Spanish-English Cognates: The textbook

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The open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An (Unorthodox) Introduction to Spanish Linguistics is meant primarily for advanced students of Spanish, at the high school, college, or graduate school levels. You can download the PDF version of the book for free.

I started writing this book after a 15 year long quest to find the perfect textbook for my Spanish linguistics courses left me dissatisfied. This doesn't mean that there aren't good Spanish linguistics textbooks out there, but the books I found were not ideal for my particular students, who were perhaps not traditional college students and who did not have a strong academic background for the most part. Since many of my students are teachers of Spanish, or will be teachers of Spanish, I have had that in mind as I wrote the book. My goal was to transmit to them what I thought they should know in that capacity so as to engage and motivate their students.

The purpose of this book is to introduce the student to Spanish linguistics through the cognate vocabulary that English and Spanish share, that is, the words that have a common source, something that is close to half of the vocabulary of these two languages. Through the study and comparison of this vocabulary, one can get to many of the topics studied in linguistics: morphology (the parts of words), phonetics and phonology (the sounds of language), language variation and dialects, lexical semantics (the meaning of words), and so on. By focusing on words, language learners can ground the learning of linguistic principles on something as practical as learning vocabulary words.

The way the word cognate is used in this book is somewhat different from the way it is used in linguistics or in language study. It differs from the way it is used in Historical Linguistics in that, in this book, to consider two words cognates all they need is to descend from a common source, whether the words are borrowed or native (that is, patrimonial, obtained by oral transmission, not borrowed). In historical linguistics borrowed words are not considered cognates.

In language study or Applied Linguistics, two words are considered cognates if they look alike and have a very similar meaning. If two words descend from a common source and they don't look alike or, more commonly, do not have the same meaning, they are called "false friends".

In "pure" linguistics, on the other hand, two words are considered cognates if they descend from the same source word and if neither of the two words are loanwords.

In other words, in this book we consider cognates words that descend from the same source, whether they look alike or not and whether they have a similar meaning or not, and whether they are borrowed or not.

This book consists of two parts. Part I, which has 14 chapters, consists of an introduction to branches of linguistics and other areas of knowledge that are necessary to analyze the cognate vocabulary of English and Spanish.

Part II consists of case studies where different words are analyzed. The chapters in the second part may be centered around a particular Latin root (e.g. FAC-) or around a topic (e.g. words about religion). I started work on this project in Fall 2013 and wrote the bulk of it during my sabbatical semester in Spring 2014. The book is still undergoing final revisions. Additions may continue to be made to part II of the book.

This book is freely available to anybody under a Creative Commons (Copyleft) License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US)


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The full book in PDF format can be downloaded from this link. That version is best for (two-sided) printing. There is also a version with reduced margins for better reading on a tablet or a computer.

See the announcement for this book in Infoling

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