LINGUIST List 14.2779

Wed Oct 15 2003

Review: Lang Desc: Hualde, Olarrea & Escobar (2001)

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  1. Gabriel Rei-Doval, Introducci�n a la ling��stica hisp�nica

Message 1: Introducci�n a la ling��stica hisp�nica

Date: Tue, 14 Oct 2003 18:24:57 +0000
From: Gabriel Rei-Doval <>
Subject: Introducci�n a la ling��stica hisp�nica

Hualde, Jos� Ignacio, Antxon Olarrea and Anna Mar�a Escobar (2001)
Introducci�n a la ling��stica hisp�nica, Cambridge University

Announced at

Gabriel Rei-Doval, Queen's College, University of Oxford


This volume represents an interesting attempt to offer the academic
community a clear and complete introduction to Hispanic linguistics,
following previous initiatives undertaken by Milton Azevedo (Prentice
Hall) and Manuel Alvar, ed. (Ariel). All of them employ Spanish as the
vehicular language, as presumably the reader interested by these
topics is a (near-)native speaker or has sufficient training in the
Spanish language.

The book consists of six chapters related: to Linguistics as a
cognitive science (chapter 1); the sounds of the language: Phonetics
and Phonology (chapter 2); the structure of words: Morphology (chapter
3); the structure of the sentence: Syntax (chapter 4); History of the
Spanish language (chapter 5) and Language Variation (chapter 6). A
brief final index is located at the end of the volume. Each chapter
consists of a development of the issues considered followed by the
main subsequent conclusions, plus a series of exercises and practices
for those readers who want to test their comprehension of the chapter.
Finally, a basic bibliography is provided.

Chapter 1 deals with general issues on the nature of grammar,
considering briefly its evolution over time and its status from a
generative point of view, including the dimensions related to animal
communication vs. human languages, the acquisition of the language,
the innatist hypothesis and neurolinguistics and the brain. A concise
compilation of the main criticisms of the Chomskyan model closes the

Chapter 2 starts with a definition of basic concepts such as phoneme,
allophone and free and complementary distribution. A classification of
the sounds according to the usual phonetic parameters follows.
Paragraph 3 deals with the description of the main consonants and
allophones of the Spanish language, and the following ones approach
the concept of archiphoneme, vowels and semi-vowels and the Spanish
structure. Finally, the chapter deals with intonation and supra-
segmental units in Spanish, and an appendix on the symbols used by the
IPA alphabet is provided.

Chapter 3 approaches Morphology as the structure of words in Spanish.
Starting with a description of the basic concepts in this sub-
discipline, especial attention is dedicated to inflective Morphology
in Spanish (gender and number and verbs), as well as to derivational
processes (emotive suffixes, nominalisation, adjectivation,
verbalisation, and prefixation). Attention is also paid to different
procedures to create compound words in Spanish, as well as to other
morphological procedures, and finally the hierarchic structure of word

Chapter 4 analyses the structure of the sentence from a generative
point of view, including the criteria to identify the constituents,
rules for syntagmatic rewriting, transformations, and the theory of X-
bar or approaches to simple sentences. As particular aspects of
Spanish, the uses of se and the values of subjunctive are considered.

Chapter 5 deals with the history of the Spanish language, including
the early stages of late spoken Latin, the pre-roman languages on
Hispania, the Indo-European languages, the evolution of Latin in
Hispania, phonological evolution from Latin to Spanish, morphological
and syntactical change, the formation of the standard Spanish norm,
and the influence of early Arab and Amerindian languages, amongst
others. Attention is also paid to language change and dialectal
variation in current Spanish usage, as well as to the analysis of
texts of other contemporary varieties close to Spanish (Judeo-Spanish,
Aragonese and Galician).

Finally, chapter 6 considers primarily language variation, including
geographical and social variation, main dialectal areas of Spanish and
bilingualism and language contact.


Generally speaking, the book can be considered a relatively
traditional approach to Hispanic Linguistics, as it addresses what has
been considered ''internal linguistics'' plus history of the language
and some dialectal variation. The initial theoretical chapter deals
with Linguistics as a cognitive science, combining clear explanations
on the development of Linguistics with Generative points of view on
the relationship between language and the brain. According to the
authors, Chomsky's theories seem to have led Linguistics
debates. Other theoretical frameworks subsequent to the 1960s are
scarcely considered, apart from how they contradicted Generative

Chapters 2 and 3 on Phonetics, Phonology and Morphology are generally
clear and well explained through description with a didactic tone,
appropriate to the introductory level they are designed for. They
approach the areas, as in most chapters in this book, from the
English- Spanish comparison, which is useful for those students who
are using the book in an English-speaking country. These chapters
combine traditional and structural views (for instance, defining
archiphonemes in Spanish), with accessible and clear
language. However, chapter 2 includes accentuation rules as a part of
the chapter on the sounds of language, although this topic belongs
more to a chapter on writing systems or orthography.

Most of chapter 4 is also rather descriptive and deals with syntax
analysis, combining generative approaches with other traditional or
structural ones. It is normally clear in most of the aspects
explained. On page 218, the authors state that the objective of the
linguist is discovering the rules that produce all grammatical
sentences in a given language, ''and only those that are
grammatical''. According to them, any task related to other than
grammatical sentences does not belong to the linguist's task. This
view of Linguistics could be reducing Linguistics to the Grammar as
codified in the standard language.

Chapter 5 on the history of the Spanish language is particularly
useful for those students who are approaching this issue for the first
time, with a basic and didactic exposition of the courses of the
language, prioritising clarity and comprehensibility over rigour and
precision. This leads to sentences such as ''el espa�ol viene del
lat�n'' (Spanish comes from Latin) [all translations are
mine]. ''Esto vale tanto como decir que el espa�ol viene de Roma,
pues en su origen el lat�n no era sino el habla de Roma'' (This is
the same as saying that Spanish comes from Rome, as in its origin
Latin was none other but the language of Rome).

Some controversial ideas appear in the part dedicated to the evolution
of Latin in Hispania, such as when it is said that a dialectal
continuum appears only in north-western Spain (Galicia, Asturias and
contiguous areas), but not in the Catalan domain or in southern
Spain and Portugal. Firstly, a more precise definition of dialect and
continuum should be established. At the same time, a more
comprehensive and in-depth view of language contact in Spain should be
approached by the authors. If we consider Catalonia, it is clear that
even in the same town and neighbourhood the same person can be subject
to practices as code-switching or code-mixing. If Catalan-Spanish
contact is compared with Galician-Spanish contact, more loyalty to the
local language is found in Catalonia, even though bilingual practices
are found even in supposed monolingual areas where most of the
speakers are in principle monolinguals in Catalan.

The analysis of the Galician-Spanish contact seems to be inexact and
incomplete. First of all, on page 287 the authors state that Galician
is spoken, apart from in Galicia's administrative territory, in
borderland areas as Asturias and Le�n, but they forget that it is
also spoken in western areas of Zamora province. Section 17.3 of
chapter 6 (pp. 322-323) is dedicated to Galician as a contemporary
linguistic variety close to Spanish. On page 322, it is said that
''linguistically speaking, Galician is more different from Spanish
than cheso is''. The comparison between a Romance language as Galician
(at the same level as Catalan, French or Italian) and a western
dialect of Aragonese as cheso (almost extinct in the province of
Huesca) does not seem really appropriate. The fact that cheso is
treated immediately before Galician in the book does not seem
sufficient for that comparison. Section 3.1.2. of chapter 7
(pp. 346-347) on Spanish in contact with Galician should also be
revised. Regarding its status, the book argues that ''Galician is a
linguistic variety closely related to Portuguese, to that extent that
specialists consider Galician as a variety or dialect of the
Portuguese language. However, in Galicia there is a debate as to
whether Galician is a variety of the Portuguese language or a separate
language. Obviously, emotive criteria as well as purely linguistic
criteria are at play in this evaluation''. According to this view, it
would seem that there are only linguists defending the notion that
Galician is a dialect of Portuguese and that those who have a
different opinion are only local enthusiasts, nationalists or Galician
patriots. On the contrary, most of the Galician Philology and
Linguistics, and many romance philologists and linguists both inside
and outside Spain support the opposite view.

>From a historical point of view, it could even be supported that, as
the language was originated in the North and then extended to the
South, Portuguese is a dialect of Galician. For all these reasons, it
seems inappropriate and very risky to state this as if it were
incontrovertible. Likewise, the view on the dialectology of Galician
language is rather restricted and taken from interesting but very
fragmentary materials, ignoring the main publications in the field and
giving an incomplete view of the issue. The information also contains
mistakes, such as the consideration that Castilian in Galicia is
characterised by the post-verbal position of clitic pronouns
(''dij�stemelo''). If this sequence can be found at present, it would
be only a extremely rare exception. As a matter of fact, the tendency
goes in the opposite way: Galician receives the interference of
Castilian so that many times in spoken language the pre-verbal
position of clitic pronouns overlaps, because of the influence of
Spanish, the grammatically correct post-verbal position in
non-conditioned position in Galician. All these facts seem to
recommend a full in-depth revision of the consideration and treatment
of Galician in the book, to acquire the same quality and rigour as
other parts of the book.

An absence of the analysis of issues corresponding to Pragmatics and
Sociolinguistics can also be found. Even considering that perhaps
these issues do not belong to the interests of the authors, it is
clear that the scientific production and publication of accessible
materials in these fields in the last decades has been enormous in the
Hispanic domain. Probably for this reason, a more consistent analysis
on registers, socio-dialects and social variation in Spanish is
missing in this book, where only diachronic and diatopic dimensions
are properly analysed.

In any case, despite the aforementioned needed improvements,
Hispanists should welcome this new introduction to Hispanic
Linguistics, particularly as it is accessible and highly readable for
those who approach the field for the first time.


Gabriel Rei-Doval is a Lecturer in Galician Language and Culture at
the Queen's College, University of Oxford. In 1999, he completed a
MPhil in Linguistics at the University of Santiago de Compostela
(Galicia, Spain) with the dissertation "A Brief Approach to the
History of Galician Sociolinguistics (1967-1997)". In 2001, he
received his PhD from the same University with the dissertation
"Galician Language in Urban Settings: a view from
Macro-Sociolinguistics". Over the last decade, he has worked on
research projects as the Sociolinguistic Map of Galicia and the
Euromosaic survey on Minority Languages, amongst others. His research
interests encompass Sociolinguistics and Language Planning, Second
Language Teaching, Historiography of Linguistics, and Galician and
Hispanic Linguistics.
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