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A History of Afro-Hispanic Language Cambridge University Press, 2005 By John M. Lipski

Lipski's contribution to the study of Afro-Hispanic language is remarkable. The book is accompanied by the largest known collection of primary Afro-Hispanic texts from the Iberian Peninsula, Latin America, Africa and Asia, all available in an online appendix.

The book is divided into nine chapters. The first three chapters cover the initial contacts between Europeans and Africans, the early Afro-Portuguese and the Afro-Hispanic texts. The following two chapters cover the Afro-Hispanic [End Page 272] contacts in Colonial Spanish America and historical texts found in Latin America. The following chapter gives an overview of the major African families. The next two chapters focus on the Phonetics and Phonology and the grammatical features of Afro-Hispanic language. The final chapter is a thorough overview of the Spanish-Creole debate.

Chapter 1 describes the first moments of contact between Africans and Europeans. The historical detail and precision included in the book is impressive. There is an overview of the slaving regions and ethnic designations of slaves. In this chapter Lipski admits that in parts of Latin America some partial restructuring may have occurred.

Chapter 2 is devoted the early attestations of Afro-Portuguese language. Lipski provides a detailed description of not only the texts but also the connections to the phonology of African languages. The chapter ends with sections on the Portuguese of 16th to 17th century Africa, early Afro-Brazilian texts, and Afro-Portuguese texts from Asia.

Chapter 3 is dedicated to the early attestations of Afro-Hispanic language. The first sections refer to the work of well-known Golden Age writers, such as Góngora and Lope de Vega. These textual analyses are interspersed with insightful explanations of the language in them. Lipski includes a section on musical repertoire, which proved to be a rich source of Africanized Spanish. The last section has a very helpful assessment of Golden Age habla de negro.

Chapter 4 presents historical data of the most significant African populations in Latin America. The first sections are dedicated to Peru, Mexico and Uruguay. The section on Cuba is longer and includes demographic information on the importation of slaves. Lists of the ethnic background and the countries of origin are complete and detailed. There are also sections on the presence of Africans in the colonial societies of the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, and Venezuela.

Chapter 5 details the Afro-Hispanic texts from Latin America from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Lipski gives an explanation of the Afro-Latin bozal corpus. Lipski presents the intricacies of the Afro-Dominican, Afro-Puerto Rican, Afro-Ecuadorian, Afro-Colombian, Afro-Panamanian, and Afro-Venezuelan language corpora. The reader will notice a parallel between this chapter and the previous one, which presents the external history of language contact in those countries.

Chapter 6 provides a survey of the major African language families. This chapter is necessary because of the fact that bozal Spanish and Portuguese came about under a series of diverse language contact situations. However, Lipski identifies some recurring traits among bozal Spanish and Portuguese.

Chapter 7 concentrates on the phonetics and phonology of Afro-Hispanic language. There are sections on the common denominators among African languages, the tonal adaptations of European loan-words in African languages, and the possible impact of tonal languages on Spanish and Portuguese. At the end of the chapter there is a list of the major structures that are analyzed in detail, such as the lateralization of syllable-final /r/ and reduction of syllable-final /s, among others. The chapter provides a summary reconstruction of the early Afro-Iberian phonology, as well as a section on what Lipski calls the "final stages" of Spanish American bozal Spanish.

Chapter 8 traces the grammatical features of Afro-Hispanic language and covers possible substratum influences in Afro-Iberian speech. Among the features discussed, there are general word order, subjects and subject pronouns, direct objects, double negation, yes-no questions, nominal plurals, among many others. The chapter ends with a summary of the general grammatical characteristics of pre-nineteenth century Afro-Iberian speech.

Chapter 9 is fundamental to the field since it provides a discussion of the Spanish-Creole debate. Lipski summarizes the various perspectives on the question of the contribution of Africans to the Spanish language. There are sections on the scarcity of Spanish creoles and the claims of bozal-derived Afro-Hispanic creole, a notion supported by many Hispanists. Lipski also discusses [End Page 273] the putative evidence that bozal Spanish turned creole in Cuba and Puerto Rico, also a hotly debated topic in creole studies. A section that deals with the presumed creole features of bozal Spanish provides the most complete and detailed list of the structures in question.

As can be ascertained from the present review, the volume A History of Afro-Hispanic Language: Five Centuries, Five Continents leaves "no stone unturned" and reveals Lipski's masterful treatment of the topic.

Fernanda L. Ferreira
Bridgewater State College

Additional Information

ISSN
1934-9009
Print ISSN
1096-2492
Launched on MUSE
2007-05-09
Open Access
No
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