460: A Brief History of the Spanish Language by David A. Pharies

by Gerard


460.9: Pharies, David A. A Brief History of the Spanish Language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. 237 pp. ISBN 0-226-66682-4.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 400: Language
  • 460: Spanish and Portuguese languages
  • +09: History

Anyone who speaks a language understands that they have a history. Words, phrases, and pronunciations have changed over time, bringing with them new constructions, new ideas, and new ways of expressing ourselves. David A. Pharies’s Brief History of the Spanish Language sets out to show how all that happened for a single language: Spanish. Starting with a refresher on the concepts of sociolinguistics, phonology, and morphology, he takes the reader through the last two millennia, from Latin to Castilian to Modern Spanish. He stops along the way to take a look a few pieces of the language in more depth, such as the noticeably lisped sounds in Castilian Spanish and the way that modern Spanish is taking on a decidedly more English air.

While the individual pieces of information are interesting to encounter, it’s still a textbook at heart, with questions at the each chapter and everything. Of the books I’ve now read on linguistic history now, this one is better and more interesting than Antonsen’s Elements of German but not as good as Ostler’s Ad Infinitum. A more robust speaker of Spanish will gain a fair deal of insight from this text and may even find ways to shape their fluency, but in the end, it was only ho-hum for me.