Friday, November 16, 2012


This is the first of many posts meant to pursue the question of whether Spanglish as we know it can be considered its own language. My purpose was to find out whether the community of Spanglish speakers follow their own rules that are consistent within the community, and whether enough of the range of life's experiences happen in a Spanglish environment, that such a language becomes thoroughly adapted, and its rules apply everywhere, with children growing up knowing only Spanglish, or functioning entirely in Spanglish.

Now one obvious problem is that the Spanglish of the Puerto Rican boroughs of New York may be different from the Spanglish of Texas, or California, or Miami, or even Gibraltar, but I'll set that aside for now. There may be pockets who live in Spanglish in any of many places, and they may be different, or use it for different purposes. I'd like to focus on what is heard in Texas and northeastern Mexico, because that's what I can get the most information about. But still I don't have much of a sense of how much is spoken, where it is spoken, how relentlessly the languages are mixed, etc.

One claim I have heard more than once is that Spanglish is English, used with Spanish words whenever more emotion is being stated. English thus has the sound of being colder and more analytical, so by nature saying Dios mio is more emotional than My God, simply because Spanish carries more expressive emotion and feels stronger on the emotional side.

Now this would qualify as a rule, if it were consistent, if every speaker agreed on it, and if then all emotional expressions were consistently in Spanish. We could then study the phenomenon of Spanish replacement, which would assume that these expressions were placed into an English frame, and the frame would adjust to their Spanishness, whereas they would adapt in some cases to the English sentence they were in.

I can use that as a working theory as I investigate what actually happens. I can tell you that these days there is plenty of data out there. Please remember that I myself have made no claims about what happens as I have just arrived in this area, and really don't have much of a picture of it. Do people grow up in this language? Is it spoken enough that the community has agreements about how it's spoken and what is used? I have no idea. I'll use this as a springboard to find out.



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