Maintenance of Spanish subject pronoun expression patterns among bilingual children of farmworkers in Washington/Montana
It has been suggested that contact between Spanish and English results in an increased rate of Spanish subject pronouns and a desensitization to factors that constrain pronoun usage. Yet, evidence for such contact-induced change has been found in some U.S. communities, but not others. In this study we analyze Spanish pronoun expression in interviews with Hispanics in Washington State who do agricultural work in Montana each summer. We compare U.S.-born bilingual children to monolingual adults from this community. Results from analyses of 3,572 verb tokens indicate little to no change in pronoun expression — neither in rates of expression nor in usage patterns. We explain this lack of change in pronoun expression by drawing on the well-established connection between social networks and language change. Poorer, more rural communities, like the farmworker community in Washington/Montana, tend to have tight-knit social networks, which increases the likelihood of retention of linguistic patterns.
Keywords: language contact, Spanish subject pronoun expression, U.S. Spanish
Published online: 15 September 2016
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