How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.
AUTHOR: de Mugica, Pedro TITLE: Gramática del Castellano Antiguo SUBTITLE: Primera Parte: Fonética SERIES TITLE: LINCOM Classica 04 PUBLISHER: Lincom YEAR: 2011
John M. Ryan, Department of Hispanic Studies, University of Northern Colorado
SUMMARY The book under review is the republication of a monograph that was originally produced in Berlin at the end of the nineteenth century (1891). De Mugica explains that it is his goal to awaken an interest in comparative linguistics which he considers has been all too long ignored in Spain. This monograph, focusing specifically on the area of phonetics, is just the first installment of what was intended to be a multi-volume series on the grammar of Old Castilian. The book begins with a comprehensive introduction consisting of two parts, the first of which serves to situate Modern Spanish within both diachronic and synchronic contexts. The introduction concludes with a section which compares Iberian-specific Vulgar Latin with its written or classical counterpart in terms of phonetics, morphology, and the lexicon.
Following the introduction, the book is then divided into thirteen chapters, all of which appear under the general heading, “Phonetics.” The first chapter provides an overview of the general conditions of sound change and explains some of the terminology used in the remaining chapters. De Mugica then proceeds to explain the transformation of Latin sounds into Old Castilian, beginning with vowels (Chapters 2 and 3) and finishing with consonants (Chapters 4 through 6). The third part of the book addresses the development of some particular sounds from Old Castilian (Chapters 7 through 11) and ends with what he considers to be some of the lexical peculiarities of the Bilbao and Santander dialects (Chapters 12 and 13, respectively).
De Mugica’s overall approach is best exemplified by his coverage of vowels. In each case, the author starts with the tonic vowels in Vulgar Latin, both long and short, and for each one starts by simply stating what their classical origins were and then lists by phonological environment what their Modern Spanish equivalents are, along with examples for each. So in the case of tonic long e in Vulgar Latin, de Mugica first states that this corresponds to the Classical e, ae, e, and i. He then proceeds to describe the evolution of tonic long e in each of its phonological environments: 1) preservation in open syllables before nasal and oral consonants; 2) change to i before the vowel a; and 3) preservation in closed syllables. When finished with the tonic long e, de Mugica then describes in similar fashion the evolution of Vulgar Latin tonic short e. In all cases, the author provides numerous examples. A similar, systematic approach is also used to describe the evolution of consonants, starting with oral consonants which in turn are organized by place of articulation, starting with labials and proceeding to posterior consonants. Within each section, all corresponding consonants are further described in terms of manner of articulation, with the exception of nasals which are treated in the subsequent chapter.
EVALUATION This book was written during a time when, as de Mugica points out, the study of Old Spanish and its comparison to other Romance languages and dialects both within and outside the Peninsula was essentially nonexistent in Spain. In fact, de Mugica’s dedication of the book is prominently displayed as “respectful homage” to the Spanish Royal Academy and he indicates in his prolog that if he “should expose opinions that are not in accordance with contemporary (Spanish) philologists,” his only purpose is to recommend that these be studied in Spain. It is not until more than a decade after de Mugica published his book in Berlin that other seminal works finally start to appear in Spain, such as Alemany (1903), Menéndez Pidal (1904), and Padilla (1908). Even after the appearance of these later works, de Mugica’s work retains great historical value for the study of Romance phonology and phonetics. It is in recognition of de Mugica’s pioneering spirit that his book has been republished and it must be read accordingly.
Outside of Spain the late nineteenth century was marked by a great interest in describing languages that were on the brink of extinction, particularly by the German school of linguistics. Living in Berlin at the time, it is not at all surprising that de Mugica’s work is likewise flavored with this goal in mind, acknowledging in his prolog the contributions to his work by a German colleague: “To carry out this modest work I have used “Grammatik des Altfranzösischen” (Leipzig, R. Reisland, 1888) of Dr. Edward Schwan, … from whom I have taken, with his permission, his first section on the Latin vowel system …” (my translation).
The monograph provides an exhaustive description and documentation of the various sound changes that occurred between Latin, Vulgar Latin, and Old Castilian, and although not originally intended as a textbook on the subject, would serve as a suitable complementary manual of copious examples for students who are studying these changes. As would be expected for a book written during this period, this volume does not provide explanations for changes, or categorizations of these changes, as representations of phonological processes, a de facto endeavor that more modern books on the subject of sound changes undertake. An example of this is de Mugica’s treatment of the evolution of each of the long and short vowels in Vulgar Latin, a case in which no attempts are made to identify patterns or symmetries among different vowels, a method that would provide the basis for more general assessments of sound change. Today it is widely known that both front and back, Vulgar Latin, short mid vowels have evolve into diphthongs, while their long counterparts have been retained as these same vowels in Modern Spanish. Both in the spirit of pure description and characteristic of the times in which he wrote his book, although de Mugica presents the same information separately in the entries for both middle vowels, he never draws the correlation or attributes this information as one and the same evolutionary process.
In terms of organization, an effective strategy the author employs is the use of footnotes, as opposed to end notes or simple incorporation of information within the text, when comparing the sound changes of Latin to Castilian to those between Latin to other languages or dialects of the Peninsula. The already dense nature of the text, along with the multiple categorizations of examples, would not lend itself to incorporation of these comments within the text itself for it would be too distracting to reading the remainder of the book. Also helpful to the overall organization of the book is the sequential numbering of paragraphs, not uncommon for books of this nature at the time, cross-referenced with the book’s index/table of contents. A shortcoming in terms of organization is the inclusion of Chapters 12 and 13 which provide lists of words used in the dialects of Spanish spoken in Bilbao and Santander, respectively. This section does not fit the book’s overall purpose with its overall focus on the phonetics of Spanish, and it seems to have been added as an afterthought. Also, the author indicates that the section on the Bilbao dialect has been taken directly from then-recent notes of Unamuno, also a Bilbao native. Likewise, Chapter 11, which compares the orthographic differences between several old texts such as El Poema del Cid (anonymous, 12th century) and Berceo (13th century), is also somewhat removed from the overall purpose of the book, however, one might argue that the author includes this chapter to illustrate the manifestation of pronunciation through writing conventions in practice at the time of the respective writings. If this indeed was the intention of the author, then it could have been made more explicit at the beginning of the chapter. In any event, the last three chapters, if made more relevant to the remainder of the book, would make better material for appendices rather than individual book chapters.
Generally, this book has both historical and documentary relevance in that it helps place the study of Spanish historical phonology on par with other European languages of the time. However, as expected for work from this era, the book provides little explanation of larger-scale phonological processes necessary for an overall understanding of how sounds evolved from Classical to Vulgar Latin and from Vulgar Latin to Early Castilian.
REFERENCES Alemany, José. 1903. Estudio elemental de gramática histórica de la lengua castellana. Madrid: Tipografía de la Revista de Archivos.
Menéndez Pidal, Ramón. 1904. Manual elemental de gramática histórica española. Madrid: Librería General de Victoriano Suárez.
Padilla, Salvador. 1908. Gramática histórica de la lengua castellana. Madrid: Jubera Hermanos
Schwan, Eduard. 1888. Grammatik des Altfranzösischen. Leipzig: R. Reisland.
Unamuno, Miguel de. 1891. “Apuntaciones sobre el modo de hablar bilbaíno.” Unpublished manuscript.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
John Michael Ryan is Assistant Professor of Spanish Linguistics in the
University of Northern Colorado’s Department of Hispanic Studies. He
conducts research on the acquisition of intransitive verbs by children, the
evolution of relexified diminutives in Modern Spanish, and teaching
introductory linguistics through first language acquisition. He publishes
in journals, including “Hispania”, and presents at conferences worldwide.
His first book, “The Genesis of Argument Structure: Observations from a
Child's Early Speech Production in Spanish” traces the emergence of the
verb phase in the developing language of a monolingual child learning