Episode 10- The Codeswitching Kings of Medieval Aragon

Episode 10 with Antonio Zaldívar

We might associate the sociolinguistic ideas of codeswitching and diglossia more with our own globalized world than with the Middle Ages, but Professor Antonio Zaldívar argues that these practices could have powerful connotations as the kings of Aragon struggled to increase their authority over the nobility in the 13th century.  In discussing how these kings began to use the vernacular in responding to noble defiance letters and in requests for support, Zaldívar explores the development modern governing structures and official written communications.

The Episode

The Guest

Antonio Zaldívar has been an assistant professor of medieval European history at California State University- San Marcos since 2014. He earned my Ph.D. from the UCLA, where he studied under Teo Ruiz.  He specializes in the cultural and political history of the western Mediterranean during the High and Late Middle Ages. He is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively titled Language and Power in the Crown of Aragon, 1162-1291.  Additionally, he is working on two article-length projects relating to the intersection of language choice and power in the Iberian peninsula.  In the first, tentatively entitled “The Rise of Proto-Spanish as a Lingua Franca in the Thirteenth Century,” he examines the increasing use of a common vernacular between the different Iberian royal chanceries during the course of the thirteenth century.  In the second, “Fernando’s Castilian: The Rise of Vernacular Writing in Castile’s Royal Chancery,” he considers the motives for the Castilian royal chancery’s transition from writing in Latin to the vernacular during the reign of Fernando III (1217-52).

Suggested Reading

  • Bisson, Thomas N.  Medieval Crown of Aragon: A Short History. Oxford, 1986.
  • Burns, Robert I. Society and Documentation in Crusader Valencia: Diplomatarium of the Crusader Kingdom of Valencia. The Registered Charters of Its Conqueror, Jaume I, 1257-76. 5 vols. to date. Princeton, 1985-.
  • Canellas López, Ángel. “Las cancillerías catalano-aragonesas. Estado actual de la cuestión.” Boletín de la sociedad castellonense de Cultura 58 (1982): 351-394.
  • Carreras i Candi, Francesc, ed. “Rebelió de noblesa catalana contra Jaume I en 1259.” Boletín de la Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona 47 (1911-1912): 361-370, 502-540.
  • Clanchy, Michael T. From Memory to written Record. England, 1066-1307. 3rd. ed. Malden,  Fergusson, Charles. “Diglossia.” Word 15 (1959), 325-40.
  • Gumperz, John J. Discourse Strategies. Cambridge, 1982.
  • Gumperz, John J. and Dell Hymes, eds. “The Ethnography of Communication.” American Anthropologist 66:6 (1964): 1-186.
  • Hudson Alan. “Outline of a theory of Diglossia.” International Journal of the Sociology of Language 157 (2002): 1-43.
  • Ong, Walter J. “Orality, Literacy, and Medieval Textualization” New Literary History 16, no. 1 (1984), 1-12.
  • Riquer, Martí de. Història de la literature catalana. Vol. 1. Barcelona, 1985.
  • Smith, Damian and Helena Buffery, eds. James I.  The Book of Deeds of James I of Aragon: A Translation of the Medieval Catalan Llibre dels Fets. London, 2003.
  • Woolard, Kathryn. “Codeswitching.” In A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology. Edited by Alessandro Duranti. Oxford, 2006, 73-94.
  • Zaldívar, Antonio M. “Emphasizing Royal Orders Using the Romance Languages: An Example of strategic codeswitching in the Crown of Aragon’s Thirteenth Century Royal Chancery.” In Authority and Spectacle in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia: Studies in Honor of Teófilo Ruiz. Edited by Yuen-Gen Liang and Jarbel Rodríguez. New York, 2017, 73-83.
  •  ________. “James I and the Rise of Codeswitching Diplomacy in Thirteenth-Century Catalonia.” Viator 47, no. 3 (2016): 189-208.

One comment

  1. Foster thank you for interview w zaldivar. Zaldivar mentioned that the troubadours were an influence, or that literate mercenaries were used to compose the letters in vernacular. I wish you had asked him more about this. How literary were these documents? Does he know the names of any of the scribes or troubadours? Is the vernacular very basic and repetitive? And more….
    — interesting corollary w old Irish, oral transmission of law in vernacular linked to emergence of poetry.
    One criticism: too much time spent on symbolism of codeswitching. This theorizing is boring compared to what actually happened.
    thank you !!


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