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Review of  Koineization in Medieval Spanish

Reviewer: Angela Bartens
Book Title: Koineization in Medieval Spanish
Book Author: Donald N. Tuten
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Issue Number: 15.751

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Date: Mon, 01 Mar 2004 22:52:59 +0200
From: Angela Bartens
Subject: Koineization in Medieval Spanish

Tuten, Donald N. (2003) Koineization in Medieval Spanish, Mouton de
Gruyter, Contributions to the Sociology of Language 88.

Angela Bartens, University of Helsinki.


Language change has traditionally been explained as a system-internal
phenomenon. Only recently have sociolinguists started to defend the view
that "it is not languages that change but rather speakers who change
language" (p. 2). The typology of the distinct outcomes of language
change vary greatly according to the linguistic input and the prevailing
sociohistorical circumstances (Thomason 1997; Bartens 2000).
Koineization, the process under survey in this volume, "is generally
considered to consist of processes of mixing, leveling, (limited)
reduction or simplification, which occur in social situations of rapid
and intense demographic and dialect mixing" (p. 3). And Tuten goes on to
argue that "The model of koineization represents a significant
theoretical advance for our understanding of language change as
influenced by dialect contact and mixing." (p. 3).


In the study under review, the model of koineization is tested on the
case of Medieval Spanish. Tuten follows here the geochronological
periodization proposed by Penny (1987) into the Burgos phase (late 9th
and 10th centuries), the Toledo phase (from 1085 into the 12th century)
and the Seville phase (mid- and late 13th century). After an
introductory chapter (pp. 1-8) in which the goals of the study are
outlined, Tuten extensively reviews the available literature on
koineization and related phenomena (chapter 2, pp. 9-93). Despite
slightly differing uses of the term koineization in the existing
literature, the concept of dialect mixing emerges as the key feature of
koineization where the contributing varieties are mutually intelligible
linguistic susbsystems. This ensures that access to the input is easy
even though the input in itself is higly variable.

Adults and children play slightly different roles as far as micro-level
speaker activity is concerned: adult speakers accomodate to their
interlocutors and sometimes create interdialectal variants not present
in any of the contributing dialects while the language acquisition of
older children and adolescents is found to play a fundamental role in
the stabilization or focusing of the koine. Both contribute to the
identity-marking function of the koine, i.e., the koine becomes the
means of expressing a new identity.

Typically, the need and conditions to express such a new, hybrid
identity result from population movements and the sudden breakdown of
social ties; the koine is built up along with the new identity. The
model of weak ties as outlined in the research of the Milroys (e.g.
Milroy & Milroy 1985) constitutes the basis on which Tuten builds his
model of koineization. The essential macro-level mechanisms of
koineization are mixing (i.e. survival of variants from different
contributing varieties), leveling (e.g. elimination of minority
variants), reallocation (more than one variant survives but with
different functions) and simplification (e.g. by overgeneralization).

The formation of a focused koine usually occurs over one or two
generations of children, i.e., a total of 2-3 generations.
Koineization is clearly distinct from other types of language change in
contact situations, e.g. pidginization, creolization, dialect leveling,
language death, etc. Nevertheless, koineization, too, should be seen as
a prototype of linguistic change rather than an absolute formula.
The chapters on the three diachronic phases of medieval Spanish all
start with an overview of the social history followed by a discussion of
previous work on linguistic change during the period in question. Then
Tuten goes on to analyze specific instances of language change.
The features chosen for the discussion of the Burgos phase (chapter 3,
pp. 94-144) are the leveling and simplification of articles and
preposition + article contractions and the reorganization and the
simplification of the tonic vowel system. The developments of f- > h-,
the emergence of the phoneme /tS/ and the varied results of Latin
initial clusters cl-, pl-, fl- are also discussed in relation to

During the Toledo phase (chapter 4, pp. 145-214), clearly marked
hereditary class distinctions appear in Castile (p. 152). Nevertheless,
migration and mixing is even more rapid and widespread than during the
previous period, thus creating a favorable environment for koineization
and language spread (p. 153). The linguistic changes attributed to
koineization during this period are the establishment of extreme apocope
as a Castilian norm through stylistic reallocation, the reanalysis and
spread of leismo and the reorganization of the possessive system into
preposed unstressed and postposed stressed forms. Tuten notes that the
period "is marked not only be [sic] geographic variation, but also by
significant social/stylistic variation" (p. 214).
The linguistic phenomena discussed for the Seville phase (chapter 5, pp.
215-256) and attributed to (re)koineization are the elimination of
extreme apocope, the elimination of the minority feature of leismo and
the completion of the simplification of the possessive system (1st
person singular possessives are reduced to invariant mi[s]). On the
other hand, Tuten shows that the seseo cannot be linked to 13th-century
koineization in Andalusia and thereby demonstrates that "efforts to link
dialect mixing and language change must be grounded on appropriate
application of the model and careful interpretation of the evidence" (p.

The results of the study are summarized in the Conclusions (chapter 6,
pp. 257-268). Tuten explains the long-recognized "drift" in Spanish
toward more analytical, transparent, and simplified structures as a
repeated series of koineizations (p. 265), "periods of rapid change
[that] punctuate periods of slow change in the history of
Castilian/Spanish" (p. 266). The volume also includes five most useful
maps (pp. 269-273), notes to the text (pp. 274-301), an extensive
bibliography (pp. 302-331), and an index (pp. 332-345).


Although both the exceptional or innovative nature of Castilian
vis-a-vis other Iberoromance varieties has been recognized and linked to
the unique sociohistorical conditions of the time of the reconquest by
Hispanists, Tuten is the first to systematically test the koineization
model on linguistic data. In addition, the innovations of Castilian are
usually traced back to the early Burgos phase. Especially the Seville
phase has been seen as a mere case of transplantation of Castilian to
the south. Tuten shows that this is not the case and that koineization
has played a significant role during all three periods. Through the
application of the koineization model to the study of early Castilian,
Tuten has successfully tested the explicatory potential of the model. By
meticulously discussing the previous literature on the koineization
process Tuten has also made a significant contribution to the refinement
of this (prototype) model. I recommend this ground-breaking study to
contact linguists and Hispanists alike.


Bartens, Angela (2000) Vers une typologie socio- et psycholinguistique
des produits du contact linguistique: exemples romans. In Actes du XXIIe
Congrès international de Linguistique et Philologie romanes. Tome IX
(pp. 7-18). Tübingen: Niemeyer.

Milroy, James & Lesley Milroy (1985) Linguistic change, social network,
and speaker innovation. Journal of Sociolinguistics 21:2, 339-384.

Penny, Ralph (1987) Patterns of Language-Change in Spain, London:
University of London, Westfield College.

Thomason, Sarah (1997) A typology of contact languages. In Arthur K.
Spears & Donald Winford (eds.) The Structure and Status of Pidgins and
Creoles (pp. 71-88). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Dr.phil. Angela Bartens is Acting chair of Iberoromance Philology at
the University of Helsinki. Her research interests include language
contact including pidgins and creoles, sociolinguistics and applied
sociolinguistics including language policy and language planning.