Attitudes towards Spanish as a heritage language in Florida: An investigation of bilingual Twitter data

Activiteit: Toespraak of presentatieAcademisch


Spanish speakers constitute the largest heritage language community in the US, with approximately 14% of the population using Spanish at home (US Census, 2018a). The state of Florida holds a special role because on the one, it has one of the highest foreign-born resident rate (20.5%), with the majority of these foreign-born residents coming from Latin America (75.6%) – but on the other hand, it has the lowest Spanish language vitality in the country (US Census, 2018a, 2018b). At an individual level, this is likely to have implications for the psychological well-being of immigrants and their descendants (cf. De Houwer, 2017). Moreover, at the societal level, this raises questions regarding the maintenance of Spanish in Florida (cf. Fishman 2001). While existing research suggests that many Spanish speakers in the U.S. hold negative attitudes towards their own variety (see e.g. Surrain, 2018, for a literature review), to our knowledge, there are no previous studies of attitudes towards Spanish as a heritage language in Florida.
In an ongoing study, we investigate attitudes towards Spanish as a heritage language in Florida by means of a corpus-assisted discourse study. We do so by comparing two corpora (approximately 1 million words) consisting of Spanish and English Twitter data extracted from the microblogging site by using the twitteR package (Gentry, 2016) over a period of three months, using Florida geotags and relevant hashtags. We use AntConc (Anthony, 2019) to determine highly frequent words and phrases, subsequently grouping them together into semantic categories to establish meaningful trends. We also consider concordance lines and larger discourse segments to examine meaning in context. Our approach provides comprehensive and nuanced insights regarding all three components of language attitudes – i.e. affect, cognition, and conation. In fact, since language choices constitute manifestations of the conative component, the different languages used in these corpora themselves are indicative of attitudes.
As the first study of attitudes towards Spanish as a heritage language in Florida, our work fills a gap in the research literature. Moreover, it is methodologically innovative since it constitutes the first known corpus-assisted discourse study of language attitudes that makes use of bilingual corpora. This research develops our understanding of the nature of attitudes by shedding light on how expressions of language attitudes in online spaces differ from those in offline spaces – an issue that, so far, little is known about.
Periode12 nov 2020
EvenementstitelInternational Conference on Bilingualism
: Bilingualism, Heritage Languages and Migration
Mate van erkenningInternationaal