Sociolinguistics Lunch: Phillip Carter (Florida International University)

NOV 08, 2013 | 2:00 PM TO 4:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




November 08, 2013: 2:00 PM-4:00 PM




Speaker: Phillip M. Carter (Florida International University)
Title: Sociolinguistic Perception in the Miami Context: Spanish, English, and the ‘Mirror Image’ Pattern

Numerous studies have addressed language attitudes toward Spanish among various Latino groups living in the United States. Taken together, this work shows that young Latinos in the U.S. have a largely favorable view of the language - they report having positive associations with Spanish, for instance, as an important link to family and culture, and by and large report that they plan on passing the language down to their own children. Yet, the study of Spanish language attrition in the U.S. shows that the latter of these - the faithful cross-generational transmission of Spanish - does not actually take place. That is, language shift from Spanish to English is clearly underway in U.S. Latino communities.
In this talk, I present data from a social-psychological / sociolinguistic study conducted in Miami that sheds light on the role of deep perceptions in the cross-generational loss of Spanish in the U.S. I present the findings of a study of language attitudes and perceptions toward Spanish and English in Miami among 200 adolescent bilinguals. The study employs Lambert et al.’s (1965) ‘matched guise’ technique. Believing they were listening to eight different speakers, study participants were in fact only played speech samples of four speakers who each read a short text in two “guises” (Spanish and English). Participants were then asked to rate each guise on a 5-point Likert-scale for a range of personal characteristics, such as intelligence, ambition, work ethic, physical attractiveness, and so on. They then answered hypothetical questions about each “speaker’s” estimated income, profession, and family history. In addition, participants were asked a set direct questions to gauge their explicit attitudes toward Spanish and English.
Results of the perception experiment show that the English-speaking guises were favored for a majority of the personal characteristics studied, including 'intelligence' and 'physical attractiveness.' However, Latino and non-Latino participants tended to differ in their perceptions of the languages. For example, non-Latino participants favored the Spanish guises for "ambition," while the Latino participants favored the English guises. Moreover, the negative associations between the various traits and Spanish were for the most part driven by the Latino participants. Non-Latino participants, in contrast, were more varied in their assessments of the guises. Finally, no interaction was found for Latino participants between these perceptions and the answers to the direct questions, which constitute 'explicit' language attitudes. These data are considered in light of competing national narratives about Spanish.