Reviewed byJason Doroga, University of Wisconsin-Madison
This slim volume is a reprint of an 1891 monograph that was originally conceived as a multi-volume series on the grammar of Old Spanish. The author, Pedro de Múgica, states in the prologue that the motivation to write this grammar was to inspire the serious study of Spanish philology in his native country, which prior to the date of publication had not yet produced works of scholarship on par with nineteenth-century European philologists.
In the introduction (1–22), M describes the main phonetic and morphological differences between spoken (Vulgar) Latin and written (Classical) Latin in Iberia. He also discusses the loss of hiatic vowels (habeo > abjo) and the simplification of the case system in Vulgar Latin, and concludes with a discussion of words adopted into Old Spanish from languages other than Latin, including Arabic, Provenzal, and Basque. This monograph is limited to Old Spanish phonetics, but was part of a larger project, judging from the scope of the introduction.
Before describing the historical development of the Spanish sound system, M briefly discusses the conditions of sound change, including word stress and syllable structure (23–26). The next section (27–40) addresses the development of Spanish tonic and atonic vowels, followed by a discussion of the Spanish consonants, with a special emphasis on the development of the palatal consonants (40–73). M’s treatment of these sound changes is systematic and comprehensive. For example, he notes that a short, tonic Latin ‘o’ regularly produces a diphthong except when it appears before a yod (e.g. cornu > ‘cuerno’ but folia > ‘hoja’). The final section (73–86) presents dialectal variation attested in Old Spanish documents, including the diphthong ‘ou’ in Western dialects (e.g. couce for cauce), the elision of the dental fricative orthographically represented by ‘d’ in Andalusia (e.g. aentro for adentro), and the metathesis of liquid consonants (e.g. perlado for prelado). This section concludes with a list of lexical variation attested in the dialects of Bilbao and Santander. The prose is enhanced by numerous examples that illustrate M’s main points, and detailed (and oftentimes opinionated) commentary is provided in footnotes.
This work was published over one hundred years ago, yet M’s innovation and contribution to Spanish philology are evident. In particular, at a time when sound changes were assumed to be governed by universal principles of regularity, M acknowledges that phonetic variation is inherent to language and exhorts scholars not to ignore it. Throughout the text, M recognizes that Castilian lies on a broad Romance continuum and affirms that defining dialectal variation in terms of political and geographical delimitations is at best illusory.
There are details by which the modern reader will detect the age of this work. For example, no bibliographic references are included, nor is there a word index or a list of phonetic symbols, many of which differ from the modern standard International Phonetic Alphabet symbols. However, these points do not detract from the overall contribution of this volume. The book will be useful to anyone interested in the major sound changes that occurred from Latin to Spanish.