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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Review of Selected Proceedings of the 11th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
EDITORS: Collentine, Joseph; García, Maryellen; Lafford, Barbara A.; Marín, Francisco Marcos TITLE: Selected Proceedings of the 11th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium PUBLISHER: Cascadilla Press YEAR: 2009
Dalia Magaña, Department of Spanish, University of California, Davis
The volume reviewed consists of selected papers presented at the 11th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium held at the University of Texas at San Antonio in November 2007. Along with two plenary papers in general linguistics the volume covers the following areas: language acquisition, phonology, syntax and semantics.
In the first plenary paper, ''Literary Linguistics in the Context of a Literature Department'', Milton M. Azevedo raises queries common to researchers in Hispanic linguistics and discusses the research possibilities afforded in the area. Azevedo addresses obstacles faced by researchers in Hispanic Linguistics including their traditionally perceived role in language departments as pedagogues and administrators ideal for departmental language coordinating. The unfortunate consequence of solely perceiving applied linguists as pedagogues compromises their roles as researchers. Further, the author discusses the coexistence of the linguistics and literature disciplines in language departments projecting ahead with possibilities for research combining both areas. Drawing upon his experience in teaching linguistics courses to literature students, the author discusses approaches available in linguistics for analyzing literary texts by offering concrete examples of such interdisciplinary research such as discourse analysis of literary texts. Of particular interest is that the literary discourse examples in Azevedo's data are not examples found in formal academic language spoken by educated speakers, but rather are characteristic of informal casual speech spoken by diverse speakers. In the examples, the speakers could be identified as either bilinguals or those whose languages are in contact with another language and in some instances speak a stigmatized variety such as Spanish/English code-switching, ''Fronterizo,'' and Italian influenced Brazilian Portuguese. Therefore, Azevedo offers not only a perspective for interdisciplinary research in linguistics and literature, but also suggests research in language varieties not traditionally or sufficiently considered in the literature.
In the second plenary paper ''Formal Linguistics and the Syntax of Spanish: Past, Present and Future'' Margarita Suñer discusses trends in formal syntax, considers the variation found in the Spanish clitic system, and concludes by offering a comparison between Spanish language clitic-doubling and Germanic language object-shift. In her discussion of object clitics the author compares four clitic systems that vary morphologically with respect to clitic-doubling (Normative Spanish, Madrid Spanish, Porteño, and Colloquial Quiteño). Next, in her comparison across languages, Suñer notes that while Germanic languages share similarities with Spanish with respect to object shift, these languages also vary particularly concerning the more restricted distribution in both German and Spanish. Finally, the author concludes with the advantages of comparative studies across languages given the insights afforded in such an approach.
The first study in the acquisition section of the book, entitled ''Eventive and Stative Passives: The Role of Transfer in the Acquisition of 'ser' and 'estar' by German and English L1 Speakers'' by Joyce Bruhn de Garavito, empirically explores the use of Spanish copulas ''ser'' and ''estar'' among ten native speakers, twenty English speaking learners and nine German-speaking learners. The methodologies included a Grammaticality Judgment Task and a Sentence Selection Task. The author's hypothesis regarding the German-speaking participants outperforming the English speakers in the passive use due to similarity with German was not evidenced in the results of the study. The author concludes that such lack of transfer from German to Spanish challenges the Full Transfer Hypothesis.
An argument concerning transfer in language acquisition is also explored in Timothy L. Face and Mandy R. Menke's study ''Acquisition of the Spanish Voiced Spirants by Second Language Learners.'' In their acoustic analysis-based study, the authors find that transfer from English orthographic ''b'' and ''v'' occurs among different levels of Spanish learners/speakers: fourth semester Spanish learners, fourth year Spanish majors, and Ph.D. second language Spanish speakers. Within these groups, however, the authors found differences. Given their comparison of these different stages of Spanish language level, the authors showed a statistically significant progressive development among the learners based on their acquisition of Spanish language spirantization.
The third study in language acquisition by J. César Féliz-Brasdefer and Erin Lavin is entitled ''Grammar, Prosody and Turn Expansion in Second Language Conversations.'' The study concerns Spanish language learners' use of grammatical resources and prosodic cues in their natural interactions with native speakers of Spanish in an informal context. The participants included eleven English-speaking Spanish language learners at the intermediate level with a range of Spanish language experience, and seven Spanish native speakers. Data collection involved twenty to twenty-five minutes of natural conversation regarding sensitive topics between the dyads composed of a Spanish language learner and a Spanish language native speaker. The authors found that among the grammatical resources employed, the learners utilized the increment initiator ''y'' (''and'') predominantly along with prosodic cues to maintain a flow in their interactions.
In ''New Findings on Fluency Measures across Three Different Learning Contexts'' Lorenzo García-Amaya explores Spanish language fluency among twenty English-speaking language learners subdivided according to their language experience (study abroad and years of study) and five Spanish native speakers as a control group. The data collection consisted of an extensive sociolinguistic individual interview with the researcher guided by fifty-four questions. The study probed the advantages of large speech samples. The results of the study indicated that fluency correlated with study abroad experience and that there was a statistical difference between the learners and native speakers among other insightful findings.
In their study, ''The Acquisition of the Personal Preposition 'a' by Catalan-Spanish and English-Spanish Bilinguals,'' Pedro Guijarro-Fuentes and Theodoros Marinis compare the use of the personal preposition ''a'' between sixteen English-speaking Spanish learners in the UK, eighteen Catalan-speaking Spanish learners in Spain and sixteen Spanish monolinguals in Spain. The methods consisted of a forty-eight sentence completion task eliciting the preposition ''a'' in six differing conditions. The results of the study revealed that residual optionality (i.e. variants within an individual’s grammar) in acquisition of the preposition ''a'' was present among the bilingual speakers. The study also found that the language background regarding Catalan and English somewhat influenced the acquisition of prepositional ''a''.
The following article, by Miren Hodgson, ''The Role of Object Movement in the Acquisition of Telicity,'' examines telicity, ''a feature that must be checked in the Specifier of Aspect Phrase via movement of the direct object'' (Hodgson 2009:93). The study probes the knowledge of covert and overt movement among sixty elementary children in Spain and sixteen adults serving as a control group. The findings of the study showed that children before the age of four have telicity knowledge to the extent of controlling overt predicate movement as in locatum structures (i.e. a structure that requires NP movement due to feature checking); therefore, ''overt applications of movement within one linguistic module do not pose a problem to [the] young learners'' (Hodgson 2009:101). In the present study this was evidenced in their ability to assign adult-like interpretation to locatum predicates. However, these young learners' knowledge with respect to covert movement occurring in simple telic predicates requires further acquisitional development since the data showed an apparent deficiency in children's knowledge of structure.
James F. Lee and Paul A. Malovrh in their study ''Linguistics and Non-linguistic Factors Affecting OVS Processing of Accusative and Dative Case Pronouns by Advanced L2 Learners of Spanish'' explore the interpretation of OVS strings among different levels of English-speaking Spanish learners. The fifty-two participants consisted of third semester, fifth semester, and upper-division learners comprising the four language levels. The authors found that the more advanced learners processed OVS more accurately than the beginning learners.
In ''The L2 Acquisition of Null and Overt Spanish Subject Pronouns: A Pragmatic Approach,'' by Margaret Lubbers Quesada and Sarah E. Blackwell, the authors explore the use of Spanish first person singular employed with tensed verbs among two groups: native Spanish speakers and Spanish language learners. The data were collected from a database that included oral narratives produced by native speakers from Mexico and from five different levels of learners. The outcome of the study suggested that the participants' production of overt and null subject pronouns in Spanish was systematic. Surprisingly, such was the case for the learners since while overt subject pronouns were preferred, null pronouns were produced in the contexts examined.
The study ''Child Acquisition and Language Change: 'Voseo' Evolution in Río de la Plata'' by María Irene Moyna analyzes historic and contemporary data about the use of the ''voseo'' in Río de la Plata. According to her data, ''voseo'' in Río de la Plata does not significantly compete with other alternatives and displays minimal internal variability. The findings of the study suggest that there exists a correlation between children's development of ''voseo'' and shift from ''tuteo'' to ''voseo'' in Río de la Plata. The author concludes that simplicity is a result of universal constraints in children's speech.
In ''The Effect of Dialect Familiarity via a Study Abroad Experience on L2 Comprehension of Spanish,'' Lauren Beth Schmidt examines the comprehension of Dominican Spanish among eleven low-intermediate to near-native Spanish learners. The participants completed various listening comprehension tasks twice: before their three-week study abroad in the Dominican Republic and after the completion of their study abroad. The results not only revealed that exposure to Dominican Spanish affected the learner's task performance, but also that the learner's comprehension of Standard Spanish improved.
The final study in the acquisition section, ''Subject Pronouns in Child Spanish and Continuity of Reference,'' by Naomi Lapidus Shin and Helen Smith Cairns, concerns monolingual Spanish-speakers' development of third person singular subject pronouns with emphasis on the developmental relationship to Continuity of Reference. In their experimental study, the authors explore adult and children's pattern of preference of overt and null third person singular subject pronouns. The findings reveal that the results support the interface hypothesis; that is, the interface between syntax and other domains (such as discourse). This claim is made given the later development among Spanish speaking monolinguals of the syntax-discourse interface feature analyzed, Continuity, as a predictor of preferences for overt and null third singular subject pronouns in Spanish.
The first study in the phonology section, ''The Relative Importance of Lexical Frequency in Syllable- and Word-Final /s/ Reduction in Cali, Colombia,'' by Earl K. Brown discusses the patterns found in syllable- and word-final /s/ reduction among Spanish native speakers from Cali, Colombia. The data collection relied on informal spontaneous conversations provided by a previous study. Analysis of the data consisted of a variationist methodology revealing that the reduction of /s/ word-internally, syllable-finally and (to a lesser extent) word-finally is conditioned by the lexical frequency of the word.
In ''Perceptual Categorization of Dialect Variation in Spanish'' Manuel Díaz-Campos and Inmaculada Navarro-Galisteo examine the interplay between language experience and indexical properties of dialect variation in perceptual categorization. The study's participants were fifty Spanish-speaking listeners, including both males and females from Spain and Venezuela. The dialect categorization task was composed of six different varieties of Spanish. Analysis of the data echoed previous studies revealing the difficulty of accurately identifying dialect variation. Overall, the Venezuelan participants performed more accurately than the Spanish participants; furthermore, their combined performance was above chance.
The next phonological study, ''Continuancy and Resonance in Spanish,'' by Carolina González considers the features [sonorant] and [continuant] in Spanish. The author proposes that continuancy and resonance in Spanish are the phonological foundation in Spanish and that the features [sonorant] and [continuant] are phonetically and phonologically linked. Additionally, González proposes that these features are connected to Aperture degrees and suggests the incorporation of a ''partial aperture'' to include groups with partial blocking of airflow such as nasals and laterals.
The final phonology study, ''On the Current State of Vowel Intrusion Analysis in Spanish within Optimality Theory,'' is by Benjamin Schmeiser. Using Optimality Theory, the author examines the intrusive vowel (an epenthetic vowel, or schwa) occurring in tautosyllabic environments. Based on his findings, Schmeiser proposes that this intrusive vowel be further considered given its durational variability found in the data. The study concludes with additional Optimality Theory constraints that afford a more extensive analysis of the /Cɾ/ cluster in Spanish.
The final category, Syntax and Semantics, comprises six articles. The first, ''Split Questions, Extended Projections and Dialect Variation'' by Jorge López-Cortina, concerns the use of Split questions (constructions where whole sentences are split into two parts) found in Asturian Spanish. The data consisted of interviews and questionnaires. Based on his syntactic analysis, the author suggests that since in split questions ''qué'' behaves as an adjunct, it should be placed in the specifier position of an extended projection. Additionally, López-Cortina argues that the Spanish adverb ''acaso'' behaves similarly to ''qué'' with respect to adjunct character attribution. Finally, the author concludes with further syntactic differences between ''wh-questions'' and ''qué.''
In ''A Constructionist Approach to Adjectival Interpretative Properties,'' Juan Martín discusses three different adjectival positions in Spanish. The author argues that the three adjectival positions in Spanish are: a pronominal position dominated by the noun phrase containing an ''intensional interpretation;'' the second, a postnominal position external to the noun phrase yet internal to the determiner phrase that dominates the noun phrase; and the third, a ''postnominal position external to the [determiner phrase] dominating the [noun phrase]'' (Martín, 2009: 240). Martín concludes that, “the traditional lexical differences among adjectives are subsumed under the direct and indirect modification distinction, and furthermore can be accounted for under a minimal compositional theory with a simplified thematic theory” (Martín, 2009: 240).
Roberto Mayoral Hernández and Asier Alcázar analyze three sociolinguistic and stylistic factors affecting the order of adverbials in ''Technological Applications to Linguistic Research: A Corpus Analysis of Frequency Adverbials.'' The corpus-based analysis reveals that gender, language variety, and genre influence the order of adverbials in the Latin American and Peninsular Spanish speakers. According to the authors, gender was statistically significant in the Latin American speakers with men favoring preverbal positions. The difference between the Latin American Spanish speakers and the Peninsular Spanish speakers with respect to the language variety factor was due to the results found among the Latin American men in the study. Finally, the genre factor was found to be statistically significant particularly among the Peninsular Spanish speakers. Therefore, the study shows that sociolinguistic and stylistic factors such as a gender, language variety and genre affect adverbial alternation.
In '''Mirá': From Verb to Discourse Particle in Rioplatense Spanish,'' Francisco Ocampo performs a corpus concordance to analyze the use of ''mira'' (''tú form'') and ''mirá'' (''voseo form'') dialectally and socially. The author's findings reveal the evolution of the use of ''mira/mirá'' having undergone ''a process of desemantization'' as previous studies proposed. Finally Ocampo suggests that ''mirá'' is predominantly employed with a discourse use and marginally conveys meaning.
The final study ''Interfaz sintáctica-semántica en los objetos directos: el español y el criollo haitiano'' by Luis A. Ortiz-López and Pedro Guijarro-Fuentes analyzes the use of overt direct objects and null objects among children and adults in a border region of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The participants consisted of fifteen participants, five Haitians who were native Creole speakers and Spanish learners (with interlanguage abilities), five Dominican-Haitian bilinguals, and five monolingual Dominican Spanish speakers. While the study found quantitative differences, it did not reveal any qualitative differences among the observed groups. Specifically, the results suggest that lexical objects are widely employed, overt direct objects are preferred over null direct objects, and obligatory direct objects are rarely omitted. Overall, the authors find that the presence or omission of direct objects is conditioned more by semantically related internal factors ([+/- human]> [+/- animate] > [+/- defined]> [+/- specific]) than by external factors (languages in contact and degree of bilingualism).
The present volume encompasses numerous topics in Hispanic linguistics from three areas: language acquisition, phonology, and syntax and semantics. In its entirety, the volume offers numerous original contributions and proposals concerning several varieties of Spanish and employing a range of methodologies and approaches. A trend revealed in the volume is the use of spontaneous representative data in a significant number of the studies based on casual informal language and corpora representative of authentic language.
A weakness in the volume is due to the lack of inclusion of studies based on Spanish-English bilinguals, specifically heritage speakers, in the acquisition section of the volume. While other fields in linguistics (such as sociolinguistics and heritage language pedagogy) have offered significant contributions to heritage language research, the field of heritage languages in the U.S. bilingual context has lacked research stemming from traditional linguistic perspectives. Therefore, the present volume would have been enriched if studies based on heritage speakers in the U.S. had been included.
While a nominal amount of typographical errors are present in the volume, these do not interfere with the overall comprehension and quality of the texts.
Overall the articles provide enriching findings for the field that will undoubtedly afford researchers and students in the area fruitful insights evoking additional future research.
Hodgson, Miren. (2009). ''The Role of Object Movement in the Acquisition of Telicity'' in Selected Proceedings of the 11th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium, ed. Joseph Collentine et al., 93-104. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.
Martín, Juan. (2009). ''A Constructionist Approach to Adjectival Interpretative Properties,'' in Selected Proceedings of the 11th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium, ed. Joseph Collentine et al., 231-241. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Dalia Magaña is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Spanish at University
of California, Davis. Her research interests include sociolinguistics,
discourse analysis, and heritage language pedagogy.