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Sociolinguistic analysis of Mexican-American bilingualism: Spanglish as a sociocultural phenomenon


Judyta Pawliszko

The main purpose of the book is to describe the two linguistic-cultural phenomena arising from mass emigration of Mexicans to Los Angeles: Spanish-English bilingualism and Spanglish. The main thesis of the research is the correlation between Spanish-English bilingualism and Spanglish. As public opinion deemed Spanglish as a blocker for linguistic advancement or degraded Spanish, it is actually a method of enhancing the linguistic system. That is why, not only does the research contest the use of such terms, but it also argues that bilingualism is a much more compound and adequate term as well as an analytic framework for the study of bilingual productions. Spanglish should be understood as a form of bilingualism, a hybrid enriching the linguistic system.

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Rationale for the topic

In 1942 Spanish settlers first arrived on the South American mainland, in an area known nowadays as a part of the southern United States, and the first stable Spanish-English interactions also occurred in these regions. Currently, with upwards of 35 million native speakers, Spanish is the de facto second linguistic system of the United States. It is also the first language of many regions, and thus the United States is on the verge of being the world’s fourth-largest Spanish-speaking nation.

The fact that, apart from speaking Spanish and English, Mexicans residing in America typically exhibit a wide spectrum of language-contact phenomena, has led many observers, both locally and abroad, to postulate the rise of a new creation stemming from this sustained bilingual contact. Having been referred to by many expressions, the one name that is commonly recognised is Spanglish; a word whose very morphology connotes not only mixture, hybridity, but also, to the most cynical, illegitimate birth.

Yet, the above raises interesting questions: What exactly is Spanglish? Does it really exist? Can the thousands of speakers worldwide using the term with conviction, albeit with an extensive variety of connotations, describe a non-existent entity? Indeed, like the investigation of family values, democracy, and national security, the notion of Spanglish has become a deeply-rooted cultural concept. Being highly charged with emotion, it eludes a widely accepted definition. Taking into consideration the fact that neither the word itself nor the concept...

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