LINGUIST List 32.2876

Thu Sep 09 2021

Review: Spanish; General Linguistics: Hualde, Olarrea, Escobar, Travis (2020)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <>

Date: 16-Jun-2021
From: Marina Bonilla Conejo <>
Subject: Introducción a la lingüística hispánica
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: José Ignacio Hualde
AUTHOR: Antxon Olarrea
AUTHOR: Anna María Escobar
AUTHOR: Catherine E. Travis
TITLE: Introducción a la lingüística hispánica
SUBTITLE: 3rd Edition
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2020

REVIEWER: Marina Bonilla Conejo, State University of New York at Albany


In this new edition of this widely used textbook “Introducción a la lingüística hispánica”, the authors offer an in-depth introduction to Hispanic linguistics and its different subfields. Written entirely in Spanish, the volume covers a wide range of topics that include history of linguistics as a cognitive science, language acquisition, the structure of Spanish (including phonetics and phonology, morphology, and syntax), history of the Spanish language, semantics and pragmatics, and language variation and language contact in the Spanish speaking world. The novelty in this edition is the inclusion of an additional chapter by a new contributor, Cristina Sanz, which covers teaching and learning of Spanish as a second or heritage language.

This third edition consists of nine chapters: linguistics as a cognitive science (Chapter 1); phonetics and phonology (Chapter 2); morphology (Chapter 3); syntax (Chapter 4); history of the Spanish language (Chapter 5); semantics and pragmatics (Chapter 6); variation in Spanish (Chapter 7); Spanish in the US (Chapter 8) and teaching and learning of Spanish as a second language (Chapter 9). Each chapter consists of an introduction, a detailed description of the main concepts and topics, and a conclusion that summarizes the major ideas introduced in the chapter. In addition, the authors offer exercises that encourage the students to think critically as they learn the concepts being introduced, and a series of review exercises at the end of each chapter. Finally, at the end of the book a glossary and a bibliography are provided.

In Chapter one, the authors start with an introduction to the history of linguistics and the great strides achieved over the last century and a half, drawing special attention to the journey from prescriptive to descriptive linguistics. They discuss the cognitive nature of language as a system, and what distinguishes it from other animal forms of communication. This chapter also introduces the Chomskyan proposal that humans are biologically wired to acquire a language; arguments in favor and against such a proposal are discussed. The authors take the time before the end of the chapter to explain their decision to use “Español” instead of “Castellano” (Castilian Spanish). Spanish, as we know it, was originally spoken in the Castilian region of Spain (Menéndez Pelayo 1940). Both terms “Spanish” and “Castilian” can be found in the literature and are used by Spanish speakers themselves. I agree with the authors that it is important to clarify the difference and explain the decision to use the term “Spanish”/“Español” to avoid confusion.

Chapter two starts by defining some basic concepts related to Spanish phonetics and phonology, such as phoneme, allophone, and types of phonetic transcription. It also describes how sounds are classified according to place, manner of articulation, and voicing. In addition, rules of syllabification in Spanish are explained, together with types of assimilation, and the main intonation patterns. To familiarize students with acoustic phonetics, some examples of oscillograms and spectrograms are included. The chapter also contains a noteworthy explanation of stress, prosodic accent patterns, and the use of the orthographic accents according to the type of words in Spanish.

Similarly, Chapter three begins with an introduction to the basic concepts of morphology, including morphemes, roots, affixes, and allomorphs. Next, the major morphological processes are described, with particular emphasis on inflection, derivation, and composition. In the case of inflection, the authors examine how Spanish marks grammatical gender, plurality, tense, aspect, and mood. In the case of derivation, an exhaustive description of derivational suffixes according to the type of lexical category are listed. For example, in the case of nominal derivation examples are given of the most common suffixes used to derive nouns from other nouns, adjectives, and verbs. At the end of the chapter, other morphological processes in Spanish, including abbreviation and acronyms, are summarized.

Chapter four analyzes the structure of the Spanish sentence, from constituents to simple and complex sentences. The chapter contains an introduction to generative syntax, with a variety of examples and exercises for students to learn the principles of X-bar theory and how to draw tree diagrams. Additional major points discussed in this chapter include the use of ‘se’ and sequence of tense in Spanish. A detailed presentation of subordinate clauses in Spanish is followed by two excellent appendices that summarize types of sentences and sequence of tense in Spanish.

Chapter five gives an overview of the history of the Spanish language: it discusses pre-Roman languages in the Iberian Peninsula, the Indo-European languages, and the introduction and evolution of Latin that led to the development of Spanish and other Ibero-Romance languages. The history of the standardization of Spanish is also examined, with attention given to influence from other languages. including Arabic and Native American languages. Several examples of loanwords from Arabic, Amerindian languages, and English are discussed. The chapter also covers dialectal variation and language change in contemporary Spanish. At the end of the chapter, there is an analysis of texts written in other varieties, such as Judeo-Spanish (Ladino), Aragonese, and Galician.

Chapter six is an introduction to semantics and pragmatics. It provides definitions of relevant concepts to familiarize students with these areas (e.g., synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy, homonymy, and polysemy, among others). The authors also introduce and discuss thematic roles, including agent, patient, recipient, experiencer, instrument, time, and location. There are several exercises for students to practice identifying each thematic role. The chapter also offers a detailed description of deictic systems, speech acts, and politeness. The different parts of the speech acts are analyzed, and their classes described in detail.

Chapter seven addresses linguistic variation in Spanish, including social and geographical varieties, main dialectal areas of Spanish, as well as bilingualism and language contact between Spanish and other languages in Spain, Latin America, and elsewhere. Ample examples are provided of the outcome of the contact between Spanish and other Iberian languages in Spain, and Spanish and indigenous American languages in Latin America. Among the variable phonological phenomena present in Spanish today, the authors mention the case of the use of the interdental fricative in Peninsular Spanish, final /s/ weakening, and the distinction between /ʎ/ and /ʝ/. In the case of morphosyntactic phenomena, the authors focus on variation in forms of address, including the distribution of the use of different forms of second person singular: ‘vos’, ‘tú’, and ‘usted’.

Chapter eight deals with the social history of Spanish in the United States and its linguistic features, surveyed with much more detail in another work by Escobar and Potowski (2015). Different phenomena of the contact between English and Spanish are introduced, including codeswitching (the use of Spanish alongside English in the same communicative event), lexical borrowing (the insertion and adaptation of lone lexical items), and morphosyntactic convergence (the increase in frequency of certain shared forms as described by Silva-Corvalán 1994). Furthermore, factors regarding maintenance and shift of the Spanish language in the United States are discussed. This chapter ends with a discussion of macro-sociolinguistic factors that promote or endanger the maintenance of Spanish in the U.S.

The last chapter, not included in previous editions, is an introduction to the teaching and acquisition of Spanish. In addition to a historical perspective on language teaching, this chapter sets out to show how linguistics as a field can help in making sound pedagogical decisions. Special focus is put on the Task-Based Language Teaching approach, with a description of types of tasks and how to carry them out in the classroom. The chapter ends with a discussion of research in the field of second language acquisition that includes a substantial discussion of the concept of “interlanguage” and the internal factors, including individual factors, and external factors, such as type of input and feedback, that affect individual learner attainment.


This third edition of the book “Introducción a la lingüística hispánica” consolidates its position as the most comprehensive introductory text to Hispanic Linguistics on the market today. Although its main target audience remains advanced undergraduate students with a high level of competence in Spanish, or even graduate students, its detailed content, well-organized structure, and a robust battery of exercises make it an excellent entry into the field. The fact that five different scholars of Spanish linguistics contribute to this textbook explains the high degree of attention given to each element discussed in every chapter. While the information might be overwhelming in some instances—for example, the type of sound change from Latin to modern Spanish might be challenging for undergraduate students taking their first Spanish linguistics class—students will surely come back to this text often as they take more specialized Spanish linguistics courses.


Escobar, A. M., Potowski, K. (2015). “El español de los Estados Unidos”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pelayo, M. (1940). “Historia de las ideas estéticas en España, vol. V”. Santander: Aldus.

Silva-Corvalán, C. (1994). “Language contact and change: Spanish in Los Angeles”. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


Marina Bonilla Conejo is currently a third year PhD student at SUNY at Albany. In 2016, she completed her MA in Spanish Literatures and Linguistics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
She is currently working on her dissertation, examining which sociolinguistic factors condition the pronunciation of final /s/ in three main areas of the province of Málaga, in the South of Spain, across which pronunciation varies geographically and socially, while making a comparison between the capital city and the rural areas.
Besides her dissertation, she is currently working on a project on sociophonetics, in which she studies the Spanish spoken in Melilla with her advisor, Dr. Lotfi Sayahi. Furthermore, she is also working on two projects on language variation and second language acquisition. Her research interests include Sociolinguistics, language variation and phonetics and phonology.

Page Updated: 09-Sep-2021