Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Date: Tue, 14 Oct 2003 12:21:44 +0100 From: Gabriel Rei-Doval Subject: Introducción a la lingüística hispánica
Hualde, José Ignacio, Antxon Olarrea and Anna María Escobar (2001) Introducción a la lingüística hispánica, Cambridge University Press.
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.
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 formation.
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 ideas.
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 español viene del latín" (Spanish comes from Latin) [all translations are mine]. "Esto vale tanto como decir que el español viene de Roma, pues en su origen el latín 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 only 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 León, 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 ("dijístemelo"). 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.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
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.