January 28, 2008 9:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for interesting topics that incorporate the fields of Spanish and Linguistics

Hola Mefites!

I'm dual majoring in Spanish and Linguistics and to finish my degree this semester, I'm taking
an independent study course with one of the professors in the Spanish dept. I'm looking for any
ideas for topics that combine the two fields, as well as any recommendations for books, blogs, papers, etc.

For background reference:
The professor with whom I'm taking the course specializes in Medieval Spanish Lit, but also has background in historical linguistics
Our department focuses more on literature analysis v. language analysis (i.e. what authors are saying instead of how they are saying it. I'd like to focus on the latter).

I'm a little frantic because I just found out about this class last week and I'm scrambling to come up with a suitable topic.

Gracias in advance!
posted by chara to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Wikipedia page on the History of the Spanish language includes a lot of historical changes that could be studied in depth.
posted by grouse at 9:14 AM on January 28, 2008

I don't know if this fits what you are looking for, but perhaps the influence of Arabic on Spanish? There are many, many words in use today that can be traced back to the Moorish period in Spain.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:21 AM on January 28, 2008

Ugh. I should know some answers to this, because those are my two degrees. But I've put all of that out of my mind, as if it were a long-ago recurring nightmare. Oops. Sorry. Didn't mean to go all academia-burn-out on you.

Um, if your guy is a historical linguist, maybe you could talk about, as DrGirlfriend said, the influence of Arabic in the south of spain, especially. But you needn't focus just on lexical items; see if there was any phonological change or syntactical change as well.

Or you could look at it from a more current sociolinguistic point of view, looking at class-based language variation (esp. phonological) in the south of spain. There's some interesting hyper correction in Andalucia (and probably other provinces...this is just off the top of my head), (keyword:s Ceceo or seseo).

If other things come to me, I'll drop back in, ok?
posted by Stewriffic at 9:46 AM on January 28, 2008

How about not just Arabic (of which there are tons of examples), but other languages native to Spain as they've influenced the language...Catalan, for example. Any Basque influence on the language? Spain is incredibly rich in languages...
posted by griffey at 9:52 AM on January 28, 2008

(disclaimer: I'm currently studying linguistics as a grad student, but know very little about Spanish linguistics per se) Do you have access to the Linguistics & Language Behaviors Abstracts database? As a college student I'm guessing you -might- have access to it through your library. Personally I find it to be a helpful starting point when I'm trying to figure out what I want to write about in a given ling course, in that a search through it can help me figure out what's been written on a particular topic already and where I might find my 'niche'.

Another thing that might help would be if you could give us an idea as to the aspect of historical linguistics you might be interested in. Based on what you said it sounds like you're interested in stylistics, but is that correct? Are there other areas you'd consider - phonological change? Lexical or semantic change? I spent some time researching the development of genitive 'of' last semester and actually found that really darned interesting; obviously that was a study based on the development of English but you might find something similar in Spanish if that appeals to you at all. Anyway, a quick search just now in the LLBA on 'historical linguistics,' 'stylistics,' and 'Spanish' yielded an abstract on the 'history of register in Spanish' - might that interest you? Otherwise, do you have a specific author, genre, or literary period you're interested in?

Finally, if you're interested in historical Spanish phonology there's a professor in the Linguistics Department where I study who does a lot of work with that, and last year we had a colloquium with a fellow who studied the connection between phonological change and orthography in 15th & 16th century Spanish texts - if any of this lights your fire feel free to memail me and I'll give you what info I can.

Good luck picking a topic, I hope you find one that delights you!
posted by zeph at 9:54 AM on January 28, 2008

What school do you go to?

SF State is doing an interesting preservation project involving the Zapotec language. They're helping the Zapotec people of Oaxaca document their language, which is quickly being lost due to Spanish. You could study something like this, or Spanish's effect on other languages.

For a hotter topic, you could always study cultural conflicts between Spanish vs. English in a North America. Especially in a historical sense...the options are endless. There is also LOTS of great literature, past and present that reflects the range of views and perspectives. You'll have paper topics and reading coming out your cochleas.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:05 AM on January 28, 2008

Spanish uses fusional morphology, which is quite interesting when studied in depth. Morphology is the study of pieces of words and there is work currently being done on automatic morphology discovery in Spanish, derivational morphology, among other topics.
posted by Alison at 10:10 AM on January 28, 2008

Hmm, I got the literature analysis v. language analysis mixed up. Still, morphology mixes well with historical linguistics.
posted by Alison at 10:12 AM on January 28, 2008

You could also study the effect of native american languages on Spanish. Most latin american dialects of Spanish incorporate vocabulary and sometimes syntax from the languages spoken by native americans.
posted by signal at 12:50 PM on January 28, 2008

A lot of work is done in my department (CUNY Graduate Center) on Spanish spoken in the US. Many interesting effects here, including increased use of pronouns, more standardized word order, etc. The center where the research is done is called RISLUS (Research Institute for the Study of Language in Urban Society); poking around their website might give you some ideas. Here's an article about some of the research they've done. If you're near a city with high Spanish-speaking population you might think about investigation in this area.
posted by tractorfeed at 12:53 PM on January 28, 2008

I love this question.

I have a couple contacts at the UNAM in Mexico City that might be able to help you with research. I don't know how comfortable you are speaking/reading Spanish, but this is kind of interesting. (If you have trouble reading that, this might have more suggestions)

¡Únanse, matados linguísticos!
Linguistic nerds, unite!
posted by mynameismandab at 1:12 PM on January 28, 2008

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