- Paperback: 388 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 Mul edition (24 Jun. 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521717841
- ISBN-13: 978-0521717847
- Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 2 x 24.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 484,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Romance Languages: A Historical Introduction Paperback – 24 Jun 2010
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'This attractive textbook is a great opportunity to bring the unique historical and typological richness of the Romance languages to today's students of language and linguistics and empower them to continue its exploration on their own. In its carefully gradated approach at complex issues of phonology and morphology, the authors provide readers with an analytical in-depth investigation of the diachronic developments in Spanish, French, and Italian, complemented by coherent sketches of Portuguese and Romanian. The book sets a new standard for focus, relevance, and accuracy of data as well as broadly informed and open-minded assessment of competing explanations offered in the literature. Readers who work their way through the book will come away from it with a structured picture of this fascinating language family spanning 2000 years of varying divergence and convergence.' Dieter Wanner, The Ohio State University
'A user-friendly and straightforward approach to the topic, which cuts through much of the excessive and dense detail of traditional treatments.' Adam Ledgeway, University of Cambridge
Ti Alkire and Carol Rosen trace the changes that led from colloquial Latin to the five major Romance languages which ultimately became national or transnational languages: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. This book makes the more difficult issues clear, providing an appealing program of study.See all Product Description
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From the start, RL singles out five languages to base its comparative studies on, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish. There are in fact other Romance languages in existence, and the distinction (or lack thereof) between a dialect and language plays a part in the discussion. But these five are chosen because they have gone on to become national languages. That being said, Romanian and Portuguese are treated sparingly through the bulk of the text, Romanian more so than Portuguese. However, each of these receives its own chapter to make up for this, owing to the distinctive historical trajectory each language takes, differentiating them from the main stream of Romance and Popular Latin. The Romanian chapter leaves quite a bit open for discussion. It also makes a number of tentative claims, which is expected since historical reconstruction is not at all clear for this language.
The Popular Latin presented in this book was given quite a bit of support, and is essential for understanding the changes that drove sound change from Latin towards the distinctive modern Romance languages. However, since much of this transmission was oral, the book is continually having to tag word forms with an asterisk, indicating that there is no direct textual evidence of the form. Obviously one should read this text and understand that there is still a lot of study in this field, with competing opinions about many of the historical changes in specific forms (and the authors are careful to make this clear).
This book is aimed at students with some linguistic study under their belt. It is not as dense as some texts I have seen that demonstrate the phonology and morphology of a language, nor is it an easy read for someone without a linguistic background. Prior study of Latin is expected (I am self-taught), and some prior study of linguistics is helpful, as it relies heavily on IPA to describe forms. I don't have as good a grasp on IPA as I would like, but I have studied many different languages and thus have covered articulation and phonetics more contextually. I found this book challenging, without being overwhelming. In fact, by the middle, I had a much better handle on IPA symbols that relate to the Romance family. Learning in context is a powerful tool, without doubt.
As phonetic and morphological change processes are named, they are given good descriptions (and each of these terms is included in a guide near the back). This was very helpful. Not as much time is spent on terminology for articulation, and this was a little bit more problematic as it is an important concept for dealing with sound changes. However, RL tended to describe changes in terms of the processes that occurred rather than the physical articulation that allowed or promoted those changes, so the emphasis on process vocabulary makes sense.
The book is littered with practice exercises and inline questions to force grappling with the information. The end of each chapter provides additional questions that require more analysis and creative thought about the processes that have been looked at. These were excellent, and make this text more than just descriptive. However, the major failure of this book, in my mind, is there is no answer key. Other than the inline questions, no answers are provided for practice exercises or chapter-end exercises. This made the exercises interesting, but something short of what might have been hoped for.
Finally, the bibliography at the end is extensive and will allow the interested reader to delve where they will. As someone who read this on his own time (not as part of a linguistics course or program), that is very helpful.
It is nice to see Romanian covered in such detail, with some mention even of dialectal features and obscure verb conjugations. Unfortunately the authors have unquestioningly adopted Dacian Continuity Theory -- the belief that Romanians are descendants of the indigenous population vanquished by Trajan, instead of migrants from considerably further south who reached their present home nearly a millennium later. This leads the authors to make all kinds of claims about what kind of Latin "reached Dacia".
While I read the book outside of a course, I nonetheless enjoyed its textbook features. There are exercises at the end of each chapter that let you flex your diachronic linguistics muscles, and the authors present a good many mnemonic devices to help you retain the sound changes. The bibliography at the end will spur you on to more specialized treatment of these historical phenomena.
A very interesting example of consonant weakening is seen to correspond to the initial “f” in Spanish taking on the value of a silent “h.” In this way the Latin “ferro” (iron) transforms into “hierro.” This change is explained in terms of the claim that “h” and “f” were considered allophones (i.e. variants of the same basic sound) by early Spanish speakers (p.51).
French is given as an example of some the most surprising and far-ranging changes. The palatalized labials “via,” “vie,” and “bia” that terminate Latin words are transformed into “ge” in French. In this way “serviente” (assistant) becomes “sergeant” and “rabia” becomes “rage” (p.71).
The authors also provide the solution to a puzzle that had commanded my attention when I first started learning Italian: that of the third person singular and plural endings brought on by the conditional tense. It is shown that what began in Latin as “cantare habebat” (would sing) collapses into “catarebbe” in Italian (pp.171-172).
The second half of the book discusses the evolution of Portuguese and Romanian as well as a brief narrative on the emergence of the romance vernaculars. An index of linguistic terms is also provided.