Errata / second edition

Since ¿Por qué? was published in 2016 I’ve been accumulating  a list of errata and other possible changes in the event that Bloomsbury (or another publisher) ever puts out a second edition. I’m now putting this list online for the benefit of readers, and for my benefit as well, as I hope that readers will contact me with other errata and suggestions.

The list is organized by question number. Except where labeled ‘erratum’ these are my raw notes, from a variety of sources, and might not hold up when I look at them more closely.

Question 4. “What are the different dialects of Spanish? Part 1: Spain.”

Erratum: When describing Andalulsian features, it’s inaccurate to call s/th a “merger.” Rather, th developed in Castile but not Andalusia.

Introduction to Chapter 2 (before Question 11)

Erratum: “while digesting Questions 12 to 15” (not 14)

Question 11. “How old is Spanish?”

Dworkin: The publication of the six volume dictionary took from 1726-1739

Question 12. “How did Latin become Spanish? Part 1: Vocabulary”

Erratum: no comma before or after zumbar

Dworkin: A diminutive of Latin vulpes is the source of OSp. vulpeja/gulpeja ‘fox’

Dworkin: Perhaps worth noting that in the medieval language espaNnol was not used as a language name until the very end of the fifteenth century. The preferred terms was romance, and sometimes nuestro latín

Question 15. “How did Latin become Spanish? Part IV: The verb system”

Dworkin: Classical Latin did have such a construction. However it indicated result and did not have temporal value, e.g., HABEO LITTERAS SCRIPTAS ‘Tengo escritas las cartas’. The grammaticalization as a verb tense may have occurred later in each Romance language. Me: Penny p. 217 says that use as perfect was already present in spoken Latin. Me: this can also fit in Question 84 discussion of “the cycle of language change.”

Question 16. “How has Latin continued to influence Spanish?”

Another good doublet: podio ‘pedestal’ and poyo ‘stone bench’

Question 19. “How is Catalan different from Spanish?”

Correct section on past tenses in Catalan: simple past isn’t only literary (though rarely spoken); haver and anar are both used as past auxiliaries, with haver limited to “today”.

Question 26. “What impact did almost eight hundred years of Arabic occupation have on Spanish?”

Look into Aljamiado, which is Spanish written with Arabic letter (like Ladino). OR include in Question 20 “What is Ladino?”

Question 29. “How is Spanish sign language related to Spanish?”

Erratum: Sématos (2009), in “to learn more,” is about Llengua de Signes Catalana, not lengua and signoas. (This is not an issue in the bibliography.)

Question 32. “What kind of mistakes do native speakers make in their Spanish?”

Erratum: Table 5.4 lacks Mendizabal reference (to match (M) in table)

Question 39. “Why does Spanish have so many charming derivational suffixes?”

p. 141 of Stekauer, Valera, & Körtvélyessy (2012) Word-Formation in the World’s Languages: A Typological Survey contradicts what I say about the general pattern of suffixes for inflection and suffixes/prefixes for derivation. In their survey derivation is more often via suffixes rather than prefixes.

Question 40. “Why do most Spanish negatives begin with n-?”

Persona as Jespersen negative in Don Quijote: Una noche se salieron del lugar sin que persona los viese». We see this usage in modern French but it didn’t take root in Spanish.

Question 41. “Why does Spanish have two words that mean ‘to be’ (ser and estar) and two words that mean ‘to know’ (saber and conocer)?”

Erratum: estar is NOT a uniquely Iberian creation! For example Italian has both essere and stare, although the usage of the two verbs is not exactly the same as in Spanish.

Intro to Chapter 7 (before Question 45)

Put color version of ex voto on website and add a caption to this effect

Question 45. “What happened to ch and ll?

UNESCO factor in eliminating ch, ll

Question 51. “Why does Spanish have so many accent marks?”

Erratum: fluido doesn’t have an accent. The other two examples with it (continúe and comíamos) are correct.

Question 53. “Who invented the inverted exclamation and question marks?”

Erratum: ¿ and ¡ were previously used in Galician, Catalan.

attempts to use inverted marks in English. David Crystal: By the way, did you know that, in relation to sentence-initial question/exclamation marks, this was actually proposed for English (by John Hart in the 16th century), and a 19th century printer (George Smallfield) tried to get the Spanish inversion into English, but with no success.

Question 57. “Why does Spanish only have five vowels?”

Erratum: pora does NOT mean leek! better:

  • paso peso piso poso puso
  • Dido dedo dado dodo dudo
  • licha lecha lacha locha lucha
  • Rita reta rata rota ruta

Question 59. “Why do Spanish speakers roll their r‘s?”

I have in my notes that “not all the trills in Patterns of Sounds are alveolar.” But that isn’t implied by what I wrote, is it?

Question 66. “Is there a version of Pig Latin for Spanish?”

A reference for the relative rarity of infixing is Stekauer, Valera, & Körtvélyessy 2012, Word-Formation in the World’s Languages: A Typological Survey.

Question 70. “Why does Spanish have masculine and feminine nouns?”

Erratum: For the psychology of gender refer to Question 33, not Question 70 (circular reference)!

Question 72. “Why do so many masculine nouns end in -a?”

fix persona etc. epicenes– these do not belong on the list because they are only semantically masculine (if at all) e.g. very different from turista and trompeta which are grammatically masculine even though they end in an -a (which is what this question is supposed to be about). Maybe move to a separate paragraph after the list of frequent/poetic/etc. examples.

Question 75. “Why does Spanish have so many words for ‘you’?

Italian used to have the formulaic expression vossignoria as an alternative to lei.

Question 76. “How do Spanish dialects differ in their words for ‘you’?

Erratum: The Costa Rican writer who “put the case for voseo” is a journalist, not a linguist, and the link I gave is dead.

Question 77. “What are leísmoloíamo, and laísmo?”

I have been told that enseñar takes an indirect object no matter what (referring to someone who is taught).

Question 79. “Why does Spanish have -ar, -er, and -ir verbs?”

Compare with Fortson’s description of the four conjugation classes, pp. 278-9.

Question 81. “Why does Spanish have so many irregular verbs?”

Footnote 7 (regarding suppletion): “many” is a more accurate quantifier than “various.”

Question 82. “Why do only some verbs have the “boot” pattern?”

I have the following in my notes but can’t figure out what I meant! “hendir and cernir as exceptions (because of -er origin).”

Question 84. “Why does Spanish have so many ways to talk about the past?”

It’s not that acabar is an unusual way to make the past tense. It’s just that an immediate past like acabar isn’t a major TMA in most languages.

Question 86. “How can Spanish use the same word for was and want?

Include larger suppletion discussion (3 roots each for ir and ser) here or in Question 81 “Why does Spanish have so many irregular verbs?”

Question 88. “Why does Spanish have two past tense subjunctives?”

Another possible example is the instrumental singular in Croatian masculine nouns: -em-om, and “some nouns can use either.” Methinks this is more like the limited examples (like French je m’assieds/assois) already in the book.



Erratum: Escobar 2010 (Variación lingüística en español) should be 2001, and the correct page numbers are  329-366.

Erratum: English in title of Taylor 2007

Erratum: missing an accent on Gutiérrez-Clennen


Source to check out for a second edition

  • Terrell, T. and J. Hooper. 1974. A semantically based analysis of mood in Spanish. Hispania 57: 484-94.