Book Prize Winners for 2004
Best Contribution to Language Pedagogy 2004:
Kagan, Olga, Tatiana Akishina, and Richard Robin. Russian for Russians. Bloomington, Ind.: Slavica, 2002.
Russian for Russians fulfills a critical and growing need in the profession to provide language and culture instruction to heritage speakers. Firmly grounded in current pedagogical research, Russian for Russians offers a completely new approach to teaching heritage students, building on their already existing skills, extending them, and adapting them to literary Russian. Films and texts related to various aspects of Russian history and culture are juxtaposed with materials that encourage the students to explore their Russian heritage. This combination of modalities provides a personal motivation for the students, and brings the language to life for them in a unique and effective way.
Best Book in Linguistics 2004:
Oscar E. Swan, A Grammar of Contemporary Polish. Bloomington, Ind.: Slavica Publishers, 2002.
Swan's grammar of Polish is a shining example of what every grammar of a "difficult" language should be -- a masterpiece of conciseness and breadth. It has been suggested that no grammar of any language could ever be "complete," but this book goes a long way toward disproving that statement. Swan's reference grammar is more than a superficial guide to features of Polish, since it explains in extended detail every important aspect of modern Polish. Yet throughout, the text is inviting and accessible, and the author has an uncanny ability to predict and clear up in advance likely areas of confusion. In short, this is the clearest description of the complexities of Polish grammar available. It will be a valuable tool for Polish learners at all levels, language students as well as linguists who depend on the grammars of particular languages to gather data for the cross-linguistic analyses of specific phenomena. It is the "answer book" for modern Polish grammar. It is moreover evident that this book was a monumental labor of love and we can only hope that Slavica Publishers will publish other grammars of Slavic and Baltic languages that come up to Swan's standards.
Best Book in Literary/Cultural Scholarship 2004:
Michael S. Gorham, Speaking in Soviet Tongues: Language Culture and the Politics of Voice in Revolutionary Russia. DeKalb, Ill.: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003.
Gorham's study explores the process by which the authoritative Party-State voice of Stalinism was formed from a multitude of "Soviet tongues" in the early 1920s. The author undertakes a study of the institutional forces behind these linguistic changes, offers detailed analyses of critical debates over newly emerging revolutionary discourse, and demonstrates how the Soviet vox populi found its way into works of literary fiction. Tracing the transformation of these various "tongues" from oral modes of communication to institutionalized forms of "proletarian language," this brilliant study shows how such new linguistic practices contributed to the formation the new Soviet citizen. Gorham's innovative book highlights the anomaly of Soviet fiction: the fact that the language and the literary works written in this language were created simultaneously. In a truly interdisciplinary approach to his topic, he finds support for his arguments in works of journalism, pedagogy manuals, linguistic debates, and works of fiction. Gorham provides a comprehensive analysis of Lingua Sovietae from its formation to its canonization as the official discourse of Soviet culture. This outstanding book brings the study of linguistic practices back into the realm of literary and cultural studies and provides new venues for future scholarship.
Best Translation into English 2004:
Robert and Elizabeth Chandler and Olga Meerson, with Jane Chamberlain, Olga Kouznetsova and Eric Naiman. Soul, by Andrei Platonov. London: The Harvill Press, 2003.
The Harvill Press translation of Platonov's Soul -- a collaborative effort -- accomplishes the seemingly impossible in bringing the notoriously idiosyncratic language of this talented writer to English-language readers. The superb yet compact apparatus includes an essay on "Platonov and Central Asia," an introduction explicitly treating the challenges of translating Platonov, a map, a pronunciation and meaning guide to names, and endnotes. This translation and accompanying material will be invaluable in bringing Platonov into the English-language classroom and making his work accessible to our students.