Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Sandro Sessarego

Language Contact and the Making of an Afro-Hispanic Vernacular (Cambridge University Press, 2019). Exploring creole studies from a linguistic, historical, and socio-cultural perspective, this study advances our knowledge of the subject by using a cohesive approach to provide new theoretical insights into language shift, language acquisition and language change. It compares the legal system regulating black slavery in Chocó, Colombia with the systems implemented by other European colonial powers in the Americas, to address questions such as what do Chocó Spanish linguistic features say about the nature of Afro-Hispanic vernaculars? What were the sociohistorical conditions in which Chocó Spanish formed? Was slavery in Chocó much different from slavery in other European colonies? Whilst primarily focused on Afro-Hispanic language varieties, these findings and methodology can be easily applied and tested to other contact languages and settings, and used to addresses current debates on the origin of other black communities in the Americas and the languages they speak.




Current Trends in Afro-Hispanic Linguistics. [Lingua Special Issue] (Elsevier, 2018).This edited collection provides an up-to-date look at the field of Afro-Hispanic creolistics by focusing on the varieties that developed in colonial times from the contact of African languages and Spanish in the Americas. This volume consists of original studies dealing with a number of key topics across a range of linguistic subfields, including formal, variationist, and experimental standpoints. This work strives to offer an overview of the main hypotheses that have been proposed in the field to account for the genesis and evolution of the Afro-Hispanic languages of the Americas. In so doing, this special issue analyzes a number of morphosyntactic and prosodic phenomena that characterize these contact varieties.



Language Variation and Contact-Induced Change: Spanish across Space and Time (John Benjamins, 2018). The present volume is a collection of original contributions dealing with Hispanic contact linguistics. It covers an array of Spanish dialects distributed across North, South, and Central America, the Caribbean, the Iberian Peninsula, and the Bosporus. It deals with both native and non-native varieties of the language, and includes both synchronic and diachronic studies. The volume addresses, and challenges, current theoretical assumptions on the nature of language variation and contact-induced change through empirically-based linguistic research. The sustained contact between Spanish and other languages in different parts of the world has given rise to a wide number of changes in the language, which are driven by a concomitance of different linguistic and social processes. This collection of articles provides new insight into such phenomena across the Spanish-speaking world.


La schiavitù nera nell’America spagnola: Legislazione e prassi nel Chocó colombiano del XVIII secolo (Marietti Editore, 2018). This book provides a comparative analysis of black slavery in the Americas. It highlights the differences and similarities among a number of colonial slavery systems and explains the heterogeneity through a legal approach. The focus lies on Spanish slave law as it contrasted with the legal systems implemented by the other European powers involved in the colonization of the Americas (France, England, the Netherlands and Portugal). In particular, the study explores the reality of slavery in the Department of Chocó (Colombia) during the 18th century, comparing the formal legal system in place at that time (law in books), with its actual implementation in society (law in action) (cf. Pound 1910).



Spanish Language and Sociolinguistic Analysis (John Benjamins, 2016). This book explores the current state of Spanish sociolinguistics and its contribution to theories of language variation and change, from both synchronic and diachronic perspectives. It offers original analyses on a variety of topics across a wide spectrum of linguistic subfields from different formal, experimental, and corpus-based standpoints. The volume is organized around six thematic sections: (i) Cutting-edge Methodologies in Sociolinguistics; (ii) Bilingualism; (iii) Language Acquisition; (iv) Phonological Variation; (v) Morpho-Syntactic Variation; and (vi) Lexical Variation. As a whole, this collection reflects an array of approaches and analyses that show how in its variation across speakers, speech communities, linguistic contexts, communicative situations, dialects, and time, the Spanish language provides an immense wealth of data to challenge accepted linguistic views and shape new theoretical proposals in the field of language variation and change. Spanish Language and Sociolinguistic Analysis represents a significant contribution to the growing field of Spanish sociolinguistics.

Afro-Peruvian Spanish: Spanish Slavery and the Legacy of Spanish Creoles (John Benjamins, 2015). This work not only contributes to shedding light on the linguistic and socio-historical origins of Afro-Peruvian Spanish, it also helps clarify the controversial puzzle concerning the genesis of Spanish creoles in the Americas in a broader sense. In order to provide a more concrete answer to the questions raised by McWhorter’s book on The Missing Spanish Creoles, the current study has focused on an aspect of the European colonial enterprise in the Americas that has never been closely analyzed in relation to the evolution of Afro-European contact varieties, the legal regulations of black slavery. This book proposes the 'Legal Hypothesis of Creole Genesis', which ascribes a prime importance in the development of Afro-European languages in the Americas to the historical evolution of slavery, from the legal rules contained in the Roman Corpus Juris Civilis to the codes and regulations implemented in the different European colonies overseas. This research was carried out with the belief that creole studies will benefit greatly from a more interdisciplinary approach, capable of combining linguistic, socio-historical, legal, and anthropological insights. This study is meant to represent an eclectic step in such a direction.

New Perspectives on Hispanic Contact Linguistics in the Americas (Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2015). This volume is an edited collection of articles dealing with Hispanic contact linguistics in the Americas. The project is composed of four main sections, organized according to the type of socio-historical scenario that characterizes the nature of the contact situation: Spanish in contact with indigenous languages; Spanish in contact with coerced-migration languages; Spanish in contact with free-migration languages; and Spanish in contact with languages outside of Latin America, but still within the Americas.

The Afro-Bolivian Spanish Determiner Phrase: A Microparametric Account (Ohio State University Press, 2014). This study provides a syntactic description of the Afro-Bolivian Spanish determiner phrase. Afro-Bolivian Spanish is one of the many Afro-Hispanic dialects spoken across Latin America and, from a theoretical point of view, is rich in constructions that would be considered ungrammatical in standard Spanish. Yet these constructions form the core grammar of these less-prestigious, but equally efficient, syntactic systems. Because of the wide variety of their usages, the study of these contact varieties is particularly valuable in developing and refining theories of syntactic microvariation. This dialect presents phenomena that offer a real challenge to current linguistic theory. This book elaborates on the importance of enhancing a stronger dialogue between formal generative theory and sociolinguistic methodology, in line with recent work in the field of minimalist syntax. This study combines sociolinguistic techniques of data collection with generative models of data analysis to obtain more fine-grained, empirically testable generalizations.

Chota Valley Spanish (Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2013). Chota Valley Spanish is an Afro-Hispanic language of Northern Ecuador spoken by the descendants of the slaves taken to this region to work on Jesuit sugarcane plantations during colonial times. Based on fieldwork research carried out in Choteño communities, the current book provides a linguistic description of this language by exploring several aspects of its lexicon, morphosyntax, phonetics and phonology. This work also assesses the origin of Chota Valley Spanish and draws attention to its implications for the study of Afro-Hispanic contact varieties in the Americas.

Current Formal Aspects of Spanish Syntax and Semantics (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012). This book is a compilation of articles on different aspects of Spanish grammar in the areas of current theoretical syntax and semantics. The issue brings together scholars working on some formal aspects of Spanish predicative complementation (e.g., dequeísmo), neuter demonstrative pronouns, the subject of psych verbs, the nature of non-verbal predication, and the internal structure of the Determiner Phrase (DP), i.e. gender variation, among other topics. Linguists and philologists with interests in Spanish and/or in other Romance languages are the main target audience. The book will appeal also to researchers and students specializing in generative grammar, semantics and in the syntax/semantics interface. It will also be of interest to historical linguists and dialectologists addressing theoretical/formal issues. The research in this book points to a cohesiveness in Spanish linguistics that lies in the integration of up-to-date empirically-based linguistic research with current theoretical assumptions on  the nature of syntax and semantics.

Introducción al Idioma Afroboliviano: Una Conversación con el Awicho Manuel Barra (Plural Editores, 2011). This book consists of a grammatical and historical description of Afro-Bolivian Spanish (ABS). It comes with a written corpus of oral interviews and a CD. As the title suggests, the transcribed interviews consist of Mr. Manuel Barra’s life history, told through his own words. Mr. Barra was the oldest living Afro-Bolivian speaker, who unfortunately passed away in 2012. He was one of the last remaining speakers of ABS. Forced black peonage ended in Bolivia in 1952, year of the Land Reform. Mr. Barra spent the first 33 years of his life working as a peon on plantations, and died at the age of 93. His grammar represented the most traditional existent variety of ABS, and transcripts of his narratives, recorded during 2008-2010, represent the first document totally written in ABS.

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