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 5th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics
EDITORS: Michnowicz, Jim and Robin Dodsworth TITLE: Selected Proceedings of the 5th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics SERIES: Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA PUBLISHER: Cascadilla Press YEAR: 2011
This book presents results from research into various Spanish dialects that were presented at the fifth Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics (WSS).This volume includes twelve papers of the 37 that were presented at the 2011 workshop.
Several of the papers deal with language contact, and others deal with social, economic, historical and phonological factors that have influenced Spanish speech communities in various parts of the world.
As Michnowicz points out in the Introduction, “Many of Spanish sociolinguistics’ greatest contributions are found in the area of language contact –with indigenous languages throughout Latin America, with European languages in Spain and via bilingualism with English in the United States... Given the increased interest in (Spanish) sociolinguistics outlined above, the WSS meetings are more needed and relevant than ever, bringing together scholars from around the world and from across disciplines” (pp. v-vi).
The first paper in this volume, “Southern-Bred Hispanic English: An Emerging Socioethnic Variety”, written by Walt Wolfram, Mary F. Kohn and Erin Callahan-Price, examines the contact between English and Spanish in the Mid-Atlantic U.S. South. The authors focus on the creation of a new ethnic variety of English, influenced by the Spanish substrate. They compare various forms of the emerging Hispanic/English speech community with the dialect of more durable speech communities, such as Chicano speakers in the Southwest United States.
The authors undertake an acoustic analysis of the /ai/ diphthong, as it occurs in the Hispanicized English of rural speakers in Siler City, NC, and urban speakers of Raleigh, NC. They compare both the duration of the glide and the tone of the glide. It is observed that the /ai/ sound produced by these speakers is somewhere between the Spanish and English sounds. They also find that this diphthong and certain words found in their language are “interdialectal” in nature; that is, they are not originally found in either language.
From further research on “quotatives”, the authors conclude that speakers’ lexicons, in early stages of dialectal development, contain many interdialectal forms. Another conclusion is that some substrate effects, such as reduction of syllable-coda consonant clusters (CCRs), and prosodic dimensions of speech also show interdialectal outcomes.
In the second article, by Ana M. Carvalho and Michael Child, “Subject Pronoun Expression in a Variety of Spanish in Contact with Portuguese”, the authors examine the language of the bilingual Spanish/Portuguese-speaking town of Rivera, Uruguay. This town is located on the border between Uruguay and Brazil. In their research on effects of language contact, Carvalho and Child conducted interviews with inhabitants in the town, to determine frequency of subject-pronoun expression, as compared to frequency of expressions with the null subject pronoun. Brazilian Portuguese tends to have a higher rate of pronoun expression than Latin American Spanish.
The interviews were transcribed, analyzed, and submitted to VARBRUL analysis. The results compared various factors that influence pronoun usage in Border Spanish, including parallelism, grammatical person, discourse connection, lexical content of the verb, and the reflexive use of the verb. Overall it was shown that, despite influence from Brazilian Portuguese, Uruguayan Border Spanish showed standard pronoun usage, and did not show more or less deletion of the subject pronoun because of language contact.
The third article, “Verbal Morphology and Identity in Majorca: The Manifestation of Attitudes in Writing”, by Mark Amengual, focuses on Catalan language and identity in Majorca. Amengual outlines the history of multilingualism and clashing identities in Majorca. He notes that in 1975, the Franco dictatorship ended, and Catalan, which had been banned, was once again allowed to be used in public life. Therefore, both standard and regional varieties coexisted in Majorca. He states the reason for his study is to explore “how Catalan-Spanish bilinguals project identities through language performance, specifically by examining the occurrence of morphemic reduction in written production” (p. 27). The -o final morpheme is conserved in standard Catalan but is absent in Majorcan Catalan.
The results of a questionnaire and translation task indicated that Catalan-Spanish bilinguals in Majorca show a strong tendency to represent the Majorcan Catalan (MC) morphemic reduction in writing, a significant finding given that Standard Catalan (SC) is used in writing at school and in the written media. Factors influencing participants’ choices of morpheme include: level of education, language dominance, gender, and attitude toward and identification with Majorcan autonomous linguistic identity. These findings show that there is still a divide among the younger speakers in the community.
The fourth article in the volume, “Different Ways to Hate a Language in Catalonia: The Manifestation of Attitudes in Writing”, by Michael Newman, also discusses Catalan and attitudes toward Catalan held by two groups of Castilian-speakers in Catalonia, Spain. The two groups studied were native Spaniards and immigrants to Spain from Latin America. The testing was carried out using “matched guise tests”, to test for various attitudes. Results indicated that “speakers from different backgrounds responded in similar ways, but for different reasons, since the two groups held different ideas of solidarity and group dynamics” (p. vi). The author also indicates that educational policy should be improved, so that teachers can be trained to better serve the linguistic needs of immigrant children learning Catalan (p. 48).
The fifth paper on language contact is “Mainland vs. Island: A Comparative Morphological Study on Spanish-Turkish Contact”, by Rey Romero. Romero wanted to show how endangered languages display variation and attrition by comparing the dialects of two Sephardic communities in Istanbul and the nearby Prince Islands, Turkey. The areas he focused on were gender and number agreement. Romero stated that the domains of these two Turkish communities differ, since the Istanbul community is more urban and the people more spread out than the rural, cohesive community of the Prince Islands. He wanted to examine whether these domains have affected language usage and rates of attrition.
Based on a series of interviews and translation tasks, Romero found that age was a factor in attrition rates, with speakers under the age of 60 exhibiting the highest rates. A second finding was that the Judeo-Spanish dialect, as a language in shift, tended to preserve morphological number agreement as a characteristic from the dominant Turkish language. Both Judeo-Spanish (JS) speech communities showed higher attrition rates in morphological gender than in number. An important final result was that geography did not play a significant role in determining variation in attrition. It appears that both JS communities represent only one contiguous speech community, and are actually indistinct from one another.
The next paper is about phonetic/phonological variation. In “The Intervocalic Voicing of /s/ in Ecuadorian Spanish”, Whitney Chappell examines the intervocalic environments in which the Ecuadorian /s/ is voiced, as it exists as part of dialectal variation. The author attempts to identify what factors influence the usage of the voiced variant of /s/, which is [z]. For example, “los amos”, is pronounced [lozamos].
The author analyzes interviews from radio broadcasts from Quito Ecuador by using a spectrogram to classify the voiced sounds more clearly. Her results show that word boundary is the most predictive of /s/ voicing, as was previously noted by Robinson (1979); but /s/ voicing was also noted word medially, which indicates that other factors (possibly sociological) may be influential in these cases.
The seventh paper is also about phonetic/phonological variation. In “Going Retro: An Analysis of the Interplay between Socioeconomic Class and Age in Caracas Spanish”, Manual Díaz-Campos, Stephen Fafulas, and Michael Gradoville examine three phonological variables and their relation to socioeconomic class, emphasizing the role of access to education as an important factor in determining the use of standard variants of language.
The authors examined syllable-final and intervocalic rhotic deletion, as well as intervocalic /d/ deletion. For this study, they analyzed data from “Estudio sociolinguístico de Caracas”, a corpus by Bentivoglio and Sedano (1987). They also considered the definition of ‘socioeconomic class’, noting that occupation and access to education can be an important factor, over generations, in predicting the use of standard variants.
Results showed that upper and middle class speakers were more likely to use normative variants of all 3 variables than the lower socioeconomic class speakers in the speech community. Also, as access to education increased in younger generations, a sharp rise in the use of normative variants was seen among young adults in the lowest socioeconomic class.
The eighth article, “Yesterday, All my Troubles Have Seemed (PP) So Far Away: Variation in Pre-hodiernal Perfective Expression in Peninsular Spanish”, deals with corpus linguistics and morpho-syntactic variation. The authors, Bonnie C. Holmes and Colleen Balukas, examine the extension of the present perfect (PP) into contexts that would generally require a perfective form.
Data from two corpora (1981, 1992), which consist of transcriptions and interviews of Peninsular Spanish, were analyzed and usages of the present perfect (PP) and preterit were counted and compared. They were submitted to a variable -rules analysis, to determine which factors favored the choice of PP over the preterit. Results showed that only two factors were significant, the Previous Verb and Temporal Reference. The authors suggest that further study of more recent corpora would be useful to determine whether PP use is continuing to expand.
The next two papers are related, since they both address variation based on the adverb quizá(s) ‘perhaps’. The first is, “Time Reference and Lexical Effects in Mood Choice Following Spanish Epistemic Adverb quizá(s): A Dialectal Comparison”, by Elizabeth Finanger. The author compares data from Argentine and Peninsular Spanish, using the CREA (Corpus de Referencia del Español Actual), an on-line data-base. The author finds that mood choice after the adverb quizás depends on a variety of factors, including time reference, verb frequency, adjacency, and lexeme effect, with time reference being the most significant factor. These findings can be used while teaching L2 learners about use of the subjunctive and indicative following quizá(s).
The second paper discussing quizá(s) was written by Christina Garcia. It is entitled “Distinguishing Two “Synonyms”: A Variationist Analysis of quizá and quizás in Six Spanish Dialects”. The author studied various corpora for samples of quizá(s) in Cuban, Peruvian, Venezuelan, Argentine, Mexican and Peninsular Spanish dialects. She used two multivariate analyses, one using the adverb as the dependent variable, and the other using mood choice. Whereas temporal reference was significant as a factor for mood choice in all countries except Peru, the results showed subtle differences between the two adverbs in every dialect.
The author thus demonstrated that quizá and quizás are not truly interchangeable, and adverb choice is dependent on geolect and phonological context, where a following consonant favors the use of quizá, but a following vowel disfavors the use of quizá (p. 107).
The eleventh paper, “Factors Determining Spanish Differential Object Marking within Its Domain of Variation”, by Sonia Balasch, addresses methodological issues in examining corpus data with respect to the distribution of the personal “a” in two varieties of Spanish. Balasch contributes to the understanding of differential object marking (DOM) in Spanish by returning to the principle of accountability for variationist analysis.
She uses two corpora as data sources, the Corpus de Mérida and the Corpus de Madrid. These consist of transcribed sociolinguistic interviews and dialogue samples of Peninsular Spanish. She tries to delineate in exactly which contexts the variation between a+DO (direct object) and Null +DO is possible.
The author found that definiteness and co-reference of the DO were the only two factors that significantly influenced the presence or absence of “a” within this domain of variability. Regarding methodological issues, Balasch contends that her study shows how important it is to exhaustively analyze all the pertinent tokens in a corpus sample and to eliminate error-prone and other non-variable data in the statistical analysis, in order to avoid distortion of the results. She also found that animate and inanimate accusative “a” are governed by different constraints in their distribution and rate of use, and thus should be analyzed separately.
The final paper in this volume, “On the Status of Afro-Bolivian Spanish Features: Decreolization or Vernacular Universals?”, was written by Sandro Sessarego. The author provides an overview of the socio-historical context and the distinctive features of Afro-Bolivian Spanish (ABS), in order to determine the origins of this “newly discovered variety” (p.vii). Sessarego also disputes the theory put forth by Lipski (2008), which states that this dialect has grown out of a pidgin or creole language.
The author finds that conditions in this region of Bolivia did not favor the development of a creole, and therefore contends that ABS shows traits of a second language variety of Spanish.
This book forms an important addition to the body of research already done in the area of Spanish sociolinguistics. The dialects described include Spanish in Venezuela, Uruguay, Ecuador, Judeo-Spanish in Turkey, Afro-Bolivian Spanish, the Spanish-speaking community of the Southeastern U.S., Spanish spoken on the Spanish Peninsula, in Majorca and Catalonia, as well as other dialects that use the adverb quizá(s), such as Argentine, Mexican and Cuban Spanish. This is an impressive array of dialects.
Each paper represents a meaningful contribution to this field, and having a workshop to showcase each research topic is a good idea, so that others can share the input of various researchers.
The most interesting research seems to arise in projects where researchers travel abroad and interview respondents to collect authentic data. This data, of course, is most accurate in terms of current usage and in terms of showing evidence of language change. While one or two of the papers contain some typographical errors, most of the articles contain reliable data, are well-organized and logically presented. One exception is that in some articles, results were obscured by unclear discussions of statistical evidence. Other articles rely on information from older corpora, whereas a comparison with more recent corpora would provide a better measurement of language change, as was noted by some of the researchers.
Nevertheless, the overall impact of this research is that it has “deepened our understanding of variation patterns and factors affecting language change” (p. v).
In addition, for those of us who have acquired Spanish as a second language, the topics in this volume provide thought-provoking ideas about what can be considered correct and incorrect in common usage of the language. These topics also have applications for teaching Spanish in the classroom.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Deborah Rheinstrom recently received a Masters in Linguistics from
Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, IL and also has a Masters
Degree in Teaching Spanish from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Her
research interests include: topics in teaching ESL, irregular articles in
Spanish, archaic words and phonology in Judeo-Spanish, and origins of
African American Vernacular English (AAVE).