Linguistics and Dialectology are two sides of the same coin: the former deals with the rigorous analysis of natural languages and the latter with concrete varieties of language in its cohesive and identifying social roles. Linguistics today is moving towards an integration of its various dimensions: phonology and phonetics are now so intricately tied that the unimodular phonetological approach is gaining ground rapidly; synchrony and diachrony are moving towards a reintegration, thus moving away from their parallel paths; and, finally, the so-called ‘non-structural’ elements of language are gradually being acknowledged as an integral part of the analysis that was traditionally reserved for the ‘structural’ ones. As linguistics moves, so does dialectology, since the latter has always been the laboratory of linguists, even if they have not formally accepted it as such. A new approach to dialectal matters must therefore move away from mere description and search for a more comprehensive analysis that confirms the essential inviolability of the binomial language-society. The traditional view of Hispanic linguistics and dialectology has been a victim of the dichotomic approach: conservative versus radical, Iberian versus American, high lands versus low lands, North-Central Castilian versus ‘Atlantic’ Spanish among others. This paper aims at taking an integrated approach to linguistics and dialectology, with its case study addressing the so called ‘Atlantic’ Spanish and the phonetological changes it is going through in search of a more satisfying explanation of short-term and long-term variability.
In this paper, a phase of language divinisation is posited as the deeply-rooted origin of the standard language/variety ideology, which devalues the nonstandard dialects thus causing a permanent sociolinguistic conflict. Present linguistic standardisation is seen as the form divinisation has taken in the course of the history of humankind and it is justified by the search of stability and functionality for organised speech communities, which is not objectionable as such for some aspects of social life. The sociolinguistic conflict emerges because the first stage of the process requires the selection of usually one variety (or more than one in some cases) out of the dialectal complex of any natural language, generally responding to class-related interests allied to power and prestige. It is evidently, an ideological issue. Our approach to this problem is based on data from the Spanish-speaking world, analysed mainly on a minimal unitary phonetological approach (MUPA) in search of different dialectal dimensions and parameters. MUPA is justified and possible because of the great cohesiveness of Spanish varieties. When attention is paid to this extensive linguistic dominion, one finds that the notion of the inevitability of the weakening of regional varieties has to be revised.