Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spanish in southern California

Nice post about language and immigration here on one of the LA Times blogs, image from the article as you'll see when you read it — and you should read it, especially if you don't get the text.

The journalist, Hector Tobar, talks to a leading sociolinguist who has written a ton about Spanish-English contact and related matters. Here's a key chunk or two:
In the end, English remains the dominant tongue of Southern California. "In the long run, Spanish is really the threatened language here," said Carmen Fought, a linguistics professor at Pitzer College.

The effect of Spanish speakers on the Southern California linguistic universe is heard mostly in new words and phrases constantly being added to the local English lexicon -- like "no mas" and "carne asada." In this sense, Spanish is merely adding a little flavor to American English, as German, Yiddish and other languages have before it.

Still, the underlying structure of California English has not changed, Fought said.
Hurrah, more clear reporting on a pressing issue concerning language.


Anonymous said...

And in French-English contact settings could we worry about deranged ducks?

Flo said...

I wonder what anthropologist Jane Hill would say about this... hasn't she been calling these Spanish phrases used in English "Mock Spanish" --- is the linguistic landscape (one of those newest buzz words) changing?

Mr. Verb said...

Good question, Flo. These aren't the prototypical examples of Mock Spanish, if I recall, which were more the 'no problemo' type, right? But surely Jane Hill has criteria for distinguishing that stuff from ordinary loanwords. That said, I imagine any number of borrowings from language X could be read as Mock X, including her examples of German or Yiddish. I guess I need to reread the Hill article(s?).

Flo said...

I think I should re-read them as well! I think that she does make the distinction between the two... but from an non-structural point of view. I wouldn't go as far as Hill does with Mock Spanish... but it might be fun to see what threshold a mock form becomes purely acceptable (not by the public, but by linguists... do we call shm-reduplication a mock form nowadays?)

Mr. Verb said...

Right, that's exactly the kind of question to ask. I assume shm- is beyond that, for the most part at least.

I've heard a number of people have similar to reactions to yours, by the way, that the notion of Mock Spanish is useful but stretched a little in places.