Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Out with the Old, in with the New? Recent Trends in Spanish Language Use in Colorado

Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Out with the Old, in with the New? Recent Trends in Spanish Language Use in Colorado

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. Census measures of count, density, loyalty and retention (Hudson, Hernandez-Chavez, and Bills 1995) among Spanish speakers in Colorado over the 1980-2000 Census periods show marked and rapid language shift throughout the state. While the overall count of Spanish speakers in Colorado has doubled in the last decade, the concentrations of Spanish speakers have shifted among specific linguistic communities. Immigration has clearly had an effect on loyalty and retention across much of the state, especially in urban areas, while the historically Spanish-speaking San Luis Valley has shown an overall decline in Spanish retention. Correlation measures show that loyalty and retention were once strongly linked to the longstanding Spanish-speaking communities of the state; however, in the latest Census figures this correlation is much weaker in these areas and much stronger in larger communities affected by immigration. Additionally, strong correlations with maintenance and socioeconomic factors have weakened over the most recent Census period.

INTRODUCTION. Recent U.S. population trends have shown dramatic demographic shifts in the population identified as 'Hispanic or Latino' by the U.S. Census Bureau. At the leading edge of these shifts is Colorado, where Census data have shown the Hispanic/Latino population to have doubled in the last decade. With this rapid rate of growth, it is appropriate to examine whether or not this growing minority population is maintaining its linguistic identity, and to explore the forces that might be causing language loss or maintenance.

Hudson, Hernandez-Chavez, and Bills published a series of papers (Hudson, Hernandez-Chavez and Bills 1992, Bills, Hernandez-Chavez, and Hudson 1993, Hernandez-Chavez, Bills, Hudson 1993, Hudson, Hernandez-Chavez, and Bills 1995) on the status of the Spanish language in the five southwestern states of the United States and on the factors which could have affected its maintenance, such as the geographical distance from the Mexican border and various socioeconomic factors. With the exception of a comparison of the change in the number of Spanish language claimants from 1980 to 1990, those reports considered only data from the U.S. Census year 1980. Briefly, these authors found that, in 1980 in the five states examined, counties with higher numbers or percentages of persons of Hispanic origin tended to exhibit higher measures of language maintenance and that, conversely, counties geographically distant from the Mexican border or with higher levels of educational or socioeconomic indicators tended to exhibit lower levels of language maintenance. Their reports collectively represent a comprehensive picture of the situation of the Spanish language in the southwestern United States as it was in 1980.

While these reports describe the linguistic situation of Spanish in the southwestern United States, at least as it was in 1980, very little has been published specifically on the status of the Spanish language in Colorado and, with the exception of Floyd's (1982) study on heritage speakers at the University of Colorado, these few reports (Lozano 1994, Vigil, Bills, and Bernal-Enriquez 1996, Bills 1997) have focused expressly on the San Luis Valley on the New Mexican border. In addition, there remains the significant question of what potential changes might be reflected in the additional Census data of 1990 and 2000. It is important to re-examine this issue as Hispanics or Latinos have become the United States' largest minority (U.S. Census Bureau 2004). The extent to which this cultural group remains a linguistic group will have broad implications concerning society, politics, and the economy.

The present report will therefore revisit some of the questions of Hudson et al. (1995) specifically for the state of Colorado, in the process reviewing the 1980 Census data but additionally considering the Census data of 1990 and 2000. In particular, this report will utilize the measures of maintenance defined by Hudson et al. …

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