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Review of  Introducción a la Lingüística Hispánica

Reviewer: Gabriel Rei-Doval
Book Title: Introducción a la Lingüística Hispánica
Book Author: Anna María Escobar Antxon Olarrea
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Language Documentation
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Book Announcement: 14.2779

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Date: Tue, 14 Oct 2003 12:21:44 +0100
From: Gabriel Rei-Doval <>
Subject: Introducción a la lingüística hispánica

Hualde, José Ignacio, Antxon Olarrea and Anna María Escobar (2001)
Introducción a la lingüística hispánica, Cambridge University Press.

Gabriel Rei-Doval, Queen's College, University of Oxford


This volume represents an interesting attempt to offer the academic
community a clear and complete introduction to Hispanic linguistics,
following previous initiatives undertaken by Milton Azevedo (Prentice
Hall) and Manuel Alvar, ed. (Ariel). All of them employ Spanish as the
vehicular language, as presumably the reader interested by these topics
is a (near-)native speaker or has sufficient training in the Spanish

The book consists of six chapters related: to Linguistics as a
cognitive science (chapter 1); the sounds of the language: Phonetics
and Phonology (chapter 2); the structure of words: Morphology (chapter
3); the structure of the sentence: Syntax (chapter 4); History of the
Spanish language (chapter 5) and Language Variation (chapter 6). A
brief final index is located at the end of the volume. Each chapter
consists of a development of the issues considered followed by the main
subsequent conclusions, plus a series of exercises and practices for
those readers who want to test their comprehension of the chapter.
Finally, a basic bibliography is provided.

Chapter 1 deals with general issues on the nature of grammar,
considering briefly its evolution over time and its status from a
generative point of view, including the dimensions related to animal
communication vs. human languages, the acquisition of the language, the
innatist hypothesis and neurolinguistics and the brain. A concise
compilation of the main criticisms of the Chomskyan model closes the

Chapter 2 starts with a definition of basic concepts such as phoneme,
allophone and free and complementary distribution. A classification of
the sounds according to the usual phonetic parameters follows.
Paragraph 3 deals with the description of the main consonants and
allophones of the Spanish language, and the following ones approach the
concept of archiphoneme, vowels and semi-vowels and the Spanish
structure. Finally, the chapter deals with intonation and supra-
segmental units in Spanish, and an appendix on the symbols used by the
IPA alphabet is provided.

Chapter 3 approaches Morphology as the structure of words in Spanish.
Starting with a description of the basic concepts in this sub-
discipline, especial attention is dedicated to inflective Morphology in
Spanish (gender and number and verbs), as well as to derivational
processes (emotive suffixes, nominalisation, adjectivation,
verbalisation, and prefixation). Attention is also paid to different
procedures to create compound words in Spanish, as well as to other
morphological procedures, and finally the hierarchic structure of word

Chapter 4 analyses the structure of the sentence from a generative
point of view, including the criteria to identify the constituents,
rules for syntagmatic rewriting, transformations, and the theory of X-
bar or approaches to simple sentences. As particular aspects of
Spanish, the uses of se and the values of subjunctive are considered.

Chapter 5 deals with the history of the Spanish language, including the
early stages of late spoken Latin, the pre-roman languages on Hispania,
the Indo-European languages, the evolution of Latin in Hispania,
phonological evolution from Latin to Spanish, morphological and
syntactical change, the formation of the standard Spanish norm, and the
influence of early Arab and Amerindian languages, amongst others.
Attention is also paid to language change and dialectal variation in
current Spanish usage, as well as to the analysis of texts of other
contemporary varieties close to Spanish (Judeo-Spanish, Aragonese and

Finally, chapter 6 considers primarily language variation, including
geographical and social variation, main dialectal areas of Spanish and
bilingualism and language contact.


Generally speaking, the book can be considered a relatively traditional
approach to Hispanic Linguistics, as it addresses what has been
considered "internal linguistics" plus history of the language and some
dialectal variation. The initial theoretical chapter deals with
Linguistics as a cognitive science, combining clear explanations on the
development of Linguistics with Generative points of view on the
relationship between language and the brain. According to the authors,
Chomsky's theories seem to have led Linguistics debates. Other
theoretical frameworks subsequent to the 1960s are scarcely considered,
apart from how they contradicted Generative ideas.

Chapters 2 and 3 on Phonetics, Phonology and Morphology are generally
clear and well explained through description with a didactic tone,
appropriate to the introductory level they are designed for. They
approach the areas, as in most chapters in this book, from the English-
Spanish comparison, which is useful for those students who are using
the book in an English-speaking country. These chapters combine
traditional and structural views (for instance, defining archiphonemes
in Spanish), with accessible and clear language. However, chapter 2
includes accentuation rules as a part of the chapter on the sounds of
language, although this topic belongs more to a chapter on writing
systems or orthography.

Most of chapter 4 is also rather descriptive and deals with syntax
analysis, combining generative approaches with other traditional or
structural ones. It is normally clear in most of the aspects explained.
On page 218, the authors state that the objective of the linguist is
discovering the rules that produce all grammatical sentences in a given
language, "and only those that are grammatical". According to them, any
task related to other than grammatical sentences does not belong to the
linguist's task. This view of Linguistics could be reducing Linguistics
to the Grammar as codified in the standard language.

Chapter 5 on the history of the Spanish language is particularly useful
for those students who are approaching this issue for the first time,
with a basic and didactic exposition of the courses of the language,
prioritising clarity and comprehensibility over rigour and precision.
This leads to sentences such as "el español viene del latín" (Spanish
comes from Latin) [all translations are mine]. "Esto vale tanto como
decir que el español viene de Roma, pues en su origen el latín no era
sino el habla de Roma" (This is the same as saying that Spanish comes
from Rome, as in its origin Latin was none other but the language of

Some controversial ideas appear in the part dedicated to the evolution
of Latin in Hispania, such as when it is said that a dialectal
continuum appears only in north-western Spain (Galicia, Asturias and
contiguous areas), but not only in the Catalan domain or in southern
Spain and Portugal. Firstly, a more precise definition of dialect and
continuum should be established. At the same time, a more comprehensive
and in-depth view of language contact in Spain should be approached by
the authors. If we consider Catalonia, it is clear that even in the
same town and neighbourhood the same person can be subject to practices
as code-switching or code-mixing. If Catalan-Spanish contact is
compared with Galician-Spanish contact, more loyalty to the local
language is found in Catalonia, even though bilingual practices are
found even in supposed monolingual areas where most of the speakers are
in principle monolinguals in Catalan.

The analysis of the Galician-Spanish contact seems to be inexact and
incomplete. First of all, on page 287 the authors state that Galician
is spoken, apart from in Galicia's administrative territory, in
borderland areas as Asturias and León, but they forget that it is also
spoken in western areas of Zamora province. Section 17.3 of chapter 6
(pp. 322-323) is dedicated to Galician as a contemporary linguistic
variety close to Spanish. On page 322, it is said that "linguistically
speaking, Galician is more different from Spanish than cheso is". The
comparison between a Romance language as Galician (at the same level as
Catalan, French or Italian) and a western dialect of Aragonese as cheso
(almost extinct in the province of Huesca) does not seem really
appropriate. The fact that cheso is treated immediately before Galician
in the book does not seem sufficient for that comparison. Section
3.1.2. of chapter 7 (pp. 346-347) on Spanish in contact with Galician
should also be revised. Regarding its status, the book argues that
"Galician is a linguistic variety closely related to Portuguese, to
that extent that specialists consider Galician as a variety or dialect
of the Portuguese language. However, in Galicia there is a debate as to
whether Galician is a variety of the Portuguese language or a separate
language. Obviously, emotive criteria as well as purely linguistic
criteria are at play in this evaluation". According to this view, it
would seem that there are only linguists defending the notion that
Galician is a dialect of Portuguese and that those who have a different
opinion are only local enthusiasts, nationalists or Galician patriots.
On the contrary, most of the Galician Philology and Linguistics, and
many romance philologists and linguists both inside and outside Spain
support the opposite view.

>From a historical point of view, it could even be supported that, as
the language was originated in the North and then extended to the
South, Portuguese is a dialect of Galician. For all these reasons, it
seems inappropriate and very risky to state this as if it were
incontrovertible. Likewise, the view on the dialectology of Galician
language is rather restricted and taken from interesting but very
fragmentary materials, ignoring the main publications in the field and
giving an incomplete view of the issue. The information also contains
mistakes, such as the consideration that Castilian in Galicia is
characterised by the post-verbal position of clitic pronouns
("dijístemelo"). If this sequence can be found at present, it would be
only a extremely rare exception. As a matter of fact, the tendency goes
in the opposite way: Galician receives the interference of Castilian so
that many times in spoken language the pre-verbal position of clitic
pronouns overlaps, because of the influence of Spanish, the
grammatically correct post-verbal position in non-conditioned position
in Galician. All these facts seem to recommend a full in-depth revision
of the consideration and treatment of Galician in the book, to acquire
the same quality and rigour as other parts of the book.

An absence of the analysis of issues corresponding to Pragmatics and
Sociolinguistics can also be found. Even considering that perhaps these
issues do not belong to the interests of the authors, it is clear that
the scientific production and publication of accessible materials in
these fields in the last decades has been enormous in the Hispanic
domain. Probably for this reason, a more consistent analysis on
registers, socio-dialects and social variation in Spanish is missing in
this book, where only diachronic and diatopic dimensions are properly

In any case, despite the aforementioned needed improvements, Hispanists
should welcome this new introduction to Hispanic Linguistics,
particularly as it is accessible and highly readable for those who
approach the field for the first time.

Gabriel Rei-Doval is a Lecturer in Galician Language and Culture at the
Queen's College, University of Oxford. In 1999, he completed a MPhil in
Linguistics at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Galicia,
Spain) with the dissertation "A Brief Approach to the History of
Galician Sociolinguistics (1967-1997)". In 2001, he received his PhD
from the same University with the dissertation "Galician Language in
Urban Settings: a view from Macro-Sociolinguistics". Over the last
decade, he has worked on research projects as the Sociolinguistic Map
of Galicia and the Euromosaic survey on Minority Languages, amongst
others. His research interests encompass Sociolinguistics and Language
Planning, Second Language Teaching, Historiography of Linguistics, and
Galician and Hispanic Linguistics.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0521803144
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 384
Prices: U.S. $ 45.00
U.K. £ 32.50