SPAN-499 Seminar: Variation and change in World Spanishes
Fall for 2016-2017
This course proposes a revision of the traditional narratives applied to the history of Spanish and the formation of its dialects from the lens of evolutionary linguistics (Croft 2000) and language ecology (Mufwene 2001, 2008). Specifically, rather than as a language which has undergone a series of transformations since its birth in the Iberian Peninsula as the offspring of Latin, as usually assumed, we will explore the notion of ‘Spanish’ as a collection of speaker-based language systems that have been shaped historically by many different forms of multilingual and multidialectal ecological language settings, in a process reminiscent of the genetic adaptation of biological species to environmental triggers. The course will explore the following questions: what changes in language change – do languages and dialects change, or do the communities that speak them change? Are speaker communities free to actuate changes in the language that they speak, or are they constrained by any universal principles of change? If there is no linguistic difference between a ‘dialect’ and a ‘language’, is ‘language change’ different from ‘dialect change’? Are community identities a significant factor in language change? In order to answer these questions, we will embark on a panoramic journey and study how the changing ecology of ‘Spanish’ has resulted in many different combinations of linguistic elements (i.e., many different Spanishes) throughout history. Although the course will be taught in Spanish, we will be making frequent reference to and use of bibliography in other languages (particularly English) when warranted. At least some previous basic coursework in linguistics is required.
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