Spanish-English Contrasts: A Course in Spanish Linguistics

By M. Stanley Whitley | Go to book overview

Preface to the second edition

It was gratifying to receive the invitation from the Georgetown University Press to prepare a new edition of Spanish/English Contrasts. The challenge was to update the book without altering its fundamental and, I believe, unique scope: a scholarly description of the Spanish language and its differences from English, with an emphasis on applied linguistics. The years since the first edition have seen an explosion of work in all of the areas addressed by this book, from phonology, grammar, and semantics to pragmatics, sociolinguistics, and second language acquisition. At the same time, the theories and research paradigms in each area have grown so diverse and complex that it is a greater challenge now to integrate their findings in a one-volume work aimed at both a general audience and students of Spanish linguistics.

This edition therefore incorporates insights from recent research, some new exercises, and additional topics (especially in chapter 16). The overall descriptive framework, however, is still based on a standard theory broadened to accommodate other areas and other data. Obviously, that theory does not represent the way that many of us "do linguistics" now in publications directed to fellow specialists in the field; in the same way, an introduction to astronomy differs from current astrophysical research. For example, this book depicts e-epenthesis (sprayespray), the passive, and pronominalization as rules, respectively phonological, transformational, and pragmatic. There are other ways to account for them given richer theories of constraints, lexical specifications, and discourse strategies; indeed, approaches such as Optimality Theory have dispensed with rules as formal devices. Instructors with more advanced students may wish to point out alternative treatments and encourage discussion of them. But for the many Structure of Spanish students who are more versed in literature than in linguistics, who are primarily interested in teaching, translation, and other practical applications, and who expect a general overview of the language from pronunciation to discourse rather than concentration on one theory or research area, it is my experience that rules are still an effective, intuitive means of quickly encapsulating important processes and relationships to promote discussion and further exploration. Other introductory surveys such as Fromkin and Rodman 1998 and O'Grady et al. 2001 do likewise, using a modified standard theory to present the basics and to integrate other areas. If this book sometimes seems to overemphasize those basics, it is because of my abiding concern over the gulf between what linguists have long known

-xiii-

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