would be most welcome. In general, more explicit and concentrated discussion of syntactic topics like relativization and complementation remains a desideratum.

There are quite a few typographical errors in the book; for example on p. 42 dido 'bullet' appears for dido; on p. 59 there is jamco instead of jamco for the shortened possessive plural in question. On p. 134 in the first sentence of section, it seems that the words "and past" have been omitted from the sentence which reads: "The perfect and pluperfect tenses are further elaborated by adding the bound forms of the present (and past?) auxiliaries ... ". I will not list all of the typos I identified, except to say that I found sixteen. One instance seems to be an error of analysis. Footnote 44 on p. 202 says that byoon 'to sit' in example (80) is a vector verb, as found in compound verbs. However, it seems to me that it is, in fact, not a vector verb, but the main verb 'to sit' followed by a form of the verb-baa 'to be able, can', together with the negative na giving the sense 'cannot sit'. Perhaps it would be possible for the authors to make a list of "errata and corrigenda" which could be located online in a place easily accessible to the owners or readers of the book, perhaps the publisher's website.

In summary, this book is a unique contribution to Indo-Aryan linguistics, making available to scholars completely new information. The presence of typographical errors, which occur in almost all published works, and the fact that not everything about this language, particularly syntax, has been covered, should in no way be taken to detract from the tremendous value of the book. Those linguists who work on the Dardic languages will already have acquired the book for themselves or for their institutional libraries. It should also be considered an essential work for any library serving a university with a significant interest in South Asian languages.

Finally, this review is addressed as much to the authors as to prospective readers. It is intended as an invitation to them to take up new projects, one of which would include more comparative discussion of the material presented on Kohistani Shina with other dialects of Shina and other languages. Another invaluable contribution would be an etymological dictionary of Kohistani Shina.


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Elena Bashir

University of Chicago
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