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Clitics: An Introduction (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics) Paperback – 12 Jul 2012

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'… a reliable and well organized guide through the fascinating world of clitics. The authors deserve praise for the lucid and balanced way in which they present and analyze clitic phenomena in such a remarkably wide range of languages.' Geert Booij, University of Leiden

'Clitics are the marsupials of language, a class of creatures lying between words and affixes. In this lucid introduction, Spencer and Luís show how clitics illuminate crucial properties of language.' Mark Aronoff, Stony Brook University

Book Description

The first introduction to clitics, providing a complete summary of their properties, their uses, the reasons why they are of interest to linguists and the various theoretical approaches that have been proposed for them. The book describes a whole host of clitic systems and presents data from over 100 languages.

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In this rigorous textbook, the authors proceed from classic work on clitics to recent evidence that no such class exists 9 Nov. 2014
By Christopher Culver - Published on
Format: Paperback
Andrew Spencer and Ana R. Luis here give us a detailed introduction to clitics, that class of words which need another word to "lean" on and cannot stand on their own, and come with complex phonological and syntactic rules different from other words in a language. Like most entries in the Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics series, it assumes a rigorous background in general linguistics, as well as a readiness to read difficult theoretical work, but assuming those prerequisites are met, it is pretty accessible and enjoyable.

In their survey of clitics as a general phenomenon, the authors mainly refer to Balkan Slavic, Albanian, Greek or Romance languages, as these are both heavily studied and more familiar to Western readers, but they also present examples from languages further afield. That attention paid to Balkan Slavic (Serbian/Croatian, Macedonian and Bulgarian) was very informative for this reader; I assumed that these particular languages all worked the same syntactically, but the authors point out some key differences in their clitics systems.

The curious thing about this textbook is that its subject is gradually shown not to exist! The authors start off with earlier accounts of clitics as a distinct class (basing themselves on e.g. Pullum's classic article), but as they go on they note how "clitics" and "affixes" can overlap, and ultimately cannot be separated. The second half of the textbook is the most theoretical, as the authors show how approaches like Optimality Theory deal with these issues.

I must admit that my interest waned in the second half of the book -- I'm more interested in individual languages and diachronic issues than overarching theoretical debates. But it's a good thing that the author's structured this in such a way that everyone can enjoy the first half of the book regardless of their interests.
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