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Review of  Selected Proceedings of the 13th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium

Reviewer: Jason Doroga
Book Title: Selected Proceedings of the 13th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
Book Author: Luis Ortiz-López
Publisher: Cascadilla Press
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Book Announcement: 22.3132

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EDITOR: Luis A. Ortiz-López 

TITLE: Selected Proceedings of the 13th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
PUBLISHER: Cascadilla Press
YEAR: 2011

Jason Doroga, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Wisconsin-Madison


This volume contains a selection of 29 peer-reviewed papers that were presented
at the 13th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium (HLS) hosted by the University of
Puerto Rico from October 21-24, 2009.

The HLS draws scholars who work from a variety of different theoretical
frameworks, and the editor has chosen a balanced selection of articles that
offer compelling and often-times innovative research in the broad areas of
Sociolinguistics and Language Variation, Acquisition and Applied Linguistics,
Phonology, and Syntax, Semantics and Pragmatics. These proceedings deserve a
wide audience, as both the generalist and the specialist will find cogent
studies by young researchers and by established scholars alike.

John M. Lipski's plenary address (1-16) focuses on the acquisition of creole
languages by speakers of Spanish. Lipski notices the persistence of
noun-adjective agreement in the interlanguage of Spanish learners as they
acquire a basilect (the less prestigious creole variety), despite the fact that
both Palenquero (an African-based creole spoken in Palenque, Colombia) and
Afro-Bolivian Spanish do not have grammatical gender agreement. The author notes
that Spanish speakers do not produce feminine adjectives with the same frequency
in every environment. He demonstrates that learners not only transfer lexical
categories but also the functional projections of these categories, thus
aligning some morphological features of the basilect to the standard.

Grammatical agreement in Afro-Bolivian Spanish (ABS) is also addressed in Manuel
Delicado-Cantero and Sandro Sessarego's article (42-53). This article employs a
formal approach to understanding the syntactic variation in number expression in
ABS. Their data confirm the theory that final /s/ deletion is primarily a
syntactic rather than a phonological process. Additionally, the authors
demonstrate that uninterpretable phi-features such as number are largely
redundant in ABS and are grammatically superfluous. The authors argue that the
variation documented in the first plenary address may be formalized in a
systematic fashion.

Pedro Martín Butragueño presents a close variation analysis of the realizations
of three coronal segments in Mexico in the second plenary paper (17-32). The
tradition of delimiting dialects based on geography dates to the pioneering work
of Henríquez Ureña (1921), but Martín Butragueño provides an updated, elegant
model that organizes the seemingly haphazard variation documented in the ''Atlas
Lingüístico de México'' (Lope Blanch 1990-2000) into a coherent, analytical
system. The author argues that dialectal divisions are not 'a priori' absolute
categories, but rather relative ones determined by statistical probability.

In the third plenary ''El Minotauro y la muñeca rusa: la gramática infantil y la
teoría lingüística'' (''The Minotaur and the Russian Doll: Infant Grammar and
Linguistic Theory''), Ana T. Pérez-Leroux (118-127) critiques the standard
generative approach to child language acquisition. Both the principles and
parameters model and the subset principle, or the assumption that the
construction of grammar is layered, are inadequate because they fail to explain
the dynamic process of syntax acquisition. The author favors a revision of the
Minimalist program and argues that the acquisition of grammar is best studied in
relation to lexical acquisition, and she discusses how the contrast principle
and the syntactic bootstrapping principle successfully integrate lexical theory
into acquisition.

The final plenary address by Pilar Prieto, Jill Thorson, Ana Estrella and Maria
del Mar Vanrell (203-213), examines the patterns of intonational development of
one Spanish-speaking child in relation to lexical and grammatical development.
They argue that the acquisition of intonation does not co-occur with advances in
general language acquisition. In fact, they provide data of correct prosody
before lexical (measured by vocabulary size) and grammatical development
(measured by mean length of utterance). For example, by age 1;5 the subject
produces adult-like nuclear contours in statements and vocatives before the
child reaches the pivotal two-word period in grammar. In this study, emerging
intonation does not correlate in time with grammatical development.

Two papers specifically address the relationship between language and identity
in Puerto Ricans. Edwin M. Lamboy (70-80) considers the increasingly relevant
question of the role of Spanish in constructing identity in Puerto Ricans born
in the United States. Lamboy observes that Central Florida Puerto Ricans desire
to distance themselves from New York Puerto Ricans, and language is the primary
tool they have to do that. Central Floridians use Spanish in more contexts and
maintain closer ties to the island, yet the study concludes that both
communities do not perceive fluency in Spanish to be an important element in
constructing a Puerto Rican identity in the United States.

In the second article on Puerto Rican Spanish, Sara Mack (81-93) explores the
realization of syllable-final /s/ and its link to perceived sexual orientation.
The author bases her argument on the concept of socioindexicality, which states
that if a listener believes he is listening to a sound associated with a
specific stereotype it affects the speed and manner of processing. The results
of her study show that listeners respond more quickly to speakers previously
rated as gay sounding than they do to speakers rated as straight sounding. The
author considers the effect of priming and its role in listener response times.

Language and identity are also incorporated in articles by Isabel Álvarez
(33-41) and Susana V. Rivera-Mills (94-106). While Álvarez analyzes various
aspects of Spanish as used in the blogosphere, Rivera-Mills studies the shift in
the second-person singular pronoun address forms in first to third generation
Salvadoran and Honduran speakers living in the United States. By using data
taken from spontaneous conversation, surveys, and grammaticality/acceptability
judgments, she documents the increasing preference for 'tú' over 'vos' (at least
in the public sphere). The results of her study suggest that this shift may be
explained by the influence of the larger Mexican population and the desire to
join the greater Hispanic community, linguistic accommodation, and linguistic

Personal pronoun selection is related to politics and power in María
Cristobalina Moreno's study (305-313). Theoretically grounding her paper in the
pragmatics of discourse, she analyzes the power implications inherent in the
choice of address pronouns in a popular Spanish TV show where citizens address
the president directly almost exclusively in the second person formal pronoun
'usted', but the president employs a non-reciprocal use of the informal pronoun
'tú' in his responses. The author concludes that the president is manipulating
pronoun choice to craft a political identity and to exert power.

José Esteban Hernández (54-69) measures rates of word-final nasal velarization
in three Salvadoran communities. The author includes variables such as syllable
stress, preceding and following segment, and word class, but the most
significant variable is exposure to other non-velarizing dialects of Spanish.
The lowest rates of velarization occur uniformly in a Houston community where
about 90% of the population is of Mexican heritage. Like Rivera-Mills, the
author posits that linguistic accommodation best explains the low rates of
velarization in interethnic (Salvadoran-Mexican) contact.

Three articles discuss the unique, and often problematic, place of heritage
language (HL) learners in the American university system. Maite Correa (128-137)
looks at the role of metalinguistic knowledge (MK) in HL acquisition of the
subjunctive. Although she finds no correlation between MK and subjunctive
accuracy in HL learners, she concludes that in a traditional university Spanish
language classroom (here taken to be a rules-based approach) HL learners are at
a disadvantage as a result of less metalinguistic knowledge than their foreign
language peers.

Patricia MacGregor-Mendoza (150-160) addresses the ethical issues of placement
testing for heritage learners. The author argues that a written, on-line
administration of the placement exam is not a valid testing instrument for
placing HL learners into the correct language courses. This type of test is
deficient because it relies almost exclusively on written language in order to
quantify linguistic competency. More importantly, this placement exam, according
to the author, demonstrates a bias against HL learners whose written language
skills are often undernourished.

Finally, N. Ariana Mrak (161-168) exhorts HL learners who speak a stigmatized
dialect to resist the pressure of linguistic hegemony, specifically the pressure
to conform to the norms of the prestige dialect in language classrooms. The
majority of the article is an overview of the broad social, economic and
pedagogical factors that promote linguistic hegemony. She concludes that
language classroom instructors of HL learners must seek to maintain and
encourage home varieties of Spanish while simultaneously teaching the academic,
standard variety as ''as an optional tool and not a replacement'' (166) of the
home dialect.

The ethics of language is also fundamental in the article by Marjorie
Zambrano-Paff (190-202), who discusses the ethical ramifications of faulty
translations in immigration trials. Using examples from actual cases in
immigration court, she concludes that appropriate linguistic repair mechanisms
are not used when a faulty translation occurs (e.g. false cognates, expansions,
circumventions) in court. As a result, the intended message is obfuscated and
the language rights of the defendant are not respected.

Ian Tippets (107-117) studies the semantic, pragmatic and syntactic features
that motivate direct object (DO) marking variation using spoken data from Buenos
Aires, Madrid and Mexico City. Factors discussed include animacy of the DO,
relative animacy of the subject and the DO, form of animate DOs (lexical nouns
vs. proper nouns), and specificity. Animacy was the strongest predictor of DO
marking in all three dialects, while specificity was a significant factor group
only in Buenos Aires (with the greatest frequency of DO marking) and Mexico

Juana M. Liceras, Anahí Alba de la Fuente and Lia Walsh (139-149) discuss the
role of input in the acquisition of complex questions. Wh-scope questions (e.g.
*What do you think whom Marsias has met) and wh-copy (e.g. *Whom do you think
whom Marsias has met?) are only grammatical in German, though English and French
learners of German rated these types of questions as acceptable on a grammatical
judgment test, providing evidence that input does play a role at the advanced
proficiency level. An interesting result is that native Spanish speakers rated
wh-scope and wh-copy grammatical as well, thus hinting at an undesirable effect
of the testing instrument used.

To conclude the acquisition and applied linguistics section, two studies look at
age of acquisition. Nuria Sagarra and Julia Herschensohn (169-177) discover that
late bilinguals can obtain native-like processing response times in gender and
number agreement. Julio Villa-García's (178-189) longitudinal study looks at the
age of onset of pre- and post-verbal subjects in Caribbean and Spanish children.
He finds no significant difference in age of acquisition and argues that these
subjects should be analyzed uniformly, even though they do not share all
syntactical features.

As a group, the four phonology articles present innovative and coherent
arguments that revisit well-studied issues in phonology and offer new
explanations that challenge established theories. Rafael Núñez-Cedeño and Junice
Acosta (239-250) provide new data for Dominican Cibaeño and demonstrate that the
vocalization of the liquids /l/ and /r/ applies both to lexical words [ej
a'suka] ('el azúcar' 'the sugar') and functional words [poj 'jelo] ('por hielo'
'by ice'), thus debunking the hypothesis that vocalization is not possible in
the rhyme of functional words preceding a vowel laid out in Guitart (1980) and
Harris (1983).

Manuel Díaz-Campos and Michael Gradoville (224-238) challenge the formalist
theory of Lexical Phonology as a predictor of /d/ deletion and postalveolar
fricative devoicing and show that a usage-based model that takes into account
word frequency (Bybee 2003) is more satisfactory.

Mark Amengual (214-223) studies the acoustic differences in the production of
the Catalan mid-vowels by Spanish-dominant and Catalan-dominant bilinguals
living in Majorca. The analysis determines that the seven-vowel Catalan system
is not simplified to a five-vowel Spanish system in either group. Amengual
concludes that the Majorcan Catalan vowel inventory does not show any evidence
of contact-induced changes such as Quechua vowels in contact with Spanish.

To conclude the phonology section, Sandro Sessarego (251-263) provides new
phonetic data on /sr/ clusters in Highland Bolivian Spanish. He determines that
in Cochabambino Spanish, only rhotic voicing (and not stridency) is dependent
upon phonological context, challenging the results of one of the few previous
studies on the topic (Bradley 2006).

A pair of articles addresses topics in syntax, semantics and pragmatics using a
formal approach. For example, James V. Bruno (264-274) asserts a connection
between telicity (i.e. a verb that presents an action as completed) and
determiner phrase licensing in absolute constructions in Spanish and Italian. He
claims that absolute constructions are a projection of an Inner-Aspect head that
both Case-marks the determiner phrase and guarantees a telic reading of the
predicate. These facts provide evidence for the Abstract Case in Universal

Next, Melvin González-Rivera (275-285) examines several aspects of the syntax
and semantics of attributive and comparative Spanish Qualitative Binominal Noun
Phrases (QBNPs) (e.g. ''un idiota de gobernador'' ('an idiot of a governor') and
''el idiota del decano'' ('the idiot of the dean')). Substantive differences in
their syntax and semantics in Spanish and in other languages prevent these two
types from being analyzed as a unified group.

Likewise, exclamatives cannot be treated as homogenous group, as Javier
Gutiérrez-Rexach and Patricia Andueza (286-295) demonstrate. Exclamatives with
gradable adjectives may be analyzed as degree exclamatives (e.g. ''Qué
inteligente es Juan!'') ('How smart John is!')), while propositional exclamatives
relay new information to the addressee (e.g. ''Claro que te lo voy a dar!'') ('Of
course, I will give it to you!')). The authors relate important semantic and
syntactical differences between these two subgroups. For example, degree
exclamatives do not allow negation and they cannot constitute comparative

Leah Houle and Rebeca Martínez-Gómez (296-304) provide the only article in the
proceedings whose central theme is grammaticalization. In this corpus based
study, the authors, citing evidence of phonological reduction and semantic
change, demonstrate that 'quizás' ('maybe') is a grammaticalized form of the
Latin 'quis sapit' ('Who knows?'). A diachronic look at mood choice after
'quizás' is useful in determining the trajectory of the semantic change.

Francisco Ordóñez and Esthela Treviño (314-324) offer an assessment of the
unique syntax of Impersonal Periphrastic Passive constructions (ImpPP) in
Spanish and other languages. With abundant examples, the authors show that
ImpPPs have a syntactically active agent along with a nominal patient-object
argument. Monotransitive verbs in ImpPPs require the dative clitic and the
preposition 'a' even with [-human] objects. Additionally the authors show that
the theme-object preceded by 'a' triggers agreement on both the auxiliary and
the passive participle, a contribution not found in the previous literature.

Alberto Pastor (325-336) looks at specific and non-specific interpretations of
adjectives when used with definite and indefinite articles, particularly in the
context of degree terms such as 'muy' ('very') and 'algo' ('some') that force a
specific reading when accompanied by an indefinite article. The semantic
function of this group is a predicate that takes as its argument the interval
opened by the degree operators that involve an inequality comparison with
respect to one another. In other words, degree modifiers introduce an evaluation
about the size of an interval on a scale. Their pragmatic function is to turn a
graded property into a noteworthy one. Pastor argues that indefinite determiner
phrases (DP) containing a degree modifier are related to the noteworthiness of
the DP's referent.


The overall quality of the papers in this volume is high, and much of what is
included here presents new, original data that challenge or refine existing
scholarship. Moreover, the editor has chosen a balanced selection of topics,
representing a broad range of approaches, and many of the authors analyze data
from a combination of theoretical frameworks, such as the integration of formal
and variationist approaches in Delicado-Cantero and Sessarego's study. It is
commendable that the volume as a whole achieves a balance between theory and
empirical data.

It is worth noticing that studies on language variation are particularly well
represented in the volume. Some contributions focus on aspects of variation at
the micro-level, studying variation in phonology, morphology and syntax. Others
instead concentrate on issues at the macro-level, demonstrating that dialectal
differences and sociolinguistic variation in some cases are diminished as a
result of dialects in contact and the pressures of linguistic hegemony.

A number of authors rely on categorization as a way of interpreting their data.
For example, Amengual's acoustic phonetic study distinguishes open and closed
vowels, Correa's acquisition study separates heritage learners from foreign
language learners, and Díaz-Campos and Gradoville include word class division in
their analysis. However, at times, the definitions and criteria for establishing
these categories are not adequately described, and the authors assume discrete
categories without justification.

Given the fact that this is a proceedings volume, it is not wholly unexpected
that a small number of the contributions lack specific conclusions or do not
offer an original analysis of existing data. Moreover, the few comparative
studies in the volume include data from Italian, Catalan, Icelandic and Irish,
yet unlike previous volumes of HLS proceedings, this present volume
unfortunately does not include a study devoted to Portuguese. Lastly, most of
the studies are synchronic in nature, but a few of the articles dealing with
syntax would be enhanced by a brief diachronic introduction to the topic.

The reviewer found that the division of the papers into four broad categories
(though necessary for convention and organization of the volume) allows for
significant overlap in content. For example, readers interested in phonology
will find relevant articles in other sections of the volume. This, however, is a
minor point and certainly does not detract from the contributions that this
volume makes to the general field of Hispanic Linguistics.


Bradley, Travis. 2006. Phonetic realizations of /sr/ clusters in Latin American
Spanish. Proceedings of the 2nd Conference on Laboratory Approaches to Spanish
Phonetics and Phonology, ed. by Manuel Díaz-Campos, 1-13. Somerville, MA:
Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Bybee, Joan L. 2003. Phonology and Language Use. Cambridge: Cambridge University

Guitart, Jorge M. 1980. Some theoretical implications of liquid gliding in
Cibaeño Dominican Spanish. Proceedings of the Tenth Anniversary Symposium on
Romance Linguistics, Supplement II to Papers in Linguistics, 3.223-28. Seattle:
U of Washington.

Harris, James W. 1983. Syllable Structure and Stress in Spanish: A Nonlinear
Analysis. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Henríquez Ureña, Pedro. 1921. Observaciones sobre el español en América, Revista
de Filología Española, 8, pp. 357-90.

Lope Blanch, Juan M. (dir.) 1990-2000. Atlas Lingüístico de México. México: El
Colegio de México - UNAM - FCE, 6 vols.

Jason Doroga is a Ph.D. student in Hispanic Linguistics in the department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on the historical development of the past participle in Spanish and Portuguese.

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