LINGUIST List 12.1391

Mon May 21 2001

Review: Roca, Spanish in the US: Issues & Challenges

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  • Laura Callahan, Review: Research on Spanish in the U.S.

    Message 1: Review: Research on Spanish in the U.S.

    Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 12:50:45 EDT
    From: Laura Callahan <>
    Subject: Review: Research on Spanish in the U.S.

    Roca, Ana, ed. (2000) Research on Spanish in the United States: Linguistics Issues and Challenges. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press. xiv + 450 pp. ISBN 1-57473-013-4 (PB)

    Reviewed by: Laura Callahan, University of California-Berkeley

    Synopsis The twenty-nine articles in this volume come from papers presented at the Seventeeth National Conference on Spanish in the United States (Coral Gables, Miami-Dade County, Florida; March 1999), complemented by a few specially commissioned chapters. Twenty-three of the articles are written in English and six in Spanish. The book is divided into eight sections by topic, and each section contains three to six articles. Articles cover a wide range of issues, from phonological variation to language ideology.

    In Part One, U.S. Spanish: An Overview of the Issues, John Lipski chronicles research on United States Spanish against the sociocultural and political context of each decade in the last century. This overview, in which Lipski expands on an earlier piece (1998), allows the reader to quickly situate topics and their treatment in the field, and is very useful both as an opening essay to this collection and for general reference.

    Part Two, Bilingualism and Interpreting, features three articles. Guadalupe Vald�s et al. study the special competence displayed by youngsters in immigrant communities who become interpreters for their parents. The other two articles concern court interpretation. Virginia Benmaman reports on violations of due process caused by the incompetence or absence of court interpreters. In "Sociolinguistic Categorization of Spanish-English False Cognates for Court Interpreting Strategies", Erik Camayd-Freixas highlights the potential for errors that could arise from ignorance of the effects that contact with English has had on U.S. Spanish. Court interpreters often face a dilemma in deciding whether to give a "correct" or popular translation of a false cognate used by a witness. For example, a witness may use the Spanish word "violaci�n" to signify "infracci�n"--equivalent in English to 'infraction' or 'violation'--whereas the meaning of "violaci�n" in monolingual Spanish is 'rape' (95).

    In Part Three, Historical Perspectives, Rebeca Acevedo presents findings in "Perspective hist�rica del paradigma verbal en el espa�ol de California" supporting Silva-Corval�n's (1994: 208) hypothesis that morphosyntactic simplification is a result of processes internal to Spanish that have been accelerated by, but are not the result of, contact with English. Ysaura Bernal-Enr�quez discusses socio-historic factors in Spanish language loss in the Southwestern U.S., and suggests implications for revitalization efforts. Garland D. Bills and Neddy Vigil study nahuatlisms in New Mexican Spanish.

    Part Four, Borrowings, showcases opposing perspectives on the subject of English lexical influence on Spanish. M�nica Cantero, in "Adapted Borrowings in Spanish: A Morphopragmatic Hypothesis", offers the attenuation or avoidance of taboo subjects as one reason speakers may choose a borrowing over a native Spanish word. In "Phrasal Calques in Chicano Spanish: Linguistic or Cultural Innovation?", Robert Smead examines phrases similar to "dar para atr�s" (assumed to be calqued on the English 'to give back') for signs of invention rather than imitation. The tone changes from descriptive to in part prescriptive in Beatriz Varela's "El espa�ol cubanoamericano." Varela expresses dismay that such verbal constructions as the one mentioned above enjoy wide diffusion, and maintains that the inclusion of certain anglicisms in the latest edition of the dictionary of the Real Academia Espa�ola is unnecessary in cases where a Spanish synonym exists.

    Part Five, entitled Codeswitching, Narratives, and Discourse, includes two studies of codeswitching that focus on writing. Almeida Jacqueline Toribio's "Once upon a time en un lugar muy lejano--Spanish-English Codeswitching across Fairy Tale Narratives", uses reading, writing, and grammatical acceptibility tasks to assess bilinguals' competence in codeswitching constraints. Cecilia Montes-Alcal�'s "Attitudes Towards Oral and Written Code-Switching in Spanish-English Bilingual Youths" presents evidence of an increasing acceptance of codeswitching by members of younger generations.

    The articles in Part Six, Sociolinguistics and Pragmatics, deal variously with issues of linguistic and ethnic identity in different Hispanic speech communities, forms of address in Puerto Rico, politeness strategies in California Spanish, and a model for the development of the academic register in a Spanish for Native Speakers program. Toribio's "Nosotros somos dominicanos: Language and Self-definition among Dominicans" is a welcome addition to the volume, which, like many collections of its kind, tends to focus on the three major varities of U.S. Spanish, that is, those of Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban origin.

    Part Seven is Phonology, Morphology, and Syntax. Robert Hammond's contribution, "The Multiple Vibrant Liquid in U.S. Spanish", is particularly intriguing, and has relevance for pedagogical practices as well as for perceptions of what is standard. He presents evidence supporting demotion of the Spanish trill from phonemic status to an allophone of the flap. MaryEllen Garcia and Michael Tallon discuss phonological and morphological variability in estar in Mexican-American Spanish. Francisco Zabaleta compares morphosyntactic features of the Spanish spoken by native speakers in a population of California university students with features reported by Lope-Blanch (1993) for Mexican Spanish.

    Part Eight closes the volume with the heading Language Ideologies: Attitudes, Planning, and Policy Issues. The articles in this section study attitudes toward and the implementation of bilingual education programs, the acquisition of academic English, and the maintenance of Spanish. In "Bilingual Education, the Acquisition of English, and the Retention and Loss of Spanish", Stephen Krashen argues that an effective bilingual program should first develop literacy in Spanish, which will then transfer to the acquisition of academic English. This would help forestall the incomplete acquisition of more formal registers in both languages suffered by children forced into a premature transition to English only. Luis Ortiz-L�pez' "'Proyecto para formar un ciudadano biling�e': pol�tica ling��stica y el espa�ol en Puerto Rico" traces the history of language politics and planning on the Island, including its intertwining with the politics of statehood for Puerto Rico.

    Evaluation Both the strength and weakness of this volume come from its breadth of topics. The former because it gives the reader, and most importantly the instructor, a wide range of subjects under one cover; the latter because the diversity of its scope occasionally makes for a slightly random organization, most notably in Part Six. But this is a very minor point, and one for which the convenience of having so many recent studies in a single volume more than compensates. Editor Ana Roca points out the difficulty of organizing into one collection so many papers, especially when what they have in common is the reflection of current research trends, which are scattered across various subfields of linguistics under the general category of U.S. Spanish.

    A perspective expressed by several of the authors is that of the critical or committed linguist, one who aims not only to describe a situation but also to affect its outcome. This viewpoint was heard often at the most recent Conference on Spanish in the United States (Eighteenth, University of California-Davis, April 2000), particularly in the context of Spanish language maintenance. An example in this volume is the statement Rebeca Acevedo makes in regard to her study's objectives, one of which is to promote the status of Spanish in the United States and thereby achieve greater cultural and social recognition of the Hispanic community in that country (110).

    References Lipski, John M. 1998. "Spanish Linguistics: the Past 100 Years: Retrospective and Bibliography." Hispania. 81-2: 248-260.

    Lope-Blanch, Juan M. 1993. Ensayos sobre el espa�ol de Am�rica. M�xico: Universidad Nacional Aut�noma de M�xico.

    Real Academia Espa�ola. 1995. Diccionario de la lengua espa�ola, vig�sima primera edici�n, edici�n en CD-ROM. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe.

    Silva-Corval�n, Carmen. 1994. Language Contact and Change: Spanish in Los Angeles. Oxford: Clarendon.

    About the reviewer Laura Callahan recently finished work for a Ph.D. in Spanish linguistics from the University of California-Berkeley. Her research interests include all aspects of language contact, language attitudes, and language politics. Her dissertation, "Spanish-English Codeswitching in Fiction: A Grammatical and Discourse Function Analysis", tests Myers-Scotton's Matrix Language Frame model on a corpus of written data.