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A sociolinguistic study of sustained Veneto-Spanish bilingualism in Chipilo, Mexico by Barnes, Hilary, Ph.D., THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY, 2009

April 11, 2012

Abstract:

This dissertation project examines the language contact situation of Chipilo, a Veneto-Spanish bilingual community of immigrant origin in central Mexico, focusing both on the social motivations for the sustained bilingualism observed and the linguistic outcomes in the Spanish of the community. Chipilo is a unique community in that Veneto, a Northern Italian dialect, has been maintained for over 127 years and is the first language of many, if not all, of the bilinguals in Chipilo. Both community languages are ascribed high prestige, therefore slowing the process of language shift from the immigrant language to the national language.

Chipilo was founded in 1882 by a homogenous group of approximately 560 immigrants from Veneto-speaking towns in northern Italy as a result of colonization efforts on the part of the Mexican government. During the initial years the town remained relatively isolated and the linguistic homogeneity of the group allowed for the continued use of Veneto as the preferred language of intra-ethnic communication. Today, changing social conditions brought about by the proximity of Puebla, the fourth largest city in Mexico, and an increase in contact with Spanish and mainstream national Mexican culture may affect the bilingualism observed in Chipilo.

With respect to the social context of Chipilo, this dissertation explores the differences in language use patterns and language attitudes across different gender, age, and L1 groups. Results reveal significant differences between men and women and across age and L1 groups with respect to language use patterns and attitudes towards both Spanish and Veneto. Women view Veneto as more important both at an individual and societal level and identify more with Veneto than do men. L1 is a strong indicator of language use patterns and attitudes in that L1 Veneto bilinguals use more Veneto and demonstrate more favorable attitudes towards Veneto than L1 Spanish bilinguals. Across age groups, younger generations view Spanish as less important to the community and identify less with Mexican culture than older generations. This is attributed to the positive prestige associated with Veneto and the strong link between Veneto and ethnic identity that persists today in the distinction between chipileños and mexicanos.

The intense Veneto-Spanish bilingualism observed in the community has linguistic consequences for the contact languages. Sociolinguistic interviews provided speech samples that were transcribed and analyzed for interlingual influence. Instances of language switching, lexical borrowings, and substratum effects, such as double negation, are identified and discussed. Interlingual influence was also examined by reference to the expression of overt subjects. In the case of Chipilo, Veneto and Spanish are both null subject languages, although the languages differ markedly in that Veneto employs obligatory subject clitics that occur in the 2

SG

, 3SG

, and 3PL

verb forms, which could be reanalyzed as subject pronouns in bilingual Chipilo Spanish. Statistical analysis revealed no increase in the overall rate of subject pronoun expression in bilingual Chipilo Spanish. Moreover, patterns of subject expression in this contact variety are similar to/identical to the variables implicated in monolingual varieties: the language-internal factors of person (and number), verb form ambiguity, and co-referentiality were all returned as significant in the expression of subject pronouns in bilingual Chipilo Spanish. Furthermore, the language-external factors of age and gender were also returned as significant. Women and older speakers (Group 3, age 51-64) favor overt forms, whereas men and other age groups favor null forms. This is attributed to the fact that women and older speakers may use more Veneto than Spanish and may be more likely to reanalyze Veneto subject clitics as subject pronouns in Spanish. Properties of the grammar commonly found to be subject to contact effects in other bilingual populations (heritage speakers, L2 learners, attrited speakers) were also examined. Variability in production was attested in bilingual Chipilo Spanish with respect to the preterite/imperfect distinction and variability in the use of imperfect subjunctive, variability in the lexical mapping of psychological predicates and use of the indirect object marker a, and variability in the use of clitic-doubling in inalienable possession constructions. 

This dissertation contributes to a variety of linguistic fields, including social psychology of language, sociolinguistics, language contact, and theoretical linguistics. The language contact situation in Chipilo provides further insight into the processes of language maintenance and shift and the role that factors such as prestige, language attitudes, and identity play in the maintenance of a minority language. Furthermore, research in Chipilo offers a unique perspective to work in language contact and to the linguistic consequences of bilingualism in a situation of sustained contact.

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