Publication Date

2014-07-30

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2014-07-30

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Latin American Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2014-05-09

First Committee Member

Andrew Lynch

Second Committee Member

George Yúdice

Third Committee Member

Eduardo Elena

Abstract

This study explored how second-generation Spanish speakers in South Florida imagine Miami in sociolinguistic terms, how linguistic identity is constructed within and outside of Miami, and how perceived language ideologies, labels, and stereotypes affect identity construction. The analysis was based upon semi-structured, open-ended interviews with thirteen young adults (ages 20-28) born in Miami, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from a Latin American country. The theoretical framework relied upon Anderson’s (1991) notion of imagined communities. Participants often contextualized their identity not only as English-speaking U.S. citizens, but also as members of their heritage country, and within the imagined Hispanic community of Miami, which was the main focus of this study. All the participants in this study affirmed that they were bilingual and referred to Miami as a Spanish-speaking community, either implicitly or explicitly. It was noteworthy that, for several participants, not being able to speak fluent Spanish caused embarrassment, feelings of guilt and discomfort, or social insecurity. In some cases, participants actively sought opportunities to increase their knowledge and use of Spanish. The one space that seemed to be dominated by the English language was school. Recalling their secondary schooling experiences in Miami, participants affirmed that social divisions based on language use (English vs. Spanish) and immigrant status served to isolate ESOL students. Participants’ observations regarding their own experiences in the U.S. beyond Miami suggested that there is greater use and broader social acceptance of Spanish in South Florida than in other areas of the country.

Keywords

Linguistic Identity; Second-Generation Spanish Speakers; Spanish; Miami; South Florida; Language Perceptions; Identity Construction

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