Book notice: Regional Nationalism in Spain: Language Use and Ethnic Identity in Galicia

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed May 7 16:37:25 UTC 2008

Regional Nationalism in Spain

Announced at
AUTHOR: Beswick, Jaine E.
Regional Nationalism in Spain: Language Use and Ethnic Identity in Galicia
SERIES: Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2007

M. Carmen Parafita Couto, ESRC Centre for Research on Bilingualism in
Theory and
Practice, Bangor University

This book represents an attempt to offer the academic community a clear,
analytical, and complete introduction to the sociolinguistic, ethnic, and
cultural situation of Galician. It employs English as the vehicular language,
and therefore will be able to reach a broader audience who may be interested in
issues of language and identity.

The book is divided into three fundamental parts: (1) ''Politics and Privilege:
Linguistic Identity and the Role of Standardisation in Galician''
(chapters 1-3),
(2) ''Forms and Features: Galician Linguistic Conventions and Characteristics''
(chapters 4-6), and (3) ''Prestige and Practice: Language and Identity in
Galicia'' (chapters 7-9). The volume has an introduction, and each part begins
with a preamble. At the end of the volume we find very informative appendixes,
with the results of the studies presented throughout the book. A small glossary
(mainly of phonetic terms), a list of references, and an index are located at
the end of the volume.

In the introduction the author presents the region of Galicia and its
sociolinguistic and socio-political situation. Issues related to
language status
in multilingual situations are discussed (such as language contact,
conflict, and shift). Age and generation specific variation is also considered
when talking about language attitudes.

Beswick devotes the first part of the book, ''Politics and Privilege:
Identity and the Role of Standardisation in Galician'' (chapters 1-3),
to explain
the use and status of the Galician language from two different perspectives:
historical and contemporary. Chapter one starts with a short synopsis of the
socio-political factors that are inherent to the goals of minority
societies. It
also includes current theories about socio-political factors related
to language
and identity, and delves into issues of power and linguistics rights.
In chapter
two, Beswick connects these topics with the relationships that Galicia has with
the rest of Spain, and with Portugal as well. These relationships have numerous
implications in the shaping and function of a standard language. That's why in
chapter three she explores and explains the legislative measures and the
continuous socio-political debates that are linked to the composition of the
orthographic and morphological norms of the standard language.

In the second part, ''Forms and Features: Galician Linguistic Conventions and
Characteristics'' (chapters 4-6), Beswick attempts to explain the
polemic raised
by the standard language in Galician society. She focuses on the linguistic
evolution of Galician, in how it's similar to and different from both Spanish
and Portuguese. She also explains the role of the more prominent linguistic
characteristics of Galician in shaping Galician identity. Chapter four
is geared
towards those readers who are not familiar with more theoretical linguistic
concepts. The author shows the relevance of allophonic variation in
sociolinguistic studies. She also explains the notion of ''transfer''
and explores
production errors derived from it. In this chapter Beswick also considers the
influence of the standard form in dialectal variation, and she introduces the
concept of code-switching as a communicative device. A comparison of linguistic
changes motivated by both external and internal factors follows. Chapter five
summarizes the most characteristic diachronic and synchronic features of
Galician, together with similarities and differences from Portuguese
and Spanish
(e.g. vowels, consonants, morphological and syntactic characteristics, verbal
paradigms). Beswick also examines the issue of an oral standard. In
chapter six,
she explores the relevance of linguistic variation in a
sociolinguistic context.
In order to accomplish this, she focuses on the socio-symbolic role that
phonological variation may have. In particular, she examines two phonological
characteristics that she defines as particularly ''emblematic'': the
''gheada'' and
the velar nasal. She explains how these two linguistic traits can be used as a
mark of identity. This chapter also includes a discussion of what forms are
preferred socially and which ones have more or less prestige.

In the third part, ''Prestige and Practice: Language and Identity in Galicia''
(chapters 7-9), the author re-examines what she discussed in the previous
chapter in order to determine to what extent the more recent revitalization
practices have influenced the perceptions of the Galician community regarding
the roles and uses of Galician and Spanish. She then mentions her own fieldwork
in Galicia, which took place after the establishment of a standard norm, and
examines her results from the point of view of the institutional and general
practices. She also examines the social and individual usages of the
written and
spoken language. Beswick gives a detailed explanation of the results of her
research related to the different attitudes toward the use of Galician and
Spanish in particular context, as well as the different perceptions
related with
status and prestige. Chapter seven complements chapter three, since its main
goal is to examine the implications of politics and linguistic planning in
Galicia. Based on the fact that education can be very important for
the survival
of a minority language, Beswick focuses on legislation and its potential impact
in the variation and acquisition of different language skills. She also
questions whether the media can play an important role in the diffusion of
language. She maintains that the pronunciation models heard on television,
usually based on Spanish forms, influence the perceptions and attitudes towards
certain sectors of society, which can even feel discriminated against. Chapter
eight takes these ideas a step further, evaluating the functional
characteristics and the attitudes in the selection of one language in a
bilingual context. Beswick adopts an intergenerational analysis to determine
whether attitude difference and linguistic use can have anything to do with age
difference, and, in turn, whether this is indicative of a change in progress.
The last chapter summarizes the arguments and discussion of the previous
chapters, relating them to the governmental policy of ''harmonic bilingualism''
(biling├╝ismo harm├│nico) and with the multiple identity of Galician people, who,
according to Beswick, are not able to eradicate their sense of a
Spanish identity.

Beswick mixes both synchronic and diachronic linguistic analysis of the
similarities and differences between Spanish, Galician, and Portuguese, and of
the different uses of these three languages in different social contexts. In
this way, she offers a fascinating perspective on how such a complex situation
can be related to Galician identity. By employing English as the vehicular
language, this volume can reach a broader audience that may be interested in
sociolinguistic topics or in language and identity matters. For this very same
reason, it's also very likely that this volume will be of great value to the
increasing number of Galician instructors in the Anglo-Saxon world, and to the
different centers of Galician Studies in these countries.

Although Beswick's treatment of most topics is meticulous and clear, other
issues were evaded or only briefly mentioned. Probably the most salient
shortcoming of this book is the lack of discussion of syntactic variation as a
marker of identity. While phonological variation was extensively examined,
syntactic variation was left with few remarks. This may, of course, be
by the fact that the author inevitably had to make choices and limit the scope
of her study. Even with these scope restrictions, the author manages to provide
a balanced mix of theoretical notions and historical events that are crucial to
understanding the social processes that led to the current situation of the
Galician language. This volume will unquestionably provoke ideas for continued
research on this issue.

While the book is methodically rigorous, it is also very readable. Beswick's
description of her fieldwork sheds considerable light on the
vicissitudes of the
Galician language and its ethnic and cultural circumstances.

This book is definitely an original and rigorous analysis of the complicated
situation of the Galician language, and of how Galician people negotiate
multiple identities as a result of this convoluted reality. It is a very
interesting volume for all of those readers who wish to deepen their knowledge
of the Galician language and its intricate and fascinating sociolinguistic

M. Carmen Parafita Couto is a project researcher at the ESRC Centre
for Research
on Bilingualism in Theory and Practice at Bangor University (Wales). Her
research interests include syntax and its interfaces, bilingualism, and contact

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