LSRL 55: The Grammatical Thought and Linguistic Behaviour of Juan de Valdés

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The Grammatical Thought and Linguistic Behaviour of Juan de Valdés

K. Anipa
St Andrews University

At the mention of Spanish Renaissance grammarians or linguistic thinkers, the figure that readily comes to mind is the great Elio Antonio de Nebrija, whilst one of the least recognized is Juan de Valdés, whose only work on language has failed to impress modern scholars and, thus, achieve such a high status. There is a combination of factors that has contributed to this state of affairs. But there also exists a paradox around Valdés’s Diálogo de la lengua: notwithstanding its unfortunate circumstances, it has been a special favourite of scholars, who frequently use it as an authoritative reference on 16th-century Castilian. Curiously, this paradox has so far gone unnoticed. Moreover, how the Diálogo is used constitutes another level of the problem.

It can be contended that, from a sociolinguistic standpoint, the way Valdés’s work has generally been used impedes, rather than improves, our knowledge of what the objective usage picture of the language must have been at the time. This is because his comments are invariably cited, unquestioned, to confirm, explicitly or implicitly, the status of features in the language that have already been established by traditional scholarship via the narrow medium of literature and other formal written sources. This book has systematically addressed all three levels of this major problem in scholarship concerning the history of Castilian. It first defines the problem (which seems to have hitherto evaded scholars) through critical reviews of some of the influential works on Valdés and on the language, and proceeds to recast the Diálogo in a completely new light by classifying its linguistic content from Valdés’s viewpoint.

Finally, it investigates his linguistic behaviour, which unveils the reality behind his severe sociolinguistic value judgements, and, consequently, challenges the reader to seriously consider the inescapable implications of his pervasive linguistic self-correction for our knowledge of 16th-century Castilian.

K. Anipa is Lecturer in the Department of Spanish, at St Andrews University, in Scotland, UK. He received his Ph.D. in historical sociolinguistics from the University of Cambridge. He specializes in Renaissance linguistic thought in the Iberian Peninsula and variation in Early Modern Castilian. In addition to articles in professional journals, he is the author of A Critical Examination of Linguistic Variation in Golden-Age Spanish (2001).

ISBN 9783895861819. LINCOM Studies in Romance Linguistics 55. 263pp. 2007.

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