The Spanish Language Today

The Spanish Language Today

The Spanish Language Today

The Spanish Language Today

Synopsis

The Spanish Language Today describes the varied and changing Spanish language at the end of the twentieth century. Suitable for introductory level upward, this book examines:* where Spanish is spoken on a global scale* the status of Spanish within the realms of politics, education and media* the standardisation of Spanish* specific areas of linguistic variation and change* how other languages and dialects spoken in the same areas affect the Spanish language* whether new technologies are an opportunity or a threat to the Spanish language. The Spanish Language Today contains numerous extracts from contemporary press and literary sources, a glossary of technical terms and selected translations.

Excerpt

The aim of this book is to describe the varied and changing contemporary Spanish language. Given that Spanish is used by approximately 400 million speakers throughout the world, whether as a mother tongue, an official language or a lingua franca in contexts that range from trading in East Africa, through informal conversation in Spain to formal interventions in international organizations, it is quite beyond the scope of this book to be a comprehensive inventory, were such possible, of the enormous variation that exists. Nor do we seek to provide a comprehensive description of an idealized, unchanging, supranational variety of Spanish; indeed, there are many excellent grammars of Spanish which cover the core system of the language and a number which also examine its principal functions. Unlike C.H. Stevenson’s book of the same name as the present volume where ‘today’ is taken to refer to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries’ (Hickey 1983/4:25) we shall endeavour to focus on Spanish at the end of the twentieth century and to describe the current state of the language in terms of the twin phenomena of variation and change.

We propose to examine the conflicting forces that work towards both unification and fragmentation. On the one hand there is the pressure towards conformity to a common code, which ensures that supranational varieties of the language are available for use in, say, the media, education and administration. At the same time, there is the attraction of diversity, which enables different groups within the Spanish-speaking community to express their individuality through distinctive language usage that may, at extremes, be incomprehensible to a Spanish-speaker from outside that community. We shall look at language prescription, whereby a number of agencies ranging from grammarians to press agencies, from letters to the editor to individuals’ perceptions of their own language competence, attempt to persuade or even compel language users to speak or write in certain desired and standard ways; we shall also look at how speakers and writers actually use the language, on occasion promoting language change through their sheer persistence in using new forms. Such change may, in time and if accepted by the community at large, result in the updating of the prescriptive norm.

The book embraces both Peninsular and American Spanish. There is a

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