LINGUIST List 23.1847

Thu Apr 12 2012

Review: Historical Linguistics; Phonetics: de Mugica (2011)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 12-Apr-2012
From: John Ryan <>
Subject: Gramática del Castellano Antiguo
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AUTHOR: de Mugica, PedroTITLE: Gramática del Castellano AntiguoSUBTITLE: Primera Parte: FonéticaSERIES TITLE: LINCOM Classica 04PUBLISHER: LincomYEAR: 2011

John M. Ryan, Department of Hispanic Studies, University of Northern Colorado

SUMMARYThe book under review is the republication of a monograph that was originallyproduced in Berlin at the end of the nineteenth century (1891). De Mugicaexplains that it is his goal to awaken an interest in comparative linguisticswhich he considers has been all too long ignored in Spain. This monograph,focusing specifically on the area of phonetics, is just the first installment ofwhat 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, thefirst of which serves to situate Modern Spanish within both diachronic andsynchronic contexts. The introduction concludes with a section which comparesIberian-specific Vulgar Latin with its written or classical counterpart in termsof phonetics, morphology, and the lexicon.

Following the introduction, the book is then divided into thirteen chapters, allof which appear under the general heading, "Phonetics." The first chapterprovides an overview of the general conditions of sound change and explains someof the terminology used in the remaining chapters. De Mugica then proceeds toexplain the transformation of Latin sounds into Old Castilian, beginning withvowels (Chapters 2 and 3) and finishing with consonants (Chapters 4 through 6).The third part of the book addresses the development of some particular soundsfrom Old Castilian (Chapters 7 through 11) and ends with what he considers to besome of the lexical peculiarities of the Bilbao and Santander dialects (Chapters12 and 13, respectively).

De Mugica's overall approach is best exemplified by his coverage of vowels. Ineach case, the author starts with the tonic vowels in Vulgar Latin, both longand short, and for each one starts by simply stating what their classicalorigins were and then lists by phonological environment what their ModernSpanish equivalents are, along with examples for each. So in the case of toniclong e in Vulgar Latin, de Mugica first states that this corresponds to theClassical e, ae, e, and i. He then proceeds to describe the evolution of toniclong e in each of its phonological environments: 1) preservation in opensyllables 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, deMugica then describes in similar fashion the evolution of Vulgar Latin tonicshort 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 ofarticulation, starting with labials and proceeding to posterior consonants.Within each section, all corresponding consonants are further described in termsof manner of articulation, with the exception of nasals which are treated in thesubsequent chapter.

EVALUATIONThis book was written during a time when, as de Mugica points out, the study ofOld Spanish and its comparison to other Romance languages and dialects bothwithin and outside the Peninsula was essentially nonexistent in Spain. In fact,de Mugica's dedication of the book is prominently displayed as "respectfulhomage" 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 Berlinthat other seminal works finally start to appear in Spain, such as Alemany(1903), Menéndez Pidal (1904), and Padilla (1908). Even after the appearance ofthese later works, de Mugica's work retains great historical value for the studyof Romance phonology and phonetics. It is in recognition of de Mugica'spioneering spirit that his book has been republished and it must be readaccordingly.

Outside of Spain the late nineteenth century was marked by a great interest indescribing languages that were on the brink of extinction, particularly by theGerman school of linguistics. Living in Berlin at the time, it is not at allsurprising 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 …" (mytranslation).

The monograph provides an exhaustive description and documentation of thevarious sound changes that occurred between Latin, Vulgar Latin, and OldCastilian, and although not originally intended as a textbook on the subject,would serve as a suitable complementary manual of copious examples for studentswho are studying these changes. As would be expected for a book written duringthis period, this volume does not provide explanations for changes, orcategorizations of these changes, as representations of phonological processes,a de facto endeavor that more modern books on the subject of sound changesundertake. An example of this is de Mugica's treatment of the evolution of eachof the long and short vowels in Vulgar Latin, a case in which no attempts aremade to identify patterns or symmetries among different vowels, a method thatwould provide the basis for more general assessments of sound change. Today itis widely known that both front and back, Vulgar Latin, short mid vowels haveevolve into diphthongs, while their long counterparts have been retained asthese same vowels in Modern Spanish. Both in the spirit of pure description andcharacteristic of the times in which he wrote his book, although de Mugicapresents the same information separately in the entries for both middle vowels,he never draws the correlation or attributes this information as one and thesame evolutionary process.

In terms of organization, an effective strategy the author employs is the use offootnotes, as opposed to end notes or simple incorporation of information withinthe text, when comparing the sound changes of Latin to Castilian to thosebetween Latin to other languages or dialects of the Peninsula. The already densenature of the text, along with the multiple categorizations of examples, wouldnot lend itself to incorporation of these comments within the text itself for itwould be too distracting to reading the remainder of the book. Also helpful tothe overall organization of the book is the sequential numbering of paragraphs,not uncommon for books of this nature at the time, cross-referenced with thebook's index/table of contents. A shortcoming in terms of organization is theinclusion of Chapters 12 and 13 which provide lists of words used in thedialects of Spanish spoken in Bilbao and Santander, respectively. This sectiondoes not fit the book's overall purpose with its overall focus on the phoneticsof Spanish, and it seems to have been added as an afterthought. Also, the authorindicates that the section on the Bilbao dialect has been taken directly fromthen-recent notes of Unamuno, also a Bilbao native. Likewise, Chapter 11, whichcompares the orthographic differences between several old texts such as El Poemadel Cid (anonymous, 12th century) and Berceo (13th century), is also somewhatremoved from the overall purpose of the book, however, one might argue that theauthor includes this chapter to illustrate the manifestation of pronunciationthrough 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 mademore explicit at the beginning of the chapter. In any event, the last threechapters, if made more relevant to the remainder of the book, would make bettermaterial for appendices rather than individual book chapters.

Generally, this book has both historical and documentary relevance in that ithelps place the study of Spanish historical phonology on par with other Europeanlanguages of the time. However, as expected for work from this era, the bookprovides little explanation of larger-scale phonological processes necessary foran overall understanding of how sounds evolved from Classical to Vulgar Latinand from Vulgar Latin to Early Castilian.

REFERENCESAlemany, José. 1903. Estudio elemental de gramática histórica de la lenguacastellana. 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 REVIEWERJohn Michael Ryan is Assistant Professor of Spanish Linguistics in theUniversity of Northern Colorado's Department of Hispanic Studies. Heconducts research on the acquisition of intransitive verbs by children, theevolution of relexified diminutives in Modern Spanish, and teachingintroductory linguistics through first language acquisition. He publishesin journals, including "Hispania", and presents at conferences worldwide.His first book, "The Genesis of Argument Structure: Observations from aChild's Early Speech Production in Spanish" traces the emergence of theverb phase in the developing language of a monolingual child learningPeninsular Spanish.

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