Multilingual reality, monolingual ideology: Twitter representations of Spanish as a heritage language in the U.S.

Activiteit: Toespraak of presentatieAcademisch


When migrants move to a new country, their language typically becomes a minority language – and specifically, a heritage language (HL) – within a new majority language context. Widespread social dynamics affect the migrants’ and their descendants’ use of the HL, and monolingual ideologies favouring the majority language play a key role in this process (Endo & Reece-Miller, 2010).
Spanish speakers constitute the largest HL community in the U.S., with approximately 14% of the population using the language at home. These individuals evidently live a multilingual reality. Yet, an English-only ideology has long been entrenched in U.S. culture, and other languages are systematically denigrated (Leeman, 2018). Research suggests that many Spanish speakers thus view their HL negatively (see Surrain, 2018, for a literature review). However, there are no previous studies of whether – and how – this monolingual ideology manifests in online representations of Spanish as a HL in the U.S.
We thus investigate this by means of a corpus-assisted discourse study of recent Twitter data from throughout the U.S., comparing an English and a Spanish corpus of over 18 million words in total. Using the corpus linguistics programme AntConc, we analyse frequencies and collocations to establish statistically significant and meaningful trends, and we consider concordance lines and longer discourse segments to allow for meaning to be established in context.
Analysis is still ongoing – but our initial findings already provide nuanced insights into how online representations of Spanish as a HL reflect the monolingual ideology prevalent in offline contexts. Moreover, the findings reveal the extent to which this monolingual ideology is connected with ethnic identities and notions of linguistic purism. We will present our final findings and discuss their implications with a focus on the impact of this monolingual ideology on the psychological well-being of Spanish speakers and the likelihood of language maintenance.
Periode13 jul. 2022
Mate van erkenningInternationaal


  • language ideologies
  • multilingualism
  • discrimination
  • raciolinguistics