Public Legacies: Spanish-English (In)authenticity in the Linguistic Landscape of Pilsen, Chicago

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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics
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Lyons, Kate
Rodríguez-Ordóñez, Itxaso

The present study examines the linguistic display of Spanish and English in Pilsen, Chicago, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. The space of Pilsen is characterized by its strong Latino diasporic presence (mostly from Mexico) since the 60s, but also for the increase of a white population in the last decade that has lead to a strong perception of gentrification in the neighborhood. With the aim of capturing potential gentrification effects and to empirically study the relationship between language, sign and space, we adopt Coupland’s (2012) adaptation of Goffman’s (1974) theory of frames and propose a replicable and scalar quantifiable method of frames, combining it with a qualitative analysis of space that we refer to as The Holistic Model of Frame Analysis. To this aim, we analyze 414 signs according to LANGUAGE, LOCATION (street) and FRAMES of Authentication Processes (Bucholtz and Hall 2005) (Migrant, Familial, Established and Alternative). Results show that there is a scalar relationship between frame and language: the more alternative the frame, the more English is used, whereas the use of mixed Spanish and English fluctuates between Established Community and Familial Authentication Processes. Although all frames were equally distributed in all of the main streets, the proportions of language use vary significantly. We argue that the static use of frames and dialogic relationship between languages and location are strongly linked to the social dynamics of specific areas of Pilsen, a variation that we capture using a variationist sociolinguistic approach.

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