Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Codeswitching and identity among island Puerto Rican bilinguals
by Perez Casas, Marisol, Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2008, 345; 3341614
Abstract (Summary)

The present sociolinguistic and ethnographic study focuses on codeswitching, the alternation of two or more languages in conversation. It investigates how a network of elite, educated bilinguals on the Island of Puerto Rico (PR) alternate between English and Spanish in everyday, casual conversations, and how this language practice relates to their social identities. Due to the intricate sociolinguistic situation and political status of PR, this context is ideal for looking into the meaning and social significance of codeswitching, and how this linguistic style contributes to identity creation.

This study was based on ethnographic interviews and observations, audio recordings of casual conversations, and a thorough account of speakers' socio-cultural realities. It explores the history and ideologies tied to each language, provides a thorough description of how participants invested in learning English, and gives a detailed account of language use in interaction to make visible important linguistic processes on the Island.

It was found that codeswitching constitutes an integral part of the linguistic repertoire of a network of elite, Puerto Rican bilinguals and that they employ a codeswitching style habitually in informal group encounters. Speakers did not engage in codeswitching as a deliberate choice, that is, a mindful way to index ideological associations of each language. However, the codeswitching practice of this network, as an overall pattern and stylistic option, strays from the community-wide discourse mode (Spanish), and therefore has important implications for the affirmation, and shaping of personal and social identities.

An analysis of prevalent language ideologies, and speakers' metalinguistic commentaries provided a better understanding of how their codeswitching style allows for the co-construction and negotiation of large-scale social identities such as: Puerto Rican, American, elite, and bicultural. Codeswitching, in this context, cannot be said to automatically index a hybrid, bicultural identity. Participants denied any relationship between their use of English and claiming an "American" identity. Codeswitching also allowed for a reinterpretation and novel conceptualizations of what it means to be "Puerto Rican." The present study recognizes codeswitching not only as part of interpersonal communication, but also as part of historical and sociocultural processes.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Walsh, Thomas J.
Commitee: De Fina, Anna, Schilling-Estes, Natalie
School: Georgetown University
Department: Spanish & Portuguese
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 69/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics
Keywords: Bilinguals, Codeswitching, English, Identity, Language ideologies, Puerto Rico, Spanish
Publication Number: 3341614
ISBN: 978-0-549-97142-9
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