Menu Expand
Household Perspectives on Minority Language Maintenance and Loss

Household Perspectives on Minority Language Maintenance and Loss

Isabel Velázquez



This book provides an in-depth examination of minority language maintenance and loss within a group of first-generation Spanish-speaking families in the early-21st century, post-industrial, hyper-globalized US Midwest, an area that has a recent history of Latino settlement and has a low ethnolinguistic vitality for Spanish. It looks specifically at language ‘in the small spaces’, that is, everyday interactions within households and families, and gives a detailed account of the gendered nature of linguistic transmission in immigrant households, as well as offering insights into the sociolinguistic aspects of language contact dynamics. Starting with the question of why speakers choose to use and transmit their family language in communities with few opportunities to use it, this book presents the reader with a theoretical model of language maintenance in low vitality settings. It incorporates mothers’ voices and perspectives on mothering, their families’ well-being, and their role in cultural/linguistic transmission and compares the self-perceptions, motivations, attitudes and language acquisition histories of members of two generations within the same household. It will appeal to researchers and educators interested in bilingualism, language maintenance and family language dynamics as well as to those working in the areas of education, immigration and sociology.

Quite simply, without intergenerational transmission of a language within families, there is no maintenance and thus very little for linguists to study. This carefully nuanced study explores everyday linguistic choices navigated by working class Mexican immigrant mothers in the Midwest. A must-read for families raising kids bilingually and for scholars interested in the vitality of Spanish in the US.

This book is a fascinating portrayal of the struggle, resilience and triumph of Spanish language maintenance from an up-close-and-personal perspective in the US Midwest. Isabel Velázquez has gifted us with an innovative example of a storytelling sociology of language that will be emulated by researchers in years to come and that shines a bright light on the personal and lived consequences of language policy.

Isabel Velázquez is Associate Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA. Her research interests include bilingualism, sociolinguistics and heritage languages, with a particular focus on Spanish in the United States.

Masterfully written and highly compelling, this book not only foregrounds the voices of Latina mothers in Nebraska’s New Latino Diaspora, it helps us understand the important role they play in language maintenance and transmission, as well as the great cost to society when these processes are interrupted.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
DOI iv
Contents vii
Acknowledgements ix
Preface: Language Planning in Intimate Household Settings xi
1 Language Maintenance and Loss in Low Vitality Settings 1
2 Latino Language Experience in the US Midwest 21
3 Language in the Small Spaces: A Description of this Project 38
4 In What Language Do You Pray? Household Language Use and Parental Strategies for Management 49
5 Mothers and Children: Attitudes and Motivations to Use Spanish 70
6 Mothers and Children: Reported Language Competence 105
7 Children: Observed Skills in Spanish 112
8 Tell Me a Story: Analysis of Children’s Storytelling in Spanish 131
9 Toward a Theoretical Model of Language Maintenance in Low Vitality Settings 151
10 Conclusion 162
Appendices 166
References 201
Author Index 211
Subject Index 213