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Language, Identity and Urban Space

The Language Use of Latin American Migrants


Tabea Salzmann

Migration as a process has achieved increasing attention in the context of nation-states and globalisation. In linguistics the field of language contact is particularly associated with this phenomenon. This book investigates the connection between language usage, migration, space, in particular urban space, and the constitution of cultural identity. Two corpora of Andean migrants’ Spanish conversations in Lima and in Madrid are analysed. The resulting comparative analysis provides the material for considerations on language contact, code copying, discourse strategies etc. Throughout the book a new theoretical approach based on linguistic ecology is used. It includes the concept of a general expanded feature pool, which is the basis for language use and identity constitution for migrants.
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3. Lima


3.1 The Meso Level: Society, Socio-Historic Setting and Identity

The macro level with its socio-historical aspects is an always present influence in both the meso and the micro level. Its implications on the micro level of linguistic interaction can only be understood by taking into account the factors that set the specific macro and meso levels apart. To understand the socio-historical settings of the migrants analysed on the micro level who form the basis of this investigation, we have to take a closer look at the societies they form a part of: Lima and Madrid. The first space considered more closely here will be Lima as a potential “first” destination of migrants moving from more rural parts of the Andes to national urban centres.

What kind of identity and mentality do these migrants possess and how does their current location, Lima, relate to their regions of origin? The latter is of major interest, because the historically developed relationship between Lima and the provinces is an essential factor in the constitution of their cultural identity. The situation is complex and demands intense discussion. Let me begin with a rough outline of socio-historical developments in an attempt to explain the strong centralisation of the country and the role of rural urban migration in the capital Lima, representative for Peru in general. These factors will lead us to the question of cultural identity.

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