From ``Spanish-only'' cheap labor to stratified bilingualism: language, markets and institutions on the US-Mexico border

Amado Alarcón 1  and Josiah Heyman 2
  • 1 Universitat Rovira i Virgili
  • 2 The University of Texas at El Paso


Recent sociolinguistic research adds new economic sectors, such as the service economy, to the list of key forces that shape unequal, dynamic and complex diglossia (e.g., Spanish in the United States). However, little detailed work has been done on the linguistic characteristics of specific labor sectors in the wider contexts of ``debordering'' and ``rebordering''. In this article we develop in depth the market mechanisms and institutional constraints that shape the valuation and social expansion of Spanish in El Paso, Texas. The study finds that in sectors with low skills and low linguistic intensity, linguistic management policies are effectively ``Spanish-only''. However, as skills increase and there is a greater need for regulated communication in the occupational role, more constraints are observed on how Spanish functions in work use and professional careers.

Purchase article
Get instant unlimited access to the article.
Log in
Already have access? Please log in.

Log in with your institution

Journal + Issues

IJSL is dedicated to the development of the sociology of language as a truly international and interdisciplinary field in which various approaches - theoretical and empirical - supplement and complement each other, contributing thereby to the growth of language-related knowledge, applications, values and sensitivities. The journal features topically-focused issues with individual contributions on small languages and small language communities.