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Review of  El español del siglo XVIII

Reviewer: Andre Zampaulo
Book Title: El español del siglo XVIII
Book Author: Maria Teresa García-Godoy
Publisher: Peter Lang AG
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Issue Number: 23.3245

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EDITOR: García-Godoy, María Teresa
TITLE: El español del siglo XVIII
SUBTITLE: Cambios diacrónicos en el primer español moderno
SERIES TITLE: Fondo hispánico de lingüística y filología. Vol. 10
YEAR: 2012

André Zampaulo, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, The Ohio State University


The edited volume “El español del siglo XVIII” (‘18th-century Spanish’) is a
collection of studies dedicated to diachronic change in the first stage of
Modern Spanish. Following the editor’s introduction, the book features ten
chapters organized as four parts: ‘Periodización’ (‘Periodization’), ‘Léxico’
(‘Lexicon’), ‘Morfosintaxis’ (‘Morphosyntax’) and ‘Variedades diatópias’
(‘Diatopic Varieties’).

In her introductory chapter, editor María Teresa García-Godoy reflects on the
importance of the 18th century to the history of Spanish. After major linguistic
changes documented in the 16th and 17th centuries (e.g. the devoicing and
dissimilation of medieval Spanish sibilants), the 1700s have been traditionally
viewed as a flavorless period in the diachrony of Spanish (Lapesa 1981:
400-401). External factors such as the foundation of the ‘Real Academia
Española’ (‘Spanish Royal Academy’) in 1713 and the publication of prescriptive
documents such as the ‘Gramática de la lengua castellana’ (‘Castilian Language
Grammar’) in 1771 contributed to the standardization of Spanish in this century,
overshadowing relevant linguistic changes. As their ultimate goal, the papers in
the current volume shed light upon these changes by revealing and analyzing new
sets of data from both Peninsular and Hispanic American varieties and opening up
a relatively unexplored field of research within Spanish historical linguistics.

Part I features a chapter on the periodization of the history of Spanish and the
general contribution from research on 18th-century texts.

In the first chapter, “Periodización y cambio gramatical: el siglo XVIII,
¿frontera temporal del español?” (‘Periodization and grammatical change: the
18th century, temporal frontier in Spanish?’), Carlos Sánchez Lancis analyzes
the lack of uniformed criteria with which historical periods have been
traditionally established for Spanish. Historical grammars typically trace the
development of Spanish from its roots in Latin, but generally rely on
social-historical events and literary productions in order to define its
historical stages. The discovery of America in 1492 and the publication of
Fernando de Rojas’ ‘La Celestina,’ for example, usually define the end of
Medieval Spanish and the beginning of Classical Spanish. Sánchez Lancis,
however, argues for the need for internal, linguistic motivation for the
periodization of the history of this language by focusing on data that depict
changes at the phonetic, morphological, syntactic and lexical levels. The author
exposes a series of linguistic changes that took place in the 15th and 16th
centuries and compares them with the ones thus far documented for the 18th
century. As the number and significance of the former outweigh those of the
latter, Sánchez Lancis suggests that the 1700s should not yet be characterized
as a period of its own in the history of Spanish, but rather a time of
stabilization for prior changes -- at least until further research on more
documents of this century justifies otherwise.

Part II presents a paper dedicated to the lexicon of 18th-century Spanish,
particularly to innovations in the field of medicine.

The second chapter, “El vocabulario médico de los novatores en el siglo XVIII”
(‘The medical vocabulary of innovators in the 18th century’), by Josefa Gómez de
Enterría Sánchez, describes the evolution of medical vocabulary at the turn of
the 18th century in Spain following the general development of the medical field
at that time, especially in anatomy, which began to express its ideas in Spanish
rather than in Latin. Analyzing a corpus from documents of three major
innovative physicians, the author reveals a growing number of Latin-based
suffixes and French-based neologisms that expose the increase and renewal of the
18th-century Spanish lexicon.

Part III is a compilation of four chapters concerning morphosyntactic changes
throughout the 1700s.

In “Novedades del siglo XVIII en aspectos relacionados con los cambios
gramaticales” (‘New features of the 18th century related to grammatical
changes’), Rosa María Espinoza Elorza summarizes the results of a corpus-based
study that examines changes in 18th-century Spanish morphosyntax due to the
grammaticalization of previous internal changes as well as neologisms from
foreign languages, such as French, English and Italian. Examples from the former
include the expressions ‘desde luego’ (‘certainly,’ ‘of course’), ‘vaya’
(interjection used to emphasize either good or bad qualities of a following noun
or to express approval or annoyance), ‘vamos’ (‘come on,’ ‘let’s go’), and ‘para
nada’ (‘not at all’). Among grammaticalized expressions from foreign languages,
Espinoza Elorza cites the cases of ‘aparte’ (‘besides’), ‘en realidad’ (‘in
fact,’ ‘actually’), and ‘ciertamente’ (‘certainly’) from French; ‘a dúo’ (‘as a
duet’) from Italian; and ‘a decir verdad’ (‘to tell the truth’) and ‘tan pronto
como’ (‘as soon as’) from English.

In the fourth chapter “El tratamiento de merced en el español del siglo XVIII”
(‘The form of address ‘merced’ in 18th-century Spanish’), María Teresa
García-Godoy traces the evolution of the modern polite form of address ‘usted’
(‘you-singular’) from its roots in the nominal form ‘vuestra merced’ (‘Your
Worship’). The author presents data from non-literary corpora (e.g. private
letters and witness statements) to indicate the erosion of the initial address
form, leading to the modern ‘usted,’ as evidenced by ‘vuessa merced,’
‘vuesamerced,’ ‘vusted,’ ‘busté(d)’ and ‘osté(d).’ García-Godoy also observes
the different evolution that the plural form ‘ustedes’ presented in comparison
with its singular counterpart, following a slower grammaticalization pace
incurred by the former in 18th-century Spanish, and frequent cases of agreement
with verb forms of the informal personal pronoun ‘vosotros’ (‘you-second person

The use of the second-person plural subject pronouns ‘ustedes’ and ‘vosotros’ in
18th-century Spanish receives particular attention in the fifth chapter,
“Vosotros/ustedes. Estudios del tratamiento plural en el español dieciochesco”
(‘Vosotros/ustedes. Studies of plural forms of address in 18th-century
Spanish’), by Elisabeth Fernández Martín. Analyzing data from comedy plays,
private letters, witness statements, and texts of Spanish for foreign speakers
from the 1700s, the author reveals that ‘ustedes’ and ‘vosotros’ had not yet
acquired their current pragmatic functions of respect and intimacy,
respectively, in Peninsular Spanish. Fernández Martín also reports a greater
incidence of ‘usted’ with ‘vosotros’ verb forms, clitics and possessives.

In “Los títulos de tratamiento en la España del siglo XVIII: la preceptiva de
los tratados de cartas ilustrados” (‘Forms of address in 18th-century Spain: the
precept of illustrated letter manuals’), Francisca Medina Morales gathers data
from seven 18th-century letter writing guides in order to document the evolution
of various forms of address in the standard sections of these manuals. The
author finds that honorifics and other formalisms in general become less and
less frequent and restricted to letter headings and closings in this textual
genre throughout the 1700s.

Part IV is composed of four chapters concerned with specific changes and
variation phenomena in four varieties of 18th-century Spanish (i.e. Castilian,
Mexican, Nicaraguan and Murcian)

In the seventh chapter, “Variaciones gráficas y fonéticas del español del siglo
XVIII en tres corpus hispánicos” (‘Graphic and phonetic variation in three
18th-century Hispanic corpora’), Miguel Calderón Campos collects data from three
non-literary corpora from Andalusia, Mexico and Venezuela to investigate five
phonetic features that varied among said dialects, i.e., ‘yeísmo’
(delateralization of the palatal lateral consonant /ʎ/ with subsequent merger
with the palatal fricative /y/), coda /s/-weakening, confusion between /r/ and
/l/ in coda position, deletion of intervocalic and word-final /d/, and deletion
of the first segment in consonant clusters such as /ks/. Calderón Campos’
analysis suggests that the phonetic features considered in this study already
distinguished those three varieties of Spanish in the 18th century. Thus, while
Andalusian and Venezuelan Spanish present linguistic innovations, such as coda
/s/-weakening and coda /r/~/l/-confusion, data from Mexican Spanish reveals its
linguistic conservatism, with lower rates of both intervocalic and word-final
/d/ deletion and simplification of consonant clusters.

Concepción Company Company explores the role of the 18th century in the
linguistic characterization of Mexican Spanish in her chapter “El español del
siglo XVIII. Un parteaguas lingüístico entre México y España” (‘The 18th
century. A linguistic watershed between Mexico and Spain’). Through a collection
of non-literary data from newspapers, private letters, witness statements and
official reports, Company Company distinguishes five linguistic phenomena at the
morphological, syntactic and lexical levels that forge the linguistic identity
of Mexican Spanish in the second half of the 18th century. For instance, the
author documents the generalization of ‘ustedes’ as the only second-person
plural subject pronoun used in Mexico, in contrast with the pragmatically
different usage of ‘ustedes’ and ‘vosotros’ in Peninsular Spanish. The
grammaticalization of the diminutive suffix ‘-ito’ in the former dialect also
contributes to distinguishing both varieties, as evidenced by a wider range of
diminutives in Peninsular Spanish, such as ‘-ico, -illo, -ito, -ino,’ etc. At
the lexical level, Company Company reveals an increasing use of indigenous terms
referring to everyday items, such as ‘pulcre’ (‘wine’), ‘cacao’ (‘cocoa’), etc.
As for Mexican Spanish syntax, the author shows an increasing frequency of
indirect object doubling through the use of the clitic ‘les’ and the
non-agreement with its referent in a few syntactic positions within the
sentence. Company Company’s data also indicate a higher incidence of the
differential object marker ‘a,’ particularly with [-human, +animate] direct

The status of Nicaraguan Spanish in the first half of the 18th century is the
focus of the ninth chapter, “Una aportación a la historia de la lengua española
en Nicaragua: algunos datos sobre el siglo XVIII” (‘A contribution to the
history of the Spanish language in Nicaragua: some data from the 18th century’),
by José Luis Ramírez Luengo. In light of the few diachronic studies on Central
American Spanish, Ramírez Luengo offers the first contribution on the evolution
of the Nicaraguan variety, reporting on data from 22 archival documents
published between 1704 and 1756. At the phonetic and phonological levels, the
author finds evidence for the assimilation of /n/ to the place of articulation
of following consonants, deletion of intervocalic /d/ and the absence of
‘yeísmo.’ At the morphosyntactic level, this study reports the occurrence of
enclitic pronouns with participles, ‘leísmo’ (i.e. the use of the indirect
object pronoun ‘le’ with direct objects referring to a male person), and the
total absence of the periphrastic future construction ‘ir a + infinitivo’ (‘to
go + infinitive’). Although these findings point out features from Classical
Spanish, the author’s analysis of the data places Nicaraguan Spanish within a
macro Central American dialect, as it matches similar descriptions of Honduran,
Salvadorian and Guatemalan Spanish for the same period.

María Esther Vivancos Mulero contributes the last chapter, “El sufijo
‘-ico/-iquio’ como caracterizador dialectal del español murciano (siglo XVIII)”
(‘The suffix ‘-ico/-iquio’ as a dialectal characterizer of Murcian Spanish (18th
century)’). In this paper, Vivancos Mulero offers a first look into the
diachrony of Murcian Spanish by considering the use of the diminutive suffix
‘-ico’ and its variant ‘-iquio’ in three unexplored 18th-century Murcian
documents: the lyrics of a popular song, a Christmas carol, and a ‘zarzuela.’
The author concludes that such diminutives contributed to the characterization
of this Spanish variety in the second half of the 18th century, with ‘-ico’
presenting a higher frequency of use than other diminutives, and its palatalized
pronunciation ‘-iquio’ revealing itself as unique to the speech of this
south-eastern Spanish region.


“El español del siglo XVIII” represents a distinctive contribution to the field
of Spanish historical linguistics by providing new data on the 18th century -- a
period that has received considerably little attention in previous literature.
Its ten chapters work collectively to reveal a rich and rather unexplored field
of research, particularly in regard to Hispanic American varieties. Assuming a
frequency-based approach, the contributions in this edited volume provide an
insightful look not only into the standardization of linguistic changes
initiated in previous centuries, but also into new diachronic features, such as
the lack of evidence for ‘yeísmo’ in 18th-century Nicaraguan texts. The editor
and the contributors are adamant, however, in acknowledging that the results of
their studies are by no means conclusive, but rather a springboard for further
research on the characteristics of the first period of Modern Spanish.

Among its ten chapters, two stand out due to their solid argumentation and
noteworthy contribution to the field: the first chapter, which addresses the
issue of periodization for the historical development of Spanish, and the
seventh, on the phonetic variation found in corpora of three 18th-century
Hispanic varieties. The former provides compelling and specific evidence for the
classification of historical periods in the internal evolution of Spanish by
relying solely on linguistic criteria (i.e. phonological and morphosyntactic
changes) instead of extralinguistic facts -- a valuable approach for a more
systematic study of the history of Spanish. Furthermore, it lays the groundwork
for further research on 18th-century texts, as it reveals the current lack of
substantive evidence for the justification of the 1700s as a historical
linguistic period in its own right. The comparative methodology of the seventh
chapter of the volume, on the other hand, offers a comprehensive view of the
phonetic development of 18th-century Spanish by analyzing five variables in
diachronic corpora of three different varieties (i.e. Andalusian, Mexican, and
Venezuelan Spanish). The results of this empirical research invite a similar and
necessary approach to other dialects in the same period, such as Andean and
Caribbean Spanish, in order to widen the scope of our understanding of the
possible sound changes that took place throughout the Spanish-speaking world in
the 1700s.

Although the present volume reveals itself limited in its contribution to
theories of language change, its wealth of empirical historical data from
non-literary corpora renders it suitable for the study of the origins of various
synchronic dialectal phenomena in Spanish varieties, such as coda /r/ and /l/
confusion in Andalusian Spanish, the spread of indigenous terms in Mexican
Spanish, the use of ‘-ico’ and ‘-iquio’ as diminutives characterizing Murcian
Spanish, etc. The linguistic features reflected in the data also render the
1700s as a potential milestone period for the formation of current Spanish
varieties in Hispanic America, as they started to distance themselves
linguistically from Peninsular Spanish. This volume will be welcomed by any
linguist interested in the evolution of Spanish and invites further research on
the beginnings of the modern stage of this language, particularly in linguistic
varieties located outside of Spain.


Lapesa, Rafael. 1981. Historia de la lengua española. Madrid: Gredos.

André Zampaulo is a PhD candidate in Spanish and Portuguese Linguistics at The Ohio State University specializing in phonetics & phonology and language change, with a particular interest in the evolutionary pathways of the Spanish and Portuguese sound systems. He expects to defend his dissertation on the evolution of palatal consonants in those languages by Spring 2013.

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