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Review of  Introducción y aplicaciones contextualizadas a la lingüística hispánica


Reviewer: Boris Yelin
Book Title: Introducción y aplicaciones contextualizadas a la lingüística hispánica
Book Author: Manuel Diaz-Campos Kimberly L Geeslin Laura Gurzynski-Weiss
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Issue Number: 31.91

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Review:
SUMMARY

The proposed audience of Introducción y aplicaciones contextualizadas a la lingüística hispánica is advanced undergraduate students. The book is organized into nine chapters: Chapter 1 – Animal Communication and Human Language, Chapter 2 – The Acquisition of Spanish as a Second Language, Chapter 3 – Phonetics: The Sounds of Spanish, Chapter 4 – Phonology: The Structure of the Sounds of Spanish, Chapter 5 – Morphosyntax: The Structure of Spanish, Chapter 6 – Spanish in the World, Chapter 7 – Semantics: The Study of Meaning, Chapter 8 – Pragmatics: Use in Context, and Chapter 9 – Study Abroad.

Though many chapter titles are self-explanatory, what follows is some general information about each one. Chapter 1 delineates how human language is different from other forms of communication and defines key concepts of the linguistic system. Chapter 2 broadly explains second language acquisition, mentioning methods of analysis. Chapter 3 introduces phonetics with a focus on both articulation and acoustic analysis. Chapter 4 covers phonological concepts and touches on optimality theory. Chapter 5 discusses word classes, word formation, and syntax trees. Chapter 6 discusses the evolution of Spanish and dialectal variation and related phonological/morphosyntactic processes. Chapter 7 includes mood, deixis, and semantic roles. Chapter 8 is essentially a brief discussion of what research has been conducted in a study abroad context, drawing contrasts between longitudinal versus cross-sectional studies.

Every chapter begins with an outline and concludes with a section on theoretical questions, empirical findings, key terms, and references, which could be great springboards for research ideas and/or further study. Thus, there is a high amount of organization that makes the text easily accessible and searchable. A unique feature of this textbook project is the supplementary online materials that refer directly to the reading. They help learners put immediately into practice the concepts they have just learned.

EVALUATION

Though the authors consistently write that the text contains overviews of the elements that make up linguistics, the book is quite thorough. The authors provide numerous examples and summaries of model studies that are related to each linguistic aspect. For instance, the book addresses syllabic structure and phonological processes (e.g. assimilation), topics that are absent in many introductory texts. Likewise, the chapter on semantics, often seen as one of the more complex branches of linguistics, succinctly explains more complex meaning differences such as the following:

(83) a. Luis no se marchó porque tenía que hacer algo urgente.
[Luis did not leave because he had something urgent to do.]
b. Luis no se marchó porque tuviera que hacer algo urgente.
[Luis did not leave because he had something urgent to do. ] (p. 261) 4

Though the glosses could be expressed in the same way in English (though with different intonation), in example 83a Luis did not leave and did had something urgent to do, while in example 83b, Luis did leave but did not have something urgent. For second language learners these types of examples help solidify some of the more difficult elements of Spanish grammar to acquire. For native speakers of Spanish, these types of examples provide a platform for the metalinguistic tools to describe what is innate. The book even includes a chapter on pragmatics, including discourse analysis and politeness, which many learners do not get exposed to unless they specialize in applied linguistics. Therefore, the text is quite complete in terms of the theoretical and applied topics covered.

The text is highly organized across and within chapters. The only improvement I would suggest is to divide Chapter 6, Español en el mundo, into two sections because the first part of the chapter addresses historical linguistics/diachronic change (e.g. la historia del español), while the second part addresses the current status of Spanish and synchronic differences. The treatment of the historical evolution of Spanish from is the only section of the text that is a truer overview, since it could have included a thorough explanation of the transitional stages of the vowels among other elements.

This text is intended for advanced undergraduate students. Nevertheless, I envision this book as an overview text for a graduate Spanish Linguistics curriculum (equally challenging for native and non-native speakers) in which the appropriate sections of the book are used in different courses in order to have a high level of consistency in the curriculum. Then, there could be supplemental texts provided for more specific foci, such as the historical evolution of the vowels mentioned in the paragraph above. Thus, using certain sections would also remedy information deemed to be missing or overexplained.

What follows are some of the highlights of the text. First, one element that extends throughout the text is strong recognition of dialectal variation. Though the authors deal directly with this topic in Chapter 6, there are mentions to show contrasts in the morphosyntax, phonetics, etc… of different speech communities. Some examples are the posterior /r/ of Puerto Rico or the subtle distinction between vosotros and ustedes in Spain. Beyond dialectal variation, there are several comparisons of variation from what is considered the prescriptive norm. For instance, in Chapter 5 – Morphosyntax, the authors discuss the fluidity of gender agreement with agua. Citing Eddington and Hualde’s study (2008), they present an example of how certain determiners (e.g. el or esta) will affect adjective agreement as part of collocations. Highlighting variation creates a sense of open-mindedness from the beginning with new linguistics students, which is important in fostering an understanding of descriptive linguistics.

Additionally, within the chapters there are small sections that stand apart called Enfoque en la investigación [Focus on research]. These sections show exemplary/seminal works that are related to the topic at hand; they are somewhat a combination of an abstract and summary highlighting elements that are most pertinent to the particular part of the chapter, whether it be a theoretical, practical, or methodological example. These sections are expertly dispersed, and the readers encounter them just as they wonder how one would test certain concepts. The diagrams throughout the text also help increase understanding, for example the syntax trees that take a step-by-step approach. The acoustic explanations with PRAAT diagrams are especially helpful given that linguists will use that tool for analysis.

Another highlight is the sheer quantity of studies that were discussed providing learners with a better sense of what references to pursue further in their own research depending on interest. Beyond producing significant research, themselves, the three authors have included studies that range from foundational to more modern studies. Thus, their references are a combination of research conducted in English as well as Spanish. There are even comparisons to research on similar phenomena in other related languages, such as the reduction of the preposition para in Brazilian Portuguese.

The compelling supplemental activities built into the text are the best feature of this textbook. From the outset the questions lead learners to think critically about the very nature of language, and there is a mix of theoretical and practical tasks. The activities have models to help the students along, and many of the questions could later be used as part of an assessment, since they are directly testing knowledge and application of the skills. These activities utilize real language via corpus usage and non-pedagogical videos of speakers. However, one thing to keep in mind is that several activities are tied to YouTube videos or other websites, which could potentially vanish. In fact, while reviewing there were at least a dozen links that no longer worked. This is overall a minor drawback, as I have already bookmarked many of the resources that were previously unknown to me. If you are interested in perusing the activities, they are available at www.wiley.com/go/diaz-campos.

Speaking about resources, this book is invaluable to any instructor teaching Spanish linguistics. Research is often presented in articles in English, so there is the potential for lacking vocabulary of certain technical terms. This text remedies those issues. While reviewing this text, I felt that it encapsulated the core of my graduate education in linguistics, in general, as well as with an emphasis on Spanish. I believe the authors succeed in collecting a lot of information in a relatively short amount of text and that this book, as mentioned previously, could take the place of other texts across a curriculum with other texts as supplementary material.

REFERENCES

Eddington, D., & Hualde, J.I. (2008). El abundante agua fría: Hermaphroditic Spanish nouns. Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics, 1(1), 5-32.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Boris Yelin is currently Assistant Teaching Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Northeastern University as well as the Coordinator of the Portuguese Program. His main teaching interests are Spanish, Portuguese and Spanish Linguistics. His research interests lie in SLA and Pedagogy with a focus on L3 acquisition. Past research has included looking at the intersection of language variation and semantics with respect to mood.

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