The papers in this volume were presented at the Fifth Biennial Symposium of the Department of Linguistics, Rice University, March 1993. The participants were asked to concentrate in depth and in a self-reflective way upon some range of data. The intent was multifold. The first purpose was descriptive. It was expected that the participants would carry out their task in a retrospective way, exemplifying and building upon their previous work, but it was also expected that they would begin to demonstrate the configuration of some area in a more comprehensive picture of language. The point was to take (at least) one substantive step in the depiction of what we think language will ultimately be like. The contributions were both specific and generalizing, with focus as much upon methodology as upon hypotheses about language. In examining descriptive practice, we continued to concentrate upon issues which concerned us all, and at the same time we tried to advance the discourse by the results of such description. We hoped that problematic and recalcitrant data would make our own practice clearer to us and that it might also instruct us in the refinement of our conceptions of language.