come from the upper social group.  In the following chapter, in Becoming a Member of the Speech Community: Learning Socio-phonetic Variation in Child Language Manuel Díaz-Campos focuses on how children acquire the sociolinguistic norms of speech in their communities. To illustrate this, he comments on the results of his investigation on the acquisition of variation in intervocalic /d/ and syllable final /r/ in the Spanish of Caracas, Poplack’s (1978) study of the Spanish in Puerto Rican bilinguals and other variationist studies in English. Díaz-Campos concludes that children acquire sociolinguistic variables as well as norms for stylistic variation (i.e., the use of a more standard pronunciation in school) at a very young age. The following chapter is The Relationship between Historical Linguistics and Sociolinguistics by Tuten and Tejedo-Herrero. These authors detail how historical sociolinguistics was born as a hybrid field, combining sociolinguistic (mainly variationism) and traditional historical linguistic methods. Tuten and Tejedo-Herrero also reflect on the difficulties in the fields as well as its advantages. Three research areas that the authors felt were the most important are commented: (1) “Roger Wright's sociophilological research” which more clearly explains  how languages functioned  in the Middle Ages, (2) theories of dialect mixing and new dialect formation, and (3) the study of Spanish standardization as a sociolinguistic phenomenon which offers ‘new insights’ into how Spanish developed. The last chapter of this section is The Acquisition of Variation in Second Language Spanish: How to Identify and Catch a Moving Target by Kimberly Geeslin. This author examines several Spanish L2 studies (primarily on the acquisition of ser/estar and subjunctive) to show L2 register variation.   

The fourth section termed Spanish in Contact is very much thematically interconnected. It begins with Anna María Escobar’s Spanish in Contact with Quechua. There Escobar examines in detail the development of contact features in the Spanish of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. This author provides an account of macro socio-historical and micro sociological factors to contextualize the discussion. In this way, Escobar is able to provide the reader with an explanation of how certain linguistic contact phenomena occur “when appropriate social conditions are met (341).” The next chapter, Spanish in Contact with Guaraní by Shaw Gynan, reveals how complex and distinctive the linguistic situation in Paraguay is. Indeed, Paraguay is the only country in Latin America where an indigenous language, Guaraní, is spoken widely by the non-indigenous population. Gynan points out that Franciscans and Jesuits developed a writing system and elaborated grammars and dictionaries in this language and this fact can “be considered a major reason why Guaraní remained in Paraguay (356).”  In this chapter, the author also illustrates language contact phenomena that have resulted from Guaraní into Spanish and from Spanish into Guaraní. It was interesting to learn that even in the  Paraguayan Spanish of groups dominant in that language where there is less  influence of Guaraní, some linguistic “patterns of preference (…) for non-standard forms (…) appear to constitute evidence of convergence (369).” In Spanish in Contact with Catalan, José Luis Blas Arroyo reviews the most important factors in the formation and shaping of Spanish-Catalan contact varieties. Blas Arroyo does so within a historical perspective and accounts for the fact that both languages are related. Furthermore, Blas Arroyo considers the factors “that determine the degree of social integration of several contact phenomena” which range from simple Catalan phonological and/or morphological interference to language convergence in the two languages (375). A unique situation is discussed in Chapter 19, Spanish in Contact with Portuguese: the Case of Barranquenho by Clancy Clemens, Patrícia Amaral, and Ana Luís. These authors offer an analysis of a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese spoken in Barrancos, an area that has been disputed between Portugal and Spain changing hands many times for approximately 800 years (398). Clemens,  Amaral, and Luís examined the features of this dialect.  It is pointed out that Barranquenho was not created for the function of communication, since the population is bilingual.  On the contrary, “the creation of Barranquenho was (…) driven initially by predominantly Spanish-speaking people learning Portuguese because of socio-political circumstances,” and the dialect is maintained by speakers as a symbol of “the local cultural identity (414).” These speakers feel they are neither Portuguese nor Spanish but a mixture of both. In Chapter 20, Ortiz López examines the Spanish in Contact with Haitian, an account of 28 individuals who live on the Dominican-Haitian Border. Ortiz López compares the null subject parameter usage (i.e., presence/absence of the pronoun & SV inversion) in the Spanish of (a) speakers of L1 Spanish, (b) 2L1 speakers (i.e., speakers with both Spanish and Haitian Creole bilinguals as an L1) and (c) sequential bilinguals (that is, L1 Haitian Creole speakers who are learning Spanish as an L2) in different age groups. The author concludes that while bilinguals with L2 Spanish “show a certain delay upon processing the differences between null and overt pronouns in the discourse-syntax interface” which makes “them overgeneralize the non-pro-drop rule”, 2L1 speakers have a “quantitative behavior similar to that of 1L1 (children and adults) (440).”  In Chapter 21,  Palenque (Colombia): Multilingualism in an Extraordinary Social and Historical Context, Schwegler describes the sociolinguistic landscape of Palenque (Colombia). Palenque was an isolated region near the coast of Cartagena where runaway slaves lived for many centuries. This particular situation, as the author explains, allowed three vernacular varieties to coexist. These languages are (a) Coastal Spanish, (b) Palenquero creole (Palenque “is the only community in the entire South American mainland to feature a Spanish- base creole”), and (c) “an Africanizing ancestral ritual code intimately associated with the funeral rite lumbalu (446).” We learn that bilinguals in their daily life perform frequent codeswitching between Spanish and Palenquer; however, these languages are not mixed but maintained separated. In the next chapter, Spanish in Contact with Arabic, Sayahi outlines the much more extensive case of bilingualism of Spanish and Arabic. The author reviews the social and linguistic specific aspects of Spanish/ Arabic bilingualism in Spain (including Ceuta and Melilla), northern Morocco, the Western Sahara, and northern Algeria as well as in Argentina. Sayahi also provides examples of the influence of Arabic in Spanish, which frequently occurs in the speech of L2 speakers.

The chapters reunited in the section V Spanish in the United States, Heritage Language, L2 Spanish are of wide-ranging topics. Chapter 23, Spanish in the United States: bilingual discourse markers by Lourdes Torres, examines the use of English and Spanish discourse markers in the Spanish of heritage speakers in the US. Torres shows that English so was frequently used in their speech instead of entonces, but with new meanings which resembled those of its English counterpart.   As can be expected, the less proficient Spanish speakers utilized more often English discourse markers in their Spanish; that is, markers from the dominant language tend to replace discourse markers of the less dominant language. A more theoretical discussion is taken by Ricardo Otheguy in Functional Adaptation and Conceptual Convergence in the Analysis of Language Contact in the Spanish of Bilingual Communities in New York. Otheguy offers different kinds of lexical innovative uses in the Spanish of NYC (i.e., (a) bildin ‘edificio’, apoinmen ‘cita’, (b) máquina de contestar ‘contestador automático’) where there seems to be a conceptual convergence between English and Spanish  and reflects on whether these are a result of language contact between these two languages. Otheguy states that answers to that query vary depending on the theoretical framework employed (524). Nonetheless, he concludes that the innovative lexical forms are caused by simplification but that not all cases are due to language contact. To explain these innovative uses which resemble English semantics, or syntactic order, Otheguy rationalizes that the “speakers of the NYC Spanish contact lects often say different things from those of speakers of the reference lects for reasons that have to do with culture, identity, and adaptation to a NYC speech surround impregnated with the conceptualizations favored by speakers of English (524).” In 25 Code-switching among US Latinos, Jaqueline Toribio offers a detailed overview on the subject. Toribio clarifies that codeswitching (CS), thought by some to be an undesirable language mix due to language proficiency deficiencies in one of the languages in contact, CS is a resource in the bilingual repertoire which is more frequently employed by the most proficient bilinguals; thus not caused by the lack of language abilities. Toribio also indicates that CS is a common practice for bilinguals even though it “is not an essential trait of Latino speech” in the US, in traditional immigration areas/communities like NYC, Chicago, and Miami “where two languages are represented and where there is intense and longstanding contact between them (541).” More so, “for some US Latinos, code-switching may represent an unmarked code, a conventionalized norm of social behavior” and in many cases, also a symbol of identity (541). “The following chapter, Language and Social Meaning in Bilingual Mexico and the United States by Norma Mendoza-Denton and James Gordon outlines and discusses the social construction and negotiation of social meanings, social value and the creation of identities in reference to language contact phenomenon emerged from Spanish and English (in the US) and Spanish and indigenous languages (in the Americas). The discussion reveals the complexity of the negotiation of identity and the value of ethnic group practices. The reader can clearly perceive that ideologies impact socialization practices and social values. Minority languages, language contact phenomena such as codeswitching, and ethnic people are usually portrayed in stereotypical ways. More so, the authors stress “[t]here is overwhelming evidence in the United States of racialization and foreignization of both Spanish and bilingualism (558).”  However, there is resistance to this dominant view (561). Chapter 27 Intrafamilial Dialect Contact by Kim Potowski looks into an infrequently studied area: US Spanish language accommodation, more particularly in bilinguals when their parents speak different dialects. As Potowski affirms, Spanish in the US is heterogeneous. Furthermore, in big cities, there is a confluence of Spanish from many regions, and sometimes they are in contact. Potwoski refers to Parodi and Santa Ana's (2001) claim that Spanish spoken in Los Angeles consists of a koiné which is based on Mexican Spanish. In other cases, when the speakers of different Spanish dialects do not mix or socialize, there may be little or no impact on the other group’s dialect. In contrast, the Spanish of children from mixed couples from Puerto-Rican and Mexican descent in Chicago (i.e., Mexiricans) (Potowski 2008 and Potowski & Matts 2008) tend to mold their speech on their mother’s dialect (590).  Guadalupe Valdés and Michelle Geoffrion-Vinci outline a research agenda to promote the maintenance of Spanish as well as improve the current educational practices for heritage learners in Heritage Language Students: The Case of Spanish. Valdés and Geoffrion-Vince discuss the problems in defining heritage students, a term which generally refers to individuals who have been raised in a Spanish-speaking home in a non-English dominant environment and as a result may have different levels of Spanish proficiency. Valdés and Michelle Geoffrion-Vinci provide the reader with a historical synopsis on development of curriculum and implementation of instructional practices for non-traditional students of Spanish; that is heritage students. As the authors indicate, the research on Spanish heritage speakers’ learning or linguistic attrition has three different objectives. The first kinds of studies are not interested in education but concerned on “L1/L2 acquisition and development” (607), while the second orientation aims at evaluating “existing pedagogical practices and argues that instruction needs to be directly informed by research in language maintenance within the field (608).” The third approach examines the role of heritage students’ language identity and academic achievement to argue for the use of speakers’ native language in the classroom. The authors conclude that to favor “the development and maintenance of Spanish heritage language resources (…) will require the careful and systematic investigation of different types of heritage learners and of the effect of various types of instruction on the development/ re-acquisition of their heritage language (613).” Chapter 29, Language Maintenance and Language Shift among US Latinos by Jorge Porcel also addresses, as in the previous chapter, the topic of Spanish maintenance and shift in the US, although it does it from a sociolinguistic perspective. Porcel examines the factors that promote language maintenance and how this varies in Spanish speech communities around the US. In his concluding remarks the author indicates that it is impossible to predict whether Spanish is being maintained because “the dynamics of LM within the US Latino community are complex and blurry” and “[t]he mere fact that LMLS are ongoing processes, whose directionality can change at any given moment (640).” In Mockery and Appropriation of Spanish in White Spaces: Perceptions of Latinos in the United States Adam Schwartz examines the mechanics of gringoism a “performance of a White, monolingual (un)consciousness” (656) which reclaims in-group membership, and mock Spanish, a racist type of linguistic production by monolingual Anglos for humorous purposes. Schwartz shows how US Anglo’s appropriation and use of Spanish in the public sphere is a way of performing Whiteness and set it as a norm. It also serves to index Spanish speakers as the others and as being backwards. In Language Policy/Planning, Language Attitudes and Ideology Planning Spanish: Nationalizing, Minoritizing and Globalizing Performances, Ofelia García discusses and contrasts, in a concise historical frame, language planning (or the lack thereof) in Spain,  Latin America, and Spanish in the US to then analyze the status of language planning in a global era. García reveals how differently the planning paths of Spanish have been in Spain and in Latin America in relation to the US. While in the latter, Spanish was established as a national language by means of more explicit legislation and state institutions such as the Academia de la Lengua Española, in the US, where the planning of English has been implicit and without any institutionalized language institute backed by the State, Spanish “has been planned as a minoritized language through dominant ideologies and discourse (667).” However, Spanish has acquired more status as a global language, thus is attaining more prestige and Latino bilinguals in the twenty-first century are appropriating its use and projecting their “multiple globalized Spanishes into the world scene (667).” The chapter Bilingual Education in Latin America, by Serafín Coronel Molina and Megan Solon, surveys the emergence of bilingual education for indigenous groups mainly in Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Perú. The authors indicate that in the 70’s indigenous communities in these countries started fighting for more rights as citizens and claiming for more participation and a better education.  Since they have become more visible in the last century, their needs have been better addressed by these states. However, the implementation of bilingual education is still being negotiated in these areas as indigenous communities want and demand more self-determination in the implementation of the programs for them. In Chapter 33, Variation and Identity in Spain Manuel Hernandez-Campoy outlines how Spanish variation in the Spanish peninsula emerges as a sign of different speech communities building/creating their social distinctiveness. Hernandez-Campoy briefly describes the development and standardization of Castilian Spanish tied to the Nation-building process which was intended by the state to create a perception of national unity and of Spanish identity. Even though Castilian has been imposed in the peninsula, different dialectal varieties have emerged because they preserve local values, practices and identities.  The author distinguishes three main dialects in Peninsular Spanish that he labels: (a) Español estándar, a traditional Castilian Spanish which is the national standard, (b) Español sevillano, the regional standard based in Seville, and, (c) Español común, an emerging interdialectal/transitional variety. In fact, these dialects are shaped by two ongoing antagonistic processes taking place in central and southern Spain. The first one is a process which causes dialects to converge toward the standard variety. It affects some transitional varieties in the middle-Eastern Spanish peninsula such as Murcian and Eastern Andalusian regional varieties. A more innovative second trend is based in Seville. Education and the media are among the factors which have enabled the transmission of more standard forms such as the distinction between /s/ and /Ɵ/, which was nonexistent before.  The detailed analysis of the cross-sections of the Murcian dialect shows that there are processes of convergence as well as practices of the preservation of traditional non-standard features (i.e., /s/ deletion and vowel opening). This exemplifies the performing of their speech distinctiveness. Chapter 34, Variation and Identity in the Americas by Mercedes Niño-Murcia, looks at the same process as in 33, but in the new continent. Niño-Murcia begins by finely detailing the two theoretical models which explain the symbiotic relationship between language use and identity enactment: an essentialist and a postmodernist/ constructionist model. Working within the constructionist theory, this author emphasizes the agency that subjects have in the process of building and representing themselves though different means, but centrally with language. Niño-Murcia also indicates that sociopolitical factors affect peoples’ views and perceptions of self, and may determine the way they portray themselves linguistically and in different situations/contexts. In this chapter, an analytical distinction is made between the linguistic performance of identity in: (a) multilingual settings where speakers choose to embrace either Spanish or an indigenous language, and in (b) contexts where dialect variation represents not only the social, but also the geographical and ultimately individuals’ performance of nationality. The examples provided reveal that language ideologies are shaped by people’s social and educational experiences, their ethnicity, and national affiliation. For instance, Niño-Murcia refers to a study that examined a Kaqchikel-Mayan group that chose their language, Maya, as a symbol of their ethnicity for self-preservation. There is also a reference to a Chilean Humorous TV show episode where actors concentrate on signaling the differences between neighboring Chilean and Peruvian language varieties (that share many common linguistic traits) for the performance of Chilean national identity. A third situation also of identity employing language and mentioned by Niño-Murcia is that of transcultural individuals. In that case, speakers show linguistic membership to a community or a group in a foreign country. Such is the case of Latinos in the US. In the US “Spanish speakers (…) first find ways to confront language difference and prejudice, and later develop a code that intertwines Spanish and English (742).”  Clare Mar-Molinero and Darren Paffey’s Linguistic Imperialism: Who Owns Global Spanish? closes both, this section and the  handbook.  In this last chapter, Mar-Molinero and Paffey discuss how the term Linguistic Imperialism coined by Phillipson (1992) for the English language can be applied to the Spanish case. Linguistic Imperialism as defined by Phillipson (1992: 47) refers to the “ideologies, structures and practices which are used to legitimate, effectuate and reproduce an unequal division of power and resources (both material and immaterial) between groups which are defined on the basis of language (748).” Mar-Molinero and Paffey see a parallel with the Spanish situation since Spanish as a global language has become a product or commodity which is promoted by certain organisms which have more power than others. Indeed, as the authors show, Spain has been able to sustain linguistic imperialism because it has been able to profit from the demand of the language as a commodity. It has also been able to spread and legitimize the peninsular Spanish. Spain has been able to control the teaching of Spanish in the global market. The Instituto Cervantes, as the analysis shows, has been crucial in this endeavor.  

Overall, the handbook provides the reader with a diversity of topics in Spanish sociolinguistics and it can easily be read by a broad public interested in exploring these areas. It is done by an international pool of specialists which makes the book more reputable. I should note that the textbook shows a tendency, at least in the first sections of the book, to favor the review of topics within the variationist framework.  In a second edition, it would be interesting to see topics like language and gender, language and age, and language and socialization discussed, also, from other sociolinguistic approaches.  These are minor caveats, but overall it is wonderful contribution to the field.


Eckert, Penelope and McConnell-Ginet, Sally. 2003. Language and Gender. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Labov, William. 1991. The intersection of sex and social class in the course of linguistic change. Language Variation and Linguistic Change 2. 205-251.

Parodi, Claudia and Santa Ana, Otto. 2001. The Los Angeles Spanish Koiné. Paper presented at La Primera Reunión de Pronombristas: An invitational workshop on the sociolinguistic study of Spanish subject personal pronouns. Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Phillipson, Robert H.L. 1992. Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Poplack, Shana. 1978. Dialect acquisition among Puerto Rican bilinguals. Language in Society, 7, 89-103.

Potowski, Kim. 2008. “I was raised talking like my mom”: the influence of mothers in the development of MexiRicans’ phonological and lexical features. Linguistic identity and bilingualism in different Hispanic contexts, ed. by J. Rothman and M. Niño-Murcia 201-220. New York: John Benjamins.

Potowski, Kim and Matts, Janine. 2008. Interethnic language and identity: MexiRicans in Chicago. Journal of Language, Identity and Education 6(3). 137–160.

Versión en PDF:

Información en la web de Infoling: