My first book: ¿Por qué?

***Who invented the upside-down ¿ and ¡ marks?***
***Why does Spanish have so many irregular verbs?***
***Why is vacaciones plural?***

On October 20, 2016, Bloomsbury Academic Press published my first book about Spanish, ¿Por qué? 101 Questions about Spanish. While textbooks, grammars, and conventional Spanish classes explain the “what” of Spanish grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary, ¿Por qué? supplies the “why”.

What makes ¿Por qué? special — or even unique?

  • The answers to the 101 questions mingle the history of Spanish, linguistic principles, comparisons with other languages, and Hispanic culture.
  • It is both scholarly and friendly, thanks to its Q/A format, informal tone, and no assumptions of previous knowledge of linguistics — or even Spanish.
  • The 101 questions focus on the most interesting aspects of the Spanish language (in the author’s opinion).
  • It includes topics that most books about Spanish ignore, such as first and second language acquisition, Spanish sign language, punctuation, Spanish Pig Latin, and text messaging.

¿Por qué? is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble and directly from Bloomsbury. If Bloomsbury is out of stock, don’t trust their “email me when available” functionality.

You can see a list of the 101 questions here; click here for book excerpts including the Preface and some favorite questions/answers.

There is also a companion website, which you can read about (and link to) here.


Click image to buy book from Bloomsbury (use PQ101 checkout code for 35% discount)

Praise for ¿Por qué?:

  • A masterclass in linguistic exposition – a hugely illuminating blend of historical explanation and present-day world-wide usage. English readers will especially appreciate the clarifying glosses and analogies. All languages need introductions like this one. (David Crystal, University of Wales)
  • An engaging, fun, and authoritative tour through the history and structure of the Spanish language. This book will delight anyone with a passing or even a serious interest in Spanish. (Michael Weiss, Cornell University)
  • This book presents questions and answers in a popular idiom which is engaging for students and general readers alike, but its answers are authoritative and reliable, and its further reading recommendations are judicious. Reading the book from cover to cover will in itself provide a good overview of Spanish linguistics and elucidate a number of questions concerning Spanish usage, including many which people often ask but which are rarely answered in academic textbooks. (Christopher J. Pountain, Queen Mary University of London)
  • Concise and elegant, yet thorough and well-informed, this treasure of a book by an experienced scholar and teacher will provide students, instructors, and the general public alike with a wonderfully readable set of introductory answers to the questions that lovers of Spanish worldwide have always wondered about. (Ricardo Otheguy, City University of New York)
  • “This tour de force will be tremendously engaging and enjoyable for everyone interested in the structure of Spanish. It will appeal to both linguists and laypeople alike, and would be an excellent choice for introductory-level Hispanic Linguistics courses. With her elegant writing style, Hochberg succeeds at making a vast amount of well-researched information highly accessible and genuinely entertaining.” –  (Naomi Lapidus Shin, University of New Mexico)

From the back cover:

¿Por qué? 101 Questions about Spanish is for anyone who wants to understand how Spanish really works. Standard textbooks and grammars describe the “what” of Spanish – its vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and pronunciation – but ¿Por qué? explains the “why”.

Judy Hochberg draws on linguistic principles, Hispanic culture, and language history to answer questions such as:

  • Why are so many Spanish verbs irregular? • Why does Spanish have different ways to say “you”? • Why is h silent? • Why doesn’t Spanish use apostrophes? • Why does Castilian Spanish have the th sound?

Packed with information, guidance, and links to further research, ¿Por qué? is an accessible study guide that is suitable for Spanish students, instructors, native speakers, and the general reader. It is a valuable supplementary text for serious students of Spanish at all levels, from beginning to advanced. ¿Por qué? also covers topics usually left to specialized books, including the evolution of Spanish, how children and adults learn Spanish, and the status of languages that co-exist with Spanish, from Catalan to Spanish sign language to the indigenous languages of Latin America.

Judy Hochberg has a PhD in linguistics from Stanford University, and teaches Spanish at Fordham University, New York.