Spanish in New York

Ricardo Otheguy and Ana Celia Zentella

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199737406
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918621 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Sociolinguistics

Spanish in New York

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The more than 2 million predominantly bilingual Spanish speakers from different parts of Latin America who live in New York City make it an ideal setting to study language contact and dialectal leveling. The Spanish feature under study is presence versus absence of subject personal pronouns (e.g., yo canto, “I sing” ~ canto, “I sing”). Variationist sociolinguistic research is conducted through bivariate analyses of pronoun occurrence rates and multivariate hierarchical analyses of the social, grammatical, and discourse-communicative factors that probabilistically condition the use of pronouns. Statistical results based on 60,000 pronouns extracted from interviews with a stratified sample of 140 first- and second-generation Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Colombians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Cubans show that contact with English and convergence between speakers from different Latin American regions are molding new forms of Spanish in New York. As predicted, pronoun occurrence rates are higher, and regional rate differences are smaller, in New York than in Latin America. Ranges and rankings of constraint hierarchies are also different in New York, as predicted by contact and leveling hypotheses. The book also studies the opposite force, namely, preservation of the patterns of the Latin American reference lects, even in the Spanish of English-dominant bilinguals. No relationship is seen between pronominal patterns affected by English and reduced proficiency, and a critique is offered of the connection between simplification and incomplete acquisition.

Keywords: Spanish; New York; subject pronouns; language contact; dialectal leveling; structural continuity; variationist sociolinguistics; occurrence rates; variable hierarchies; constraint hierarchies; reference lects; bilingual lects; English-dominant bilinguals; incomplete acquisition; heritage speakers; Puerto Ricans; Dominicans; Colombians; Ecuadorians; Mexicans; Cubans

Book.  320 pages. 

Subjects: Sociolinguistics

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Interviews and Transcripts in Spanish in New York


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