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A History of the Spanish Language Paperback – 21 Oct 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (21 Oct. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521011841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521011846
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 127,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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'Penny marshals the linguistic facts with considerable skill and manages consistently to tame complex or untidy phenomena without over simplifying them … the publication of the revised edition is a significant event in Spanish linguistics and I imagine that anyone leading a course on the history of Spanish will already have ordered multiple library copies.' Bulletin of Spanish Studies

'… this second edition is another milestone in Castilian historical linguistic scholarship, and will continue to be an indispensable tool for students and tutors in the field.' Forum for Modern Language Studies

Book Description

This is a revised, expanded and updated 2002 edition of Ralph Penny's authoritative textbook, first published in 1991. An additional chapter discusses concepts including World Spanish, convergence and divergence in Spanish, and the interface between English and Spanish. Further additions include a glossary of technical terms and guidance on further reading.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Mar. 1999
Format: Paperback
This review is written from the standpoint of a general, non-academic, reader who is interested in the Spanish language and Hispanic culture. I have no knowledge of linguistics and it is for the benefit of the non-technical reader that this is written.
The book is clearly a work of considerable scholarship and contains much technical information on the development of the language. This is a little frightening at first but it can be understood well enough with the application of some common sense.
Spanish, of course, has developed from Latin which was first brought to the peninsular by the Romans at the end of the 3rd century BC. The modern language is the direct descendant of the vulgar latin of the area - vulgar latin being the everyday spoken language as opposed to the classic latin of literature.
The author describes the spread of the language first throughout Iberia - a process which took some time - and then overseas. The development of Latin is described including the loss of the case endings in the declensions and the reduction of three genders to two. I cannot help commenting that had the former excellent development occurred sometime before Caesar it might have been the cause of at least one schoolboy paying more attention in class! Also studied is the effect of the previous languages of the peninsular and the subsequent influences of other languages, in particular Arabic, French, English and the native languages of (mainly) Latin America.
Professor Penny identifies the beginning of Castilian as the 'standard' Spanish to be in the 13th century and charts its rise rise from the relatively obscure and untypical dialect of the Burgos region to the world-wide literate norm that it became.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By therealus TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
The prototype for Spanish, Latin, was brought to the Iberian peninsula by Roman invaders in 218 BCE, Ralph Penny tells us in this "historical grammar" of the Spanish language. It is largely a descendant of Vulgar Latin, the language of the streets, not Classical Latin, and its roots are much deeper than those of the area which was northern Gaul, which was not conquered until three centuries later, and whose language hence lacks such items as "demás", whose roots disappeared from Classical Latin around the second century CE. The Romans were replaced by Visigoths and subsequently North Africans, whose influence is plain, not least in pronunciation of sibilant consonants. The language developed separately in what was then Cantabria - north Burgos, Santander and parts of the Basque Country - and would become the foundation of Castilian Spanish, whose ultimate dominance was due in no small part to its speakers' role in the reconquest of Toledo in 1085. Later influences included a French influx in the 12th and 13th centuries CE, Penny says, though he does not tie this together with his speculation that it was Alfonso X (1252-84) who was responsible for the creation of early standard Spanish. French immigrants of the period were often in prestige positions, hence their adaptive pronunciations were often adopted by urban, educated locals, then passed on. As Spain acquired potency through its conquest of the New World, so its language spread, largely in its Andalucían form due to Seville's prime position in channelling trade and people to the new colonies. There are now 350 million speakers of Spanish worldwide.Read more ›
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Fidelia Feles on 9 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback
I write as a reader who is reasonably fluent in Spanish, but has only the slightest acquaintance with linguistics. Maybe I wasn't careful enough before I bought this book, but I was under the impression that it was suitable for general readers. The introduction is OK, and fairly digestable. Chapter 2 begins; "This chapter presupposes some knowledge of phonological theory, in particular the concepts of the phoneme, the allophone, complementary distribution, and neutralization." Y no me esperaba eso, sabes.

From there on, there is some good stuff sprinkled in for the general reader, but there's an awful lot of academic stuff in between. I'm sure that Professor Penny's work is excellent, but this is a text book, not really a book for the general reader.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Solid scholarship, sound history 2 Jan. 2004
By Alekos - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is extremely complete and quite well written. In the introduction we find some general observations on the nature of linguistic studies, consideration of the various peoples who have contributed to the make-up of what we know as modern Spanish, and other "humanistic" considerations. The phonology section covers all kinds of historical change (this is the section that held most interest for me). Under morphology and syntax there are a bunch of things that, as I read them, I felt like kicking myself because they had never occurred to me. The part on the lexicon is vastly instructive, with discussions of borrowings as well as changes that have taken place over time in the Latin sub-stratum of the vocabulary. There is a final part on semantics, and the author himself suggests that it may be weakest section: any discussion of the semantic development of a language is "is inevitably incomplete and is likely to be at least partially inaccurate." But here the fault is not the author's. Actually, he does and excellent job of telling what there is of the semantics story.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
An extremely technical and useful text 4 Nov. 2006
By mrsmel2010 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am using this textbook in graduate level History of the Spanish Language/Linguistics class. I really like the book, but it is very technical. It is not an easy read. The language is complex and specific. A extensive knowledge of Latin would be beneficial, but it is not required. The book is full of excellent and accurate information. Penny is a very techinical and intelligent author. He portrays the rich and expansive history of the Spanish language in an eloquent and detailed way. This is not an easy book to pick up, but it teaches so much about the language. It is a worthwhile read. An excellent book!
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Delivers as promised 14 Sept. 2000
By William L. Harwood - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book delivers exactly what it promises--a thorough, well-written account of the development of modern Spanish. I espcially like the connections it makes with Latin and Arabic roots.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This is a good reference! 16 Sept. 2007
By Christopher - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As a High School Spanish instructor with half a master's degree in linguistics and a full master's in educational administration I must say that this book is one of the best references I've seen in a long time! It gives a good detailed background of where the Spanish language came from as well as all of the linguistic aspects of the language historically. Highly recommended to be used as a reference. It really helps to put the "why" into what we teach.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book 28 Feb. 2008
By Brandon Simpson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book that discusses the evolution of the Spanish language from its Latin and Iberian origins until its present state. It contains the following chapters:

1. Introduction
2. Phonology
3. Morpho-syntax
4. Lexis
5. Semantics
6. Past, Present & Future

You must be warned that this book is very detailed. It uses very technical and linguistic terminology. To read a less technical book about the history of the Spanish language, I recommend "El Espanol y su evolucion."

Brandon Simpson
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