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Review of  Entre las Lenguas Indígenas, la Sociolingüística y el Español

Reviewer: John Joseph Stevens
Book Title: Entre las Lenguas Indígenas, la Sociolingüística y el Español
Book Author: Martha Islas
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Issue Number: 21.2869

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EDITOR: Islas, Martha
TITLE: Entre las Lenguas Indígenas, la Sociolingüística y el Español
SUBTITLE: Estudios en Homenaje a Yolanda Lastra
SERIES: LINCOM Studies in Native American Linguistics 62
YEAR: 2009

John J. Stevens, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of
North Carolina Wilmington


In this edited volume, Martha Islas has compiled a remarkable collection of
previously unpublished studies in honor of the renowned Mexican linguist Yolanda
Lastra. The collection includes contributions from a variety of international
researchers working within the three main linguistic subdisciplines in which
Lastra has distinguished herself - indigenous languages, Spanish, and
sociolinguistics. All of the chapters are written in Spanish, except for Jane
Hill's study of loan words in the Mesoamerican maize complex and Kenneth Hill's
paper on Hopi phonology, both of which appear in English.

Part I of the book contains a short introduction by the editor as well as a
background chapter entitled ''Lingüística descriptiva y lingüística social en la
obra de Yolanda Lastra: historia de un compromiso científico'' in which Pedro
Martín Butragueño presents a biographical sketch of Professor Lastra's academic
formation, teaching, research, and important contributions, especially in the
area of the descriptive linguistics of the indigenous languages of Mexico. The
remaining 20 chapters are divided into three sections that correspond to the
research areas in which Lastra has been the most active: Part II Indigenous
Languages, Part III Spanish Language Studies, and Part IV Sociolinguistics.

Part II - Indigenous Languages - begins with William Bright's ''Topónimos
amerindios en México y los Estados Unidos'' in which the author discusses place
names of Mexican origin and the methodology employed in the elaboration of two
etymological dictionaries in which he was involved: ''Native American Place
Names of the United States'' (Bright, 2004) and ''El Proyecto 'Toponimia Indígena
de México' [TIM]'' (Lastra, Bright, & Guzmán Betancourt, 2003). Doris
Bartholomew, in ''El apócope en los verbos del otomí: la morfofonémica del
plural,'' uses Classical Otomí as the point of departure for the examination of
apocope innovations in modern dialects of Otomí in four regions of Mexico: the
Mezquital Valley (Hidalgo), Jiquipilco (Mexico), the Sierra Oriental of Hidalgo,
and Ixtenco (Tlaxcala). In the chapter ''Ancient loan words in the Mesoamerican
maize complex,'' Jane H. Hill explores the three temporal levels of loan word
exchange proposed for the domain of the maize plant in Mesoamerica, critically
reviewing published accounts in order to clarify the three levels and suggest
some new lines of investigation. Kenneth C. Hill, in ''On underlying vowel
clusters in Hopi,'' presents phonological phenomena that support the claim for
underlying vowel sequences in that language. In ''El cuento del honorable
Fundidor Sagrado que hace imágenes,'' Katherine Voigtlander and Artemisa
Echegoyen perform a linguistic analysis of an Otomí story whose origin may have
been motivated by the need to explain how the native Mexicans were conquered by
the Spaniards. Francisco Barriga Puente, in ''La influencia del español en los
sistemas de numeración mesoamericanos durante la colonia,'' examines the impact
on the number systems of the native peoples of Mesoamerica as a result of the
intense contact between indigenous languages and Spanish during the colonial
period. Martha Islas, in her chapter entitled ''Los sistemas fonológicos del
yuto-azteca del sur y los universales del lenguaje,'' surveys the phonological
inventories of the southern branch of the Uto-Aztecan languages in order to see
how these systems compare to the statistical patterns most often reported for
languages throughout the world. In ''Contacto lingüístico y dialectología.
Estructuras comparativas en purépecha,'' Claudine Chamoreau uses comparative
structures in different varieties of Purépecha to show that phenomena related to
linguistic contact can have relevance for the dialectological study of a
language. Thomas C. Smith Stark and Fermín Tapia García, in ''La formación de
sustantivos plurales en el amuzgo,'' present a system of rules and features that
govern pluralization in Amuzgo, proposing that any practical dictionary of this
language should include the plural form as part of any given noun's lexical
entry. This section ends with Dora Pellicer's ''Yolanda Lastra y los cuentos
otomíes,'' a study in which the author highlights the role of reported speech and
repetition in two oral narratives featuring animal characters (''El conejo y el
coyote'' and ''El burro y el puerco'') recorded in the field by Lastra herself and
which appear in her book ''Unidad y diversidad de la lengua'' (2001).

Part III - Spanish Language Studies - proceeds with María Ángeles Soler
Arechalde's ''Nombres de institución y geográficos. Cuestiones de concordancia''
in which the author considers how semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic factors can
interact in the variability of the form number agreement takes in Spanish nouns
referring to institutions and geographical places. Josefina García Fajardo, in
''El modal 'dizque': estructura dinámica de sus valores semánticos,'' examines
the various meanings the modal 'dizque' was found to have in 20th century Mexico
and assesses the possible correlation between the dynamic structure of these
meanings and those revealed in earlier stages of the Spanish language. In ''A
propósito del conocimiento femenino del vocabulario del fútbol en el 'Léxico del
habla culta de México,''' Elizabeth Luna Traill analyzes lexical data from Lope
Blanch's (1978) corpus to show how women in Mexico City reveal a change over
time towards a greater understanding of the game of football (soccer) as
reflected in knowledge of its specialized vocabulary. Karen Dakin, in ''Del
yutoazteca al *'-hta-' del náhuatl - y al 'itacate' y el 'taco' del español
popular: una contribución en homenaje a tres intereses lingüísticos de Yolanda
Lastra,'' analyzes the sequence '-ht-' in Nahuatl and presents evidence that
shows that the word 'taco' likely derives from Nahuatl 'itacate' and not from
some Spanish source as previously proposed. In ''Las paradojas emanadas de las
lenguas en contacto: el caso de una familia mazahua,'' Rebeca Barriga Villanueva
investigates the impact of Mazahua on the Spanish of four generations of a
family from Portes Gil, Mexico.

Part IV – Sociolinguistics - continues with Una Canger's ''Learning a Second
Language First 'revisitado,''' which explores the reasons why Nahuatl survives in
the Mexican village of Coatepec de los Costales despite the fact that the local
children don't speak it. In ''¿Qué elegiría usted, el español, el guaraní o el
inglés?'' Anita Herzfeld discusses Paraguay's special case of Spanish/Guaraní
national bilingualism and reports the results of a survey designed to assess
attitudes towards Spanish, Guaraní, and English. Claudia Parodi, in ''El español
y las lenguas indígenas: primeros contactos,'' explores the beginning of the
linguistic and cultural indianization of the Spaniards in the New World as
revealed in indigenous borrowings and semantic extensions of Spanish in
Columbus's' ''Diario del descubrimiento'' (Alvar, 1976). In ''El cuento
'interactivo,' vehículo de educación e identidad,'' Martha C. Muntzel discusses
the use of indigenous stories in the development of language and individual
identity, proposing the use of the 'interactive story' as a teaching methodology
in linguistic and cultural revitalization programs. Finally, Bárbara Cifuentes
and José Luis Moctezuma, in ''Un acercamiento al multilingüismo en México a
través de los censos,'' analyze census data in order to identify trends in
Mexico's dynamic multilingualism.


The studies contained in this volume address a variety of topics, ranging from
languages in contact to phonology, lexicology, morphology, syntax, text
analysis, and sociolinguistics. All of the contributions are extremely well
written and appropriately documented with supporting references. The individual
articles would serve very well as supplementary reading material in specialized
courses such as the history of the Spanish language, the linguistics of the
native languages of Mexico, and the sociolinguistics of Latin America. Graduate
students looking for a dissertation topic may find this collection particularly
valuable because many of the papers pose intriguing questions and/or propose
areas suitable for future doctoral research.

Although the book does include an introductory section, this is mostly a review
of Yolanda Lastra's curriculum vitae. The volume would have benefitted from a
more complete introduction that served to orient the reader to its contents and
that gave a rationale for the placement of the individual chapters into their
respective sections, since many of the topics and subfields overlap and the
classification of the studies is not always immediately apparent. The book
lacks a subject index, which would have been a useful feature for quickly
locating information in a collection of this nature. The inclusion of short
biographical sketches describing the specialization and research interests of
each of the contributors would also have been helpful for readers interested in
contacting an author in order to pose follow-up questions and/or pursue a
particular line of research.

The admiration, respect, and gratitude of students, colleagues, and friends are
manifest throughout this festschrift dedicated to Yolanda Lastra. This
wide-ranging compilation of studies encompassing the fields of American
indigenous languages, Spanish language studies, and sociolinguistics will no
doubt prove to be a valuable resource, not only for instructors and students,
but also for researchers working in these areas of specialization.


Alvar, M. [Ed.] (1976). Diario del descubrimiento. Madrid: Cabildo Insular de
Gran Canaria.

Bright, W. (2004). Native American place names of the United States. Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press.

Lastra, Y., Bright, W., & Guzmán Betancourt, I. (2003). El proyecto 'Toponimia
indígena de México' [TIM]. SSILA [Society for the Study of the Indigenous
Languages of the Americas Newsletter], 22,(1), 6-7.

Lastra, Y. (2001). Unidad y diversidad de la lengua. Relatos otomíes. México:
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México [Instituto de Investigaciones

Lope Blanch, J. M. (1978). Léxico del habla culta de México. México: Universidad
Nacional Autónoma de México.

John J. Stevens is Associate Professor of Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he teaches courses in Spanish language and Hispanic linguistics. His research interests include sociolinguistic variation and the acquisition of Spanish as a second language.

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