Title

Boricuas in the Big Easy: Language, identity, and ideology

Subject Area

Minorities and Multicultural Issues

Abstract

This paper presents an analysis of the impact of the sociolinguistic context on language usage among Puerto Ricans in New Orleans, LA. I argue here that public space in New Orleans is articulated as Anglo space (Hill, 1998) through a semiotic process rooted in localized articulations of the Latinx Threat Narrative (Chavez, 2008). Essentially, Spanish, or English with an accent perceived by the listener as ‘Spanish,’ is monitored and socially sanctioned within the public sphere (Urciuoli, 1993). First-generation Puerto Rican relocators to the city consciously modify their linguistic performance in efforts to avoid the social stigma attached to Spanish. Spanish attrition, seen through this lens, is not an accidental by-product of language contact, but a result of systematic linguistic and cultural dominion that restricts access to positive linguistic identities to Anglo English speakers.

The analysis is based on in-depth discourse analysis of six (6) sociolinguistic interviews conducted with Puerto Ricans in New Orleans in the spring of 2017 as part of a larger project focused on language use, attitude, and ideology in the Latinx community in New Orleans. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using the discourse analysis software Atlas T.I. in order to track mentions of threat discourses and to track participant reactions to these discourses. The interviews reveal that participants are acutely aware of threat-driven discourses surrounding the Latinx community and moderate, both consciously and unconsciously, their language use to mitigate the deleterious effects of these discourses.

New Orleans represents a fascinating linguistic context due to long term contact between varieties of American English, French, Spanish, Native American languages, and African languages. However, prior to a recent increase in attention, the city had been understudied (Dajko et al, 2012). The past five-to-ten years has seen an increased amount of academic attention to language use in the city (Eble, 2009; Schoux-Casey, 2013; Carmichael, 2014). This includes discussion of language use in the Latinx community by Lewis (2018a, 2018b, 2019a, 2019b). This paper continues this conversation and thus represents part of an ongoing effort to study language, identity, and ideology both in New Orleans generally and among New Orleans’ Latinx communities more specifically.

Brief Bio Note

Tom Lewis is a Visiting Instructor in the Department of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University. He completed a Ph.D. in Linguistics at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. His dissertation research focused on language and ideology in the Latinx community in the city.

Keywords

Sociolinguistics, Latinx Communities in the US, Linguistic Ideologies

Presentation Year

October 2020

Start Date

10-23-2020 10:20 AM

End Date

10-23-2020 11:00 AM

Embargo

12-16-2019

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Oct 23rd, 10:20 AM Oct 23rd, 11:00 AM

Boricuas in the Big Easy: Language, identity, and ideology

This paper presents an analysis of the impact of the sociolinguistic context on language usage among Puerto Ricans in New Orleans, LA. I argue here that public space in New Orleans is articulated as Anglo space (Hill, 1998) through a semiotic process rooted in localized articulations of the Latinx Threat Narrative (Chavez, 2008). Essentially, Spanish, or English with an accent perceived by the listener as ‘Spanish,’ is monitored and socially sanctioned within the public sphere (Urciuoli, 1993). First-generation Puerto Rican relocators to the city consciously modify their linguistic performance in efforts to avoid the social stigma attached to Spanish. Spanish attrition, seen through this lens, is not an accidental by-product of language contact, but a result of systematic linguistic and cultural dominion that restricts access to positive linguistic identities to Anglo English speakers.

The analysis is based on in-depth discourse analysis of six (6) sociolinguistic interviews conducted with Puerto Ricans in New Orleans in the spring of 2017 as part of a larger project focused on language use, attitude, and ideology in the Latinx community in New Orleans. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using the discourse analysis software Atlas T.I. in order to track mentions of threat discourses and to track participant reactions to these discourses. The interviews reveal that participants are acutely aware of threat-driven discourses surrounding the Latinx community and moderate, both consciously and unconsciously, their language use to mitigate the deleterious effects of these discourses.

New Orleans represents a fascinating linguistic context due to long term contact between varieties of American English, French, Spanish, Native American languages, and African languages. However, prior to a recent increase in attention, the city had been understudied (Dajko et al, 2012). The past five-to-ten years has seen an increased amount of academic attention to language use in the city (Eble, 2009; Schoux-Casey, 2013; Carmichael, 2014). This includes discussion of language use in the Latinx community by Lewis (2018a, 2018b, 2019a, 2019b). This paper continues this conversation and thus represents part of an ongoing effort to study language, identity, and ideology both in New Orleans generally and among New Orleans’ Latinx communities more specifically.