Show The Graduate Center Menu

José del Valle
Position: Professor
Degrees/Diplomas: Ph.D., Georgetown University
Research Interests: Linguistics ideologies, language policy, Glottopolitical history of Spain and Latin America

José del Valle is Professor of Hispanic Linguistics at CUNY's Graduate Center. He is affiliated with the Ph.D. Program in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages and with the Ph.D. Program in Linguistics. Since January 2011 he is HLBLL´s Executive Officer. He received his "Licenciatura" in 1988 from the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Spain; his M.A. in 1990 from the University at Buffalo (SUNY); and his Ph.D. in 1994 from Georgetown University. He taught at Miami University (Ohio) and Fordham University (Bronx) before he joined CUNY in 2002. He has also held visiting positions at the University of Virginia and Princeton University, and taught short seminars at the Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela), Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), A Coruña (Spain), de la República (Uruguay) and Buenos Aires (Argentina). As a result of his doctoral work, which dealt with issues of Spanish socio-historical linguistics and language change theory, he published El trueque s/x en español antiguo. Aproximaciones teóricas (Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1996). Later his research turned to linguistic ideologies and the politics of language. His publications include articles in journals such as Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, Debats, Hispanic Review, Historiographia Linguistica, Language and Communication, Language Policy, International Journal of Multilingual Research, PMLA and Quimera, and contributions to several edited volumes. He has also published The Battle Over Spanish Between 1800 and 2000: Language Ideologies and Hispanic Intellectuals (co-edited with Luis Gabriel-Stheeman; Routledge, 2002), which studies the post-colonial linguistic construction of national and pan-Hispanic identities in Spain and Latin America. An expanded Spanish edition of this book, entitled La batalla del idioma: la intelectualidad hispánica ante la lengua, was published in 2004 by Vervuert / Iberoamericana. In 2007, he published La lengua ¿patria común? Ideas e ideologías del español (Vervuert / Iberamericana, 2007), which deals with Spain's contemporary language policies and geopolitical interests in Latin America. He has recently guest-edited a special issue of Sociolinguistic Studies on the representation of transnational languages in the context of globalization, high modernity, and new imperialism (to appear in 2011) and, with Elvira Narvaja de Arnoux, a special issue of Spanish in Context on language, politics and ideology (2010). He is currently editing A Political History of Spanish which will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2012. In 2010 he received the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.


Recent publications – Publicaciones recientes

  • "Spanish, Spain and the Hispanic Community: Science and Rhetoric in the History of Spanish Linguistics." In Interpreting Spanish Colonialism: Empires, Nations, and Legends. Christopher Schmidt-Nowara and John Nieto-Phillips, eds. University of New Mexico Press. 2005. 138-161.
  • "La lengua, patria común: política lingüística, política exterior y post-nacionalismo hispánico." In Studies on Ibero-Romance Linguistics Dedicated to Ralph Penny, Roger Wright and Peter Ricketts, eds. Newark (Delaware), Juan de la Cuesta Monographs (Estudios Lingüísticos no.7), 2005. 391-416.
  • "El gallego en la escalera: lengua e identidad en los márgenes." In Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies 7 (2003). 101-07.
  • "Desde el spanglish neoyorquino hacia el concepto de un mundo hispánico." In Debats: Revista trimestral editada por la Institució Alfons el Magnànim. Special issue on New York City (Fall 2001). 80-86.
  • "Embracing diversity for the sake of unity: linguistic hegemony and the pursuit of total Spanish." In Monica Heller and Alexandre Duchêne (eds.), Discourses of endangerment: interest and ideology in the defense of languages. London: Continuum International. 2007. Pp. 242-67.
  • "U.S. Latinos, la hispanofonía, and the language ideologies of high modernity." In Clare Mar-Molinero and Miranda Stewart (eds.), Globalization, language and the Spanish-Speaking World. London: Palgrave Macmillan. 2006. Pp. 27-46.
  • "Spanish in Brazil: language policy, business, and cultural propaganda." Language Policy (2006) 5: 369-392. Co-authored with Laura Villa.
  • La lengua, ¿patria común?: ideas e ideologías del español. Frankfurt/Madrid: Vervuert/Iberoamericana, 2007.
  • "Total Spanish: The Politics of A Pan-Hispanic Grammar."  PMLA 124(3): 880-887, 2009.


Article abstracts or excerpts from articles – Resúmenes o fragmentos de artículos

  • "U.S. Latinos, la hispanofonía, and the language ideologies of high modernity." In Clare Mar-Molinero and Miranda Stewart, eds. Globalization, language and the Spanish-Speaking World. London: Palgrave. Expected: 2006.
    […] The public representations of Spanglish display an even more complex net of interacting language ideologies. The harsh condemnation of linguistic practices that fall outside the conceptual constraints of a standard grammar is deeply grounded in the ideology of monoglossia, which consists of two principles: focused grammar, or the assumption that what linguistically characterizes an individual as well as a community is possession of a well defined and relatively stable grammar: speaking is always speaking a language; and its diachronic counterpart, the principle of convergence, or the assumption that people's linguistic behaviour tends to become homogeneous over time through pressure from the dominant norm of the community (del Valle 2000). Monoglossic beliefs obstruct the perception of diffused linguistic practices as legitimate means of verbal interaction and encourage the iconic association of such practices with intellectual deprivation and social marginality. There is tolerance of multilingualism in monoglossia, but, like in Milroy and Milroy's description of standardization (Milroy 2001; Milroy and Milroy 1999), the grammars involved must remain uncontaminated and performance in each case must comply or tend to converge with the ideal standard form […] An individual's heteroglot language is therefore better described as a dot in a three-dimensional space moving in the direction of multiple vectors that point to the different norms available to them (del Valle 2000). The ideology of heteroglossia is more likely to surface in linguistic contexts that James Milroy (2001: 539-43) has described as ‘language in an unstandardized universe'. Like all ideologies, heteroglossia may rise to a high level of consciousness, and heteroglot practices may become reified and used as a political instrument or an economic asset. Ilan Stavans, Professor of Spanish and Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College, has attempted to legitimize Spanglish precisely by performing this type of reification: he has set out to elaborate a dictionary of Spanglish and a Spanglish rendition of the first chapter of Don Quixote (Stavans 2003). His efforts certainly caught the attention of the media, including, in Spain, frequent references in EL PAíS and, in the USA, a television interview in PBS's The Newshour with Jim Lehrer. […] Finally, the popularity and worldwide success of reggaeton – the hybrid musical style combining diverse rhythms and mixing Spanish and English in its lyrics that emerged in Puerto Rico, caught on among US Latinos of all origins, and is now spreading internationally – offers another case in point: the commodification of forms of cultural expression not just close to Spanglish but closely interlocked with it. DJ Nelson, one of its original creators, described the process quite bluntly: ‘Ten years ago, reggaeton was music. Now it is a business' (cited in The New York Times, 17 July 2005) […].

  • "Spanish in Brazil: language policy, business, and cultural propaganda." In Language Policy (2006) 5(4). Co-authored with Laura Villa. Forthcoming.
    The purpose of this article is to describe and analyze the policies designed and implemented since the early nineties by Spanish government agencies in order to promote Spanish as a valuable international language. In particular, we focus on its promotion in Brazil and on the strategies used to legitimize not only the presence of the language in various domains (e.g. the educational system) but also the active participation of Spanish institutions in its spread. Through a detailed analysis of a corpus of relevant texts, (a) we critically examine the cultural, economic, and political roots of these policies, as well as the rhetoric used to provide them with legitimacy; (b) we explore their connection to national language and global language ideologies; and (c), on the basis of our findings and related work done by other scholars, we argue for the need to develop a comparative strand in the analysis of the international promotion of languages.

  • "Embracing diversity for the sake of unity: linguistic hegemony and the pursuit of total Spanish." In Monica Heller and Alexandre Duchêne, eds. Discourses of endangerment: interest and ideology in the defense of languages. London: Continuum International. Expected: 2007.
    In this article, I argue that, in the wake of Spain's recent economic take-off, Spanish governments have mobilized cultural and linguistic institutions in order to strengthen and legitimize their influence in Latin America and facilitate the operation of Spain-based corporations in that continent. Faced with the possibility that this scenario be perceived as neocolonial, these institutions have striven to conceptualize and publicly portray Spain's presence in its former colonies as both "natural" and "legitimate" and have unequivocally promoted the notion of a fraternal community of Spanish-speaking nations—a construct that I have chosen to call hispanofonía. In this process, the Spanish Royal Academy has been a central actor, designing and promoting images of itself and of Spanish that would function as iconic representations of the idealized egalitarian and democratic panhispanic community. In my research on Spain's contemporary language policies and ideologies, current discourses of endangerment surrounding Spanish have emerged as sites where anxieties over Spain's struggles to achieve relative prominence within the international arena are worked out. Thus, present worries about linguistic fragmentation do not only or necessarily reflect concerns about the purely "linguistic" integrity of the language. Instead, I contend, they mirror fears of an "ideological" fracture that would expose inequality and dissent and thus hamper the consolidation of the hispanofonía. In response to the potentially dangerous identification of Spain as a privileged and interested player within the fraternal language community, I suggest that the Spanish Royal Academy has structured its activity around a linguistic public sphere, an open space where, allegedly, representatives from all Spanish-speaking nations converge in order to "democratically" decide on the future of the language. In this ideological context, the language itself must necessarily reflect the egalitarianism that allegedly characterizes the hispanofonía: consequently, intralingual diversity is now embraced and, thus, its meaning, its subversive potential, controlled.

  • "Monoglossic policies for a heteroglossic culture: Misinterpreted multilingualism in modern Galicia." Language and Communication 20 (1) (2000). 105-132.
    Galicia is an Autonomous Community in Northwestern Spain in which Galician and Spanish enjoy co-official status. The current policy establishes the co-officiality of both languages, protects the right of all Galicians to use either language, and encourages the promotion of Galician. Opponents of the official policy maintain that, under the present conditions, the co-existence of Galician and Spanish perpetuates the decline of the former; and therefore they demand affirmative actions that guarantee the dominance of Galician in all domains and the reversal of the on-going shift towards Spanish.

    In the present article, I will begin by (a) studying the texts and discourses that endorse hegemonic and counter-hegemonic language policies in the region in order to identify the cultural and linguistic assumptions in which these policies are grounded, (b) I will then demonstrate how those assumptions have produced inaccurate descriptions of Galicia's sociolinguistic configuration, and, finally, (c) I will propose a new conceptual framework for the sociolinguistic characterization of Galicia. […]

    Although in the history of European nationalism religion, ethnicity or civic values have been claimed as pillars of a community, nationalist ideology has more often than not defined the nation on the basis of language. As a result of the dominance of the culture of monoglossia, a language-based cultural community is always assumed to share a focused grammar, and the linguistic behavior of members of a community is assumed to tend to converge into that grammar.

    As shown in the previous sections, all public discourses on language in Galicia are grounded in these assumptions. But given the present political situation in the region, there are two relevant questions that linguists, anthropologists, sociologists and the like must address (and that, for the most part, we have failed to address): First, are the language attitudes and linguistic behaviors of all Galicians consistent with the linguistic culture of monoglossia? And second, is it possible (maybe even necessary) for language planners to contribute to the development of a linguistically-based Galician identity that is not mediated by the culture of monoglossia? […]

Recently taught courses and seminars – Cursos y seminarios recientes





  • Historia de la lengua española
    Esta clase propone un recorrido por la historia externa e interna del español (de sus múltiples variedades, incluidas las de contacto). La ventana cronológica es amplia y va desde los tiempos en que el latín se extendió por la Península Ibérica hasta el momento actual, cuando aún se debate la unidad y prestigio del español en el mundo. Uno de los componentes temáticos de esta asignatura presenta la descripción tradicional de la historia de la lengua como un proceso de evolución lineal de unidades y sistemas fónicos, morfológicos y sintácticos. Un segundo componente presenta fenómenos culturales y sociolingüísticos (bilingüismo, diglosia, estandarización) que permiten una aproximación crítica a la emergencia histórica del español como "lengua" y a las circunstancias de su propagación por la Península Ibérica y por el continente americano.
  • Política lingüística y globalización en América Latina y España
    En este seminario, se discutirá el papel jugado por la política lingüística tanto en la promoción de prácticas y saberes concretos como en la producción y reproducción de identidades colectivas. Prestaremos atención, en particular, a las estrategias por medio de las cuales se interviene, desde diversas instituciones, en la configuración de mercados lingüísticos, es decir, en la asignación de valor a las distintas prácticas e ideas lingüísticas presentes (o ausentes) en una determinada comunidad. Examinaremos también la medida en que algunos de los conceptos centrales para el estudio de la dimensión política del lenguaje (poder, solidaridad, redes de interacción social, transmisión intergeneracional o compartimentación) son válidos aun en el contexto ofrecido por los fenómenos que se asocian con la globalización. Nos aproximaremos a las visiones de la relación entre lenguaje y comunidad y más concretamente repasaremos estudios de políticas lingüísticas diseñadas y/o implementadas en América Latina y España.
  • La estandarización y el estatus post-colonial del español
    ¿Qué es el español y qué representa? ¿Quién tiene autoridad para resolver disputas lingüísticas? Partiendo de los fundamentos teóricos y metodológicos que nos proporciona el campo de las ideologías lingüísticas (que estudia las bases culturales, económicas, políticas y sociales tanto de las prácticas verbales como de las visiones de la lengua) en este seminario nos proponemos analizar la naturaleza de estas preguntas y discutir algunas respuestas que a las mismas se han dado desde diversas esferas de la vida pública tanto en Latinoamérica como en España. Se estudiará para ello el trabajo pertinente de autores tales como Andrés Bello, Rufino Cuervo, Ramón Menéndez Pidal o Amado Alonso, cuyas discusiones de cuestiones lingüísticas estuvieron estrechamente vinculadas a proyectos de construcción nacional y al desarrollo de la comunidad hispanohablante moderna.
  • Language in nationalist discourse
    Assuming that nationalism has been a central theme in the social sciences, this sociolinguistics seminar reviews the contributions made to its understanding by a number of schools of sociolinguistic research. Topics such as the discursive elaboration of a national image, the rhetorical strategies used in legitimating a specific national configuration, the role assigned to language in theories of the historical emergence of nationalism, or the political intervention on language in nation-building processes will be addressed. These linguistic phenomena will be studied with the theoretical concepts and methodological tools of language policy and planning studies, the critical analysis of discourse, and linguistic ideology research.