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Review of  El español del noroeste de Luisiana

Reviewer: Jorge E. Porras
Book Title: El español del noroeste de Luisiana
Book Author: Comfort Pratt
Publisher: Editorial Verbum
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Issue Number: 19.2374

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AUTHOR: Pratt, Comfort
TITLE: El español del noroeste de Luisiana
SUBTITLE: Pervivencia de un dialecto amenazado
PUBLISHER: Editorial Verbum
YEAR: 2004

Jorge E. Porras, Department of Modern Languages, Sonoma State University,
Rohnert Park, CA

This book, written in Spanish, consists of a preface, seven chapters (each
divided into sections), a bibliography, and two appendixes. It contains nine
charts and six maps. The book deals with a linguistic description of Adaeseño, a
moribund Spanish dialect of Northwestern Louisiana, spoken by a small group of
old people.

The preface (pp. 11-12) tells about the first Hispanic settlers in Northwestern
Louisiana, back in 1717, whose descendents, ''adaeseños'', currently live in Texas
and Louisiana. First, it sets the goals of the study, which is the documentation
and analysis of the pre-agonic (sic) state of this dialect. Seventeen
informants, ages 55-90, representing three different generations, constitute the
corpus of the study. Four areas were surveyed: Spanish Lake, Zwolle, Ebarb, and
Noble. The linguistic analysis is on phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon.
The author states that the ''Adaeseño'' dialect is alive, showing homogeneity with
little deviations from norm. The few remaining speakers show a good linguistic
proficiency and grammatical accuracy, with older speakers being more competent
than younger speakers, (ages 50-69), some of which could hardly utter a phrase.
This means the dialect is dying out.

Chapter 1, the introduction, (pp. 13-49), divided into eight sections, includes
a historical background, where the author traces the Spanish expansion to
America by indicating that the Tordesillas Treaty, signed June 7, 1494, gave
Spain entire overseas sovereignty in South, Central, and North America.
Although other nations such as France and England resigned the treaty fifty
years later, Spain was already well established in its colonies, as shown in map
1 (p. 14). Map 2 (p. 16) shows the nine ethno-linguistic groups found by the
Spaniards in the Americas, many of which were eliminated. After pointing out the
difficulties in attempting a dialect classification for Spanish in the Americas,
the author makes recounts the colonization agenda by French and Spanish
Conquistadores in US territories, including, among others, Florida, Texas and

Chapter 2 (pp. 50-86) deals with phonology. It studies the main consonant and
vowel processes of the Adaeseño dialect. It concludes that, according to its
immediate origin, Adaeseño resembles Mexican Spanish in terms of its retention
of consonants, lack of neutralizations, and the presence of Nahuatl loanwords.
This dialect, like rural Mexican Spanish, also contains popular Spanish
phonological processes such as nasalizations, centralizations, transpositions,
deletions, additions, and metatheses. Additionally, with Peninsular Spanish, it
shares some Medieval Spanish phonetic contrasts such as [b] vs. [v] and [f] vs.
/[h]. This chapter also includes several data charts with quantitative accounts
of familiar allophonic alternations, deletions, lenitions, substitutions,
yeismo, etc. Typically, /e/ raises to /i/ in some contexts, and /ei/ becomes
/e/, /eo/ becomes /o/, etc.

Chapter 3 (pp. 87-119) presents the morphology of Adaeseño, based in the
analysis of four categories: nouns, pronouns, verbs, and adverbs. The noun
system is characterized by nonstandard gender/number forms such as ''la calor'',
''la hacha'', ''todo la familia'', ''el labor'', ''los madera'', etc. The pronominal
system includes the use of ''vosotros'', the use of ''tu'' in prepositional phrases:
''para/con tu''; absence of ''si/consigo''; the use of ''chiquito'' for diminutives
and ''grande'' for augmentatives; ''los dos'' instead of ''ambos'';
''naide(n)/naigeg(n) for ''nadie''; ''qué tanto'' for ''cuánto''; etc. The verbal
system presents the following features: absence of subjunctive morphology,
substitution of the imperfect by the present tense; formal reduction of the
future, conditional and pluperfect; diphthongizations, analogical
neutralizations, leveling of regular/irregular forms, and, in general, the use
of archaic forms. Finally, nonstandard adverbial uses include ''no más/puro'' for
''solamente'', ''ansina'' for ''así'', and ''ayer pasado/antier'' for ''anteayer''.

Chapter 4 (pp. 120-145) gives an account of the syntactic system of Adaeseño. On
one hand, Adaeseño syntax is characterized by normative structures such as
case-marking pronouns and the postposition of subjects with impersonal forms of
conjugation. No use of infinitive or gerund constructions in sentence-initial
position of consecutive expressions is attested; also, according to norm, ''me''
and ''te'' are postponed to ''se'', among other features. On the other hand,
Adaeseño syntax is characterized by non-normative features such as the lack of
subject inversion in interrogative sentences, and the redundant use of
pronominal subjects, as well as deletion of articles and prepositions, among
other features. In addition, Adaeseño comprises a simplified verbal system with
copula neutralization and no tense-aspect-mood distinctions; thus, the
imperfect, the conditional, or the synthetic future are practically nonexistent.
Also, there are no irregular forms, only the third person of command forms is
used, and the indicative replaces the subjunctive. Finally, complex
constructions, such as subordination, are also simplified.

Chapter 5 (pp. 146-181) presents the lexicon. It comprises twenty-four pages of
Adaeseño lexical items, including over six hundred words distributed in
categories such as the human body, clothing, the house, family and religion,
professions, city and countryside, among others. It is shown that the dialect is
a blend of several Spanish (synchronic as well as diachronic) varieties,
including Castilian archaisms, Nahuatlisms, Anglicisms, and Gallicisms.
Informants' lexical proficiency show high standards in Archaisms and
Nahuatlisms, as well as good proficiency in words related with food, body parts,
clothing, and house objects.

Chapter 6 (pp. 182-194) is titled, ''Adaeseño death''. This chapter discusses the
historical and socio-linguistic factors that caused Adaeseño to change from a
standard dialect of Spanish into a vestigial, moribund variety. These factors
are as follows, among others: one is that, while several languages and Spanish
dialects helped shape Adaeseño linguistically and culturally, only English
contributed to its destruction. In fact, on one hand, Louisiana was transferred
to the United States in 1821, and later in 1935; on the other hand, the addition
of Texas to the US in 1845; and, ultimately, the self-rendition of Adaeseños as
a socio-cultural group left this Spanish dialect with just a handful of
come-to-age speakers.

While most linguistic fieldwork on Louisiana Spanish focuses on the Isleños
(Islanders) of St. Bernard Parish and the Brules of Ascension Parish, both
immigrants of Canary Islands (See, among others, Holloway 1997(a)-(b); Lipski
1984, 1987; MacCurdy 1951), Comfort Pratt offers a complete description of a
dialect thus far unknown, found by this author in a semi-extinct condition. This
is, in my view, the greatest value of this research work. The book also
contains information about Adaeseños daily life and education.

Pratt's book is clearly written and well thought out, with virtually no typos.
It is also well organized, with each chapter ending with a summary and a
conclusion, which makes it easy to read. Data are analyzed intra- and
extra-linguistically, and a historical background about the origins and
formation of the dialect is also provided. Phonology, morphology, syntax, and
the lexicon of adaseño are adequately accounted for, with charts and lists of
grammatical and lexical data elicited from surveys and personal interviews. The
book also includes two appendices at the end, with the illustrations and
drawings used for the study.

In sum, this volume constitutes a timely and important contribution to Spanish
dialectology in the United States. It can very well be used as a textbook for a
graduate course on US Spanish varieties, in particular, or Latin American
dialectology, in general.

Holloway, Charles E. 1997(a). _Dialect Death: The Case of Brule Spanish_.
Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Holloway, Charles E. 1997(b). ''Divergent Twins: Isleño and Brule Spanish in
Louisiana'', in _Southwest Journal of Linguistics_ 16.1-2.

Lipski, John M.1984. ''The impact of Louisiana Isleño Spanish on historical
dialectology'', in _Southwest Journal of Linguistics_ 7:102-15.

Lipski, John M. 1987. ''Language Contact Phenomena in Louisiana Isleño Spanish'',
in _American Speech_ 62.4:320-31.

MacCurdy, Raymond. 1951. ''The Spanish Dialect in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana'',
in _Language_ 27.3: 405-11.

Jorge E. Porras is a Professor of Spanish language and linguistics at Sonoma
State University. His field of research encompasses dialectology, language
contact, Afro-Iberic Creoles, and semantics. His dissertation is entitled,
''Non-Finite Verbs and the Stativity Hypothesis in Spanish: A Semantic Approach
to Aspect''.

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