nucular and Latino

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Wed Nov 14 14:16:05 UTC 2001


No, you are not opening yourself to accusations of prejudice. You are
clearly prejudiced against this variety, and you admit it. Those of
us who have a professional interest in language attitudes are not
horrified (for we see much worse prejudice than yours almost daily).
But your relfections on th9in sprejudice ar most welcome, for they
reveal your underlying (nonlinguists') folk theories oif langauge. (I
use "folk" here, by the way, in no belittling sense whatsoever. I
mean by "folk linguistics" simply the beliefs held by nonlinguists
about language. I am, for example, a folk nuclear scientist.)

For linguists, for example, when you say that "frizar" means to frizz
or to curl, you reveal an interesting folk theory of language -
namely one which suggests that words have "real" (rather than
socially constructed) meanings. But "frizar" has no "semantic
privilege." It, in fact, gets to mean what a community of speakers
decides. That is not to say that that decision might not be at odds
with other communities of speakers (one you belong to in this case),
but that's what keeps us sociolinguists in business, ain't it?

In my earlier message, by the way, I did not mean to deny the fact
that there are some speakers of mixed or blended varieties who are,
in fact, such spekaers because they do not yet control the language
they are after. I am (or at least was) a speaker of what one might
call Portonhol, but not because I grew up in southern Rio Grande do
Sul, only because I was dropped into Portuguese with a
Spanish-speaking background and had to learn and use the language
very quickly. Technically, I would prefer not to use Portunhol for
waht I spoke (although I am sure it was very similar to what is
spoken by lots of other Spanish speakers attempting to learn
Portuguese). I was just a speaker of Spanish-Portuguese interlanguage
and did ot belong to a Portunhol-speaking speech community.


>  > You bet it's another subject. "Not being fond of Spanglish" (or any
>>  variety) carries unfortunate social implications. You can't be unfond
>>  of human practices without condemning the producers. I am unfond of
>>  murder, and, by saying so, I mean to condemn murderers. What do we
>>  mean to condemn in the makeup of code-switchers? Code-switching (the
>>  phenomenon which produces so-called "Spanglish") is a community-based
>>  linguistic phenomenon, one probably much more common in the history
>>  of all languages (includiing Spanish and English) that is normally
>>  thought to be the case outside the linguistic community.
>>  Dennis R. Preston
>I thought I might be opening a can or worms or opening myself up to the
>accusation of prejudice. I'm more than fond of Latinos: I love them. I am
>one myself, or at least half a one. My mother was Chilean. The reason I
>don't like Spanglish is that I'm a native speaker of Spanish and I love the
>Spanish language. But I'm aware that my prejudice, like all prejudices, is
>the result of my own ignorance. I've never been to Miami, but my brother
>tells me that a lot of people there say frizado instead of congelado. To me
>frisar means to frizz or curl, not to freeze. (There's no difference between
>s and z in the Chilean Spanish I speak). Here in France I know a lot of
>Brits who speak Franglais. To my ears Franglais is just as ugly as
>Spanglish. Totally unscientific and subjective of me, but there you have it.
>I quite like Portonhol, though, although I speak pretty good Brazilian
>Portuguese and Chilean Spanish. When I was living in the States I hung out
>with lots of Latin Americans, most of whom shared my feelings about
>Spanglish. If I spent any amount of time with speakers of Spanglish I might
>change my mind about this language, but it's unlikely to happen now that I
>live in the French Alps.
>Paul Frank
>English translation from Chinese, German,
>French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese
>Tel. +33 450 709 990 - Thollon, France
>E-mail: paulfrank at

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

More information about the Ads-l mailing list