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Linguistic perceptions on Spanglish discourse settings

Processes of divergence in constructing identity

From the book Convergence and divergence in Ibero-Romance across contact situations and beyond

  • Johanna Wolf


By analysing four English-Spanish bilingual blogs, the present paper demonstrates that discursive practices like code-switching play a crucial role in constructing a divergent Spanglish identity in specific discourse settings and that this may have effects on the epistemic structures of the Hispanic society in its entirety. Immigrant communities need to negotiate which processes of convergence or divergence would be accepted by their speakers in order to construct a kind of hybrid identity that offers an appropriate frame of reference to its members. Although the second generation of Hispanics in the United States, and even more the third generation, will have converged to the target culture in many perspectives (e.g. organisation of daily-life-routines), members of this group still want to accentuate their own identity. Thus, they try to diverge in other perspectives in order to keep a link to their origins. Above all, concerning the Hispanic community, an idiosyncratic use of the heritage language helps to guarantee distinctiveness by using processes of divergence in their linguistic behaviour. In accordance with the hypothesis that language use strongly relates to the expression of identity, this paper focuses on these processes and suggests a more targeted use of the term Spanglish taking into account that Spanglish fulfils a mere emblematic function and serves as a label for the complex and multifaceted identity of second and third generation Hispanics in the United States. This includes the dimension of language and its specific use: linguistic routines used by Spanglish speakers are seen as a means for expressing their distinctive identity, that is, divergence concerning linguistic behaviour in a double sense. On the one hand divergence is created with regard to a U.S. specific culture, on the other hand in reference to the original one. Specifically, the use of codeswitching is defined as a discursive practice which precipitates changes in sociocultural episteme, knowledge and understanding and is able to transport shared epistemic knowledge, by creating linguistic divergence.

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