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Morphological and Syntactical Variation and Change in Latin American Spanish  

John M. Lipski

The Spanish language, as it spread throughout Latin America from the earliest colonial times until the present, has evolved a number of syntactic and morphological configurations that depart from the Iberian Peninsula inheritance. One of the tasks of Spanish variational studies is to search for the routes of evolution as well as for known or possible causal factors. In some instances, archaic elements no longer in use in Spain have been retained entirely or with modification in Latin America. One example is the use of the subject pronoun vos in many Latin American Spanish varieties. In Spain vos was once used to express the second-person plural (‘you-pl’) and was later replaced by the compound form vosotros, while in Latin America vos is always used in the singular (with several different verbal paradigms), in effect replacing or coexisting with tú. Other Latin American Spanish constructions reflect regional origins of Spanish settlers, for example, Caribbean questions of the type ¿Qué tú quieres? ‘What do you (sg)want?’ or subject + infinitive constructions such as antes de yo llegar ‘before I arrived’, which show traces of Galician and Canary Island heritage. In a similar fashion, diminutive suffixes based on -ico, found in much of the Caribbean, reflect dialects of Aragon and Murcia in Spain, but in Latin America this suffix is attached only to nouns whose final consonant is -t-. Contact with indigenous, creole, or immigrant languages provides another source of variation, for example, in the Andean region of South America, where bilingual Quechua–Spanish speakers often gravitate toward Object–Verb word order, or double negation in the Dominican Republic, which bears the imprint of Haitian creole. Other probably contact-influenced features found in Latin American Spanish include doubled and non-agreeing direct object clitics, null direct objects, use of gerunds instead of conjugated verbs, double possessives, partial or truncated noun-phrase pluralization, and diminutives in -ingo. Finally, some Latin American Spanish morphological and syntactic patterns appear to result from spontaneous innovation, for example, use of present subjunctive verbs in subordinate clauses combined with present-tense verbs in main clauses, use of ser as intensifier, and variation between lo and le for direct-object clitics. At the microdialectal level, even more variation can be found, as demographic shifts, recent immigration, and isolation come into play.

Article

Catalan  

Francisco Ordóñez

Catalan is a “medium-sized” Romance language spoken by over 10 million speakers, spread over four nation states: Northeastern Spain, Andorra, Southern France, and the city of L’Alguer (Alghero) in Sardinia, Italy. Catalan is divided into two primary dialectal divisions, each with further subvarieties: Western Catalan (Western Catalonia, Eastern Aragon, and Valencian Community) and Eastern Catalan (center and east of Catalonia, Balearic Islands, Rosselló, and l’Alguer). Catalan descends from Vulgar Latin. Catalan expanded during medieval times as one of the primary vernacular languages of the Kingdom of Aragon. It largely retained its role in government and society until the War of Spanish Succession in 1714, and since it has been minoritized. Catalan was finally standardized during the beginning of the 20th century, although later during the Franco dictatorship it was banned in public spaces. The situation changed with the new Spanish Constitution promulgated in 1978, when Catalan was declared co-official with Spanish in Catalonia, the Valencian Community, and the Balearic Islands. The Latin vowel system evolved in Catalan into a system of seven stressed vowels. As in most other Iberian Romance languages, there is a general process of spirantization or lenition of voiced stops. Catalan has a two-gender grammatical system and, as in other Western Romance languages, plurals end in -s; Catalan has a personal article and Balearic Catalan has a two-determiner system for common nouns. Finally, past perfective actions are indicated by a compound tense consisting of the auxiliary verb anar ‘to go’ in present tense plus the infinitive. Catalan is a minoritized language everywhere it is spoken, except in the microstate of Andorra, and it is endangered in France and l’Alguer. The revival of Catalan in the post-dictatorship era is connected with a movement called linguistic normalization. The idea of normalization refers to the aim to return Catalan to a “normal” use at an official level and everyday level as any official language.

Article

Germanic Languages in Contact in Central and South America  

Karoline Kühl

West and North Germanic language varieties have been part of the Latin American language ecology since the middle of the 19th century, when European mass migration created Germanic-speaking immigrant communities in North, Central, and South America. The subsequent fate of the Germanic immigrant varieties in Latin America varied greatly in terms of how long intergenerational transfer has been maintained, if and to what degree language maintenance has been supported by linguistic codification and language teaching, and the degree of contact with the surrounding majority population. Some languages like the Mennonite Low German varieties have been quite repellent with regard to language change induced by contact with the majority languages Portuguese and/or Spanish, other (Germanic) immigrant varieties, and indigenous languages. However, contact with the majority population and other (immigrant) ethnic groups, bilingualism, and, accordingly, the influence of Spanish and/or Portuguese has been growing for most Germanic immigrant varieties at least since the 1950s. The long-standing German dialectological research tradition into extra-territorial Germanic language islands has led to detailed accounts of many German varieties in Latin America. Accounts of other Germanic varieties are much more restricted, both in numbers and in extent: Some like Argentine Danish or Patagonian Afrikaans have been described only recently; others, like Swedish in Brazil and Argentine Dutch, hardly at all. In all cases, the accounts differ greatly regarding if, and to what extent, language contact is included as a cause of language change. Based on the scholarly coverage, the extent of contact-induced change in the Germanic varieties in Latin America appears to vary greatly, but whether this impression is due to the varying degrees of attention that the accounts devote to the effects of language contact or to particular sociolinguistic circumstances preventing or promoting language contact cannot be established. Still, contact linguistic profiles of many Germanic immigrant varieties in Latin America present themselves as a promising terra incognita for future research. From a bird’s-eye perspective, we may in general terms conclude that the Germanic varieties in Latin America are characterized by lexical borrowing, at least for cultural loans and discourse-structuring elements, as well as ad hoc code-switching. Interestingly, a number of varieties show a similar pattern of integrating Spanish or Portuguese verb stems of verbs ending in -ir and -ar into a very similar inflectional Germanic paradigm (Misiones Swedish -era, Argentine Danish -is(ere), Riograndenser Hunsrückisch -ieren, Volga German -i(:)ere). In general, syntactical restructurings seem to be restricted, with the notable exception of standard deviant omission of mainly pronominal subjects and, partly, pronominal objects. Other developments are specific, applying only to individual varieties.