Exploring the Spanish Language (Paperback) book cover

Exploring the Spanish Language

By Christopher Pountain

© 2003 – Routledge

328 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780340719466
pub: 2003-12-26
Save $9.39
Hardback: 9781138142732
pub: 2016-03-31
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e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

Spanish is, with English, one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. It is as a result also one of the most complex and fascinating, with its many geographical and social varieties. This book offers an introduction to the structures and varieties of Spanish, covering all the major levels of linguistic forecasting; considerable attention is also paid to Judeo-Spanish and creoles. No previous knowledge of linguistics is assumed and a glossary of technical terms, in conjunction with exercises and activities, helps to reinforce key points. The book is written specifically with English-speaking learners of Spanish in mind, and readers will find a good deal of practical help in developing skills such as pronunciation and the appropriate use of register.


" this is an extremely succinct and readble account of the structures and varieties of Spanish and should quickly become essential reading for introductory undergraduate courses in Hispanic linguistics."

Forum for Modern Language Studies Vol: 43 No. 1

Table of Contents

Chapter 1
1.1 Prescription and description
1.2 Pedagogical rules
1.3 Standard language and prestige norms
1.4 Variation
1.5 The organisation of this book
Chapter 2: The Sounds of Spanish
2.1 How to describe and represent sounds
2.1.1 Vowels, consonants, semivowels and liquids
2.1.2 Describing consonants
2.1.3 Describing vowels
2.1.4 Diphthongs and triphthongs
2.2 A comparison of features of English and Spanish pronunciation
2.2.1 Vowels
2.2.2 Consonants
2.3 Sounds and Phonemes
2.3.1 Phonemes and allophones
2.3.2 Phonemic status of the semivowels
2.3.3 Contextual neutralisations
2.3.4 Phonetic and phonemic changes in progress in varieties of modern Spanish
2.4 The relation between pronunciation and spelling
2.4.1 Spelling systems
2.4.2 Text messaging
2.5 Spanish syllable structure and the phenomenon of sinalefa
2.5.1 Syllables
2.5.2 Hiatus
2.5.3 Sinalefa
2.6 Stress: the issue of ‘predictability’ of word stress in Spanish
2.7 Some intonation patterns in Spanish
2.7.1 Stress Contrastive stress English stress and Spanish adjective position Stressed and unstressed pronouns in Spanish and English
2.7.2 Pitch contours Intonation and word order Some differences between Spanish and English Regional variation
Chapter 3: Spanish Words and their Structure
3.0 Spanish as an inflectional language
3.1 Criteria for morphological analysis
3.2 Some patterns in derivational morphology
3.3 Spanish affective suffixes
3.4 Word meaning
3.5 Semantic fields and their structure
Chapter 4: Spanish Sentences and their Structure
4.1 What is a sentence?
4.1.1 Spanish as a ‘pro-drop’ language
4.1.2 Impersonal verbs
4.2 ‘Sentences’ in the spoken language
4.3 The constituent elements of a sentence: the valency of verbs6
4.3.1 Syntactic relations
4.3.2 Semantic relations
4.3.3 Syntactic category
4.3.4 The interplay of syntax and semantics in the valencies of verbs Active and passive Reflexive
4.3.5 Differing valencies in English and Spanish General A case study
4.4 Other simple sentence types
4.4.1 Interrogative sentences
4.4.2 Imperative sentences
4.4.3 Word order in simple sentences
4.5 Complex sentence types
4.5.1 Complementation
4.5.2 Adjectival clause functions Full clauses The infinitive The gerund
4.5.3 Adverbial clause functions
Chapter 5: Themes in Form and Meaning: the ‘Genius’ of Spanish:
5.1 Gender
5.2 The ‘personal’ a
5.3 Modality and the subjunctive
5.3.1 Subjunctive use determined by context
5.3.2 The subjunctive associated with particular contexts Conditional sentences The subjunctive in temporal clauses Other idiosyncrasies of Spanish
5.3.3 Meaningful uses of the subjunctive Possibility Relative clauses Extending the rules
5.4 The reflexive
5.4.1 The versatility of the Spanish reflexive Pragmatic considerations Valency of verbs Overlap of functions
5.4.2 Further exploitation of the reflexive in Spanish
5.5 Being and becoming
5.5.1 Ser and estar Ser and estar with adjectives Ser with nouns Ser and estar with locative complements Ser and estar with past participles
5.5.2 Becoming
Chapter 6: Regional and social variation
6.1 Standard written language
6.1.1 Standardisation
6.1.2 The spoken language
6.2 Regional variation
6.2.1 Linguistic atlases
6.2.2 ‘Dialects’
6.2.3 Spain The characteristics of Castilian Castilian in contrast with other Peninsular Romance varieties ‘Innovating’ and ‘conservative’ varieties Differences between the modern standard and the speech of Old and N Further variation in spoken Peninsular Castilian: Andalusia Phon

About the Author

Christopher Pountain is Professor of Spanish Linguistics at Queen Mary College, University of London.

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