Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.
Review of La incorporación del indigenismo léxico en los contextos comunicativos canario y americano (1492-1550)
AUTHORS: Bravo-García, Eva and Cáceres-Lozano, M. Teresa TITLE: La incorporación del indigenismo léxico en los contextos comunicativos canario y americano (1492-1550) SERIES TITLE: Fondo Hispánico de Lingüística y Filología, Vol. 6 PUBLISHER: Peter Lang YEAR: 2011
Mariana España, Lektorin Lateinamerikastudien, Romanisches Seminar der Universität Bonn
INTRODUCTION The book undertakes to contrast and analyse how the communicational contexts in which borrowing from the indigenous languages of Latin America and the indigenous language of the Canary Islands ('Guanche') took place. The authors summarize the results from existing monographic lexical studies, focusing on the period between 1492 and 1550, known as the 'Antillean stage'. The methodological approach is based on quantitative and qualitative lexical analysis of the corpora.
The first five decades of territorial conquest saw the establishment of a Canarian and American society. The authors' leitmotif is that the documents reflect 'the socio-cultural structure of the members that produced them' (p. 133), thus their goal is:
a) To identify trends and word selections to explain why some words are chosen and not others. The factors that affect word selection include prestige, education as well as the existence of already established communities.
b) To highlight the underlying beliefs and attitudes -- motivational factors -- of the participants in the communicative situation that could have motivated lexical borrowing.
c) To reconsider the role of register and intertextuality when studying the impact of the indigenous lexicon on the Spanish languages of that period.
The book is divided into five chapters plus a conclusion, bibliography and index. The chapters are: 1. 'Introduction' (“Introducción”), 2. 'The documentary sources in the American context' (“Las fuentes documentales en el contexto americano”), 3. 'Procedures of lexical incorporation by the chroniclers of the Americas' (“Procedimientos de incorporación léxica en cronistas americanos”), 4. 'Borrowings from indigenous languages in the documents from the Canary Islands' (“El indigenismo en la documentación canaria”), 5. 'The missionary vision in the description of the Canary Islands' (“La visión misionera en la descripción de Canarias”).
SUMMARY Introduction. In 1492, after the arrival of Columbus in the Americas, a violent clash of cultures began. The Canary archipelago became a transit station and point of contact between the Iberian Peninsula and the newly 'discovered' Americas. Moreover, the islands became a target for social and geographical expansion of the Spanish Crown. Both territories were areas of conquest and migration from which a new society emerged. However, the new society was not simply an importation of the Spanish model of society, because the geographical relocation implemented a process of changing social patterns.
In Chapter 3 (p. 82), this is graphically illustrated, as follows:
The configuration of Spanish peninsular society, from the top to the bottom: “Dios” ('God') -- “Rey” ('King') -- “nobleza antigua” ('old nobility') -- “nobleza nueva” ('new nobility') -- “burguesía” ('bourgeoisie') -- “pueblo llano” ('common people').
The configuration of Spanish American society, in order of priority: “Dios” ('God') -- “Rey” ('King') -- “primeros descubridores” ('first conquerors') -- “segundos descubridores” ('second generation of conquerors') -- “primeros pobladores” ('first settlers') -- “segundos pobladores” ('second generation of settlers').
Chapters two and three deal with the American context. The main points are:
The American documents. The Spanish Crown passed several laws and ordinances that created a large number of documents. The intention was to establish direct communication with and approach and gain knowledge about America about the nature and the customs of the emerging society and, especially, about the process of Christianization and the integration of the indigenous people into the emerging society (p. 26). The ability to write was highly esteemed and those who could had power over the written word. However, the administration took care that the content of documents was truthful (p. 26) and, in order to study the contents efficiently, passed laws about how it should be written: 'in a concise and decent manner, in a clear language, avoiding generalities and using words that express in the best way the intention of the person that writes' (“que sea breve, claro, sustancial y decente sin generalidades, y usando de las palabras que con más propiedad puedan dar a entender la intención de quien las escribe”, quoted from Recopilación, tít. XVI, 1o, III, ley 1, octubre de 1575; p. 29).
Type of documents. Although the documents have different names, 'chronicles', 'reports', 'accounts', 'letters', 'commentaries' (“crónicas, informaciones, relaciones, cartas, comentarios”), they differ because, during the 15th century, they are used to denote 'works about facts that truly had happened' (p. 28; quoted from Lozano, 1987, El discurso histórico, Madrid: Alianza; p. 45). The authors distinguish two types of documents, 'testimonial'-works (obras de “autor-testigo”, p. 28), whose authors have experienced the facts personally (e.g., Hernán Cortés); and works from authors 'outside the facts' (obras de “autor ajeno”, p. 29), writers that have not directly experienced the facts but whose work summarised the information (e.g., López de Velasco).
Who writes and their motivations. Based upon the personal experiences of the writers during the process of colonization, the authors identify three groups. The first consists of conquerors, first settlers and missionaries. The second contains staff writers, administrative personnel that officially wrote from their offices in America or Spain. The third includes all narrative writers that did not have first-hand experiences (e.g., Lope de Vega, Luis de Góngora, Miguel de Cervantes) but, included lexical aboriginal terms as a 'exotic borrowing' (p. 30; 66) when creating an exotic atmosphere in their works of fiction. The last group is particularly compelling because, being authors from the second half of the 16th century, we can assume that the lexical elements were, only some decades later, already known and understood by the European, Spanish public, i.e. the Spanish vocabulary assimilated many words in less than a century (p. 66).
The process of incorporation of lexical borrowing. The incorporation of lexical borrowing was a process triggered by the complexity of the communicative situation that Spaniards faced in America. The variety of natural landscapes, cultures and languages, and the absence of a common cultural heritage assisted the spread of Spanish. As a sign of its vitality, the Spanish language could develop 'innovative communicational patterns' (p. 32) adopting new designations from the Antillean languages ('Taíno') and many remain to the present day. From 1520 when they moved over to the mainland, the linguistic challenges increased.
During the process of lexical borrowing, the authors recognise three main stages (p. 76):
1. Capturing the new reality by seeing and assimilating. Considering that lexical borrowing responds primarily to the need to communicate and not only to the need to designate new things, it is necessary to take into account the cultural and the socio-cognitive context (e.g., myths, fantasies) of every participant.
2. Loanword adaptation. In spoken language, the loanword was phonologically adapted; later, if the borrowed word appears in writing, an orthographic representation had to be created.
3. Social spread. The borrowed words returned to the level of spoken language and eventually spread socially. Eventually, the Spanish vocabulary incorporated the lexical borrowing into the first lexicographical works at the end of the 15-16th centuries. Finally, the borrowed word could be adopted by other European languages.
The incorporation of a loanword is determined by the author’s 'personal coordinates' (p. 30). These 'personal coordinates' are formulated through a combination of 'type of document' and 'who writes and the motivation to write'. According to the authors, the combination of these elements determines the linguistic-conceptual use (e.g., lexical precision) by which every author transmits their 'personal vision of the American adventure' (p. 30).
Chapter 4 and 5 analyses the integration of borrowed words from Canarian indigenous languages within the Canarian context. The main points presented by the authors are as follows:
Introductory social and historical frame. Between 1477 and 1496 the Conquest of the Canary archipelago was completed and the major Spanish institutions -- Inquisition, Church, Cabildo and Court -- were established on the three main islands. A decimated Canarian aboriginal population made it possible for Spanish to become the dominant language (p. 117).
The Canarian documents. Most existing documents are official or administrative. The target audience was the local community, an 'urban society' (p. 85; 91) in which the majority of the population was composed of founders and “estantes”, people making a stopover either on their way to the Americas or on commercial business (p. 85). These documents had practical purposes: to establish an official communication network between Spaniards, natives and immigrants. It was necessary to ensure the clarity of the communication; therefore, the vocabulary has to be understood by both parties (p. 92). On the other hand, the specificity of the context made it unnecessary to integrate aboriginal terms into the documents.
Chronicles (historical or geographical descriptions). The first Canarian chronicle written in Spanish dates from the end of the 16th century (Fray Alonso de Espinosa, 1594). After decades of language leveling, the documented loanwords do not provide us with reliable information about their real usage a century before. However, since the author's intention was to document the Canarian history and traditions, a loanword can appear to show 'erudition', or possibly that the author was quoting from another work. We can assume that the target reader -- a mixed audience, from different Spanish regions, language levels, cultural backgrounds, etc.--, did not know the lexical borrowing if it is accompanied by an explanation, a figure like a metaphor, a synonym, etc. (p. 92).
Private documents, letters, contracts, etc., written by natives, immigrants and other Europeans residents. The authors call these documents a 'mixed' corpus because, given their textual characteristics, they are placed between the official and the historical works (p. 90). For the study of the Canarian lexical borrowing, they can provide useful information because they tend to be 'descriptive' works (p. 89).
Difficulties of qualitative analysis. Given the small number of documented loanwords, it is sometimes difficult to conclusively establish the origin of a borrowed word (e.g., is “mocán” a native Canarian or a Portuguese word?, p. 110). This has produced a lexicographical debate among researchers trying to explain the lexical conflict between Canarian and Portuguese loanwords competing to be assimilated into the Spanish vocabulary (p. 108). For the authors, this lexical conflict reflects an existing social conflict during the initial period of colonization because a great part of the population emigrated from Portugal or their islands (Madeira and the Azores) and established a prestigious community.
Conclusions. The qualitative analysis. Knowledge of the historical and the geographical framework is a determining factor for understanding language development: The qualitative analysis of the documentation shows that despite being geographically distant regions, the Canary Islands and the Caribbean region are 'tangential areas' that share an initial period of social configuration as well as a process of common social and linguistic imposition (p. 133).
The quantitative analysis. The number of loanwords taken from the Canarian language only refer to those islands whereas the Antillean languages provided many more words, some still in use today, e.g., canoe, hurrican. The extra-linguistic factors play a decisive role in explaining the differences between the number of documented lexical borrowings, e.g., for the American context: the personal experience or the role played in the process of colonization by an author; for the Canarian context: the role of the Portuguese settlers as linguistic and cultural mediators (p. 135).
Lexical borrowing. Regarding the study of the process of incorporation of lexical borrowing into the framework of historical or descriptive works, it is essential to bear in mind the 'personal and social coordinates' that could have motivated a person to write. Nonetheless, the researcher should be aware that, the documented lexical borrowing did not necessarily endorse of the spoken language of the epoch. Every documented lexical borrowing has its own cycle of life: some are ephemeral and others were incorporated into Spanish and are still in use today (pp. 134-135).
The documents. The documents do not always correspond to strict typologies. From a structural point of view, the text may follow a pre-established form, but it is linguistically configured according to the interests and expectations of its author. The motivation of an individual to write can have an impact on how he writes and on his lexical selection, as well (p. 134).
EVALUATION “La incorporación del indigenismo léxico en los contextos comunicativos canario y americano (1492-1550)” fills a void in the Spanish linguistics literature by focusing on the social and historical context of the process of lexical borrowing. This leads us to a better understanding of the motivational factors involved in the process of lexical borrowing, inviting the reader to reconsider the impact that lexical borrowing has had in the configuration of the modern Spanish language.
From a qualitative perspective, the emphasis is on the communicational context as a multi-determined-personal process that influenced the borrowing process from indigenous languages to communicate in a different social environment. A qualitative approach is essential for understanding the results obtained by the quantitative analysis, and in the context of a contrastive analysis, for understanding why, despite these being areas with a common historical background, the results showed by the lexical quantitative analysis significantly diverged.
Considering the complexity of the topic, the book is written in a concise manner, making it accessible to the reader. It can serve as a valuable resource for teachers and students on an introductory course in Spanish linguistics, diachronic sociolinguistics and text/corpus linguistics alike.
REFERENCES Enguita Utrilla, José Ma. 2004. Para la historia de los americanismos léxicos. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
Frago García, Juan Antonio. 1999. Historia del español de América. Madrid: Gredos.
Henríquez Ureña, Pedro. 1938. Para la historia de los indigenismos. Biblioteca de Dialectología Hispanoamericana. Amado Alonso (dir.). Anejo III. Buenos Aires: Facultad de filosofía y letras de la Universidad de Buenos Aires.
Moreno de Alba, José G. 1993. El español en América. México: FCE. 2a. Edición corregida y aumentada.
Viera y Clavijo, Joseph de. 1982, 8a. Noticias de la Historia General de las Islas Canarias. Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Goya Ediciones. 2 Tomos.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Mariana España is a lecturer at the Department of Romance Languages and
Literatures at the University of Bonn. She earned a M.A. in Romance
Linguistics, Musicology and European and Latin American Art History from
the University of Heidelberg. Her teaching and research interests include
Spanish as a Second Language, German-Spanish Translation, Historical
Linguistics and Latin American Cultural Studies. She teaches both,
undergraduate and postgraduate courses.