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Review of  Selected Proceedings of the 5th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics

Reviewer: Deborah M. Rheinstrom
Book Title: Selected Proceedings of the 5th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics
Book Author: Jim Michnowicz Robin Dodsworth
Publisher: Cascadilla Press
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Issue Number: 22.3607

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EDITORS: Michnowicz, Jim and Robin Dodsworth
TITLE: Selected Proceedings of the 5th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics
SERIES: Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA
PUBLISHER: Cascadilla Press
YEAR: 2011

Deborah Rheinstrom, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, Illinois


This book presents results from research into various Spanish dialects that were
presented at the fifth Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics (WSS).This volume
includes twelve papers of the 37 that were presented at the 2011 workshop.

Several of the papers deal with language contact, and others deal with social,
economic, historical and phonological factors that have influenced Spanish
speech communities in various parts of the world.

As Michnowicz points out in the Introduction, “Many of Spanish sociolinguistics’
greatest contributions are found in the area of language contact –with
indigenous languages throughout Latin America, with European languages in Spain
and via bilingualism with English in the United States... Given the increased
interest in (Spanish) sociolinguistics outlined above, the WSS meetings are more
needed and relevant than ever, bringing together scholars from around the world
and from across disciplines” (pp. v-vi).

The first paper in this volume, “Southern-Bred Hispanic English: An Emerging
Socioethnic Variety”, written by Walt Wolfram, Mary F. Kohn and Erin
Callahan-Price, examines the contact between English and Spanish in the
Mid-Atlantic U.S. South. The authors focus on the creation of a new ethnic
variety of English, influenced by the Spanish substrate. They compare various
forms of the emerging Hispanic/English speech community with the dialect of more
durable speech communities, such as Chicano speakers in the Southwest United States.

The authors undertake an acoustic analysis of the /ai/ diphthong, as it occurs
in the Hispanicized English of rural speakers in Siler City, NC, and urban
speakers of Raleigh, NC. They compare both the duration of the glide and the
tone of the glide. It is observed that the /ai/ sound produced by these speakers
is somewhere between the Spanish and English sounds. They also find that this
diphthong and certain words found in their language are “interdialectal” in
nature; that is, they are not originally found in either language.

From further research on “quotatives”, the authors conclude that speakers’
lexicons, in early stages of dialectal development, contain many interdialectal
forms. Another conclusion is that some substrate effects, such as reduction of
syllable-coda consonant clusters (CCRs), and prosodic dimensions of speech also
show interdialectal outcomes.

In the second article, by Ana M. Carvalho and Michael Child, “Subject Pronoun
Expression in a Variety of Spanish in Contact with Portuguese”, the authors
examine the language of the bilingual Spanish/Portuguese-speaking town of
Rivera, Uruguay. This town is located on the border between Uruguay and Brazil.
In their research on effects of language contact, Carvalho and Child conducted
interviews with inhabitants in the town, to determine frequency of
subject-pronoun expression, as compared to frequency of expressions with the
null subject pronoun. Brazilian Portuguese tends to have a higher rate of
pronoun expression than Latin American Spanish.

The interviews were transcribed, analyzed, and submitted to VARBRUL analysis.
The results compared various factors that influence pronoun usage in Border
Spanish, including parallelism, grammatical person, discourse connection,
lexical content of the verb, and the reflexive use of the verb. Overall it was
shown that, despite influence from Brazilian Portuguese, Uruguayan Border
Spanish showed standard pronoun usage, and did not show more or less deletion of
the subject pronoun because of language contact.

The third article, “Verbal Morphology and Identity in Majorca: The Manifestation
of Attitudes in Writing”, by Mark Amengual, focuses on Catalan language and
identity in Majorca. Amengual outlines the history of multilingualism and
clashing identities in Majorca. He notes that in 1975, the Franco dictatorship
ended, and Catalan, which had been banned, was once again allowed to be used in
public life. Therefore, both standard and regional varieties coexisted in
Majorca. He states the reason for his study is to explore “how Catalan-Spanish
bilinguals project identities through language performance, specifically by
examining the occurrence of morphemic reduction in written production” (p. 27).
The -o final morpheme is conserved in standard Catalan but is absent in Majorcan

The results of a questionnaire and translation task indicated that
Catalan-Spanish bilinguals in Majorca show a strong tendency to represent the
Majorcan Catalan (MC) morphemic reduction in writing, a significant finding
given that Standard Catalan (SC) is used in writing at school and in the written
media. Factors influencing participants’ choices of morpheme include: level of
education, language dominance, gender, and attitude toward and identification
with Majorcan autonomous linguistic identity. These findings show that there is
still a divide among the younger speakers in the community.

The fourth article in the volume, “Different Ways to Hate a Language in
Catalonia: The Manifestation of Attitudes in Writing”, by Michael Newman, also
discusses Catalan and attitudes toward Catalan held by two groups of
Castilian-speakers in Catalonia, Spain. The two groups studied were native
Spaniards and immigrants to Spain from Latin America. The testing was carried
out using “matched guise tests”, to test for various attitudes. Results
indicated that “speakers from different backgrounds responded in similar ways,
but for different reasons, since the two groups held different ideas of
solidarity and group dynamics” (p. vi). The author also indicates that
educational policy should be improved, so that teachers can be trained to better
serve the linguistic needs of immigrant children learning Catalan (p. 48).

The fifth paper on language contact is “Mainland vs. Island: A Comparative
Morphological Study on Spanish-Turkish Contact”, by Rey Romero. Romero wanted to
show how endangered languages display variation and attrition by comparing the
dialects of two Sephardic communities in Istanbul and the nearby Prince Islands,
Turkey. The areas he focused on were gender and number agreement. Romero stated
that the domains of these two Turkish communities differ, since the Istanbul
community is more urban and the people more spread out than the rural, cohesive
community of the Prince Islands. He wanted to examine whether these domains have
affected language usage and rates of attrition.

Based on a series of interviews and translation tasks, Romero found that age was
a factor in attrition rates, with speakers under the age of 60 exhibiting the
highest rates. A second finding was that the Judeo-Spanish dialect, as a
language in shift, tended to preserve morphological number agreement as a
characteristic from the dominant Turkish language. Both Judeo-Spanish (JS)
speech communities showed higher attrition rates in morphological gender than in
number. An important final result was that geography did not play a significant
role in determining variation in attrition. It appears that both JS communities
represent only one contiguous speech community, and are actually indistinct from
one another.

The next paper is about phonetic/phonological variation. In “The Intervocalic
Voicing of /s/ in Ecuadorian Spanish”, Whitney Chappell examines the
intervocalic environments in which the Ecuadorian /s/ is voiced, as it exists as
part of dialectal variation. The author attempts to identify what factors
influence the usage of the voiced variant of /s/, which is [z]. For example,
“los amos”, is pronounced [lozamos].

The author analyzes interviews from radio broadcasts from Quito Ecuador by using
a spectrogram to classify the voiced sounds more clearly. Her results show that
word boundary is the most predictive of /s/ voicing, as was previously noted by
Robinson (1979); but /s/ voicing was also noted word medially, which indicates
that other factors (possibly sociological) may be influential in these cases.

The seventh paper is also about phonetic/phonological variation. In “Going
Retro: An Analysis of the Interplay between Socioeconomic Class and Age in
Caracas Spanish”, Manual Díaz-Campos, Stephen Fafulas, and Michael Gradoville
examine three phonological variables and their relation to socioeconomic class,
emphasizing the role of access to education as an important factor in
determining the use of standard variants of language.

The authors examined syllable-final and intervocalic rhotic deletion, as well as
intervocalic /d/ deletion. For this study, they analyzed data from “Estudio
sociolinguístico de Caracas”, a corpus by Bentivoglio and Sedano (1987). They
also considered the definition of ‘socioeconomic class’, noting that occupation
and access to education can be an important factor, over generations, in
predicting the use of standard variants.

Results showed that upper and middle class speakers were more likely to use
normative variants of all 3 variables than the lower socioeconomic class
speakers in the speech community. Also, as access to education increased in
younger generations, a sharp rise in the use of normative variants was seen
among young adults in the lowest socioeconomic class.

The eighth article, “Yesterday, All my Troubles Have Seemed (PP) So Far Away:
Variation in Pre-hodiernal Perfective Expression in Peninsular Spanish”, deals
with corpus linguistics and morpho-syntactic variation. The authors, Bonnie C.
Holmes and Colleen Balukas, examine the extension of the present perfect (PP)
into contexts that would generally require a perfective form.

Data from two corpora (1981, 1992), which consist of transcriptions and
interviews of Peninsular Spanish, were analyzed and usages of the present
perfect (PP) and preterit were counted and compared. They were submitted to a
variable -rules analysis, to determine which factors favored the choice of PP
over the preterit. Results showed that only two factors were significant, the
Previous Verb and Temporal Reference. The authors suggest that further study of
more recent corpora would be useful to determine whether PP use is continuing to

The next two papers are related, since they both address variation based on the
adverb quizá(s) ‘perhaps’. The first is, “Time Reference and Lexical Effects in
Mood Choice Following Spanish Epistemic Adverb quizá(s): A Dialectal
Comparison”, by Elizabeth Finanger. The author compares data from Argentine and
Peninsular Spanish, using the CREA (Corpus de Referencia del Español Actual), an
on-line data-base. The author finds that mood choice after the adverb quizás
depends on a variety of factors, including time reference, verb frequency,
adjacency, and lexeme effect, with time reference being the most significant
factor. These findings can be used while teaching L2 learners about use of the
subjunctive and indicative following quizá(s).

The second paper discussing quizá(s) was written by Christina Garcia. It is
entitled “Distinguishing Two “Synonyms”: A Variationist Analysis of quizá and
quizás in Six Spanish Dialects”. The author studied various corpora for samples
of quizá(s) in Cuban, Peruvian, Venezuelan, Argentine, Mexican and Peninsular
Spanish dialects. She used two multivariate analyses, one using the adverb as
the dependent variable, and the other using mood choice. Whereas temporal
reference was significant as a factor for mood choice in all countries except
Peru, the results showed subtle differences between the two adverbs in every

The author thus demonstrated that quizá and quizás are not truly
interchangeable, and adverb choice is dependent on geolect and phonological
context, where a following consonant favors the use of quizá, but a following
vowel disfavors the use of quizá (p. 107).

The eleventh paper, “Factors Determining Spanish Differential Object Marking
within Its Domain of Variation”, by Sonia Balasch, addresses methodological
issues in examining corpus data with respect to the distribution of the personal
“a” in two varieties of Spanish. Balasch contributes to the understanding of
differential object marking (DOM) in Spanish by returning to the principle of
accountability for variationist analysis.

She uses two corpora as data sources, the Corpus de Mérida and the Corpus de
Madrid. These consist of transcribed sociolinguistic interviews and dialogue
samples of Peninsular Spanish. She tries to delineate in exactly which contexts
the variation between a+DO (direct object) and Null +DO is possible.

The author found that definiteness and co-reference of the DO were the only two
factors that significantly influenced the presence or absence of “a” within this
domain of variability. Regarding methodological issues, Balasch contends that
her study shows how important it is to exhaustively analyze all the pertinent
tokens in a corpus sample and to eliminate error-prone and other non-variable
data in the statistical analysis, in order to avoid distortion of the results.
She also found that animate and inanimate accusative “a” are governed by
different constraints in their distribution and rate of use, and thus should be
analyzed separately.

The final paper in this volume, “On the Status of Afro-Bolivian Spanish
Features: Decreolization or Vernacular Universals?”, was written by Sandro
Sessarego. The author provides an overview of the socio-historical context and
the distinctive features of Afro-Bolivian Spanish (ABS), in order to determine
the origins of this “newly discovered variety” (p.vii). Sessarego also disputes
the theory put forth by Lipski (2008), which states that this dialect has grown
out of a pidgin or creole language.

The author finds that conditions in this region of Bolivia did not favor the
development of a creole, and therefore contends that ABS shows traits of a
second language variety of Spanish.


This book forms an important addition to the body of research already done in
the area of Spanish sociolinguistics. The dialects described include Spanish in
Venezuela, Uruguay, Ecuador, Judeo-Spanish in Turkey, Afro-Bolivian Spanish, the
Spanish-speaking community of the Southeastern U.S., Spanish spoken on the
Spanish Peninsula, in Majorca and Catalonia, as well as other dialects that use
the adverb quizá(s), such as Argentine, Mexican and Cuban Spanish. This is an
impressive array of dialects.

Each paper represents a meaningful contribution to this field, and having a
workshop to showcase each research topic is a good idea, so that others can
share the input of various researchers.

The most interesting research seems to arise in projects where researchers
travel abroad and interview respondents to collect authentic data. This data, of
course, is most accurate in terms of current usage and in terms of showing
evidence of language change. While one or two of the papers contain some
typographical errors, most of the articles contain reliable data, are
well-organized and logically presented. One exception is that in some articles,
results were obscured by unclear discussions of statistical evidence. Other
articles rely on information from older corpora, whereas a comparison with more
recent corpora would provide a better measurement of language change, as was
noted by some of the researchers.

Nevertheless, the overall impact of this research is that it has “deepened our
understanding of variation patterns and factors affecting language change” (p. v).

In addition, for those of us who have acquired Spanish as a second language, the
topics in this volume provide thought-provoking ideas about what can be
considered correct and incorrect in common usage of the language. These topics
also have applications for teaching Spanish in the classroom.

Deborah Rheinstrom recently received a Masters in Linguistics from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, IL and also has a Masters Degree in Teaching Spanish from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Her research interests include: topics in teaching ESL, irregular articles in Spanish, archaic words and phonology in Judeo-Spanish, and origins of African American Vernacular English (AAVE).

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