Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, a Grammar: With Sociolinguistic Commentary Paperback – Jun 30 2006
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"Well written and admirably organized, this work is a milestone in the study of Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. It is the first unified description of BCS since the break-up of former Yugoslavia and includes Professor Alexander's vitally important sociolinguistic commentary."—Victor A. Friedman, University of Chicago
About the Author
Ronelle Alexander is professor of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of the two-volume Intensive Bulgarian: A Textbook and Reference Grammar.
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The grammatical material is presented in an order that presumably complements the companion volume, a textbook with exercises. That could take some getting used to for an experienced speaker of the language: if you want to read all about verbs, for instance, you have to locate and read many short sections distributed through the book. A complete discussion of the verb or any similar topic is thus presented in segments a beginner can grasp, laid out in an order that a beginner can follow, with no compromise of scholarly detail and accuracy. The attractive layout and typography aid in the endeavor.
The descriptive grammar is followed by a "sociolinguistic commentary" which raises a fine scholarly achievement to a yet more useful level. The student of BCS must deal with a situation in which people who understand each other with ease insist that they speak different languages, others who understand each other barely or not at all admit only to speaking different dialects, and the cultural history apparently entitles anyone to despise half of his or her colinguists according to whether or not they pronounce a "y" sound before the letter "e." All of this receives careful, clear explanation, illustrated with maps and complemented by painstaking notes to the grammatical examples. As in the grammar, the author's eagerness to help the reader understand is everywhere apparent.
- Comprehensive and detailed treatment of grammatical topics in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS)
- Balanced presentation and comparison of grammatical topics and examples.
- Includes a readable and accessible introduction to the history and sociolinguistics of "old" Serbo-Croatian and "new" BCS
The grammatical sections are set up in the same sequence as that of the corresponding BCS textbook by Alexander and Elias-Bursac. This reference of grammar is useful in that it goes into greater detail than what's in the textbook and may provide a "second opinion" to someone who is unsure about something in the textbook. The examples that are used to illustrate grammatical topics also have the added benefit of being marked as being used most frequently by Bosnians, Croats or Serbs.
The history and sociological survey should be required reading for anyone who is just starting to study BCS or wondering why some people from the former Yugoslavia still become emotional or sensitive about their language(s). In fact I would venture to say that these same people of the former Yugoslavia would do well to read Alexander's survey for it's a detached and balanced description of the subordination/hijacking of language to fulfill political or sociological aims. I found that reading it was instructive and a reminder than most of us English speakers are relatively fortunate in not having questions about language usage tied as closely or violently to being part of "good guys" or "bad guys".
Overall, it's a valuable source of information and no one can go wrong by having it on his/her shelf when studying BCS.
The discussion of everything is really long-winded and contains much that ought to go into a textbook of the language and not a grammar that one wants to quickly consult when unsure of paradigms. Also, I really dislike the format of this book: it is gigantic to the point of unweldiness, and the paperback binding is cheap and not durable enough for something designed for taking back and forth between home and classroom. Studying Serbian, I found that an introductory textbook together with Routledge's Serbian An Essential Grammar was enough to get me to the level where I could make use of reference grammars written directly in Serbian (or Bosnian or Croatian). If you have access to Alexander's grammar at a library, then reading the chapter on the tonal accent -- which gets a decent five pages here when it gets as little as half a paragraph elsewhere -- and Part Two will prove instructive. However, it's hard to recommend a purchase.
Since the great attempt at peaceful cooperation that was the nation of Yugoslavia is now gone and done, we must face the brave new world and what will come of it. This book helps gain perspective.
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