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Podcast Seeks to Legitimize US Spanish


Spanish speakers in the US, among linguists and nonlinguists, have been denigrated for the way that they speak, says UC Berkeley sociolinguist Justin Davidson. It’s part of the country’s long history of scrutiny of nonmonolingual English speakers, he says, dating back to the early 20th century.

“It’s groups in power, it’s discourses and collective communities, that sort of socially determine what kinds of words and what kinds of language are acceptable and unacceptable,” says Davidson, an associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

But the US is a Spanish-speaking country, he says, and it’s time for us as a nation to embrace US Spanish as a legitimate language variety.

Berkeley Voices: A Linguist’s Quest to Legitimize US Spanish” (https://news.berkeley.edu/2024/03/29/berkeley-voices-legitimizing-us-spanish) is the first episode of a three-part series with Davidson about language in the US.

In collaboration with Hispanic linguists at UCLA and UC Santa Cruz, Davidson is working on a project called Multilingual Hispanic Speech in California, funded by a grant from the University of California Office of the President.

For the project, the linguists are conducting interviews with Spanish–English bilinguals across California—the state with the most Spanish speakers in the US. Each of the researchers will collect 200 interviews of people speaking at least 35 minutes of Spanish and 35 minutes of English.

In the next episode, they’ll discuss language bias—how we all have it, where it comes from, and the devastating consequences it can have.

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