Dissertation: Language Exchanges: The value of Spanish in Los Angeles

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Thu Mar 5 15:09:01 UTC 2009

Language Exchanges: The value of Spanish in Los Angeles

Institution: University of California, Los Angeles
Program: Department of Romance Linguistics and Literature
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: A. Michael Vermy

Dissertation Title: Language Exchanges: The value of Spanish in Los Angeles

Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
Spanish (spa)

Dissertation Director(s):
Claudia Parodi-Lewin
John Dagenais
Edward Tuttle
Antonio Carlos Quicoli

Dissertation Abstract:

Drawing upon theoretical ideas from sociology, linguistic anthropology and
social psychology, and placing them within the debate of language
selection, this study investigates the attitudes of native Spanish speakers
towards non-native Spanish speakers in Los Angeles, California to
demonstrate how the value of Spanish influences the linguistic exchanges
between native and non-native speakers. I interviewed 50 bilingual females
of Mexican origin in order to address their Spanish and English language
use, the beliefs they have towards their dialect, and what they think of
non-native Spanish speakers (including their opinion of the non-natives'
language variety and accents). I demonstrate how the participants'
educational level and their language maintenance influence their opinions
towards the non-native Spanish speakers. I also establish how native
language perception impacts accent fondness. This elucidates how the
attitudes one has towards language assigns it a certain value and how these
attitudes determine the market value of Spanish in the linguistic market.

Following Bourdieu, I posit that if the native Spanish speakers correlate
the non-native Spanish speaker's dialect with a variety of Spanish they do
not possess (the standard variety of Spanish) it affects how they respond
to the non-native. I show if the native Spanish speakers perceive the
non-native Spanish speaker's mother tongue to be English, and if said
native Spanish speakers esteem English more highly than they regard
Spanish, this determines the language they choose to speak with the
non-native speaker. I confirm how so-called stereotypes influence the way
individuals interact with one another since accent perception is part of
the processes that shape how native speakers interact with non-native
speakers. I explain how language attitudes show that the language exchanges
between native and non-native are necessarily associations of symbolic power.

I use as a point of departure Bourdieu's notions of habitus and symbolic
and cultural capital together with iconicity, power and languages games and
relate them all to the concepts of language identity/loyalty to establish
how they affect the language maintenance of native speakers and their
perception of non-native speech. This is a conglomerate of measurable
factors that influence the value of Spanish in Los Angeles.


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