Review of Multilingualism in Spain
Turell, M. Teresa, ed. (2001) Multilingualism in Spain,
Multilingual Matters Ltd., hardback, xv+389 pp.
Reviewed by Margaret Simmons, Nagano University.
The book describes multilingualism in Spain through an
introductory chapter and sixteen articles each of which
addresses the sociolinguistic situation of a particular
community present in Spain. After the introduction the book
is divided into four parts (described below). Notes and
references are found at the end of each chapter. There is no
In chapter one, Spain's multilingual make-up, Turell explains
the background of the book as the final product of a project
which began in 1993 called Sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic
aspects of linguistic minority groups in Spain (SPALIMG), and
she outlines the approach to understanding and analyzing
language contact. The groups are classified as larger
established minorities (Catalan, Basque and Galician speech
communities), smaller established minorities (Occitan,
Asturian and Sign Language communities), other established
communities (Gitano and Jewish communities) and new migrant
minorities (Brazilian, Cape Verdean, Chinese, Italian,
Maghrebi, Portuguese, UK and US American speech communities).
The situation of each group is addressed in terms of three main
aspects: language, migration and discrimination. The
sociolinguistic aspect includes education, patterns of
language use, learning and communication strategies and code
change processes. Migration considers migration and
settlement patterns, and demographic, social and attitudinal
aspects of the migratory process. Discrimination regards
institutional support in light of both European and Spanish
policy and legislation. The sociolinguistic research method
Part 1: The Larger Established Minorities.
Chapter 2, The Catalan-speaking communities, by Miquel
Angel Pradilla, addresses the situation of Catalonia, Valencia
and the Balearic and Pitius Islands. A brief history of the
Catalan language, Catalan language proficiency of the
population in Catalan, statistics regarding knowledge of
Catalan, its institutional support and use in education in each
of the areas and some examples of code-switching between Spanish
and Catalan are given. A map and several data tables are
included. The area of Catalonia shows the most activity and
progress in recuperating the regional language compared with
the other areas, and the reasons are discussed. Indications
of passive vs. active bilingualism are also mentioned.
Chapter 3, The Basque-speaking communities, contributed by
Jasone Cenoz and Josu Perales, presents data from several
different sources. Bilingualism, domains, changes in
proficiency, Basque language requirements for civil servants,
educational models for use of Basque and Spanish (or Basque and
French)and examples of code switching and borrowing are
addressed. The chapter includes a map, tables concerning
domains and other information as well as numerous graphics.
Chapter 4, The Galician speech community by Carme Hermida, gives
a rather extensive description and history of Galician from the
9th to 20th century, including social and institutional uses,
political support literature, linguistic scholarly work and
social attitudes. The present variations, their distributions
and language contact factors are described. Present
proficiency and uses are presented with data from several
sources. There is a short section addressing language shift,
code switching and interference. A desire for prestige is
considered a motivation for speaking Spanish rather than
Galician. The conclusion is not optimistic about the future
of the language due to the desire for prestige, lack of effective
activity on the part of the local administration and lack of
pro-Galician consciousness and participation in normalization
of the language on the part of large sectors of the population.
There is a comparative description of phonetic, morphological
and syntactic structures in Galician, Spanish and Portuguese
in Appendix 1 and two additional texts showing contact language
interference in Appendix 2.
Part 2: The Smaller Established Minorities.
Chapter 5, The Occitan speech community of the Aran Valley,
contributed by Jordi Suils and Angel Huguet, gives a well
rounded overview of the language contact situation in the Aran
Valley situated in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and
the province of Lleida (Lerida) in northern Catalonia.
Significant historical events which have contributed to the
rather independent status of the Aran Valley are summarized.
Characteristic features of Aranese as a Gascon variety of
Occitan, Occitan features and the presence of non-consonantal
plural markers as a feature of noun morphology are illustrated;
verb morphology is not shown but references are given.
Legislation for normalization of Aranese does require the
language to be used in schools. Data regarding proficiency is
given. Language contact with French and varieties of Catalan
and Spanish are discussed as well as changes from the
traditional economy based on sheep to the present economy
largely based on tourism. Language attitudes and identity,
interlocutor based code switching, code switching to
accommodate non-Aranese speakers and some examples of language
contact elements in speech are given. Models for incorporating
the necessary languages into the school system are covered and
also recent initiatives in defense of Aranese. The contact
situation for Aranese is a trilingual (or perhaps
quadrilingual) one in a small population of about 3000 speakers.
Though Aranese has survived for centuries and there is present
consciousness and maintenance efforts, other languages are
important for most young speakers who do not see their future
limited to the Aran valley. A map and graphics are included.
Chapter 6, The Asturian speech community, is written by Roberto
Gonzales-Quevedo. The historical background explains that
Asturian Romance documents were found up to the 16th century
but from then on was gradually replaced by Spanish with a few
exceptions but did have a known presence as an active language
in Spain until the turn of the 20th century when the upper class
abandoned the local language. However, since 1974,
initiatives to revitalize Asturian, also called Bable, have
been developing. Factors of the lower prestige of Bable,
contact language mixing, a variety of bilingual abilities and
diglossia with Spanish create an interesting and problematic
situation for recuperation efforts. Language awareness
related to pro-Asturian movements ranges from almost no
awareness on the part of traditional speakers to militant
attitudes for pure linguistic forms and using Bable for serious
literature as well as organizing other initiatives. Though
language contact effects can be seen in both directions, there
is more influence from Spanish on Bable. Finally, brief
sociolinguistic profiles of four different speakers,
representing different attitudes, are given.
Chapter 7, The Sign Language Community, contributed by Rosa
Vallverdu, gives a brief history of sign language in Spain,
noting that it has been used since the 16th century for teaching
the deaf and mute to speak and write, but was abandoned at the
end of the 18th century by an association of teachers in favor
of insisting on oral language use. However, sign language
survived because the deaf themselves maintained it.
Characteristics of sign language and how signs may be created
are explained, including a graphic of nine productive hand signs
in Catalan Sign Language (but I could not find the meanings of
the illustrated signs in the article). The article explains
associations, education and mass media for deaf persons in a
fair amount of detail. The comments from consultants presented
indicate that sign language allows much more intellectual
development of concepts; oral language is also important,
especially for communicating with the non-deaf, but only oral
training seems to result in the appearance of speech but not
necessarily sophisticated understanding of spoken language.
As an associated result of lack of effective education, deaf
persons have often not pursued secondary or university level
education and frequently have jobs with low skill requirements.
Some of the associations are making appeals for recognition of
sign language as a language and to make changes in education,
services and media which allow deaf persons to participate more
fully. There are several appendices including a list of deaf
associations in Spain and two manifestos.
Part 3: The Other Established Minorities.
Chapter 8, entitled The Gitano communities by Angel Marzo and
M. Teresa Turell, gives a brief history of gypsy migrations from
India through Europe and their arrival and presence in Spain.
Social organization and cultural strategies are discussed, and
profiles of types of modern day Spanish Gitanos are outlined.
Spanish Gitanos are somewhat more settled compared to some other
countries in Europe and have adopted the language of their host
country whereas gypsy groups who continue with a more nomadic
lifestyle have better maintenance of their language. Some
features of Calo, the language of the Spanish Gitanos, are
described. Language contact has had influence in both
directions, and Calo uses some archaisms from Spanish. School
is a relatively new element in Gitano culture; some Gitanos do
attend school, but there is a high drop out rate and issues
concerning cultural identity as well as the marginal status of
Gitanos in the larger society.
Chapter 9, the Jewish communities, contributed by Barbara Vigil,
gives background information on languages used by the Jewish
community in general and a history of the Sepharadic Jews in
Spain from Phoenician times until the expulsion subsequent to
the edict of 1492 and the return during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Social institutions and associations are described. There is
a short section regarding Jaketia, a discussion of language
contact between Hebrew and Spanish in the Israeli community in
Spain and some examples of intrasentential lexical code
Part 4: The New Migrant Minorities.
Chapter 10 by M. Teresa Turell and Neiva Lavratti is entitled
The Brazilian Community. This group tends to be fairly young
and fairly well educated and members are located in various
areas in Spain but especially in Madrid and Catalonia. There
are a range of attitudes toward Spanish culture and language:
some groups which are not very positive towards the host culture
and think that Portuguese is adequate for managing
communication and others who are more interested in remaining
in Spain for a long time. Contact between Spanish and
Portuguese has resulted in two intermediary types of bilingual
speech modes: Portunhol and Espanolgues, and there is a short
description of each of these regarding phonology, morphology
Chapter 11, by Lorenzo Lopez Trigal, is entitled The Cape
Verdean Community. In this community, Portuguese and a Creole
called Kriolu, are involved. Additionally, each of the Cape
Verdean Islands has its own local variation of Kriolu. Many
members of this community are earning money and sending it to
their families in the country of origin. Overall there is not
a great deal of integration, yet in some areas, such as mining
areas, there is more than in large cities. There is only one
linguistic example of a song, but there are several short
biographic profiles of individuals.
Chapter 12, The Chinese Community, is written by Joaquin Beltran
and Crescen Garcia. Although this group has established a
community in the host country, there is relatively little
integration. The Chinese have established businesses and for
the most part seem to have economic goals so that host country
language learning is largely for utilitarian purposes rather
than integration. Chinese is maintained. Associated with
preference for their own culture and also perhaps with
structural differences between Chinese and Spanish, there is
little language contact phenomenon. The chapter does not
include specific examples of language use, but rather
elaborates details of immigration, community structure and
attitudes towards the cultures and languages of their own and
the host country. Tables of social information are included.
Chapter 13, The Italian community, contributed by Rosa M.
Torrens, describes this group as a kind of elitist immigrants
who have decided to reside in Spain for personal rather than
economic reasons. The historical presence of Italians in Spain
is not elaborated. The sociolinguistic description is based
on a sample of eleven consultants. The multilingual situation
of the Italian community often involves standard Italian, a
regional language of Italy, Spanish and one of the other
official languages in Spain. Numerous examples of language use
Chapter 14, by Belen Gari, The Maghrebi communities concerns
mainly Islamic Africans. Language use involves French, Arabic
and Berber, and cultural lifestyles are often in contrast to
values and models offered by Spanish schools. Domains for the
numerous languages are described. There is a short description
of Arabic and also of features found in the language of speakers
who are acquiring Spanish. Tables concerning the
distribution of these communities in Spain are included.
Chapter 15, The Portuguese community by Loreno Lopez Trigal,
describes the recent immigration situation and social
characteristics of the community. Integration is described as
positive for some subgroups but not all. The chapter comments
briefly on language use, but does not include linguistic
examples. Tables with data regarding immigration and
residence in Spain are given.
Chapter 16, The UK community, is written by M. Teresa Turell
and Cristina Corcoll. The profile of this English speaking
community includes older persons who retire in Spain and younger
people seeking personal experience or immigrating for
professional reasons. The chapter describes demographic and
social characteristics of the community, attitudes, language
behaviors and uses and language contact phenomena. Charts and
tables are included.
Chapter 17, also by Turell and Corcoll, concerns The US American
community. They describe the social profile of the community,
patterns of language behavior and domains for English, Spanish
and other languages involved. There are examples of code
switching, borrowing and calques. Charts, tables and graphics
After reading the first chapter, I had the
impression that the articles would be rather uniform in their
structure and data sources; however, there is quite a variation
in the way that each chapter treats the particular community
it concerns and data comes from many different sources. Some
chapters are more developed than others, especially those
articles concerning the indigenous languages as compared to
groups whose presence in Spain is more recent. Some articles
are more sociocultural while others are more sociolinguistic.
This does not detract from the effectiveness of the book and
each chapter address the elements of language, migration and
The collection of articles shows the influences of both the
indigenous and immigrant groups. Language maintenance and
shift concerns are especially important with the indigenous and
long term minority groups. Attitudes towards and acquisition
of the languages of Spain are a common theme in the chapters
addressing the newer immigrant groups.
The inclusion of historical information of each group's
language(s) in the home country as well as in Spain is
especially important in illustrating how involved language and
culture contact is. Most of the groups have come from a
multilingual situation in the home country with a previous
history of language contact and bring that history with them
to Spain which is also a multilingual environment. Many of the
articles include brief profiles of several members of the
particular minority group and these often provide additional
details that illustrate various aspect of cultures as well as
languages in contact.
Language contact phenomena is addressed in terms of each
language impacting on the other, not only concerning the effect
of Spanish on the minority languages.
It is very significant that the sign language community is
included in this volume and that this group is treated as a
community with a language as well as a culture.
The book presents an extensive overview of multilingualism in
Spain, including both macro level and micro level perspectives
and is an impressive collection of articles accessible to a
range of readers interested in sociolinguistics,
multilingualism, migration and minority communities as well as
Spain and Spanish culture. For researchers working on specific
languages in Spain or sociolinguistic situations concerning
languages in other areas, this collection offers contextual
background. And the book contributes to the understanding of
international society from a sociolinguistic point of view.
Margaret Simmons is Associate Professor of English at Nagano
University in Japan. Her research focuses on language
maintenance and shift, especially that of Catalan and Spanish,
and other minority language issues.
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