LINGUIST List 23.4749

Tue Nov 13 2012

Review: Historical Ling.; Sociolinguistics: Bravo-García & Cáceres-Lozano (2011)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 13-Nov-2012
From: Mariana España Rivera <>
Subject: La incorporación del indigenismo léxico en los contextos comunicativos canario y americano (1492-1550)
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Announced at

AUTHORS: Bravo-García, Eva and Cáceres-Lozano, M. TeresaTITLE: La incorporación del indigenismo léxico en los contextos comunicativoscanario y americano (1492-1550)SERIES TITLE: Fondo Hispánico de Lingüística y Filología, Vol. 6PUBLISHER: Peter LangYEAR: 2011

Mariana España, Lektorin Lateinamerikastudien, Romanisches Seminar derUniversität Bonn

INTRODUCTIONThe book undertakes to contrast and analyse how the communicational contexts inwhich borrowing from the indigenous languages of Latin America and theindigenous language of the Canary Islands ('Guanche') took place. The authorssummarize the results from existing monographic lexical studies, focusing on theperiod between 1492 and 1550, known as the 'Antillean stage'. The methodologicalapproach is based on quantitative and qualitative lexical analysis of the corpora.

The first five decades of territorial conquest saw the establishment of aCanarian and American society. The authors' leitmotif is that the documentsreflect 'the socio-cultural structure of the members that produced them' (p.133), thus their goal is:

a) To identify trends and word selections to explain why some words are chosenand not others. The factors that affect word selection include prestige,education as well as the existence of already established communities.

b) To highlight the underlying beliefs and attitudes -- motivational factors --of the participants in the communicative situation that could have motivatedlexical borrowing.

c) To reconsider the role of register and intertextuality when studying theimpact of the indigenous lexicon on the Spanish languages of that period.

The book is divided into five chapters plus a conclusion, bibliography andindex. The chapters are: 1. 'Introduction' ("Introducción"), 2. 'The documentarysources in the American context' ("Las fuentes documentales en el contextoamericano"), 3. 'Procedures of lexical incorporation by the chroniclers of theAmericas' ("Procedimientos de incorporación léxica en cronistas americanos"), 4.'Borrowings from indigenous languages in the documents from the Canary Islands'("El indigenismo en la documentación canaria"), 5. 'The missionary vision in thedescription of the Canary Islands' ("La visión misionera en la descripción deCanarias").

SUMMARYIntroduction. In 1492, after the arrival of Columbus in the Americas, a violentclash of cultures began. The Canary archipelago became a transit station andpoint of contact between the Iberian Peninsula and the newly 'discovered'Americas. Moreover, the islands became a target for social and geographicalexpansion of the Spanish Crown. Both territories were areas of conquest andmigration from which a new society emerged. However, the new society was notsimply an importation of the Spanish model of society, because the geographicalrelocation implemented a process of changing social patterns.

In Chapter 3 (p. 82), this is graphically illustrated, as follows:

The configuration of Spanish peninsular society, from the top to the bottom:"Dios" ('God') -- "Rey" ('King') -- "nobleza antigua" ('old nobility') --"nobleza nueva" ('new nobility') -- "burguesía" ('bourgeoisie') -- "pueblollano" ('common people').

The configuration of Spanish American society, in order of priority:"Dios" ('God') -- "Rey" ('King') -- "primeros descubridores" ('firstconquerors') -- "segundos descubridores" ('second generation of conquerors') --"primeros pobladores" ('first settlers') -- "segundos pobladores" ('secondgeneration of settlers').

Chapters two and three deal with the American context. The main points are:

The American documents. The Spanish Crown passed several laws and ordinancesthat created a large number of documents. The intention was to establish directcommunication with and approach and gain knowledge about America about thenature and the customs of the emerging society and, especially, about theprocess of Christianization and the integration of the indigenous people intothe emerging society (p. 26). The ability to write was highly esteemed and thosewho could had power over the written word. However, the administration took carethat the content of documents was truthful (p. 26) and, in order to study thecontents efficiently, passed laws about how it should be written: 'in a conciseand decent manner, in a clear language, avoiding generalities and using wordsthat express in the best way the intention of the person that writes' ("que seabreve, claro, sustancial y decente sin generalidades, y usando de las palabrasque con más propiedad puedan dar a entender la intención de quien las escribe", quoted from Recopilación, tít. XVI, 1o, III, ley 1, octubre de 1575; p. 29).

Type of documents. Although the documents have different names, 'chronicles','reports', 'accounts', 'letters', 'commentaries' ("crónicas, informaciones,relaciones, cartas, comentarios"), they differ because, during the 15th century,they are used to denote 'works about facts that truly had happened' (p. 28;quoted from Lozano, 1987, El discurso histórico, Madrid: Alianza; p. 45). Theauthors distinguish two types of documents, 'testimonial'-works (obras de"autor-testigo", p. 28), whose authors have experienced the facts personally(e.g., Hernán Cortés); and works from authors 'outside the facts' (obras de"autor ajeno", p. 29), writers that have not directly experienced the facts butwhose work summarised the information (e.g., López de Velasco).

Who writes and their motivations. Based upon the personal experiences of thewriters during the process of colonization, the authors identify three groups.The first consists of conquerors, first settlers and missionaries. The secondcontains staff writers, administrative personnel that officially wrote fromtheir offices in America or Spain. The third includes all narrative writers thatdid not have first-hand experiences (e.g., Lope de Vega, Luis de Góngora, Miguelde Cervantes) but, included lexical aboriginal terms as a 'exotic borrowing' (p.30; 66) when creating an exotic atmosphere in their works of fiction. The lastgroup is particularly compelling because, being authors from the second half ofthe 16th century, we can assume that the lexical elements were, only somedecades later, already known and understood by the European, Spanish public,i.e. the Spanish vocabulary assimilated many words in less than a century (p. 66).

The process of incorporation of lexical borrowing. The incorporation of lexicalborrowing was a process triggered by the complexity of the communicativesituation that Spaniards faced in America. The variety of natural landscapes,cultures and languages, and the absence of a common cultural heritage assistedthe spread of Spanish. As a sign of its vitality, the Spanish language coulddevelop 'innovative communicational patterns' (p. 32) adopting new designationsfrom the Antillean languages ('Taíno') and many remain to the present day. From1520 when they moved over to the mainland, the linguistic challenges increased.

During the process of lexical borrowing, the authors recognise three mainstages (p. 76):

1. Capturing the new reality by seeing and assimilating. Considering thatlexical borrowing responds primarily to the need to communicate and not only tothe need to designate new things, it is necessary to take into account thecultural and the socio-cognitive context (e.g., myths, fantasies) of everyparticipant.

2. Loanword adaptation. In spoken language, the loanword was phonologicallyadapted; later, if the borrowed word appears in writing, an orthographicrepresentation had to be created.

3. Social spread. The borrowed words returned to the level of spoken languageand eventually spread socially. Eventually, the Spanish vocabulary incorporatedthe lexical borrowing into the first lexicographical works at the end of the15-16th centuries. Finally, the borrowed word could be adopted by other Europeanlanguages.

The incorporation of a loanword is determined by the author's 'personalcoordinates' (p. 30). These 'personal coordinates' are formulated through acombination of 'type of document' and 'who writes and the motivation to write'.According to the authors, the combination of these elements determines thelinguistic-conceptual use (e.g., lexical precision) by which every authortransmits their 'personal vision of the American adventure' (p. 30).

Chapter 4 and 5 analyses the integration of borrowed words from Canarianindigenous languages within the Canarian context. The main points presented bythe authors are as follows:

Introductory social and historical frame. Between 1477 and 1496 the Conquest ofthe Canary archipelago was completed and the major Spanish institutions --Inquisition, Church, Cabildo and Court -- were established on the three mainislands. A decimated Canarian aboriginal population made it possible for Spanishto become the dominant language (p. 117).

The Canarian documents. Most existing documents are official or administrative.The target audience was the local community, an 'urban society' (p. 85; 91) inwhich the majority of the population was composed of founders and "estantes",people making a stopover either on their way to the Americas or on commercialbusiness (p. 85). These documents had practical purposes: to establish anofficial communication network between Spaniards, natives and immigrants. It wasnecessary to ensure the clarity of the communication; therefore, the vocabularyhas to be understood by both parties (p. 92). On the other hand, the specificityof the context made it unnecessary to integrate aboriginal terms into the documents.

Chronicles (historical or geographical descriptions). The first Canarianchronicle written in Spanish dates from the end of the 16th century (Fray Alonsode Espinosa, 1594). After decades of language leveling, the documented loanwordsdo not provide us with reliable information about their real usage a centurybefore. However, since the author's intention was to document the Canarianhistory and traditions, a loanword can appear to show 'erudition', or possiblythat the author was quoting from another work. We can assume that the targetreader -- a mixed audience, from different Spanish regions, language levels,cultural backgrounds, etc.--, did not know the lexical borrowing if it isaccompanied by an explanation, a figure like a metaphor, a synonym, etc. (p. 92).

Private documents, letters, contracts, etc., written by natives, immigrants andother Europeans residents. The authors call these documents a 'mixed' corpusbecause, given their textual characteristics, they are placed between theofficial and the historical works (p. 90). For the study of the Canarian lexicalborrowing, they can provide useful information because they tend to be'descriptive' works (p. 89).

Difficulties of qualitative analysis. Given the small number of documentedloanwords, it is sometimes difficult to conclusively establish the origin of aborrowed word (e.g., is "mocán" a native Canarian or a Portuguese word?, p.110). This has produced a lexicographical debate among researchers trying toexplain the lexical conflict between Canarian and Portuguese loanwords competingto be assimilated into the Spanish vocabulary (p. 108). For the authors, thislexical conflict reflects an existing social conflict during the initial periodof colonization because a great part of the population emigrated from Portugalor their islands (Madeira and the Azores) and established a prestigious community.

Conclusions.The qualitative analysis. Knowledge of the historical and the geographicalframework is a determining factor for understanding language development: Thequalitative analysis of the documentation shows that despite beinggeographically distant regions, the Canary Islands and the Caribbean region are'tangential areas' that share an initial period of social configuration as wellas a process of common social and linguistic imposition (p. 133).

The quantitative analysis. The number of loanwords taken from the Canarianlanguage only refer to those islands whereas the Antillean languages providedmany more words, some still in use today, e.g., canoe, hurrican. Theextra-linguistic factors play a decisive role in explaining the differencesbetween the number of documented lexical borrowings, e.g., for the Americancontext: the personal experience or the role played in the process ofcolonization by an author; for the Canarian context: the role of the Portuguesesettlers as linguistic and cultural mediators (p. 135).

Lexical borrowing. Regarding the study of the process of incorporation oflexical borrowing into the framework of historical or descriptive works, it isessential to bear in mind the 'personal and social coordinates' that could havemotivated a person to write. Nonetheless, the researcher should be aware that,the documented lexical borrowing did not necessarily endorse of the spokenlanguage of the epoch. Every documented lexical borrowing has its own cycle oflife: some are ephemeral and others were incorporated into Spanish and are stillin use today (pp. 134-135).

The documents. The documents do not always correspond to strict typologies. Froma structural point of view, the text may follow a pre-established form, but itis linguistically configured according to the interests and expectations of itsauthor. The motivation of an individual to write can have an impact on how hewrites and on his lexical selection, as well (p. 134).

EVALUATION"La incorporación del indigenismo léxico en los contextos comunicativos canarioy americano (1492-1550)" fills a void in the Spanish linguistics literature byfocusing on the social and historical context of the process of lexicalborrowing. This leads us to a better understanding of the motivational factorsinvolved in the process of lexical borrowing, inviting the reader to reconsiderthe impact that lexical borrowing has had in the configuration of the modernSpanish language.

From a qualitative perspective, the emphasis is on the communicational contextas a multi-determined-personal process that influenced the borrowing processfrom indigenous languages to communicate in a different social environment. Aqualitative approach is essential for understanding the results obtained by thequantitative analysis, and in the context of a contrastive analysis, forunderstanding why, despite these being areas with a common historicalbackground, the results showed by the lexical quantitative analysissignificantly diverged.

Considering the complexity of the topic, the book is written in a concisemanner, making it accessible to the reader. It can serve as a valuable resourcefor teachers and students on an introductory course in Spanish linguistics,diachronic sociolinguistics and text/corpus linguistics alike.

REFERENCESEnguita Utrilla, José Ma. 2004. Para la historia de los americanismos léxicos.Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Frago García, Juan Antonio. 1999. Historia del español de América. Madrid: Gredos.

Henríquez Ureña, Pedro. 1938. Para la historia de los indigenismos. Bibliotecade Dialectología Hispanoamericana. Amado Alonso (dir.). Anejo III. Buenos Aires:Facultad de filosofía y letras de la Universidad de Buenos Aires.

Moreno de Alba, José G. 1993. El español en América. México: FCE. 2a. Edicióncorregida y aumentada.

Viera y Clavijo, Joseph de. 1982, 8a. Noticias de la Historia General de lasIslas Canarias. Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Goya Ediciones. 2 Tomos.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERMariana España is a lecturer at the Department of Romance Languages andLiteratures at the University of Bonn. She earned a M.A. in RomanceLinguistics, Musicology and European and Latin American Art History fromthe University of Heidelberg. Her teaching and research interests includeSpanish as a Second Language, German-Spanish Translation, HistoricalLinguistics and Latin American Cultural Studies. She teaches bothundergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Page Updated: 13-Nov-2012