465: The Evolution of Spanish by Tom Lathrop

by Gerard


465: Lathrop, Thomas A. The Evolution of Spanish. Newark, DE: Juan de la Cuesta, 1996. 194 pp. ISBN 0-936388-58-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 400: Language
  • 460: Spanish and Portuguese languages
  • 465: Grammar and syntax of standard Spanish

One of the more interesting parts of a language is how individual words form over the years. In English, some words were formed from the fusing together of two existing words or from the spontaneous creation of a word that fills a gap in our collective description. Most of the time, however, words just evolve. Starting with one spelling and meaning, they slowly morph into new forms and new contexts. The same process happens in nearly every language in the world. Thomas Lathrop’s Evolution of Spanish is a look into the roots of the language, and from these roots, he hopes new understanding can grow.

Lathrop’s history of the Spanish language starts with a look at Vulgar Latin. Because Spain and Italy are so proximal and Spanish is Latinate in origin, it stands to reason that an understanding of Latin is necessary for an understanding of modern Spanish. While a lot of this may not be exciting, it is actually the only real expository section of the book. After this is page after page of pairs of word lists and verb conjugations. These lists show the evolution of the one word to the next, starting with simple vowel shifts and then moving to various grammatical forms. For linguistic historians, this is a nice compilation and a basis for a more in-depth comparative analysis, but for a casual reader, it is bone dry. Thankfully, it wasn’t too terribly long.