nucular and Latino

Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Thu Nov 15 06:04:35 UTC 2001

From: "Dennis R. Preston" <preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU>
> Paul,
> Nonsense. I didn't say I liked Spanglish (or disliked Spanish or
> English). I cited some linguistic and sociocultural facts about it.
> When I say what I like and don't like (and I really dislike the sound
> of Northern Cities Vowel-Shifted speakers, like fingernails on a
> blackboard) I am completely aware of the, as you suggest,
> unscientific nature of such comments. But I got 'em.
> On the other hand, if you think Spanglish is "less expressive" or
> "rich" than Spanish or English, you are just plain old wrong,
> although your unscientific emotions may lead you in these direction.
> Let's take just one (silly) example. How could Spanglish (which has
> the lexical resources of Spanish and English) be less rich in its
> vocabulary? Looks like it could be (potentially) twice as rich. Gonna
> be a little harder for me to find a scientific correalte for
> "expressive," but, given a day, I can handle it.

Hi again Dennis,

Sorry I misunderstood. I was under the mistaken expression that linguists
were allowed to say that this or that language is a wonder of human
inventiveness, but not that a particular language is in some respects
deficient or, perish the thought, ugly in some way. That's why I said that
although we non-linguists have little or no scientific knowledge of
language, at least we get to have linguistic likes and dislikes. For
instance, having lived in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China, and having spent
twenty years studing Chinese, I think that Cantonese is an ugly language and
Taiwanese (or Fujianese) a beautiful one. As a native speaker of Spanish
who's spent decades speaking with Latin Americans and Spaniards as well as
Latinos in the U.S., I find Argentinean, Mexican, and Cuban Spanish to be
more expressive than the Spanglish I heard in the United States. Argentinean
Spanish is particularly expressive to my mind. Again, in my unscientific and
unschooled opinion, Yiddish is a particularly expressive language, although
my knowledge of the language is rather limited. And in my unscientific but
not altogether unschooled opinion, Chinese is more expressive than any of
the other languages I can read or speak, in large measure possibly because
of thousands of literary allusions (chengyu) going back 3000 years which are
still in common and daily use. Chinese Chengyus don't just gather dust in
old books. Depending on one's schooling, a pithy four-syllable phrase
immediately conjures up a story in a high school book, classic (such as the
four books), or classical commentary. As for Spanglish, it is a pidgin? Is
it a creole? Is it in the process of creolization? How cohesive it is, given
the size of the United States and the number of speakers of Mexican,
Honduran, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, and every other variety of Spanish in
the country? Can we even speak of Spanglish or should we speak of
Spanglishes? What can and can't be said in Spanglish? More importantly, what
is and isn't said and written in Spanglish? I'm told that every language
serves the purposes of its speakers. Which makes sense. I posted a URL of a
dictionary of Computer Spanglish yesterday:

It was silly of me to express my opinions and prejudices yesterday. Being
silly is one of my many weaknesses.

Paul Frank
English translation from Chinese, German,
French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese
Tel. +33 450 709 990 - Thollon, France
E-mail: paulfrank at

Die sprachen sind die scheyden, darynn
dis messer des geysts stickt. Martin Luther

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