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Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics

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The role of social networks in the retention of /f/ aspiration among Mexican migrant workers in the Pacific Northwest

Jackelyn Van Buren
Published Online: 2017-05-02 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/shll-2017-0005


Fricative /f/ aspiration (i. e., /f/ -> [h] in words such as afuera ‘outside’ and fui ‘went.1sg’) is a nonstandard rural feature of Spanish that occurs in a Pacific Northwest speech community of migrant farmworkers of Mexican descent. While the historical change in Spanish from /f/ > [h] has an extensive literature (see Naro 1972; Penny 1990; Pensado 1993; Torreblanca 1984), the social and linguistic factors that condition the variable’s synchronic use are poorly understood (Renaud 2014). This study examines the current trajectory of /f/ aspiration in the context of migration in the U.S., utilizing sociolinguistic interviews conducted with 28 participants ranging in age from 17 to 71, born in either Mexico or the U.S. The study demonstrates that speakers who are more tightly integrated into local family and agriculture networks are more likely to produce [h]. A significant interaction between gender and age is also found: while women of all ages are sensitive to the standard variant and use less of the stigmatized variant [h] overall, young men are robust producers of [h]. It is suggested that this variant holds covert prestige among men of Mexican descent working in agriculture in the migrant setting of the Pacific Northwest.

Keywords: U.S. Spanish; migration; fricatives; gender; social networks


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-05-02

Published in Print: 2017-05-01

Citation Information: Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics, Volume 10, Issue 1, Pages 161–188, ISSN (Online) 2199-3386, ISSN (Print) 1939-0238, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/shll-2017-0005.

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