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Review of  The Handbook of Hispanic Linguistics

Reviewer: Benjamin Schmeiser
Book Title: The Handbook of Hispanic Linguistics
Book Author: José Ignacio Hualde Antxon Olarrea Erin O'Rourke
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
General Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Issue Number: 24.4351

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This handbook fills a current gap in the field in that it updates the field of Hispanic Linguistics. The handbook is ideal for researchers and the language used assumes some linguistics background. Though technical, it is accessible for graduate students and upper-division undergraduates. Areas represented range from phonetics and phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics to sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics. The handbook commences with a Table of Contents, followed by a list of figures, a list of tables, notes on the contributors, and a brief editors’ note. There are forty chapters in the handbook; chapters are not organized into units nor are they ordered by area. Each chapter begins with an introduction to the topics of the chapter and offers a conclusion that summarizes the chapter, with many chapters including final remarks and/or considerations for further research; in addition, each chapter ends with a bibliography. The handbook ends with an index.

Chapter 1, GEOGRAPHICAL AND SOCIAL VARIETIES OF SPANISH: AN OVERVIEW, consists of an overview of the geographical and social varieties of Spanish by John Lipski. The author walks the reader through the different dialect divisions within Spain and Latin America. He goes on to discuss core issues in phonetics and phonology whose presence or absence often mark a particular variety (e.g. realizations of coda consonants). The chapter continues with sections on intonational differences, regional and social morphosyntactic differentiation, and lexical variation.

Chapter 2, THE SPANISH-BASED CREOLES, by J. Clancy Clements commences with a more general discussion of creoles and pidgins and follows it with in-depth discussion on three creoles in Spanish, namely Palenquero (Colombia), Papiamentu (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao), and Zamboangueño (Phillippines). Clements then compares the three with regard to the noun phrase (NP) and verb phrase (VP).

Chapter 3, SPANISH AMONG THE IBERO-ROMANCE LANGUAGES, is written by Christopher J. Pountain and offers a historical perspective of Spanish. The author discusses the evolution of Spanish from its origins and then considers the influence of other Ibero-Romance languages on Spanish (the author uses ‘Castilian’) and vice versa.

In Chapter 4, SPANISH IN CONTACT WITH AMERINDIAN LANGUAGES, Anna María Escobar introduces the chapter with a historical perspective and then offers an overview of Amerindian languages. She then goes on to discuss Spanish contact in grammatical features with Quechua, the Mayan languages, Guarani, Nahuatl, and Mapudungun. Escobar also includes a section in which she compares countries with high indigenous populations in sociolinguistic terms.

Chapter 5, THE PHONEMES OF SPANISH, is authored by Rebeka Campos-Astorkiza. The chapter consists of the vowel and consonant inventories and also includes an intriguing section on quasi-phonemic contrast in which the author compares glides to high vowels and treats the phonemic status of the voiced palatal fricative ~ voiced palatal plosive.

In Chapter 6, MAIN PHONOLOGICAL PROCESSES, Fernando Martínez-Gil begins with a section on nasal and lateral assimilation. He then discusses voiced obstruents, and voicing assimilation, followed by complete assimilation.

Sonia Colina follows in Chapter 7, SYLLABLE STRUCTURE. Colina states in the introduction that “the aim of this chapter is to present an overview of the state of the art in Spanish syllabification rather than a detailed comparison of competing analyses” (pp. 133-134). The author then clearly lays out the formal representation of the syllable, treats sonority and syllabic structure, and onsets and onset clusters. She then goes on to consider resyllabification, followed by nuclei and complex nuclei. She concludes with sections on codas and syllable structure and morphology.

In Chapter 8, STRESS AND RHYTHM, José Ignacio Hualde begins by offering the definition and functions of stress. In following sections, he treats stress and rhythm in great detail and clarity. One particularly appreciates the sections on stress in compounds and secondary stress.

In Chapter 9, INTONATION IN SPANISH, Erin O’Rourke first defines intonation and then looks at Spanish intonation structure, with separate sections on declaratives, interrogatives, exclamatives and imperatives, and narrow focus and topicalization. She also offers clear illustrations of intonation contours. Besides discussing dialect differences and Spanish in contact with other languages, she also considers language acquisition.

David Eddington authors Chapter 10, MORPHOPHONOLOGICAL ALTERNATIONS, in which he gives a historical perspective on diphthongization, discusses diminutive formation, and evaluates velar and coronal softening, as well as nasal and velar depalatalization.

Chapter 11, DERIVATION AND COMPOUNDING, is written by Soledad Varela. In terms of derivation, the author considers the different types (i.e. affixal derivation and non-affixal derivation), along with suffixation, and prefixation. Varela elaborates on derivation argument structure, aspect, and affix ordering. With regard to compounding, the author discusses constituents, traditional classifications, and expounds upon different compound types. She ends with a thorough discussion on the internal structure of compounding.

In Chapter 12, MORPHOLOGICAL STRUCTURE OF VERBAL FORMS, Manuel Pérez Saldanya treats verbal inflexion by reviewing the grammatical categories of verbal forms and verb tenses, along with nonpersonal forms. He then treats person and number markers and then logically transitions to Tense, Aspect, and Mood (TAM). In addition, Pérez Saldanya discusses theme vowel and thematic base. He concludes with a section on the main irregularities of verbal inflection.

In Chapter 13, FORMS OF ADDRESS, Bob de Jonge and Dorien Nieuwenhuijsen offer a quick overview on forms of address in Modern Spanish, and then the authors explain forms of address in terms of their historical formation. They go on to offer separate sections that address specific characteristics of the forms within Spain as well as Latin America.

M. Carme Picallo authors Chapter 14, STRUCTURE OF THE NOUN PHRASE. After introductory remarks, the author covers the argument structure of nouns, followed by the functional structure of nominals. For the latter, she includes subsections on derivation, inflection, and the gender controversy. Picallo then concludes by treating adnominal adjectives.

Chapter 15, INDEFINITENESS AND SPECIFICITY, is authored by Manuel Leonetti. The author considers nouns without determination and follows this section up with a section on indefiniteness that includes ample discussion on the indefinite article and another on Spanish indefinite determiners. Leonetti then turns his attention to specificity. Whereas one section studies the specific/non-specific distinction, another offers detailed description of specificity-related phenomena.

In Chapter 16, QUANTIFICATION, Javier Gutiérrez-Rexach introduces reference and quantification, which is then followed by a section on constraints on determiner denotations. The third section offers a discussion on quantifier classes and the fourth section develops scope, polyadicity, and plurality. The following sections cover quantification as it pertains to dynamics, questions, and degree, respectively.

Jaume Mateu authors Chapter 17, STRUCTURE OF THE VERB PHRASE. Mateu includes two sections beyond the introductory one. In one section, he considers the argument structure and the syntactic decomposition of VP; in the other, we see the different paths and results within the syntactic decomposition of VP.

Chapter 18, TENSE AND ASPECT, is authored by Karen Zagona. In the first part of the chapter, Zagona expounds upon tense in semantic terms. She divides sections by ‘past tense’ on one hand, and ‘nonpast tenses’ (i.e. present, future, and conditional) on the other; she concludes the first part with a section on embedded clauses. She then turns to aspect and notes in the beginning that traditional grammars do not include discussion on the contrast between telic and atelic events.

In Chapter 19, MOOD: INDICATIVE VS. SUBJUNCTIVE, Ignacio Bosque briefly describes the two moods, and then includes a fascinating discussion based on a question, “Is it possible to unify subjunctive meanings?” He concludes the section by noting that trying to ask this question in semantic terms is disappointing; if we choose to answer it in ‘restrictive syntactic terms’, Bosque reminds us that the “classical idea that subjunctive is the mood of subordination is still correct” (pp. 378-379). He then discusses, in separate sections, mood as it pertains to lexical selection, locality, scope, and conference.

Chapter 20, THE SIMPLE SENTENCE, is authored by Héctor Campos. The author commences with a detailed classification and explanation of sentences according to the “attitude” (author’s quotes, p. 396) of the speaker. Campos then ends with a discussion on dubitative and probability sentences.

In Chapter 21, CLITICS IN SPANISH, Francisco Ordóñez defines clitics in the first two sections, and then discusses their position in the sentence in terms of proclisis and enclisis. The author then discusses clitics in terms of their movement, doubling, and combinations.

José Camacho takes on ‘ser’ and ‘estar’ in Chapter 22, SER AND ESTAR: THE INDIVIDUAL/STAGE-LEVEL DISTINCTION AND ASPECTUAL PREDICATION. In his introduction, the author makes note of stage-level (SL) and individual-level (IL) predicates. Camacho then goes on to show the distribution of the two verbs in both their non-overlapping and overlapping contexts. In the following section, he develops the aforementioned concepts of SL and IL predicates. Next, he proposes a formalization based on these concepts. The chapter ends with two separate sections on locative prepositional phrase (PP) predicates and coercion.

Chapter 23, PASSIVES AND SE CONSTRUCTIONS, is authored by Amaya Mendikoetxea. The author introduces the chapter by classifying the different uses of ‘se’. She then considers the status of ‘se’. She follows with a discussion of both syntactic and semantic observations on arbitrary ‘se’ constructions (i.e. passives, impersonals, and middles), as well as the same observations on anaphoric “se” (p. 487) constructions.

In Chapter 24, COORDINATION AND SUBORDINATION, Ricardo Etxepare examines the two concepts, and then utilizes the first part of the chapter to discuss subordination in terms of mood, treat infinitive dependents, and gauge the status of the finite complementizer. With regard to coordination, the author considers a number of topics, including asymmetries in coordination.

Jerid Francom authors Chapter 25, WH-MOVEMENT: INTERROGATIVES, EXCLAMATIVES, AND RELATIVES. Francom examines wh-movement as it pertains to interrogatives, exclamatives, and relatives. He then offers a theoretical discussion in which he addresses three questions that researchers are trying to answer, namely: i) Where do Wh-words appear in the clause structure?; ii) What formal properties do matrix and embedded complementizer phrases share?; and iii) What is the nature of the relationship between Wh-operators and antecedent trace positions across clause boundaries? (p. 546).

Chapter 26, BINDING: DEIXIS, ANAPHORS, PRONOMINALS, is written by Luis Eguren. The author considers deixis and, in the following section, gives a background on binding theory. He goes on to discuss anaphors and pronominals in subsequent sections. He concludes by elaborating on the problem of complementary distribution.

In Chapter 27, EMPTY CATEGORIES AND ELLIPSIS, Josep María Brucart and Jonathan E. Macdonald discuss elliptical constructions concisely and then discuss in great detail the gaps that arise from the process of ellipsis.

Chapter 28, WORD ORDER AND INFORMATION STRUCTURE, is authored by Antxon Olarrea. The author discusses free word order in Spanish and then treats subject-verb-object (SVO) order and information structure. He then discusses topic and focus structures before offering formal accounts that attempt to explain how they work.

In Chapter 29, SPEECH ACTS, Victoria Escandell-Vidal first treats speech acts through an examination of sentence type and illocutionary force, followed by a section on illocutionary force and politeness. The author ends the chapter with discussion on cognition and inferential processes.

Chapter 30, DISCOURSE SYNTAX, is written by Catherine E. Travis and Rena Torres Cacoulus. The authors discuss syntactic patterning under the lens of discourse function. They examine information flow for NPs, transitivity, treat referentiality in discourse, go over constructions and prefabs, and end with a section on variation in first-person singular subject expression.

In Chapter 31, HISTORICAL MORPHOSYNTAX AND GRAMMATICALIZATION, Concepción Company Company begins by discussing the scope of morphosyntactic change. She then treats grammaticalization and offers a traditional definition, as well as a complementary one. Next, she goes on to explain innovative form, and ends with discussion on the role of reanalysis in grammaticalization.

Conxita Lleó authors Chapter 32, FIRST LANGUAGE ACQUISITION OF SPANISH SOUNDS AND PROSODY. The author discusses and updates the reader on the field, specifically as it pertains to Spanish, and also includes different approaches in research. In addition, she offers an intriguing section on the acquisition of segments, as well as one on prosody.

Chapter 33, SPANISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE AND TEACHING METHODOLOGIES, is authored by Cristina Sanz. The author details the history of the teaching of Spanish and then discusses three currently-implemented approaches, namely Task-based instruction, Processing Instruction, and Content-based Instruction. She then treats pedagogical research, in which I draw particular attention to her subsection on key issues in processing-oriented pedagogical SLA research.

In Chapter 34, THE L2 ACQUISITION OF SPANISH PHONETICS AND PHONOLOGY, Miquel Simonet introduces the chapter by noting that this area of Hispanic Linguistics has been understudied. He then discusses the research that has been conducted. In the following two sections, he discusses studies on Spanish vowels and consonants, respectively.

Silvina Montrul offers Chapter 35, THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE L2 ACQUISITION OF SPANISH, in which she discusses the learning challenges of second language acquisition, and then examines two major theoretical positions, namely nativism and empiricism. Additionally, Montrul offers an entire section dedicated to empirical evidence on L2 acquisition of morphosyntax and lexical semantics, and then follows it with a section entitled, ‘Discussion’, in which she evaluates both of the aforementioned theoretical positions.

Chapter 36, SPANISH AS A HERITAGE LANGUAGE, is authored by María M. Carreira. The author offers a timeline from the Limited Normative Approach in the 1930s to the Comprehensive Approach in 1978. She then reviews and discusses research from the 1990s and early 2000s, as well as important advances at the beginning of the new millennium, before ending by updating the reader on recent developments in the field.

In Chapter 37, ACQUISITION OF SPANISH IN BILINGUAL CONTEXTS, Carmen Silva-Corvalán engages the reader in a discussion of simultaneous and sequential bilingualism. She then brings up ‘bilingual first language acquisition’ and considers research questions on the subject. She also examines contextual factors in the development of child bilingualism. Next, she discusses bilingual children’s language development. In the following two sections, the author expands on research methods on bilingual first language acquisition and offers case studies on morphosyntactic development.

Chapter 38, READING WORDS AND SENTENCES IN SPANISH, is authored by Manual Carreiras, Jon Andoni Duñabeitia, and Nicola Molinaro. The authors give an overview of research that has been done on reading in Spanish, presenting some of the basic findings with regard both to word reading and sentence comprehension.

Chapter 39, LANGUAGE IMPAIRMENTS, is authored by José Manuel Igoa. After introducing the topic, the author discusses spoken language impairments, written language impairments, and language impairments in bilingual speakers with direct regard to Spanish. The author finishes with a section of development disorders, focusing on Specific Language Impairment.

In Chapter 40, LEXICAL ACCESS IN SPANISH AS A FIRST AND SECOND LANGUAGE, Albert Costa, Iva Ivanova, Cristina Baus, and Nuria Sebastián-Gallés treat bilingual cognitive research and examine lexical access in speech production and lexical access in speech production in Spanish in bilingual contexts. They follow with a section on language control in bilingual contexts with Spanish as L1 and L2, along with another section on learning Spanish in an immersion context.


The arrival of ‘The Handbook of Hispanic Linguistics’ was highly anticipated before its publication in 2012 and it exceeds expectation. It is novel in that it is the first known attempt to create a handbook on the vast field of Hispanic Linguistics. Not only does the handbook successfully present the reader with state-of-the-art research, but it also offers a superb overview and bibliography of our field. In short, it is an invaluable resource for the field; we are indebted to the editors and authors for taking on this challenging task.

The handbook truly fills a previous gap in that it contains forty chapters from many areas of Hispanic Linguistics and they were written by some of the finest researchers our field has to offer. The editors state that the handbook “is intended to present the state of the art research in all aspects of the Spanish language” (p. xxi) and the editors and authors unequivocally meet this objective. In what follows, I discuss the handbook’s many merits and minor shortcomings.

Though each chapter is written by a different author(s), the writing style is uniform, which is one of the book’s highest merits. As previously mentioned, the writing is technical enough so that the handbook is appropriate for researchers in the field, yet it is an excellent companion for professors and students (advanced undergraduate and graduate) alike. Though it is technical, it is didactic and offers extensive detail to ensure clarity in the writing, while also educating the reader on the particular topic and piquing his/her interest on the subject matter.

Another merit of the handbook is the breadth of areas included. There are over 850 pages of text, however, material rarely overlaps or seems repeated. Beyond the expected chapters on phonetics and phonology, morpho-syntax, semantics, and sociolinguistics, there are chapters on Spanish as a heritage language, first and second language acquisition, pedagogy, and language impairments.

In terms of the handbook’s shortcomings, there are few and they are all minor. First, I know that many handbooks/manuals do not organize the material into units, as textbooks often do. That said, I would have liked to see some elaboration in the editors’ note regarding topic selection for the handbook, along with a listing of chapters for each area of Hispanic Linguistics represented in the handbook. For this first edition, the area of each chapter (e.g. phonetics) is not included in the table of contents; as such, the prospective buyer has to peruse the table of contents and assess which areas are included and in how many chapters. The addition of an ‘Introduction’ chapter to the handbook or an editors’ note with more elaboration would resolve this issue.

In terms of language, I realize that English is the most common language of publication in Linguistics. However, some might note as a shortcoming the fact that a handbook about Hispanic Linguistics is not available in Spanish. It might be beneficial in the future to offer the handbook in both Spanish and English to increase readership.

I end this section with a minor stylistic comment. In the table of contents, I would suggest extra spacing between each chapter; in its current state, it is a bit difficult to discern between chapters, along with their consequent page numbers.

To conclude, I note that this handbook is part of the prestigious series entitled, ‘Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics’ and is an essential reference for professors and students alike. This review is for the hardcover (2012) edition; the paperback edition is due out in early 2014.
Benjamin Schmeiser is an associate professor of Spanish Linguistics at Illinois State University. He earned his PhD in Spanish Linguistics, with a specialization in Phonetics and Phonology, from the University of California, Davis in 2006. His research interests include Phonetics and Phonology, Pedagogy, Second Language Acquisition, Sociolinguistics, Historical Linguistics, and Romance Linguistics. His recent publications have concentrated on consonant clusters in Spanish, Portuguese, and Pali; podcast usage in the classroom; and synonymy in Contemporary United States Spanish.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 1405198826
ISBN-13: 9781405198820
Pages: 898
Prices: U.S. $ 199.95