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Review of  Selected Proceedings of the 6th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics

Reviewer: Whitney Chappell
Book Title: Selected Proceedings of the 6th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics
Book Author: Ana Maria Carvalho Sara M. Beaudrie
Publisher: Cascadilla Press
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Book Announcement: 25.278

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As noted by the editors, Ana M. Carvalho and Sara Beaudrie, the Workshops on Spanish Sociolinguistics (WSS) unite scholars focused on a single language from multiple theoretical and methodological perspectives, engendering lively debates from diverse viewpoints. The ‘Selected Proceedings of the 6th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics’ is the outcome of the WSS series’ most recent gathering, compiling eighteen peer-reviewed papers stemming from research presented in April 2012 at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

The volume is divided into three major sections: 1) Variation and Change, 2) Language Contact, and 3) Language Attitudes and Perception.

The first contribution in the Variation and Change section, “‘Yo a mí me parece’: la gramaticalización de ‘yo’ como marcador de discurso en el español coloquial” (“‘I to me it seems’: The Grammaticalization of ‘yo’ (‘I’) as a Discourse Marker in Colloquial Spanish”), comes from Carmen Ruiz-Sánchez, who contends that left-dislocated ‘yo’ (I) is undergoing grammaticalization in spoken Spanish. Based on an analysis of two corpora, the author demonstrates that left-dislocated ‘yo’ occurs without any apparent syntactic function in the following contexts: alongside psychological, pseudoimpersonal, transitive, and intransitive verbs; in impersonal and dislocated structures; in phrases indicative of possession; and with 1st person plural conjugations.

In the second article, “Puerto Rican Intensifiers: Bien/Muy Variables”, Esther L. Brown and Mayra Cortés-Torres find that ‘bien’ (good) is much more frequent than ‘muy’ (very) as an adjectival intensifier in Puerto Rican Spanish. In social terms, women and younger speakers use ‘bien’ more than men and older speakers, and when the adjective being modified is variable in its positive or negative connotations, e.g., ‘grande’ (big) or ‘diferente’ (different), ‘bien’ is more likely with the positive meaning. A more nuanced analysis reveals that young men and young women are using the intensifiers in different ways; while young women use ‘bien’ more with a positive variable adjective, young men actually use the intensifier slightly more with negative variable adjectives, demonstrating a differential use of the intensifier by gender.

In “Las funciones de venga como intensificador en el español peninsular” (“The Functions of ‘venga’ (come) as an Intensifier in Peninsular Spanish”), Inmaculada Garnes discusses the evolution of the present subjunctive form of ‘venir’ (to come) in Peninsular Spanish based on her research in blogs and forums. Originating as a verb of motion, ‘venga’ evolved to be a discourse marker expressing disagreement, and Garnes contends that the form has more recently been reanalyzed as a particle with a reiterative function alongside infinitives and as an adverbial quantifier alongside nouns.

The fourth contribution, “Haya vs. Haiga: An Analysis of the Variation Observed in Mexican Spanish Using a Mixed Effects Model”, by Mary Johnson and Sonia Barnes, explores lexical alternation between two present subjunctive forms of ‘haber’ (there is/there are). Based on data from three corpora, the authors show that the least educated speakers use ‘haiga’ significantly more than the most educated in both Monterrey and Mexico City, and that in Monterrey Spanish an interaction exists between education and type of use: within the least educated group, ‘haiga’ is significantly more likely as a presentational. The authors contend the productivity of the verb may explain the continuing synchronic variation and note that individuals display a tendency to use one form over the other.

Next, Chad Howe and Celeste Rodríguez Louro discuss variation between the present perfect and present in Continuative/Durative domains across dialects of Spanish in “Peripheral Envelopes: Spanish Perfects in the Variable Context”. Arguing that this variation is distinct from preterit and present perfect variation, the authors use their corpus-based results to conduct a multivariate analysis with ‘desde hace’ (for some time) as the distinguishing criteria. They find that the present occurs at much higher rates overall and that verb type and interval duration condition the selection of the present perfect over the present tense, with the present perfect favored by telic verbs. The authors also note dialectal differences, with Argentina and Spain preferring the present with ‘desde hace’ constructions, while Mexico shows more variation between the present and present perfect.

In the following article, “Generalized Conversational Implicatures and Indexical Fields: The Case of Address Forms”, Sarah Sinnott proposes a relationship between address forms and Indexical Fields (Eckert 2008), creating a model to address both the what and the how of Spanish address forms. By including a hierarchical model of the indexical field associated with address forms, Sinnott is able to distinguish between different levels of “defaultness”, with the most central indices from the more context-dependent indices in separate layers of the model.

“Second-Language Development of Variable Future-Time Expression in Spanish”, by Aarnes Gudmestad and Kimberly Geeslin, analyzes variation among L2 Spanish speakers’ and L1 Spanish speakers’ use of the morphological (synthetic) future, the periphrastic (analytic) future, and the present. Based on a multinomial logistic regression analysis with temporal distance, lexical temporal indicators, and uncertainty markers as the independent variables, Gudmestad and Geeslin find that learners initially make use of a 1:1 form to function relationship to express the future but later move towards native-like variation of future expression. However, the authors find that even the most advanced learners fail to reach fully native-like patterns of future-time expression.

The following article, “Asturian Identity Reflected in Pronoun Use: Enclisis and Proclisis Patterns in Asturian Spanish”, by Verónica González López, argues that Asturian identity is reflected through enclisis, e.g. ‘Vilu leer’ (I saw him read). Using semi-spontaneous interviews and a language questionnaire with 35 speakers, González López conducts a VarbRul analysis, determining that those who report both languages as their L1 or Asturian as their L1 show higher rates of enclisis, those who grew up during Franco’s dictatorship use lower rates of enclisis than older and younger speakers, and men use higher rates of enclisis than women. Some results are more confusing, i.e., those who self-report their identity as Spanish use enclisis the most and those reporting Asturian as their ‘lengua propia’ (own language) are least likely to use enclisis. The author claims that these results may have more to do with political factors than with language and identity. González López concludes that Asturian is becoming destigmatized based on higher rates of self-identification and enclisis following standardization and normalization efforts.

The Language Contact section of the volume begins with Sandro Sessarego’s paper, “Some Remarks on the Origin of Chota Valley Spanish”, in which he argues that the Afro-Hispanic vernacular spoken near Imbabura and Carchi, Ecuador does not have an Afro-Portuguese creole origin as argued by Schwegler (1999). According to Sessarego, the morphosyntactic features of Chota Valley Spanish do not suggest a Creole origin, but rather a “substandard” second language variety of Spanish. Additionally, the author argues that ‘ele’, previously explained as a pronoun derived from Portuguese, is actually a topic/focus marker in Chota Valley Spanish, which weakens the Creole hypothesis. Social factors do not support the hypothesis either, as the low ratio of whites to blacks, large-scale introduction of Africans, and limited contact with Spanish speakers (Schwegler 1999: 240) expected in the creation of a Creole are not supported by the literature.

The following paper, “Habitual Aspect Marking in Palenquero: Variation in Present Temporal Reference”, comes from Hiram L. Smith, who investigates the distribution of tense and aspect forms in the expression of the habitual aspect. Smith finds that the habitual is expressed with the preverbal particle ‘asé’ and zero. Furthermore, while the progressive marker ‘ta’ appears in habitual contexts, the habitual marker ‘asé’ never encroaches upon progressive contexts. Finally, Smith notes that ‘asé’ is highly favored in frequentative and affirmative contexts and proposes that this may indicate grammaticalization within the Palenquero tense-aspect system.

Hilary Barnes and Jim Michnowicz investigate “Peak Alignment in Semi-spontaneous Bilingual Chipilo Spanish” in the next article, focusing on a case of sustained language contact and bilingualism in Puebla, Mexico between Spanish and Veneto, a language of northern Italy maintained among the immigrant population. Like other dialects of Italian (Colantoni & Gurlekian 2004), Veneto exhibits early peak alignment in prenuclear position in contrast with the delayed peak alignment found across non-contact dialects of Spanish. Barnes and Michnowicz discover high rates of early peak alignment, and they claim that increased contact with Spanish does not serve as a predictor of more delayed prenuclear peaks. The authors conclude that young Chipilo Spanish speakers are not adjusting their intonation to mirror Mexican Spanish and that this early peak alignment is used to reflect their Chipileño identity.

In “One Construction, Two Sources Languages: Hacer with an English Infinitive in Bilingual Discourse”, Damián Vergara Wilson contends that ‘hacer’ + V is a hybrid, productive construction in which the verb ‘hacer’ (to do/make) has undergone grammaticalization in bilingual discourse. Vergara Wilson argues that the loss of lexical meaning in these hybrid structures, in favor of communicating only tense, aspect, and mood, represents a case of bleaching, a key characteristic of grammaticalization (Bybee 2010). Finally, because the ‘hacer’ + V structure does not neatly fit into the categories of convergence, codeswitching, or borrowing, the author proposes that the structure supports the existence of a separate ‘bilingual discourse mode’ in which both languages and processing mechanisms are activated and capable of producing new forms.

Naomi Lapidus Shin provides the following paper, “Women as Leaders of Language Change: A Qualification from the Bilingual Perspective”. Drawing upon the widely attested phenomenon of women leading linguistic change in monolingual settings (Eckert & McConnell-Ginet 2003; Labov 2001), Lapidus Shin notes that a women effect also appears to be at work in bilingual settings based on her corpus analysis, with women using more overt pronouns in their Spanish than men. Additionally, pronoun rates increase with years lived in the US, which is indicative of a change in progress. Lapidus Shin argues that this difference is due to the more extensive contact women have with US-born Latinos, including their children, which drives higher pronoun use. She concludes that current explanations of the women effect in monolingual communities must be expanded to account for women in bilingual communities as well.

In “Language Transmission among Catalan and Galician Immigrants in New York City”, Eva Juarros-Daussà investigates 20 multilingual families living in New York City from Galicia and Catalonia. While both groups come from bilingual regions in Spain in which the regional language is minoritized, their language attitudes, language transmission, and the connection felt between language and identity differs greatly. Juarros-Daussà contends that this difference is due to the Catalonian monoglossic ideology, which promotes a single linguistic norm and a central identity based on language, and the Galician heteroglossic ideology, which is defined by the coexistence of different linguistic norms, and identity is based on this diversity. While both populations hope to pass their Galician or Catalan identity onto their children, Juarros-Daussà finds that the monoglossic ideology leads to greater maintenance of the minority language in New York City while the heteroglossic ideology leads to identity maintenance outside of the linguistic sphere.

Ann Marie Delforge contributes the first article of the Language Attitudes and Perception section, entitled “Not Correct but Not Bad Either: Another Look at the Social Meaning of ‘Velar r’ in Puerto Rican Spanish”. In order to indirectly measure attitudes towards velar R, Delforge uses a matched guise technique with 115 participants from San Juan and the Southern Coast. After listening to professional Puerto Rican actors who produced two readings (one with the velar R and one with [r]), the participants’ responses indicate that the negative connotations associated with the “incorrectness” of R are assuaged by its widespread use in Puerto Rico among different social groups. Delforge concludes that R is only stigmatized in Puerto Rico if stigma is defined as an awareness of the feature’s non-standardness, but the participants’ claims and guise ratings indicate that even professionals are associated with velar R use.

The second paper from the final section comes from Elena Schoonmaker-Gates, who discusses “The Interplay Between Native Spanish Dialect Exposure and Foreign Accent Perception”. Using the speech of two native Spanish speakers from central Spain and two non-native Spanish speakers, Schoonmaker-Gates had 160 non-native Spanish speakers and 26 native speakers evaluate how foreign-sounding the samples were. The author finds that non-native listeners with exposure to more dialects of Spanish rated the native Spanish speech as less foreign-sounding, and native Spanish speakers with exposure to more diverse dialects also rated the Peninsular speakers as less foreign-sounding. These results indicate that speech perception is malleable (Evans & Iverson 2007) and exposure to a variety of dialects influences both native and non-native speakers’ perceptions of foreignness.

Joseph Vincent Casillas discusses perceptions of the fricativized affricate /ʧ/ in Tucson, Arizona in his paper “La fricativización del africado /ʧ/: actitudes lingüísticas cerca de la frontera”. In order to explore perceptions of the fricativized variant, which occurs in multiple dialects across the Spanish-speaking world, Casillas recorded two men and two women from Tucson reading a script with either the affricate or fricativized realization of /ʧ/ and randomly played either the /ʃ/ or /ʧ/ condition for 122 participants who rated the speakers on competence, solidarity, and credibility. Casillas concludes that the speakers using the fricativized realization received lower ratings of competence, likely because it is the non-standard variant.

The final contribution of the proceedings is “Regional Variation in the Perception of Sociophonetic Variants of Spanish /s/”, by Lauren B. Schmidt. In this paper, Schmidt investigates: 1) whether there are differences in categorization of weakened /s/ based on the participants’ dialects, and 2) whether sex and dialect contact influence the categorization of /s/ variants. Using recordings from two speakers from aspirating dialects who read a list of disyllabic nonce words, Schmidt had 20 participants from La Rioja, Argentina (an /s/-weakening dialect) and 27 participants from Bogotá, Colombia (an /s/-retaining dialect) complete an identification task classifying “s, f, l, r, n, ø” as the sound in the coda or “none of the above”. The results show that participants from aspirating La Rioja tended to classify coda [h] as ‘s’ more than participants from Bogotá, who commonly misidentified [h] as ‘f’. Schmidt also finds that Argentine male participants misidentified [h] more than female participants, perhaps because of their higher rate of coda deletion, but no gender differences are found for the Bogotá participants. Finally, dialect contact influences the results of the Bogotá participants: those with an aspirating family member or friend attributed coda [h] to ‘s’ more than other participants.


The ‘Selected Proceedings of the 6th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics’ represents a valuable addition to the literature on variation within the Spanish-speaking world. The volume unveils fresh perspectives with innovative research, expands upon and even calls into question existing paradigms, and advances the boundaries of Spanish Sociolinguistics. All in all, the collection is an important read for the Hispanic linguist.

The array of papers presented within the volume spans a wide range of geographical territory, with studies investigating variation in Spain, Mexico, South America, the Caribbean, and the United States. Such geographical breadth provides a rich tapestry of variables arising from language contact, isolation, lenition, and differing socioeconomic statuses, among other important factors. In addition to diverse geographical viewpoints, a range of methodological perspectives is included as well. While the contents are mostly quantitative, some qualitative approaches emerge, with several studies reflecting on identity construction through language use. The collection contributes theoretical arguments on monolingual variation, second language acquisition, and Creole and contact varieties, and it offers insights into language attitudes and the perception of variation as well.

In terms of geographical distribution and methodology, then, the volume meets its goal of bringing together scholars who analyze a single language in different places and from different perspectives. However, a lopsidedness in the content of the contributions is apparent as well. While studies on morphosyntactic variation abound, those studies with a phonological focus are few and far between. In fact, only five of the 18 contributions deal with phonological or suprasegmental variation, and all but one of said studies are perception- rather than production-based. I found that although the volume does justice to the advances being made in morphosyntactic variation, it does not as successfully reflect the strides being made in phonological research. Of course, this small criticism is tempered by the fact that the volume’s contents are restricted to the papers submitted for publication, but based on the variety found in the conference program, the deficit seems odd. Nevertheless, the morphological-phonological imbalance does not detract from the quality of the papers included within the volume.

In sum, the ‘Selected Proceedings of the 6th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics’ is an important and influential publication that would be of interest to any Hispanic linguist, sociolinguist, or variationist. Each chapter poses innovative and thought-provoking questions, and the contents of this volume will shape discussions within the field of Hispanic Linguistics for years to come.


Bybee, Joan L. 2010. Language, usage, and cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Colantoni, Laura & Jorge Gurlekian. 2004. Convergence and intonation: Historical evidence from Buenos Aires Spanish. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 7(2). 107-119.

Eckert, Penelope. 2008. Variation and the indexical field. Journal of Sociolinguistics 12(4). 453-476.

Eckert, Penelope & S. McConnell-Ginet. 2003. Language and Gender. Cambridge: CUP.

Evans, Bronwen G. & Paul Iverson. 2007. Plasticity in vowel perception and production: A study of accent change in young adults. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 121(6). 3814-3826.

Labov, William. 2001. Principles of linguistic change, vol. 2: Social factors. Oxford: Blackwell.

Schwegler, Armin. 1999. Monogenesis revisited: The Spanish perspective. In Creole genesis, attitudes and discourse, ed. by Rickford J. and S. Romaine, 235-62. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Whitney Chappell is an Assistant Professor of Hispanic Linguistics at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She received her doctorate from The Ohio State University in 2013, and her research focuses on sociophonetic variation in the Spanish-speaking world. Her recent projects include the social and linguistic factors conditioning the glottal stop in Nicaraguan Spanish, the pragmatics-intonation interface in Granadino Spanish, and /s/ voicing in Ecuadorian Spanish.

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