Language Contact and Change: Spanish in Los Angeles

Language Contact and Change: Spanish in Los Angeles

Language Contact and Change: Spanish in Los Angeles

Language Contact and Change: Spanish in Los Angeles


Languages in contact are characterized by constant and rapid change; thus, they provide a testing ground for hypotheses about processes of linguistic change. In this study, Silva-Corvalan looks at an inter-generational sample of Spanish-English bilinguals in Los Angeles County. Bringing together analytical techniques employed in sociolinguistics, functional syntax, and discourse analysis, she uncovers the linguistic, cognitive, and social processes underlying language maintenance, as well as changes characteristic of language shift and loss.


3.1. Introduction

THE PRECEDING chapter has documented the simplification and loss of verbal inflections in the Spanish of Los Angeles bilinguals. This chapter proposes to examine the effect simplification and loss may have on the expression of meaning complexes (Klein and von Stutterheim n.d.) in hypothetical and narrative discourse. Klein and von Stutterheim define a meaning complex (p. 1) as the set of temporally, spatially, logically, etc. ordered information expressed in such texts as route descriptions, narratives, and reports. I explore the question of what it is that cannot be said at the lower stages of the bilingual continuum or, at least, that cannot be said with the same degree of stylistic flexibility or semantic subtlety as a result of attrition of the verb system. In order to provide some answers, albeit far from definitive, to this general question, I analyse and compare narratives and samples of hypothetical discourse about hypothetical situations produced by Spanish- as well as by English-dominant bilinguals.

In regard to narratives, the discussion in Chapter 2 allows us to predict that the retention of Pret forms may permit speakers to communicate at least so-called foregrounded information, while the loss of absolute-relative tenses as well as simplification of Imp predict difficulties with the explicit establishment, by means of verb morphology, of certain temporal sequences. With respect to hypothetical discourse, simplification and loss of Cond and of Sub forms could have rather drastic consequences in reference to hypothetical situations, which might be misinterpreted as factual by an out-group individual.

3.2. Oral Narrative

3.2.1. Analysis

Conversational narratives have been chosen as a source of data because they constitute clearly identifiable meaning complexes whose internal organization correlates with some specific linguistic phenomena, e.g. the distribution of tenses in the various . . .

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