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Spanish in four borders

The Observatory Cervantes analyzes the consequences of linguistic contacts

Cambridge, October 3, 2014. The Observatory of the Instituto Cervantes at Harvard University held a talk on ‘Spanish in Four Borders’ within the series "Conversations at the Observatory.” This seminar, dedicated to reflecting upon the situation of the Spanish language in the world, addressed four linguistic and cultural boundaries: Asia, Africa, America and Europe. The session compared these four regions in regards to the similarities and peculiarities in their use of the Spanish language. It was also explained that many of the situations of Spanish in the United States also occur in other cultural contexts.

Lotfi Sayahi, Associate Professor of Linguistics in the department of Hispanic Studies at the State University of New York at Albany, explained the different relationships between Spanish and the other predominant languages of the Maghreb: Arabic and French. Both languages are frequently used in areas where Spanish is also spoken, and are most likely to blend with Spanish to result in a diglossia in different areas across the region, and particularly at social functions. This interaction influences the local communities in various ways, such as by increasing the demand for additional Spanish classes in schools. This impact shows the growing importance of Spanish in North Africa. Lotfi also shared several examples from his own conversations with North Africans demonstrating that these three languages are frequently combined during everyday situations.

Europe is another area that witnesses frequent interaction between Spanish and other languages, and in fact, across the European Union, Spanish is one of the most commonly spoken second languages. Mercé Pujol, a professor of Spanish at the University of Paris, La Défense, discussed the evolution of the use of Spanish in Europe. The promotion of multilingualism in the EU, in addition to education and tourism, has led to increased knowledge of Spanish. This has encouraged increased business transactions, supported by the use of Internet and other new technologies.

Ana Roca, Professor of Spanish and Linguistics at Florida International University, explained what is commonly called the "Spanish in the United States." In America, where the border between Mexico and the United States coincides with the domestic American "frontier" between Hispanics and Anglo-Saxons, the population is also greatly affected by the evolution of Spanish.  In order to promote the use of Spanish by the “third generation” in the U.S., we must focus our efforts on education without neglecting the importance of creating a family environment in which Spanish is the primary language used.

The seminar ended with a virtual speech by Rafael Rodríguez-Ponga, Secretary of the Instituto Cervantes. The speech was especially dedicated to the Philippines, where Spanish has had a strong historical presence since the sixteenth century. This is where Chabacano, a Spanish dialect, along with Chamorro of the Marianas Islands, are the result of a concatenation of events and contact between languages that have emerged ​​throughout the centuries. Finally, Rodriguez-Ponga analyzed anglificación and deshispanización which are currently affecting both dialects because of their increasing exposure to English, which has become not only an official language but also the language of interethnic communication.

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