LINGUIST List 15.751

Mon Mar 1 2004

Review: Historical Ling/Socioling: Tuten (2003)

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  1. Angela Bartens, Koineization in Medieval Spanish

Message 1: Koineization in Medieval Spanish

Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2004 16:37:29 -0500 (EST)
From: Angela Bartens <>
Subject: Koineization in Medieval Spanish

Tuten, Donald N. (2003) Koineization in Medieval Spanish, Mouton de
Gruyter, Contributions to the Sociology of Language 88.

Announced at

Angela Bartens, University of Helsinki.


Language change has traditionally been explained as a system-internal
phenomenon. Only recently have sociolinguists started to defend the
view that ''it is not languages that change but rather speakers who
change language'' (p. 2). The typology of the distinct outcomes of
language change vary greatly according to the linguistic input and the
prevailing sociohistorical circumstances (Thomason 1997; Bartens
2000). Koineization, the process under survey in this volume, ''is
generally considered to consist of processes of mixing, leveling,
(limited) reduction or simplification, which occur in social
situations of rapid and intense demographic and dialect mixing''
(p. 3). And Tuten goes on to argue that ''The model of koineization
represents a significant theoretical advance for our understanding of
language change as influenced by dialect contact and mixing.'' (p. 3).


In the study under review, the model of koineization is tested on the
case of Medieval Spanish. Tuten follows here the geochronological
periodization proposed by Penny (1987) into the Burgos phase (late 9th
and 10th centuries), the Toledo phase (from 1085 into the 12th
century) and the Seville phase (mid- and late 13th century). After an
introductory chapter (pp. 1-8) in which the goals of the study are
outlined, Tuten extensively reviews the available literature on
koineization and related phenomena (chapter 2, pp. 9-93). Despite
slightly differing uses of the term koineization in the existing
literature, the concept of dialect mixing emerges as the key feature
of koineization where the contributing varieties are mutually
intelligible linguistic susbsystems. This ensures that access to the
input is easy even though the input in itself is higly variable.

Adults and children play slightly different roles as far as
micro-level speaker activity is concerned: adult speakers accomodate
to their interlocutors and sometimes create interdialectal variants
not present in any of the contributing dialects while the language
acquisition of older children and adolescents is found to play a
fundamental role in the stabilization or focusing of the koine. Both
contribute to the identity-marking function of the koine, i.e., the
koine becomes the means of expressing a new identity.

Typically, the need and conditions to express such a new, hybrid
identity result from population movements and the sudden breakdown of
social ties; the koine is built up along with the new identity. The
model of weak ties as outlined in the research of the Milroys (e.g.
Milroy & Milroy 1985) constitutes the basis on which Tuten builds his
model of koineization. The essential macro-level mechanisms of
koineization are mixing (i.e. survival of variants from different
contributing varieties), leveling (e.g. elimination of minority
variants), reallocation (more than one variant survives but with
different functions) and simplification (e.g. by overgeneralization).

The formation of a focused koine usually occurs over one or two
generations of children, i.e., a total of 2-3 generations.
Koineization is clearly distinct from other types of language change
in contact situations, e.g. pidginization, creolization, dialect
leveling, language death, etc. Nevertheless, koineization, too, should
be seen as a prototype of linguistic change rather than an absolute
formula. The chapters on the three diachronic phases of medieval
Spanish all start with an overview of the social history followed by a
discussion of previous work on linguistic change during the period in
question. Then Tuten goes on to analyze specific instances of language
change. The features chosen for the discussion of the Burgos phase
(chapter 3, pp. 94-144) are the leveling and simplification of
articles and preposition + article contractions and the reorganization
and the simplification of the tonic vowel system. The developments of
f- > h-, the emergence of the phoneme /tS/ and the varied results of
Latin initial clusters cl-, pl-, fl- are also discussed in relation to

During the Toledo phase (chapter 4, pp. 145-214), clearly marked
hereditary class distinctions appear in Castile
(p. 152). Nevertheless, migration and mixing is even more rapid and
widespread than during the previous period, thus creating a favorable
environment for koineization and language spread (p. 153). The
linguistic changes attributed to koineization during this period are
the establishment of extreme apocope as a Castilian norm through
stylistic reallocation, the reanalysis and spread of leismo and the
reorganization of the possessive system into preposed unstressed and
postposed stressed forms. Tuten notes that the period ''is marked not
only be [sic] geographic variation, but also by significant
social/stylistic variation'' (p. 214). The linguistic phenomena
discussed for the Seville phase (chapter 5, pp. 215-256) and
attributed to (re)koineization are the elimination of extreme apocope,
the elimination of the minority feature of leismo and the completion
of the simplification of the possessive system (1st person singular
possessives are reduced to invariant mi[s]). On the other hand, Tuten
shows that the seseo cannot be linked to 13th-century koineization in
Andalusia and thereby demonstrates that ''efforts to link dialect
mixing and language change must be grounded on appropriate application
of the model and careful interpretation of the evidence'' (p. 256).

The results of the study are summarized in the Conclusions (chapter 6,
pp. 257-268). Tuten explains the long-recognized ''drift'' in Spanish
toward more analytical, transparent, and simplified structures as a
repeated series of koineizations (p. 265), ''periods of rapid change
[that] punctuate periods of slow change in the history of
Castilian/Spanish'' (p. 266). The volume also includes five most
useful maps (pp. 269-273), notes to the text (pp. 274-301), an
extensive bibliography (pp. 302-331), and an index (pp. 332-345).


Although both the exceptional or innovative nature of Castilian
vis-a-vis other Iberoromance varieties has been recognized and linked
to the unique sociohistorical conditions of the time of the reconquest
by Hispanists, Tuten is the first to systematically test the
koineization model on linguistic data. In addition, the innovations of
Castilian are usually traced back to the early Burgos
phase. Especially the Seville phase has been seen as a mere case of
transplantation of Castilian to the south. Tuten shows that this is
not the case and that koineization has played a significant role
during all three periods. Through the application of the koineization
model to the study of early Castilian, Tuten has successfully tested
the explicatory potential of the model. By meticulously discussing the
previous literature on the koineization process Tuten has also made a
significant contribution to the refinement of this (prototype)
model. I recommend this ground-breaking study to contact linguists and
Hispanists alike.


Bartens, Angela (2000) Vers une typologie socio- et psycholinguistique
des produits du contact linguistique: exemples romans. In Actes du
XXIIe Congr�s international de Linguistique et Philologie
romanes. Tome IX (pp. 7-18). T�bingen: Niemeyer.

Milroy, James & Lesley Milroy (1985) Linguistic change, social
network, and speaker innovation. Journal of Sociolinguistics 21:2,

Penny, Ralph (1987) Patterns of Language-Change in Spain, London:
University of London, Westfield College.

Thomason, Sarah (1997) A typology of contact languages. In Arthur K.
Spears & Donald Winford (eds.) The Structure and Status of Pidgins and
Creoles (pp. 71-88). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.


Dr.phil. Angela Bartens is Acting chair of Iberoromance Philology at
the University of Helsinki. Her research interests include language
contact including pidgins and creoles, sociolinguistics and applied
sociolinguistics including language policy and language planning.
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