Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Retention and Deletion of /S/ in Final Position: The Disappearance of /S/ in the Puerto Rican Spanish Spoken in One Community in the US Midwest

Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Retention and Deletion of /S/ in Final Position: The Disappearance of /S/ in the Puerto Rican Spanish Spoken in One Community in the US Midwest

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. Puerto Rican Spanish (PRS) in a rural U.S. Midwestern town diverges from its ancestral variety, i.e. Island Puerto Rican Spanish, in the alternatives for /s/ in coda position. The data consist of natural speech samples from twelve speakers reading a list of words, several paragraphs and having an informal conversation with the researcher. Internal and external linguistic factors were correlated with the different /s/ allophones, Internal linguistic factors such as word length, lexical item and position within the word, in addition to the external factors of gender and generation, act in combination to differentiate /s/ at the phonological level. For some speakers, these factors were found to have a direct correlation with /s/ deletion. The interaction of the different generations of Puerto Rican speakers results in an intergenerational transmission of /s/ as [s], /s/ aspiration and/or /s/ deletion in this community. However, despite the transmission of the same /s/ variants used in Island Puerto Rican Spanish, the community members use the resources available in the ancestral variety differently. The third generation, for instance, deletes /s/ and is, of all the generations, the one that shows a marked preference for /s/ deletion. This deletion is higher in frequency than the frequency of use for the other two generations combined.

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1. INTRODUCTION. Previous work has documented the different alternatives for /s/ variants in coda position in Puerto Rican Spanish (PRS) (Hochberg 1986; Lamboy 2004; Lopez Morales 1983; Ma and Herasimchuk 1971; Navarro-Tomas 1948; Poplack 1980a, 1980b; Valentin-Marquez 2006). The descriptions of this Spanish dialect consider /s/ variation on the island of Puerto Rico (Navarro-Tomas 1948, Lopez Morales 1983, Valentin-Marquez 2006) and among Puerto Ricans who live in the urban areas of the United States, e.g. Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York (Hochberg 1986; Ma and Herasimchuk 1971; Lamboy 2004; Poplack 1980a, 1980b).

Compared to the vast amount of research on Puerto Rican Spanish in urban areas and on the island of Puerto Rico, research on Puerto Ricans and their dialect in isolated rural communities in the United States is limited. The Puerto Rican community of Lorain, Ohio is therefore a group of interest because it is located in a rural region of the Midwest. The community also has three distinct generations with different levels of language maintenance. Thus, a study of this group of Puerto Rican speakers who live in the American Midwest is fit to fill a gap in linguistic studies of Puerto Rican Spanish in the United States.

This investigation concentrates specifically on the distribution of the /s/ allophones and the transmission of /s/ across three different generations in the community. In addition, a description of distribution for /s/ in different phonological environments in a variety of Spanish-speaking communities, including Puerto Rican Spanish in Puerto Rico and the United States, situates these results. These descriptions allow readers to frame the results of this investigation in the context of previous work and permit a comparison between the data discussed in this article with that of previous work in the field of dialectology and sociophonetics.

1.1. OBJECTIVES. Several objectives guide the data analyses from Puerto Rican Spanish in Lorain, Ohio. The first objective is to achieve a description of the distribution of /s/ and its allophones within the community. Similarly, it is relevant to determine the patterns in the distribution and if this behavior is similar to or if it varies from other Spanish varieties. Finally, it is equally important to determine if the isolation of the community has played a role in the distributional patterns of /s/ and its variants.

Previous work has described Puerto Rican Spanish in urban settings, but not in isolated rural communities. The Midwest Puerto Rican community this work considers is ideal for understanding linguistic behavior of Spanish speakers in rural isolated linguistic communities. …

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