24.2015, Review: Sociolinguistics; Spanish: Fuller (2013)
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LINGUIST List: Vol-24-2015. Fri May 10 2013. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.
Subject: 24.2015, Review: Sociolinguistics; Spanish: Fuller (2013)
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Date: Fri, 10 May 2013 22:36:20
From: Irene Checa-Garcia [irene.checa at gmail.com]
Subject: Spanish Speakers in the USA
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-265.html
AUTHOR: Janet M. Fuller
TITLE: Spanish Speakers in the USA
SERIES TITLE: MM Textbooks
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
REVIEWER: Irene Checa-Garcia, Santa Barbara Community College
“Spanish Speakers in the USA” is a textbook that originated from the author’s
class on “Spanish in the USA” and is therefore intended for a college level
course on the topic. The book is written completely in English and examples in
Spanish are translated and/or explained, so no previous knowledge of Spanish
is required. The book focuses mostly on language attitudes and ideologies, and
how they relate to language practices. Rather than presenting demographics,
geographical distributions, or detailed characterizations of the different
varieties of Spanish in the USA, the book presents different concepts and
theories that deal with language ideologies, illustrating them with the case
of Spanish in the USA.
The textbook is consequently organized in two main parts: a more theoretical
part about linguistic ideologies, and a part on language practices that is
both conceptual and descriptive. Each chapter is organized in four sections: a
summary of objectives for the chapter, the text, a block of questions and
topics for discussion, and suggestions for further reading. The section with
questions frequently includes references to online materials and extra
examples of the phenomena presented in the chapter. Finally, a glossary of
terms concludes the book as a whole.
The first part of the book, “Ideologies and Identities”, comprises the first 4
chapters. Chapter 1, “Language Ideologies and Language Policies”, presents the
key concept of language ideology, and in particular, the “hegemonic ideology”,
which is the most prevalent one and is made to appear as the “natural” one, in
part by silencing alternative ideologies. Fuller, following the Gal and Irvine
(1995) model, explores the iconic dimension of Mock Spanish and the
recursiveness of dominance relations that spread not only to the
representation of languages, but also to different varieties of the same
language and their speakers. For the case of Spanish in the US, the hegemonic
ideology is one of monolingualism and English dominance, while bilingualism is
tolerable as long as the languages involved are kept separated. The chapter
ends with an overview of language policies and planning in the US,
distinguishing: language planning, corpus planning, prestige planning and
acquisition planning. There is also a brief sketch of language education
history in the US that is later complemented by Chapter 7. While discussing
all the concepts, numerous examples are given from a myriad of different
sources: media, internet forums, bumper stickers, and presidents’ speeches.
These examples are analyzed using the previously introduced terminology.
Chapter 2 is devoted to the relationship between identity and language. The
concept of identity itself is shown to be a very fluid one; not only is a
person constantly shifting identities, but the relationship between one
identity and one language is not a one-to-one permanent correspondence. Fuller
provides a few examples of how the use of English or Spanish may support
different identities. These examples show how the value of using Spanish or
English may shift depending on the speaker's goals and the social context.
Language choice, language skills, nationality, or linguistic skills are shown
to fluctuate based on which identity they represent and how they are valued.
The author then discusses cases of “hybrid identities” and argues in favor of
the term “translanguaging” as a better representation for how identity is
constructed through language, rather than considering language and identity as
fixed terms in a fixed relationship. This latter term is frequently used
throughout the book.
In Chapter 3, on ‘race’ and ethnicity, Fuller continues her deconstruction of
the essentialist view of identity. Hence, ‘race’ is proofed to be a culturally
built concept, rather than a physical one, by briefly presenting how forensic
anthropology determines race in human remains, and by showing how race’s
importance, as well as number of races, fluctuates among societies. Then, the
concept of ethnicity is discussed. Ethnicity is a wider idea that includes
shared traditions, languages and beliefs. However, it is not inclusive of
‘race’, necessarily, nor is it a clear concept. To show the fuzziness of the
concept, Fuller analyzes its wording in different census questions. In
addition, processes of change affect ethnicity: the term itself was used to
categorize “the other”, and then used to also cover “mainstream ethnicity”;
however, different ethnicities have evolved, and are sometimes subsumed by
others, as exemplified in the chapter. To end the chapter, the author points
to the close relationship between ethnicity and language, which is also fluid
and socially constructed. Finally, specific examples of the Latino case are
The final chapter of the first part of the book, Chapter 4, deals with media
representations of Latinos and focuses on quantity of the representation,
Latino stereotypes (Berg 2002), use of language to represent Latinos, and the
particular case of children’s TV shows, which show a very different picture.
While still very underrepresented, Latino stereotypes in films and TV revolve
around two polarities: the successful Latino that is fully integrated, that
is, assimilated to “white middle class culture”; and the exotic Latino or
Latina. Fuller supports her claims through copious examples of each
stereotype. There is an interesting discussion, following Petrucci (2008), on
how Spanish is used to index Latinos in a rather artificial way. In sharp
contrast, children’s programs present unproblematic Latino identities that are
fully accepted in society, with very little difference from other identities,
and speaking Spanish is a useful skill in these programs. Fuller is critical
of both visions, as one perpetuates a monolingual ideology, while the other is
not only unrealistic, but also conveys a strong message of assimilation.
The second part of the book revolves around Spanish language practices:
language maintenance and shift, language contact, linguistic consequences for
Spanish and English, and language education and policy regarding Latinos in
In Chapter 5, “Spanish Language Maintenance and Shift in the US”, Fuller
defines minority languages and summarizes the three possible outcomes of two
languages coming in contact: abandoning the first language, becoming
bilingual, or refusing to learn the new second language. The last option,
although believed to be common in many “only English” movements and the
monolingual hegemonic ideology, is actually extremely rare: few native Spanish
speakers can’t speak or speak very little English, and those cases are namely
due to learning difficulties rather than rejection of English. Fuller agrees
that a common development is bilingualism of the 1.5 or second generation,
followed by shift in the 3rd and subsequent generations. However, the author
points to several other factors and specific situations that could change the
picture. To that end, she reviews classical literature on bilingualism and
diglossia, ethnical vitality, and social networks concerning factors
influencing language maintenance and shift. Some properties of how community
members relate to each other (in social networks) are better predictors of
language maintenance and shift than more classic demographic factors. Upon
reviewing all accounts of factors concerning language maintenance, Fuller
moves on to case studies of Spanish maintenance in 4 areas of the US:
Southwest, New York City, Miami, and Chicago. Here, we find some basic
demographics for each area and current language survival and maintenance
trends. By comparing the situation of Spanish in these four areas, the author
is able to arrive at some conclusions concerning what factors generally
influence the survival of Spanish.
Chapter 6 is the most linguistic chapter of the book. In this chapter, the
linguistic consequences of language contact, both for English and Spanish, are
analyzed. Spanglish is presented first, and is introduced through its positive
and negative connotations. After that, linguistic characteristics of Spanglish
-- or US Spanish -- are detailed. First, lexical-semantic features are
presented (e.g. loan words, calques, phonological integration in loan words,
etc.), together with brief examples of each. The chapter continues with
syntactic features, questioning the origin of some structural characteristics.
These could be transfers from English, or a simplification already present in
the evolution of Spanish that is accelerated by its contact with English, as
is the case with some verbal morphology simplification. The second part of the
chapter deals with a characterization of Chicano English, clarified not to be
“accented English” of non-native speakers, but rather a variety of English
spoken by native speakers. The cause for this variety is unknown, but seems to
have been motivated by a desire in certain speech communities or a desire of
individual speakers to index the Latino identity (not necessarily Latino
origin). Different kinds of features are discussed, but phonological
characteristics, as well as intonation, are pointed out as the most noticeable
and unique characteristics of this variety of English. There is, however, a
lack of studies on different communities, especially from a quantitative
perspective, so Fuller’s characterization of Chicano English is said to
require more data.
The last chapter of the book, “Latino Education in the US”, starts by
recognizing the diversity of cases when it comes to educational programs.
Fuller focuses on lower class children, who are typically the most studied
because they are the most susceptible to problems at school. Within this
group, she reviews education programs aimed at non-native speakers of English.
First, Fuller presents three main types of programs: no program at all (i.e.
submersion), a transitional program aimed at improving English skills through
some education in Spanish, and a bilingual program that teaches in both
Spanish and English, with the goal of improving skills in both languages. She
then carefully reviews experimental results of studies testing the efficacy of
the different kinds of programs for students’ academic success from 1990 to
present. The overview reveals that all studies showed the bilingual program to
be the most successful in the long term. Yet, bilingual education is not
supported at the federal or state levels. Finally, Fuller again reviews
monolingual language ideologies that dominate language policing, and
consequently, language education, in order to connect the first chapter with
this last one.
“Spanish Speakers in the USA” is more than a textbook about the Spanish
language in the US; it is a book about language attitudes and ideologies, and
how language is used as an index of identity through reference to Spanish in
the US. The author takes a firm stance with regard to bilingual policies in
education, in public services, etc., and is a supporter of a bilingual
society, or rather, a translanguaging society in which mixed identities and
codes are not only tolerated but also supported. Although this narrower, more
focused view may not be what some instructors of a class on “Spanish in the
US” might be looking for, it certainly fulfills the main aims of the book
stated in the introduction:
“While the primary goal of this text is to help students understand the
complex social and linguistic issues which influence Spanish speakers in the
US, additional goals are (1) to foster the ability for readers to be critical
consumers of popular culture and (2) to encourage you to be proponents of
institutional policies and social practices which do not discriminate or rely
of stereotypes” (p. xiii).
The arguments given in the book, the real examples presented regarding
different ideologies, and the questions posited at the end of each chapter are
all extremely thought provoking, and hence, goals (2), and especially (1), are
Although the book is focused mainly on ideology, leaving out other aspects of
Spanish in the US (e.g. demographics, history, geographical distribution,
dialect characterization, etc.), it focuses on an aspect that has not been
centrally treated for Spanish in the US, and certainly even less so within a
non-essentialist view of language contact and ideology. Hence, this book
complements others and touches upon a topic that most others don’t, leaving
aside the treatment of language maintenance, which has been more frequently
covered in other works. It can also be used in classes on sociolinguistics or
language ideologies, attitudes and policies as supplementary material for
theory-based discussions, and can be an especially great resource for case
studies and questions for discussion.
The Instituto Cervantes Annuary of 2008 presents more detailed
characterizations of different varieties of Spanish in the US, as well as more
hard, quantitative data concerning the presence of Spanish in the US. It also
has a chapter devoted to the history of Spanish in the US. Another work
discussing in-depth the history and survival of Spanish from a more
quantitative approach is the chapter that Klee and Lynch (2009) dedicate to
Spanish in contact with English in the US. Different works (Lipski 2003, López
García 2007, López Morales 2007) touch upon the future of Spanish in the US,
though not with the same emphasis on the influence of a hegemonic ideology of
monolingualism over the survival of Spanish. Expanding upon this body of work,
Fuller puts together results of research on Latino representations and uses of
Spanish, codeswitching, and other linguistic practices, in order to present a
more complete picture of the value of the Spanish language in US society.
Perhaps the closest work to this would be the one by Field (2011) on
English-Spanish bilingualism in the USA. However, it centers on the idea of
bilingualism as concerning two distinct and stable languages, and hence, is
more related to the essentialist view that Fuller rejects.
In sum, Fuller’s book is a great introduction to all topics pertaining to
language ideology, language policy, linguistic identity, and language
practices, without getting too linguistically technical or lost in numbers.
However, it would probably need to be supplemented with some of those numbers,
and maybe a characterization of the different varieties of Spanish in the US,
for a more general class on Spanish in the US. The examples, her critique of
older sociolinguistic concepts, and the exercises/questions at the end of each
chapter are all elements of the book worth introducing in the classroom. The
book is also very cohesive, with constant reuse of previously introduced
ideas. This is a must own book for the Hispanic Linguistics instructor, and
perfect for a class more focused on the ideological and attitudinal aspects of
Spanish in the US and language contact in general. The author’s style is very
clear, direct, and filled with examples and topics that students will surely
Berg, C. R. 2002. Latino images in film: Stereotypes, Subversion, &
Resistance. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Field, F. 2011. Bilingualism in the USA: The case of the Chicano-Latino
Community. Philadelphia/Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Gal, S. and Irvine, J. 1995. The boundaries of languages and disciplines. How
ideologies construct difference. Social Research (62): 996-1001.
Instituto Cervantes. 2008. Enciclopedia del español en los Estados Unidos.
Anuario del Instituto Cervantes 2008. Madrid: Instituto Cervantes.
Klee, C. A. & Lynch, A. 2009. El español en contacto con otras lenguas.
Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press.
Lipski, J. M. 2003. La lengua española en los Estados Unidos: Avanza a la vez
que retrocede. Revista Española de Lingüística 33 (2): 231-260.
López García, A. 2007. La lengua española y sus tres formas de estar en el
mundo. Enciclopedia del español en los Estados Unidos. Anuario del Instituto
Cervantes 2006-2007. Madrid: Instituto Cervantes: 471-475.
López Morales, H. 2007. El futuro del español. Enciclopedia del español en los
Estados Unidos. Anuario del Instituto Cervantes 2006-2007. Madrid: Instituto
Petrucci, P. R. 2008. Portraying language diversity through a monolingual
lens: On the unbalanced representation of Spanish and English in a corpus of
American films. Sociolinguistic Studies 2 (3): 405-425.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Irene Checa-Garcia wrote her dissertation on measures of Syntactic Development
in adolescents and social factors influencing it. During her first
postdoctoral year, she worked at University of León on Functional Syntax of
Spanish complex sentences, and in particular relative clauses. The second year
she worked at the Linguistics Department at University of California, Santa
Barbara, using corpus linguistics methodology. Her current research focuses on
resumptive pronouns in Spanish relative clauses in conversation, along the
lines of Functional Discourse Grammar. Recently, she has started a
Conversation Analysis project on very young children's embodiment of action as
a communicative tool in a bilingual setting.
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