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Review of  Advances in Hispanic Linguistics

Reviewer: Jan Schroten
Book Title: Advances in Hispanic Linguistics
Book Author: Javier Gutiérrez-Rexach Fernando Martínez-Gil
Publisher: Cascadilla Press
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Language Family(ies): Ibero-Romance
Issue Number: 10.1186

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Javier Gutierrez-Rexach and Fernando Martinez-Gil (eds.)
Advances in Hispanic Linguistics. Papers from the second Hispanic
Linguistics Symposium. 2 vols.
Somerville: Cascadilla Press, 1999.
xiv+578 pages. $40.00 US

Reviewed by Jan Schroten, Utrecht University

The Symposium at which these papers were presented was held at Ohio State
University in Columbus in October, 1998. The papers reflect research
activities in many areas of hispanic linguistics, and are grouped in three
broad fields: Psycholinguistics and Sociolinguistics; Phonology, Morphology
and Historical Linguistics; Syntax, Semantics and Pragmatics.

In this review, I will group contributions in the same area together,
trying to characterize the main issues that have been discussed, and
identifying them by mentioning the author(s).

The only study on language acquisition by native speakers of Spanish is
done by Alfonso Morales. He tries to account for the fact that in the
early, one-word stage, children refer to [sopa] (soup) by saying [fopa] or
[pota]. Optimality Theory provides the means to express "optimal" early
words: disyllabic; first-syllable onset: labial; second-syllable onset:
coronal or labial.
Studies on general aspects of L2 language acquisition are presented by
James F. Lee and by Ronald P. Leow According to Lee, L2 learners try to
understand foreign language sentences by "making meaning" (comprehension)
or by "making form-meaning connections" (input processing). L2 learners of
Spanish are given two kinds of texts: one in which temporal reference is
given by tense forms only, which requires form-meaning connection, and a
parallel text in which adverbs support the temporal meaning of the verb
ending, permitting comprehension without form-meaning connection. This
exploratory study on a small number of students concludes that "learner's
attempts to manage their comprehension has the less than desirable effect
of dislocating from their attention key aspects of the input". A different
route is taken by Leow, who claims that attention consists of three
aspects: alertness, orientation, and detection. The general question is
whether attention, if it is important for learning, implies conscious
attention, which would suggest the importance of a renewed role of grammar
in the L2 curriculum. A number of SLA studies is subjected to
investigation: is attention given sufficient attention? Many studies show
nonconsistency errors, since they do not give sufficient attention to the
operationalization of "attention".
Specific details of the Spanish that L2 learners acquire are discussed in
some other papers. Marisol Fernandez-Garcia tries to account for errors in
gender agreement. This small-scale study on a few L2 learners of Spanish
sugggets that errors are not random: the default gender is usually
masculine, nouns ending in -o are usually masculine, and nouns ending in -a
are usually feminine. If a noun is taken to be masculine, it tends to take
the masculine ending -o, as in /los corridos/ for /las corridas/.
Form-meaning interaction of (natural) gender is addressed by Rafael A.
Nunnez Cedenno, who studies the effects of the masculine pronoun /el/. Does
the masculine pronoun convey a meaning of maleness? He replicates a study
done on native speakers of English, where no noticeable effect of this kind
has been found. His finding are the same for native speakers of Spanish.
A number of papers treat sociolinguistic issues. The use of the polite
form of address /usted/ and the non-polite form /tu/ in five Latin
American cities is studied by Diane Ringer Uber. She concludes that power
and solidarity dictate the choice: powerful /usted/ and solidary /tu/ are
found in these five big cities. No clear indication is given of differences
in the amount of power or solidarity and the use of /usted/ or /tu/ in
these cities, although a number of observations can be found on this aspect.
The use of /nomas/ (even, just) by Spanish-speaking citizens of San
Antonio, Texas, is studied by MaryEllen Garcia. The use of this common
Latin American adverb seems to be spreading among the young, less fluent
speakers of Spanish in San Antonio. The discussion of the history and of
the sociolinguistic pattern in San Antonio is somewhat inconclusive.
Semantic and syntactic aspects of the comparable adverb /solo/ (only) are
discussed by Steven Lee Hartman. It is a "diminisher" (with the
interpretation: merely) or a "focuser" (with the meaning: exclusively), in
his analysis. Hartman observes that the adverb seems to have been fronted,
that is, its domain is at some distance to the right. The interesting data
are not followed by an attempt at characterizing the syntactic position and
the semantic interpretation of /solo/.

The second series of papers are on phonology, morphology, and historical
linguistics. The phonology papers are generally couched in the framework of
Optimality Theory (OT).
The phonological articles will be characterized first. John M. Lipski
analyzes weak /s/ in Spanish. A well-known fact is the weakening of
syllable-final /s/ (/s/ is pronounced as [h] or is silent) in many variants
of Spanish. Certain details suggest that syllabification and weakening of
/s/ require a specific order: first syllabification, then weakening. In
some syllable-final /s/ weakening dialects, syllable-initial /s/ is
weakened as well, a surprising phenomenon which can be stated by a
different sequence of processes. In technical terms, "rightward
misalignment" gives way to "leftward misalignment".
Kenneth J. Wireback studies /n/ velarization in Cuban Spanish. The amount
of velarization of word-internal syllable-final /n/ in different kinds of
broadcast has been studied. Word-final /n/ velarization, which is a common
phenomenon in Cuba, is variable, probably due to stigmatization.
Syllable-final word-internal velarization before a consonant is found more
in the news broadcasts, which are more formal, than in the sports
broadcasts, which are less formal. Due to stigmatization, word-final
velarization of /n/ is found less in the more formal style. This curious
difference is discussed, and a possible way of accounting for this
difference is stated.
A lexicon-based treament of "high vowel + vowel" sequences is proposed by
Sonia Colina and by Jose Ignacio Hualde. Colina observes that /pie/ (foot)
is always pronounced as [pje], with a rising diphtong, whereas /pi-e/ (I
chirped) can be pronounced with hiatus as [pi.e]. Her main claim is given
in Optimality Theory as a principle of "Identity Constraint". This
principle requires or prefers phonetic similarity between formally and
semantically related words: the verb /piar/ (to chirp) has several forms
with stressed /i/ such as /pi-a/ (he/it chirps). Stressed [i] cannot be
part of a diphtong which is why /pi.e/ (I chirped), which is clearly
related, can be pronounced the same way. Looking at it from the other side,
if diphtongization is obligatory, there is no related wordt which triggers
hiatus. The same claim is made by Hualde, and is studied as part of a more
general claim, which is that there are no underlying abstract
representations: these are unwanted artifacts of generative phonology.
Instead, regular and irregular patterns must be handled in the lexicon. The
hiatus cases do not have any phonological or morphological characteristic
in common; only the lexical property of having a related lexical items with
a similar form and meaning turns out to be decisive.
A curious paper has been delivered by Eduardo Pinneros, on two variants of
the language game "jerigonza". In variant A, each syllable is followed by
another C{onsonant) V(owel) syllable; in variant B, each syllable is
preceded by a CV-syllable. The properties of the inserted C and V are
stated as Optimality Theory processes.
Other phonetic studies have been undertaken by Robert Hammond, on the
status of /"double" r/, and by Holly J. Nibert, on "intermediate phrasing".
Hammond tries to show, by the auditory analysis of recorded speech of over
200 subjects and by study of a few sound spectographs, that the prescribed
"double" /r/ pronunciation is not found in the speech of the great majority
of Spanish speaking people. It is unclear whether the claim is that the
"double /r/" phoneme has sibilant or uvular or some other pronunciation,
contrasting with /r/, or whether the claim is that there is no contrast
whatsoever between double and single /r/ in intervocalic word-internal
position. It is suggested that the latter statement is valid for many
speakers of Spanish.
Holly J. Nibert analyzes the intonation of ambiguous sequences like /lilas
y lirios amarillos/ (lilies and irises yellow), where the color can be
attributed to both lilies and irises or to irises only. The conclusion of
this carefully described series of tests and the analysis of the results is
that the intonation can, and often does, reduce ambiguity.
Studies on historical Spanish linguistics are presented by Ray
Harris-Northall, by Eric Holt, and by Thomas J. Walsh, on different topics.
Harris-Northall offers a thoughtful study of medieval language policy.
Contrary to general belief among hispanists, he shows that Alfons X "el
Sabio" was not the language policy maker, imposing the use of Spanish and
dignifying it. Long before his time, Latin had a much more limited role
than is usually thought and Spanish was advancing in the laws and other
official documents. Even more, much Latin was formulaic, used in the
beginning and at the end of the documents; it is interspersed with
Castilian stretches of text containing and expressing the real message.
A study of historic phonology is presented by Eric D. Holt, who proposes to
treat two kinds of Latin ->Spanish sound changes as the effects of one
single process, linked to the loss of long/short vowel distinction. The
quantitative long/short vowel distinction gives way to a qualitative
high/low distinction. The qualitative distinction between double
obstruents and single obstruents changes into a qualitative
voiceless/voiced distinction. Dissimilar obstruents like /-kt-/ can be
treated in a similar way, by assuming that obstruence gives way to
continuance: /-jt-/. Thus, seemingly dissimilar historical changes would
coincide in a change from quantitative in qualitative distinctions.
Thomas J. Walsh gives evidence that the origin of the Spanish verb /atinar/
(to hit the mark) is Latin /addivinare/ (to guess), by taking a closer look
at the meanings that are found in history and the phonological rules which
produced this form to support his claim.
A study of historical ideas on language is published by Frank Nuessel, who
takes a look at the metalinguistic statements in Cervantes' Don Quijote.
His conclusion is that the observations found in this book are "in many
ways, insightful, astute, and perceptive from the point of view of late
twentieth century linguistic theory and analysis", without specifying the
linguistic theory and analysis he has in mind.

In the third section, on syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, a comparable
topic is treated by Marta Lujan, in her study on "Minimalist Bello". Andres
Bello's famous grammar of 1847 is claimed to contain a number of
"minimalist" concepts and analyses. The author wonders why Bello's
structural notions have not been incorporated in the recent tradition of
generative studies in Spanish grammar. The question is curious: Bello's
grammar is well-known, but it can hardly be used as a first step in
minimalist theory or as a starting point for any modern analysis.
Technical generative studies are presented by Raul Aranovich, by Alfredo
Arnaiz and Jose Camacho, by Hector Campos and by Eugenia Casielles-Suarez.
Aranovich discusses the case of the causative/non-reflexive inchoative
verbs like /arrancar/ (to start (eg a car)). Usually, the inchoative
variant of the causative verb is reflexive in Spanish, as in causative
/romper/ (to break) and inchoative /romperse/ (to break). If there is a
nonreflexive inchoative variant, the author claims that the reflexive
variant is blocked in the lexicon. If follows that the reflexive variant is
created by a lexical rule, and not by a syntactic rule.
In Arnaiz and Camacho's study on the "auxiliary" use of /ir a/ (lit.:to go
to; meaning: unexpectedly), as in /Ramon fue y se cayo/ (R. went and fell
=> R. unexpectedly fell), it is shown that the "auxiliary" use of /ir y/
has a number of typical properties, which are discussed and given formal
In Campos' study, a comparison is made between English and Spanish, on the
basis of CP-absorption or IP-absorption phenomena. English and Spanish turn
out to be IP-absorption languages, permitting multiple specifiers of IP.
Only the clitic doubling phenomenon of Spanish suggests a multiple
CP-specifier. The facts on clitic doubling that Campos adduces are analyzed
as supporting Rizzi's "Fine Left Periphery" hypothesis, that there are
Topic and Focus phrases between CP and IP.
The Topic-Focus articulation is taken up again by Casielles-Suarez, who
studies TFA (Topic-Focus Articulation). She discusses the characterizations
of Topic and Focus, giving English and Spanish examples, and trying to
propose a more articulated TFA. No real conclusion follows from the
attempts at coming to grips with what might be diferent kinds of topic and
different kinds of focus.
Sarah Harmon and Almerindo Ojeda show that the "neutro de materia", a
special pronoun to refer to mass nouns or a special article used with mass
nouns, is found in a popular 16th century agricultural treatise. They show
that various classes of mass nouns are found in this treatise and that the
special formal properties had a much wider diffusion, not exclusively in
Asturias but also in other regions, than is commonly believed to be or to
have been the case.
In a careful study of the composite negative conjunction /ni ... ni/, Elena
Herburger discusses its ambiguity: it can be interpreted as a conjunction
of two negative constituents (negative conjunction) or a disjunction which
forms its negative polarity counterpart, or it is ambiguous: both
interpretations are available. She tries to show that it is basically
Paula Kempchinsky treats binding in PPs and the much discussed nature of
condition B. The distinguishing property of Spanish is that a number of
verbs select PPs which can contain pronouns which are bound by the subject,
as in: /Adriana piensa en ella/ (A. thinks of her: A.=her). The author
argues that aspectual and Case-marking properties are relevant, and are
different in English and Spanish, and determine the domain in which
condition B is relevant.
Luis Lopez discusses the syntax of contrastive focus in Spanish and
English. A number of proposals are briefly discussed and rejected. A number
of questions are posed which do not find clear answers in his discussion.
Enrique Mallen discusses constructions which he analyzes as cases of
predicate inversion. One type is represented by /Les han entrado varios
turistas desnudos en la tienda/ (them have entered several tourists naked
in the store = They had several tourists enter naked in the store), in
which the clitic /les/ is analyzed as the head of a "small clause"
involving [varios turistas desnudos en la tienda] (several tourists naked
in the store). Many other difficult constructions are taken into account,
and various properties of the putative predicate inversion constructions
are given. Although interesting, a lot of problems have found a rather
artificial solution.
Juan Martin discusses accusative /a/, claiming that a-marking is an
instance of quirky or lexical Case-assignment. Two recent studies on
accusative /a/, Torrego; Bruge and Brugger, are mentioned, but hardly
discussed. This contribution is chaotic: many important studies are
mentioned, but they are not discussed adequately, and important points of
discussion are not taken into account. It is unclear how "lexical case"
could solve the problems that exist or that are believed to exist by the
Errapel Mejias-Bikandi studies prenominal adjectives, wh-extraction and
generalized quantifiers. Attention is given to the difference between
prenominal adjectives, as in /famosos escritores/ (famous writers) and
postnominal adjetives, as in /escritores famosos/ (writers famous).
Prenominal adjectives are claimed to have properties in common with
quantifiers. This can be accounted for by taking them to be in determiner
Francisco Ordonnez discusses Focus and subject inversion in Spanish,
Catalan, Italian and French. Following Kayne�s proposals, he claims that
focused constitutents raise to FocusPhrase, which triggers movement of the
remnant VP to a higher position, in order to check a verbal featue of
FocusPhrase. A number of problematic phenomena are treated. What remains
unclear is why many comparative observations are made without a clear
characterization of the language differences.
Claudia Parodi discusses the agreement system of Los Angeles Spanish (LAS)
vernacular, where pronominal subjects are not dropped, possessive
constituents are duplicated by possessive pronouns and the direct object is
doubled by a clitic in more contexts than in Standard Spanish. A Minimalist
approach, in which standard Spanish "weak" features are changing in LAS
"strong features" has been adopted. It is unclear why gender shift in
/problema/ (problem), from masculine to feminine, due to the final -a which
typically characterizes feminine nouns, and the use of /la/ to refer to it,
is taken to be "lack of agreement", and not "change of gender" by a
regularization of the morpholexical pattern.
Liliana Sanchez describes the pronominal system of speakers of Andean
Spanish. The characteristics are: underspecification of gender and number
features, doubling of quantified objects (impossible in standard Spanish,
and most of its variants), and the use of null objects. The phenomena are
interpreted as the results of a reinterpretation of properties of
D(eterminer) and AgrO position by Spanish/Quechua bilinguals.
Scott A. Schwenter analyzes the scalar particles /incluso/ (even) and
/hasta/ (even) in Spanish, and their quantificational and informational
Finally, Luis Silva-Villar discusses the history of the locative inversion
construction /ula minna carteira?/ (where is my wallet?) in Galegan, with
the inflected locative /ula/ (where: feminine), and without any verb. He
discusses the lexical and syntactic character of this construction, which
is found in a number of dialects since many centuries ago.

To conclude, the two volumes of these proceedings contain a number of
interesting studies in different areas which I have tried to sketch. A
considerable number of high-quality contributions will be found, and a
small number of modest or weak contributions.

Reviewer: Jan Schroten
Associate Professor Hispanic Linguistics, Utrecht University
Main interests: generative syntax and lexical semantics of Spanish and
comparative grammar of the Romance and Germanic languages


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