Spanish Phonetics and Phonology

Semester: Fall 2019

Course number: SPAN 350 (taught in Spanish) 

Description:  One of the things that distinguishes a language is its sound inventory. If we compare languages we know, such as Spanish and English, it is immediately obvious that there are sounds in one language with no equivalent in the other. For example, the 'rr' in carro doesn't exist in English, and the 'th' sound of the English word thin has no comparable sound in most Spanish dialects. It can also happen that a distinction in one language doesn't exist in the other. Thus, for example, English distinguishes bit and beat, but this distinction isn't perceived by monolingual Spanish speakers. Learning to make and distinguish sounds in a foreign language is no mean feat. This course will familiarize students with the study of Spanish sounds, help improve pronunciation, and increase understanding of dialectal varieties. If you are planning to become a teacher, it will help you become more aware of the difficulties your students face, and improve your teaching effectiveness. We will study how each sound of Spanish is produced, as well as related notions of prosody and intonation. We will also see how sounds integrate into the sound system of Spanish. Finally, we will analyze how sounds vary between different areas of the Spanish-speaking world. 

"Phonos (2016)" by Manuel López Rocha is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

Advanced Grammar for Heritage Speakers

Semester: Fall 2019

Course number: SPAN 304


Description: This is a course meant for heritage learners - students who acquired Spanish naturally at a very early age, from their families and communities, or from living in Spanish-speaking countries, with little formal instruction. Although it is designed as a continuation of SPAN 203, it can be taken without this prerequisite, through the heritage language placement test. The first objective of the course is to expand students' knowledge of structures and vocabulary, so that they can express themselves with confidence about any topic and in any situation, both informal and formal. Another important goal is to help students develop knowledge of standard writing conventions (spelling, stress marks, punctuation, and textual organization). We will also develop metalinguistic skills, that is, the ability to describe the main grammatical features of Spanish. The course will involve several extensive reading assignments, to be completed individually and in groups. If you would like to know more about this and other courses meant for heritage learners, check out this flier or contact me.


"Chili Queen' Wall (San Antonio, Texas)" by Javier de Riba, minuskula - María López is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Topics: Hispanic Sociolinguistics and Pragmatics

Semester: Spring 2019

Course number: SPAN 462/HISP 607 (stacked, taught in Spanish) 

Description: It's impossible to miss that Spanish is not spoken the same way by its 400 million speakers. You may have learned estacionamiento for ‘parking,’ but then discovered Spanish speakers in Texas called it parqueadero instead. Or you may have noticed that some speakers start the word zapato with the same sound as think, while for others it starts with the same sound as sink.  Just like other major world languages, Spanish exhibits considerable variation across space and from one social group to another. What’s more, each speaker may deploy different styles, depending on specific communicative needs. The field of sociolinguistics was born out of the goal of understanding and systematizing this variation and explaining how it connects with the evolution of a language over time.  In this course, we will explore the various sociolinguistic models of analyzing language variation that have been proposed, and illustrate them through Spanish variation. We will consider questions such as the following: Is there a system in the apparent madness of language variation? Why is Cuban Spanish a dialect of Spanish and Catalan a different language? Is there a ‘better’ Spanish? Why do parents speak differently from their children? Does it matter that women and men talk differently? Can we predict how languages are going to change? How are speakers' attitudes reflected in the way they speak? Our course will include an original research project that you can tailor to your individual interests.  


Spanish in the United States

Semester: Fall 2018

Course number: SPAN 462/HISP 606 (stacked, taught in Spanish) 

Description: Spanish isn’t new in the United States: in fact, it was the first European language spoken in the country, and is currently native to almost 40 million Americans, who descend from the earliest colonizers and from the multiple waves of later arrivals. This course explores the diversity of US Spanish, from the colonial past until the present, paying special attention to modern-day Texas. We will answer questions such as the following: Who speaks Spanish in the US today? What makes US Spanish unique, special, and interesting? How do US Spanish speakers feel about their language and culture? How has Spanish managed to have more staying power than other languages in the US? Why is Spanish in Texas different from Spanish in New York or Miami? And what's the linguistic situation of Puerto Rico? Our course will include experiential learning (a field trip!) and an original research project involving graduate and undergraduate students, based on the Cushing Library collections of Texas Hispanic musicians and artists.