Spanish in major US cities
The Cervantes Observatory analyzes the linguistic features of Spanish speakers in major cities across the United States
Cambridge, May 6th, 2015. The Instituto Cervantes at Harvard University held a new event in the series "Conversations at the Observatory" led by Ricardo Otheguy, Professor of Linguistics at the University of the City of New York, and Daniel Erker, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics at Boston University. The meeting focused on the historic presence of the Spanish language in the United States and its evolution as a result of migration flows in recent years. During the conversation, they analyzed the particularities of linguistic and social profiles of speaking in large cities, particularly in Boston and New York.
According to Professor Otheguy, the Hispanic population of New York has a number of linguistic characteristics that distinguish it from other Hispanics in the United States. These include, for example, differences in the presence or absence of personal pronouns in a sentence. The Corpus Otheguy-Zentella consists of 140 interviews with Spanish-speaking New Yorkers that analyze what kind of influence English has on Spanish in the United States and also reflects the changes between the first and second generation of Spanish speakers in the US.
During the conversation, Erker analyzed the intergenerational transmission of Spanish, focusing on the fact that the high concentration of Latinos in Boston, according to his research, is not homogeneous in terms of country of origin. Erker said that Hispanics in the state of Massachusetts tend to be younger, less educated and earn less money for the same work than other citizens of the United States. Additionally for Boston, Professor Erker determined that pauses in speech are also a linguistic difference across the country, and vary based on the first language of the speaker and how long he or she has been living in the United States.
Moreover, during the conversation Erker and Otheguy also discussed Spanglish, a "hybrid reality" resulting from the coexistence of Spanish and English in countries like the United States. Daniel Erker said that "there is a need to claim Spanglish as a way of being bilingual," while Professor Otheguy said that this term is used "the wrong way" to define a portion of the Spanish language, when in fact it simply reflects a number of differences or peculiarities in the US.