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Reviewed by:
  • Sociolingü ística y pragmática del español by Carmen Silva-Corvalán
  • Elizabeth Grace Winkler
Sociolingü ística y pragmática del español. By Carmen Silva-Corvalán. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2001. Pp. xvi, 367. $39.95.

Silva-Corvalán brings to this readable and comprehensive text a wealth of expertise garnered from many years as a researcher and professor of linguistics. The first chapter presents a very basic, thoroughly useful survey of the main concepts of sociolinguistic and variationist studies, including discussions of language and dialect, bilingualism, and language change. She asserts that language should be viewed as a dynamic social phenomenon, not solely a structurally-oriented system. The second chapter provides detailed discussions of methodology including the merits of quantitative vs. qualitative studies, data collection, population selection, elicitation techniques, and linguistic analysis.

Studies of phonological variation by a wide variety of scholars including William Labov, Ferdinand de Saussure, Shana Poplack, and Lesley Milroy are the focus of Ch. 3. Through studies of a wide variety of dialects, both standard and nonstandard, S-C demonstrates how issues like prestige and variables like socioeconomic status and gender may drive language change and variation.

In the next chapter, S-C shifts the focus to variation in syntax and morphosyntax. This chapter is rich in illustrative charts and relevant examples of the concepts presented. In Ch. 5, she tackles the task of presenting to the introductory student the difficult topic of discourse analysis. To successfully do this, her sections are accompanied by long sets of explanatory discourse. Of particular interest is the section on the function of discourse markers.

Ch. 6 looks at language variation and change, detailing the processes and variables that govern both internally and externally motivated change. Of note is a discussion concerning how estar ‘to be’ is taking over the domains of ser ‘to be’ in a number of Spanish dialects, including the Spanish of Los Angeles, and how immigration patterns may have facilitated [End Page 223] the transference of this shift to communities within Mexico as well.

Ch. 7 concentrates on language contact and bilingualism. She presents well-known theories on contact by Uriel Weinreich, Derek Bickerton, and Sarah G. Thomason and Terrence Kaufman. The section on pidgins and creoles is somewhat weak and dated, with some key topics and seminal works not discussed; however, this is a minor point in an otherwise excellent text. The final chapter looks at Spanish in the US. This is a very detailed chapter, providing both historical perspective and analysis of the current situation. She includes here discussions on the impact of Spanish on English, bilingualism, and on the English Only vs. the English Plus movements.

Among the many strengths of the text are the practical exercises found in the conclusion to each chapter, which motivate both classroom discussion and assignments. Furthermore, even though there is a clear demarcation of topics into distinct chapters, there is a healthy overlap when appropriate, making the text very accessible. In addition, terms are introduced where appropriate and made understandable by the language samples and contexts provided. Finally, for nonnative Spanish-speaking researchers like myself who have chosen to publish in Spanish, she has provided a wealth of useful Spanish terms not previously found in one volume.

Elizabeth Grace Winkler
University of Arizona


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pp. 223-224
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