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Review of  Hispanic Contact Linguistics

Reviewer: Marina Cuartero
Book Title: Hispanic Contact Linguistics
Book Author: Luis A. Ortiz López Rosa E. Guzzardo Tamargo Melvin González-Rivera
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Language Family(ies): Romance
Issue Number: 32.592

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This volume addresses a selection of issues about current research trends of Spanish in contact with other languages all around the world. Its interdisciplinary perspective provides insight into theoretical linguistics, bilingualism, and second language acquisition. The editors, Luis A. Ortiz, Rosa E. Guzzardo Tamargo and Melvin González-Rivera, selected thirteen articles presented at the 8th International Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics (University of Puerto Rico, 2016) and researched by distinguished academics in Hispanic Linguistics.

The articles are organized into six parts, each one dealing with a subfield of study. Part I (ch. 1-3) tackles theoretical issues in Afro-Hispanic dialects and methodological approaches in heritage language studies; Part II (ch. 4-5) comprises studies on speech production in Peru, Chile and Mexico; Part III (ch. 6-8) deals with morphology in bilingual speakers from Spanish-English in the United States and Spanish-Catalan in Spain; Part IV (ch. 9-10) covers syntax in Brazilian Portuguese-Spanish contact; Part V (ch. 11-13) comprises language variation, linguistic perception, and attitudes in Puerto Rico, Peru, and Spain. Below is a chapter-by-chapter summary of the 13 chapters:

In Chapter 1 “The New Spanishes in the context of contact linguistics”, Donald Winford revisited Weinreich’s (1953) unified approach, whose comprehensive model of language contact accounts for social, linguistic, and psycholinguistic factors. Winford linked this approach to naturalistic second language acquisition processes in the emergence of Hispanic colonial dialects from Spanish in contact with other languages. In this integrated framework, creoles and other contact varieties created a continuum from close approximations to the substrate/colonizer language (e.g., General Latin-American Spanish) to more proximity to substrate/indigenous/African language (e.g., Palenquero, Papiamentu).

In Chapter 2, Sandro Sessarego focused on the Afro-Hispanic language formation in the Department of Chocó (Colombia). He contended that the two main hypotheses on the genesis of Chocó Spanish, the Decreolization Hypothesis (Granda, 1977; Schwegler, 1991a, 1991b) and the Afrogenesis Hypothesis (McWorther, 2000) are invalid. Instead, he claimed that historic data showed that this region did not present the characteristics associated with creole formation in other colonies. This was because most slaves did not come from Africa but other locations in Colombia and the Caribbean, and they would speak Spanish natively; hence they would not have shared an African language stratum. Later, the isolation of the region would not have allowed a decreolization after being in contact with more standard Spanish. Sessarego argued that Chocó Spanish may be better analyzed as a by-product of advanced SLA strategies.

In Chapter 3, “Methodological considerations in the heritage language studies” Zoe McManmon compared two research methodologies on Spanish heritage speakers in the US (Chicago) to show the impact of data collection techniques in participant accuracy. For this matter, she researched gender agreement in children with different access to a strong Spanish social network and access to heritage language instruction. The methodologies compared were sociolinguistic interviews and story retelling tasks. Children with reduced social network and heritage language instruction showed lower accuracy on gender agreement in the story retelling task than children with a dense SN and/or HLI, but all participants had higher agreement levels and similar results in the sociolinguistic interview. McManmon concluded that there was a methodological difference and she drew attention to the variety of data that child bilinguals can produce when examined with different methods.

Chapter 4, “Social change and /s/ variation in Concepción, Chile and Lima, Peru” by Brandon M.A. Roger and Carol A. Klee investigated the evolution of /s/ pronunciation as a societal marking. In Concepción, in contrast with previous studies in other Chilean regions, the elision was more present than aspiration. The driving factors were gender and education, with less educated speakers and male speakers eliding more, without negative stereotypes associated to it. In Lima, /s/ variation was a salient marker of socioeconomic and dialect difference that categorizes speakers in Andean immigrants (sibilant use), middle-class Limeños (aspiration), and working-class Limeños (elision). By contrasting corpora data, the authors concluded that linguistic outcomes depend on the sociohistorical context.

In Chapter 5, “Con acento pujado in Yucatán Spanish”, Jim Michnowicz and Alex Hyler analyzed prosodic differences in Yucatan Spanish, which has a distinctive and stereotyped halting/trained accent. Since Maya has different consonant durations than Spanish, Yucatan Spanish is described as the result of this influence on vocalic and consonantal intervals. The researchers carried out sociolinguistic interviews with Spanish monolinguals and Maya-Spanish bilinguals from different age groups and gender. Their results revealed that younger speakers in general were distancing from more traditional rhythmic patterns. The authors also indicated that women produced more stress-timed patterns to distinguish themselves from the stigmatized YS rhythm while identifying as yucatecas.

Chapter 6, “First person singular subject expression in Caribbean heritage speaker Spanish oral production” by Ana de Prada Pérez, examined the distribution of overt pronominal subjects in the Spanish of Caribbean heritage speakers in Florida from different generations and proficiency levels. Similar research carried out in NYC found that a high frequency of overt pronouns is largely attributed to contact with English (e.g. Otheguy and Zentella, 2012). With a sociolinguistic interview, de Prada Pérez measured rate and patterns of overt pronouns. Her results showed that participants reported lower rates of overt pronouns, except for the lower proficiency group who did show an effect on switch reference patterns. The author concluded that it is the proficiency and not contact with English that produced a higher rate of overt pronominal subjects.

Chapter 7, by Cecily Corbett, Juanita Reyes, and Lotfi Sayahi, researched the use of the Present Perfect Indicative in New York Dominican Spanish. Studies on Present Perfect in the US claim that compound tenses decreased in favor of simpler tenses (e.g. Silva-Corvalán, 2014), however, there was a high degree of language loyalty among Dominicans in the US (Toribio, 2000a). They collected data on Present Perfect maintenance and described contexts compared to Preterit with sociolinguistic interviews. They found that there was a relationship between participant age of arrival and the extension of the Present Perfect into innovative uses, especially in NY-born and participants arrived before age 5. Their findings asserted that the morphology of the Present Perfect in Dominican Spanish in New York was almost intact, and it was canonical in most cases.

In Chapter 8, “Transfer and convergence between Catalan and Spanish in a bilingual setting”, Amelia Jiménez-Gaspar, Acrisio Pires y Pedro Guijarro-Fuentes investigated the production of third-person clitics in Catalan from Majorca. This is a bilingual setting in which Spanish is the majority language and would allow for semantic and morphological transfer (Blas Arroyo, 2011). From interviews with Catalan-Spanish bilinguals, they observed that the Catalan neutral clitic ho showed a semantic extension of lo, as well as the use of lo and los in Majorcan Catalan in some speakers. Moreover, as another pattern of convergence with Spanish, they noticed a widespread regularization of enclitic forms following the consonant-vowel patterns. However, they did not find a substantial convergence between the two languages.

Chapter 9 is entitled “The distribution and use of present and past progressive forms in Spanish-English and Spanish-Brazilian Portuguese bilinguals”, by Julio César López Otero and Alejandro Cuza. They selected heritage speakers of Spanish in the US and Brazil for a semi-spontaneous production task (i.e., wordless storybook). These two language pairs presented different verbal tense constraints: simple present and progressive are used for ongoing meaning in Spanish, but this is not the case for Brazilian Portuguese or English, and Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese have two forms for expressing past progressive, but English only has one. The results showed that participants experienced crosslinguistic effects from their dominant languages in different ways: English speakers preferred progressive forms and Brazilian Portuguese speakers favored more simple forms.

In Chapter 10, “Portuguese-Spanish contacts in Misiones, Argentina”, John M. Lipski investigates code-switching instances in the Brazilian frontier. Firstly, he collected L2 Portuguese spoken by Spanish-speaking countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela) that border Brazil and found that there were very few instances of code-switching, among those, native speakers who had acquired Portuguese informally as an L2 produced some combinations that contravened grammatical infelicities of intra-sentential code-switching. Then, bilingual participants from the Misiones province participated in 3 tasks: utterance translation, language classification, and elicited repetition. This second group provided evidence that certain grammatical categories were implicitly regarded as more felicitous than other intra-sentential language switches.

Chapter 11 is “Real perception or perceptive accommodation? The Dominirican ethnic-dialect continuum and sociolinguistic context”. Authors Luis A. Ortiz López and Cristina Martínez Pedraza utilized a verbal guise task to test dialect recognition and linguistic perceptions of the marginalized community of Dominicans in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans were presented with recordings from the Dominican-Puerto Rican generation continuum: newly arrived Dominicans, established Dominicans, Puerto Rican Dominicans, Dominiricans, and Puerto Rican. They listened and assigned extralinguistic variables (e.g., education, affability). Participants showed solidarity patterns and positive attitudes towards the recording of fellow Puerto Ricans, but as the continuum approached the Dominicans, the recordings were judged less positively. This suggested that dialect perception and attitudes correlated with the perception of nationality and extralinguistic characteristics.

In Chapter 12, “Andean Spanish and Provinciano identity” Daniela Salcedo Arnaiz analyzed attitudes and ideologies that residents of Lima have towards Andean Spanish and its speakers to distinguish the combination of power, status, and its association with language use. Andean Spanish is spoken by a dialectal continuum of indigenous bilinguals and monolinguals and it is a stigmatized variety in the capital. Limeños and provincianos (Andean migrants) were asked to judge modified recordings (matched-guise task) that contained recordings with Andean Spanish morphosyntax phenomena, but not phonological cues. Many of the participants did not perceive the difference, but limeños gave more negative judgements than provincianos. This indicated that certain features of Andean Spanish morphosyntax might index Provinciano identity and that language attitudes are manifestations of locally constructed language ideologies (Milroy, 2004).

Chapter 13 “On the effects of Catalan contact in the variable expression of Spanish future tense” by Andrés Enrique-Arias, Beatriz Méndez Guerrero compared the realization of Morphological Future and Periphrastic Future in a monolingual setting (Alcalá de Henares, Madrid) and a bilingual setting (Palma, Majorca). There is a historical trend of a decrease in Morphological Future in favor of Periphrastic Future (e.g., Aaron, 2010). However, in areas where Catalan is spoken, there is more Morphological Future retention since Catalan only has one expression of futurity. Authors extracted biographical data as well as linguistic data from the PRESEEA corpus and their results confirm that greater levels of Catalan dominance entailed more uses of Morphological Future. In Alcalá, Morphological Future use was considerably low; in Palma, although higher (double cases), authors also concluded the possibility of a change in progress towards the use of Periphrastic Future, and thus follow the pan-Hispanic trend.


As a recent volume in the series Issues in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics (John Benjamins), it sheds light on less explored language pairs (e.g. Majorcan Catalan-Spanish), formulates potential language changes (e.g. Yucatecan Spanish, Chapter 5), and offers ideas on the relation proficiency-variation for future research. Moreover, it adds to the debate on code-switching constraints (Chapter 10) and creole formation hypothesis (Chapters 1 and 2).

Ortiz-López, Guzzardo Tamargo, and González-Rivera did an excellent job in collecting intricate phenomena from the Spanish-speaking world. However, a weakness of this book is that the article division in parts seemed somewhat artificial. For instance, in Part I creole formation concepts are grouped with research methodologies; Part VI includes language attitudes and ideologies with morphological variation. This last article seems unrelated to the preceding ones given that Chapter 8 also shares that young Catalan speakers show more influence from Spanish than older speakers. Personally, a geographical division could help the reader to locate themselves in a specific linguistic context that is shared by neighbouring communities.

This volume will be an excellent resource to researchers and (graduate) students because the diverse topics provide a wide perspective, methodological orientation, and understudied areas for future research. Besides corpus studies and interviews, the use of matched-guise task/verbal guise task was especially valuable because it was an accurate tool for measuring language ideologies and attitudes (Chapters 11 and 12), and the sociolinguistic interview was appropriate for assessing heritage speaker proficiency (Chapter 3). Thus, the reader not only gains from the article implications but also from the utilized methodology.

Overall, this volume is a welcomed addition to the field because it contains a wide collection of articles on language contact from all around the Spanish-speaking world. Additionally, it is a balanced selection that covers theoretical to more specific fields, such as phonetics or sociolinguistics, Spanish as a heritage language, and creole languages.


Aaron, J.E. (2010) Pushing the envelope: Looking beyond the variable context. Language variation and Change, 22, 1-36.

Blas Arroyo, J.L. (2011). Spanish in contact with Catalan. In M. Diaz-Camps (Ed.), The handbook of Hispanic sociolinguistics (pp. 374–394). Malden, MA: Blackwell

Granda, G de. (1970). Un temprano testimonio sobre las hablas ‘criollas’ en África y América. Thesaurus, 25 (1), 1-11.

McWorther, J. (2000). The missing Spanish Creoles. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Milroy, L. (2004). Language ideologies and linguistic change. In C. Fought (Ed.), Sociolinguistic variation: Critical reflections (pp. 161-177). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Otheguy, R., & Zentella, A.C. (2012). Spanish in New York. Language contact, dialectal levelling, and structural continuity. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Schwegler, A. (1991a). El habla cotidiana del Chocó (Colombia). América Negra, 2, 85-119.

Schwegler, B. (1991b). La doble negación dominicana y la génesis del español caribeño. Lingüística, 3, 31-88.

Weinreich, U. (1953). A general and unified theory of the transmission in language contact. Heidelberg: Winter.
Marina Cuartero is a Ph. D. candidate in Hispanic Linguistics at the University of Florida. Her primary research interest lie in the field of languages in contact, heritage language acquisition, endangered languages, language revitalization and sociolinguistics.