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Review of A History of the Spanish Language (2nd edition)
Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2003 19:16:47 -0500 From: Kathleen T. O'Connor Subject: Review: A History of the Spanish Language, 2nd edition
Penny, Ralph, (2002) A History of the Spanish Language, 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press, paperback ISBN 0 521 01184 1, xx +398 pp.
Kathleen Therese O'Connor-Bater, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Princeton University.
Description of the book:
A History of the Spanish Language, by Ralph Penny, provides a detailed and comprehensive survey of the Spanish language, tracking its development from its Indo-European ancestors to modern usage examining its phonology, morpho-syntax, verbal dynamics, lexis, and semantics. The book concludes with a chapter titled 'Past, present and future', in which the author summarizes the nature of the history of language and discusses increasing influences from English. While primarily oriented towards the 'internal' history of Spanish, meaning the historical evolution of the language, the book makes reference when appropriate to 'external' history, or the examination of Spanish within its social context as well. The introductory chapter provides a time-line of the development of Spanish as it evolved from Indo-European languages spoken on the peninsula, which coincided with the arrival of the Romans in Spain. The chapter then gives the lineage of the romance languages through the non-literary Vulgar Latin versus Classical Latin, indicating that any strict distinction between the two is not to be taken for granted. The author carefully handles the discussion of the descendants of spoken Proto-Romance, reminding readers of the implausibility of citing as the direct ancestor of standard Spanish, Vulgar Latin, which is highly dialectalized and without a written grammar. He devotes considerable attention to the process of the acceptation of the Castilian dialect as the standard code corresponding to the publication of the grammar by Antonio de Nebrija in 1492. He continues, in this chapter, with discussions of the Latin of Spain, the linguistic phenomena resultant from the Conquest by the Moors, and the Reconquest by the Catholic Kings. He provides some discussion of several of the dialects spoken at that time, with considerable attention devoted to Judeo-Spanish, the language spoken by the exiled Spanish (and later, Portuguese) Jews in the Mediterranean and the Balkans, which became a self-contained variant. In his discussion of Spanish in the present day, Penny cites theories of Andalucian versus Castilian dialects spoken in the Americas, which may account for dialectical differences in present day Latin-American Spanish. Chapter 1 also contains a table in which a breakdown in millions of Spanish speakers by country is offered.
Chapter 2 provides as detailed a survey of the Spanish phonological system as can be condensed into 76 pages. Owing to the density of the material, the chapter contains considerable phonological information which will be inaccessible to those unfamiliar with phonological theory. The author acknowledges this and offers some bibliographic suggestions for further study, (vis.Alarcos (1965) Dalbor (1980) Macpherson (1975) and Quilis and Fernandez (1969)). Additionally, many of the terms introduced in this chapter are provided in a glossary in the back of the book. Phonological change from Latin is discussed in terms of rules of assimilation and dissimilation, epenthesis, metathesis, split and merger, citing ample exampled of forms in Latin and in Spanish where these changes can be observed. There is a discussion of how words are transmitted into Spanish whether as 'learned-words', words which came into the language through written texts, or 'semi-learned' words which were 'orally inherited' from spoken Latin, and later 'remodeled' when uttered by the literati. 2.3 discusses the evolution of suprasegmental features, specifically accent markers and syllabic stress. 2.4 goes into considerable detail on the vowel system giving numerous examples of Latin ancestry and an explanation of the dipthongization process. There is also significant attention devoted to the system of tonic and atonic vowels. 2.5 discusses the development of consonants in which phonological processes, such as gemination, lenition, voicing, palatization etc., of each Spanish consonant is traced from the Latin system. In 2.5.5, an explanation of some of the internal phonetics of Spanish, which occur in different chronological periods, which Penny calls the 'secondary consonant groups' is offered. Here he discusses such occurrences as the disappearance of the sequence /pt/ to become /tt/ during the transitional periods in Spanish and other second generational incidents of consonant deletion, gemination, etc. including the evolution of the Latin/Old Spanish /f/ to the modern /h/.
Chapter 3 provides an account of Spanish morpho-syntaxis, broken down into sections on general concepts, the noun, the adjective, the adverb, the pronoun, the numeral, the verb, other word classes, and conditional sentences. The chapter begins with the definition of terms related to general concepts such as 'morpheme' and 'lexeme', and establishes the distinction between 'synthetic' and 'analytic' languages in terms of the use of bound morphemes or individual words. In 3.2, the noun is presented beginning with a discussion of case and number, in which the disappearance of case endings in Spanish from the Latin is accounted for by the former's creation of prepositional phrases. Four phonological convergences are listed referring to this transition: (1) The merger of the accusative and ablative singular led to the deletion of the final 'm' (2) the merger of short 'a' and long 'a' led to 'mensa' (losing the distinction between acc. mensam and abl. mensA (long 'a'). (3) The merger of 'o' and 'u', losing distinction between acc. Sing. 'dominum' and dative/abl. sing, 'domino') long 'o'; and (4) The convergence of 'E' (long e) and 'I' (short 'i'), and other front vowels caused merger of nom.acc plur with gen. sing. Example: [montes] (long 'e'), [montis]. This section later discusses many particular examples of occurrences such as these. Section 3.2 is devoted to the gender of nouns, with a discussion of the masculine/feminine/neuter gender of Latin transition to the largely masculine/feminine of Spanish. A fair amount of detail is devoted to the disposition of Latin neuters as they appear in Spanish. Also treated in this section is a discussion of gender markers in Latin, [-us] masculine, and [-a], feminine, and the means of their occurrence in Spanish as [-o] and [-a], as well as the occurrence of Spanish nouns ending in [-e] or a consonant. Change in gender occurs most frequently from feminine to masculine where there is a shift from Latin to Spanish. Examples include: 'el origen', 'el amor', 'el honor' in which the transition is from feminine to masculine, and 'la piramide' (borrowed in the Middle Ages as masculine but is now feminine), in which the opposite trend occurred. In section 3.3 the adjective is discussed as essentially unchanged from Latin in terms of its function and syntactic rules. Aside from a shift in the word order of restrictive adjectives to following the noun in Spanish, from preceding the noun in Latin, there is no significant departure from the Latin system of adjectives. In 3.3.1., a discussion is offered of the convergence of the two classes of adjectives in Latin and the loss of case distinction. 3.3.2 presents the Latin system of adjectives of comparison as taking two tracks, one in which the morphemic suffixes [-ior] and [-issimus] added to the adjective express 'more' and 'most', and the expression of comparison in which adding the term 'magis' or 'plus' before the adjective indicates 'more', and 'maxime' indicates 'most'. Spanish adopts the latter system, although the former superlative ending is used as an intensifier [vis. 'fuerte', 'forti'simo' (fuerti'simo)]. Section 3.4 discusses the adverb. Section 3.5 provides a detailed examination of the pronoun, with subsections on personal pronouns, forms of address, the possessive, demonstratives, articles, relatives and interrogatives, and indefinites. 3.6 is a discussion of the numeral. 3.7 is an exhaustive analysis of the Spanish verb. The verb is discussed in terms of its general developmental features, analytic and synthetic developments, the verbal accent, features of pronunciation and orthography, voice, person and number, aspect, tense, mood, voice, person and number, aspect, tense, mood, Old Spanish developments, changes of class, and numerous phonological developments, too numerous to list. Particularly helpful to an understanding of this section are several graphic representations of person/number markers, verb compounds from Classical Latin to Old Spanish to Modern Spanish, verb classes and others. The discussion of mood in 3.7.6 gives a survey of the indicative versus subjunctive moods as they are traced back to the Latin corresponding forms. Table 3.22 in this section gives an algorithm of 'ir root-vowel' development derived from a yes/no requirement of mid-vowels in the root. Table 3.23 shows the development of tonic and atonic vowels in Spanish affected and unaffected by metaphony exercised by [j] (showing the development of the palatalized /n~/ to choose one example). There are also two tables showing the development of front and back root vowels in [-ir] verbs which present the system of consonant deletion and other phonological processes with the Latin and Spanish forms presented graphically in each of these charts. Among others, there is a Table 3.42 which shows the development of the preterite of 'ser' and 'ir'. Section 3.8 examines other word classes, including the preposition, the conjunction, and conditional sentences.
Chapter 4, titled 'Lexis' accredits several languages aside from Latin with Spanish vocabulary. Chronologically, the contributions, first of the pre-Roman languages spoken on the Iberian peninsula are given. Examples of terms derived from Celtic include: a^Òlamo, 'poplar', berro 'watercress', bota 'leather wine bottle' brezo 'heather' brio 'verve', engorar 'to addle' gancho 'hook' gren~a 'greasy lock of hair', and a few other. Other Celtic words may have come from the Gaullish variety spoken outside of Spain, and includes words such as: arpende 'land measurement unit', braga 'breeches', carpintero 'carpenter', 'carro' cart, and others of which the Romance languages have derived cognate forms. Basque also provide borrowings including many personal names: Garcia, Inigo, Javier, Gimeno, Sancho, and a few nouns such as: aquelarre 'witches' 'Sabbath', boina 'beret', cachorro 'cub' chaparro 'dwarf' izquierdo 'left' laya 'spade' pizarra 'slate', and a few others. 4.3 gives an account of Latinisms in Spanish, tracing the evolution of Spanish lexical and morphological forms as it progressed from Latin to Old Spanish to Modern Spanish. Additionally, hellenisms, Germanic borrowings and arabisms are discussed. 4.7 gives an account of the mozarabisms, or the words imported into Spanish by the vernacular speech of Christian Arabs (although the language was also spoken by Jews and Muslims). There is a section devoted to gallicisms and occitanisms, which resulted from contact with the peoples of the Pyrennees. Additional sections are devoted to amerindianisms, anglicisms, catalanisms, lusisms, and Italianisms. 4.14 discusses word-formation in terms of prefixation, derivation, composition^◊most of which is discussed according to its transition from Latin and Romance ancestors.
Chapter 5 treats the semantic system of Spanish, with a particular view to the causes of language change. Causes are assigned as linguistic, historical, social, psychological, and foreign influences. Types of semantic change are cited as related to metaphor, metonymy, popular etymology, and ellipsis. The consequences of semantic change occur on the level of the modification of the range, or affective nuances.
Chapter 6, titled 'Past, Present and Future' discusses the nature of language history, world Spanish, convergence and divergence and the influence of English in a section called English and Spanish. Following the last chapter is a glossary of technical terms used in the text. Finally, there is a suggestion of suggestions of topics of discussion and further reading.
This book provides a historical account of Spanish that is as thorough as it is sweeping. It is an invaluable resource for both Hispanic linguists and for students of Spanish from all disciplines. If the book is slanted towards one aspect of the discipline of linguistics, or another, I would say that it favors the side of the history of language, or philology, rather than towards formal linguistics, such as would require an understanding of generative syntax or semantics. (I note that the copy I have does not indicate subject headings on the cover.) As a comprehensive text, the book documents the Latin-to-Spanish transition throughout, treating both languages with equal rigor. This is extremely helpful to Spanish students who do not know Latin, who will be able to fact check a range of Latin grammar and lexicographical points in one volume, without having to dig through original Latin grammars. Because of the clear definitions of linguistic terms given at the beginning of each chapter, the aspects of linguistics discussed in the book are, in general, accessible to the undergraduate student or non-linguist. The definitions are also useful linguists who may be familiar with other nomenclature in the fields of phonology, morpho-syntaxis, lexicology, etc, or from the perspective of rhetoricians. Each of the books' five main chapters treats a separate area of linguistics adequately enough to provide comprehensive knowledge of the Spanish language, whether as spoken today or at various stages over the course of its development. To the instructor of the history of Spanish at the graduate or undergraduate level, I highly recommend this as a textbook. I personally plan to adopt this book as the primary text the next time I teach a course in Spanish linguistics. To the hispanist, I also recommend this book as a resource for reference on virtually any area of Spanish regarding its relation to Latin. Each chapter contains in-depth discussions of Spanish related to various linguistic disciplines which are clear and well-written. The glossary, which follows the last chapter, gives definitions of the technical terms used throughout, enabling easy accessibility to the material whether read for the first time or for review. The section at the end of the book, which provides topics for discussion, is suitable for an instructor to use as a textbook, or for research topics. Questions such as: 'On what basis can it be claimed that Spanish is Latin?' and, 'Assess the role of Alfonso X in the standardization of Spanish' give thought provoking ideas which will facilitate classroom discussion.
Despite my overall highly favorable opinion of this book, a few points of criticism (I hope constructive ones) are offered. First off, conspicuous in its absence is a chapter devoted to Spanish syntax which addresses word order constraints on sentence structure. In fact, there is very little attention give to the topic of sentence structure. Such attention is needed, however, to explain some of the peculiarities of Spanish, in one sense, as descended from Latin, (i.e. How did the primary, standardized 'subject-verb-object' phrase structure rules of Spanish descend from a case-declined language whose word order possibilities are numerous); and, in another sense, as unlike the other Romance languages, by showing a far freer word order in presentational sentences. I note, in particular, the verb-initial sentence which may result from Arabic influences. A second volume might be devoted to this topic. On another point, (my pet peeve) I feel that the treatment of metaphor and metonymy in the chapter on semantics is not really adequate. While it seems a nice gesture to include mention of metaphor at all (since, in many texts in linguistics, the term is never mentioned), it is probably better to leave this section out. The author cites dated texts by Ullman (1962) and Roudet (1921) giving only one definition of metaphor, the 'comparison view', hinting that metaphorical terms replace basic ones as the term becomes opaque and language undergoes semantic change. With such extensive research in metaphor being done nowadays, it seems to me that the cognitive views ought to be acknowledged when discussing the topic. The above notwithstanding, A History of the Spanish Language, 2nd edition, by Ralph Penny is an excellent book which belongs in the permanent collection of every hispanist.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Kathleen Therese O'Connor-Bater is a Lecturer of Spanish at Princeton University. Her dissertation (Columbia University, 1995) is in the area of Spanish semantics, in which she examines the system of Spanish material metaphors. She has published articles in Hispanic Linguistics and Metaphor and Symbol; and is an Editor of the Random House Latin American Spanish English Dictionary, 2000. Currently, she is working in the area of Judeo-Spanish.ÿ