Dissertation: Deconstructing Mock Spanish

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Thu Mar 22 16:38:06 UTC 2007

Deconstructing Mock Spanish: A multidisciplinary analysis of mock Spanish
as racism, humor, or insult

Institution: University of South Carolina
Program: Program in Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2006

Author: Carla Maria Breidenbach

Dissertation Title: Deconstructing Mock Spanish: A multidisciplinary
analysis of mock Spanish as racism, humor, or insult

Dissertation Director: Amit Almor Janina Fenigsen Eric Holt Ann Kingsolver
Tracey Weldon

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation analyzes Mock Spanish from a multidisciplinary
perspective to address the general question: How does Mock Spanish work?
Drawing on a variety of theories and research methods from the fields of
linguistic anthropology, psycholinguistics, and sociolinguistics, this
dissertation attempts to answer that broad question by examining what Mock
Spanish involves, namely, whether Mock Spanish is racist in all contexts
or are there contexts in which Mock Spanish might have a different
interpretation such as humorous or insulting, and what makes Mock Spanish
racist. Based on my previous research (Breidenbach 2002, unpublished
study), I argue that there are four important factors that contribute to a
more complete understanding of the interpretation of Mock Spanish as a
form of covert racism: 1) the ability and willingness to consciously
acknowledge the past and present socio-historical context of the Hispanic
American experience, 2) the relationship between participants involved in
the Mock Spanish exchanges or discourses, 3) the ideological frameworks
hidden behind the utterance, and 4) the intentionality of the source.

I also argue that Mock Spanish can have multiple interpretations if
analyzed within a framework that treats meaning as flexible (Hall 1996,
Fenigsen 2005), whereby meaning can be "fixed" or "frozen" for a moment
(Hall 1996) within the broader structures of society such as ideologies,
power, and knowledge (Foucault 1980). In other words, meaning is
interpretation at one moment in time when all the appropriate factors
(e.g., ideologies, power, and knowledge) converge to produce a meaning for
one person at that point in time. Mock Spanish images and discourses are
not fixed but have a potentially wide range of meaning.



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