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Review of  Historical Romance Linguistics

Reviewer: Isabelle R. Ra
Book Title: Historical Romance Linguistics
Book Author: Randall S. Gess Deborah L. Arteaga
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Language Family(ies): Romance
Issue Number: 18.1253

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EDITORS: Randall, S. Gess and Deborah Arteaga
TITLE: Historical Romance Linguistics
SUBTITLE: Retrospective and Perspective
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company, CILT
YEAR: 2006

Reviewed by Isabelle Lemée, School of Applied Language and Intercultural
Studies, Dublin City University, Ireland


This volume is a collection of 17 articles which are primarily dedicated to
Jürgen Klausenburger, but also ''a reflection of the authors' admiration of
the work of the contributors to diachronic romance'' (p.vii). This book
deals with all levels of linguistic analysis and is divided into three
parts: Part I deals with Phonology and consists of 7 articles. Part II
comprises 4 articles on morphology. Part III presents 6 articles on syntax.

In a concise introduction in which he summarizes the contributions of the
volume, Jürgen Klausenburger situates the articles within the overall
development of the field of historical Romance linguistics over the past 30
years or so. Finally he attempts to construct a workable definition of
Romance Linguistics for the 21st century.

Part I on Phonology.

In ''Systemic Contrast and the Diachrony of Spanish Sibilant Voicing'',
Bradley and Delforge analyse patterns of sibilant voicing throughout the
history of Spanish, from the loss of medieval voiced sibilants to their
reemergence in several contemporary dialects. They follow Dispersion Theory
in which systemic constraints directly govern the well formedness of
phonological contrasts. The proposed analysis that constraint re-ranking
originates post-lexically and then moves up the grammar by entering the
lexical component makes novel predictions about the chronology of sibilant
voicing contrast and neutralization in Spanish diachrony.

''The Myth of Phonologically Distinctive Vowel Length in Renaissance French''
challenges the notion that vowel length has been a distinctive property of
the French language from the Renaissance on. Gess provides evidence showing
that any vowel length was morphologically or phonologically derived. He
reveals the highly problematic nature of some of the most influential works
claiming such length. He concludes that assertions for non derived vowel
length distinctions are inherently exaggerated. He puts ''to rest the myth
of phonologically distinctive vowel length in Renaissance and
post-Renaissance French'' (p. 74).

In ''Glide Strengthening in French and Spanish and the formal representation
of Affricates'', Jacobs and van Gerwen discuss the strengthening of palatal
and velar glides in the evolution from Latin to French and Spanish. They
challenge the view that the difference between laterals and affricates
would be that the latter but not the former are invariably, uniformly
phonologically represented. They conclude that the phonological
representation of affricates, as well as the representation of laterals,
because of their phonetic ambiguity with respect to the feature
[continuant], varies from language to language and is not universally fixed.

In ''Rhythm and prosodic change'' Mazzola argues that the relationship
between philology and modern linguistics is tenuous and is dependent upon a
re-examination and re-evaluation of past proposals. The two are said to be
inextricable. The author illustrates his point with a Latin distinctive
vowel length that changes into a Romance phonetic vowel length via a
trimoraic trochaic constituency and necessarily leads to a lexical fixing
of stress.

Montreuil's ''Contrast Preservation Theory and Historical Changes''
investigates the theory of preservation of contrast (PC) which is
Optimality Theory's way of expressing the dependence of a segment upon the
system within which it operates. To examine PC theory's contribution to the
analysis of systemic linguistic change, Montreuil presents the case of
vowel centralization in Gallo, a convergent dialect of French. The case
study of the evolution of long and short /e/ in Old Gallo shows how a
prosodic contrast is recycled at the segmental level. Such recycling does
not always follow transparent lines, creating difficulties when analysing it.

''On the phonetics of rhymes in classical and pre-classical French'' is the
opposite view of Gess taken by Morin about length distinctions in French.
Morin presents evidence that French has had vocalic length distinctions
throughout its history from medieval to modern times. He summarizes the
development of vocalic length in Old French; he then presents a brief
overview of other processes responsible for the development of vocalic
distinction in French.

Walker's ''Is the 'word' still a phonological unit in French? Evidence from
verlan'' is the last contribution in the section on phonology. He analyses
verlan material and shows the stability of a number of phonotactic
restrictions in current French. The word is still a phonological unit in
French and Walker uses current variation in the system to illustrate
certain directions of phonological evolution, such as 'schwa', in syllable
structure and finds consonantal constraints respected in the verlan
processes, except two nasal vowel sequences.

Part II on Morphology.

In ''Proclisis and enclisis of object pronouns at the turn of the 17th
century'', Hirschbühler and Labelle analyse the speech of future Louis XIII
as transcribed phonetically in the Journal of Jean Herouard over a period
of 10 years. They study the relative position of object clitics and the
verb, focusing on the variation between preverbal and postverbal position
of the clitics. The data is discussed in the light of the evolution of
French clitic placement and shows a combination of changes in clause
structure and of changes in the grammar of clitic themselves. They also
focus on coordinated positive imperatives as well as negative in the speech
of Louis XIII as a child. The article shows grammars in competition and it
manifests NE omission that will be attested much later in literary
writings. In negative imperatives without NE, the word order used by Louis
XIII is the one generally observed today in France. Like previous articles
in this volume, optimality theoretical principles are applied.

''The emergence of marked structures in the integration of loans in Italian''
is an article in which Repetti investigates loanword morphology and more
particularly the appearance of non-etymological geminate consonants and
word final stressed vowels. This article accounts for highly marked
phonological changes that borrowed nouns undergo as being due to the
Principle of Morphological Analysis of Borrowed Nouns, and two
Morphological Alignment Constraints, one that does not add an inflectional
morpheme after the stem and another one if a suffix must be added, keep it
prosodically distinct from the stem. The morphological interpretation of
borrowed foreign nouns is driven by the principle that the foreign noun is
interpreted as an Italian stem. However the modern borrowing process seems
to differ radically from that in pre-19th century Italian.

''On the life and (near) death of a morphophoneme'' is, as Klausenburger
states in his introduction, the only contribution treating specifically
morphologization. Winters explains the spread and subsequent disappearance
of the palatal marker through the parallel spread and then retraction of
present subjunctive uses in the history of French. She connects the erosion
of the palatal form and the fading of the use of the subjunctive mood in
French in general. She proposes that levelling across tense/mood does not
mean that modern French has lost all semantic content for the subjunctive,
but rather, that other means are employed to express this modality.

In the last article in the morphology section, Zwanenberg looks at ''German
influence in Romanian''. It is established that German supplied a good
number of words to the learned morphophonological domain of Romanian,
together with French and a lesser extent Italian, as well as Latin and
Greek. Zwanenberg underlines the fact that some words must have come
through German or one of the other languages mentioned alone, while others
may have come through two or more of them simultaneously, according to a
process known as ''multiple etymology in Romanian linguistics'' (p. 254). He
concludes by saying that German has not supplied a single suffix or prefix
to Romanian and that as a consequence there is no particular
morphophonological German domain in that language.

Part III on Syntax.

This section opens with ''Il était une fois'' which reexamines expletives in
Old and Modern French. Within the framework of the Minimalist Program
Arteaga and Herschensohn argue that it is the erosion of morphological
endings from Latin to Modern French that leads to the obligatory character
of expletives in Modern French. Their analysis provides an explanation for
the apparent ''asymmetry between the expression of 'il' in matrix and
subordinate clauses arguing that in subordinate clauses, true CP expletives
do not exist'' (p. 285).

In ''Synthetic vs. analytic in Romance'', Bauer discusses the importance of
occurrence, use and linguistic value of varieties. She focuses on the
emergence and survival of Romance future, compound past tenses and Romance
adverbs. She observes that branching determines a structure's analytic or
synthetic nature and this affects the evaluation of degree of
grammaticalization. The new future, perfective forms as well as adverbs in
''mente are also attributable to left-branching word order. A structure is
therefore not inherently more grammaticalized than an analytic one solely
because it is synthetic'' (p. 301).

In ''Intra-systemic variability and change in nominal and verbal morphology
in contact situations'', Bullock and Toribio draw on data from
French-English and Spanish-English bilinguals to explain why the patterns
of loss in bilingual speech mirror those of diachronic change, and propose
that language change over time is the result of the acquisition of a system
that is not a complete 'replication', a transmission pattern that is
especially accelerated in a bilingual context. They propose that bilinguals
tend to reduce the syntactic options available for expressing pragmatic
differences in a language (generally the 'weaker' one) and to fix on a
structure that is the most congruent across languages. They conclude by
saying that ''external influence does not directly induce formal linguistic
change in a bilingual grammar but, given the right social conditions, it
may do so indirectly when that grammar comes to serve as the input for a
new generation'' (p. 321).

Martins discusses the appearance of the inflected infinitive in the clausal
complements of Exceptional Case Marking verbs in Portuguese. ''Aspects of
infinitival constructions in the history of Portuguese'' deals with
causative and perception verbs. These changes appear to be related to the
emergence of predicative negation in the infinitival clause and the loss of
obligatory clitic climbing. Martins tries to establish the chronology of
innovations and motivate the change. According to her, particular
situations of structural ambiguity promoted by ellipsis in coordination
contexts may constitute a trigger for change.

In ''Morphosyntactic functions of Italian reflexive 'si''', Russi
investigates four types of Italian monotransitive constructions and reveals
a morphosyntactic domain of 'si' that comprises the following functions:
direct object pronoun, partitive reflexive marker, possessive marker and
aspectual marker. These functions have been accounted for in terms of a
grammaticalization process characterized by a loss of distinguishability
between event and participant, and by reduction of the pronominal function
of 'si'. Russi shows that the semantics of the verbs involved in the
construction as well as event structure have a crucial role in the
grammaticalization process hence supporting the claim that
grammaticalization affects entire constructions and is driven by
context-induced event conceptualization and pragmatic inferencing.

Finally Smith's ''From adverb to discourse marker and beyond'' is the last
contribution of this volume. It presents an analysis of the status of 'là'
in Franco-American French. She presents its evolution from Latin to Modern
French and examines its use in Quebec -- where 'là' has come to be the most
frequently used discourse marker -- and Franco-American where there seems
to be a possibility for eventual grammaticalization as a result of a
combination of prosodic, syntactic and pragmatic factors. Smith's study of
'là' shows that in Franco-American as spoken in Maine's St John Valley, it
plays a pragmatic role as a discourse marker very much like in Quebec
French, where 'là' is used as a deictic or locative discourse marker
subject to discursive constraints.


These specialised articles, for a great part, focus on diachronic issues
hence underlining the importance of Historical Linguistics. The present
contributions actively participate in current theoretical advances in
Romance Linguistics. They make it a valuable source of information for any
researcher interested in synchronic as well as diachronic studies. Numerous
languages are represented: French, Franco-American French, Italian, German,
Portuguese, Spanish and Romanian. This volume will allow any researcher to
become more familiar with this domain of linguistics and encourage more
researchers to work on diachronic Romance. One would regret that Bullock
and Toribio's article was placed in the section on syntax and not in
morphology. Furthermore it could have been a good idea to organise the
contributions in clusters rather than alphabetical order for each section,
like Klausenburger who discussed the papers in the introduction of the
volume in groups depending on the theory/framework used in the articles.

Isabelle Lemée is a Lecturer in the School of Applied Language and
Intercultural Studies in Dublin City University, Ireland. She currently
teaches Spoken Language as well as Advanced Writing. Her research interests
include Second Language Acquisition, Sociolinguistics and Language
Variation, Language in Contact.