Linguistic Final Project

Section I: Survey and Statistics

California is one of four US states where “minorities make the majority”. This means that the number of population in the state belonging to the white race and non-Hispanic population make less than half, or, to be more precise, about 42%. For about 43% of the Californians native language is other than English. The second most common language after English in the state is Spanish, which is spoken by 30% of the state’s population. It is especially popular in Southern California, near Los Angeles and in Imperial County, where Latinos make up to 75% of the population (Census Bureau).

Today, Latinos in the United States are the largest national and linguistic minority in the country with a long and complex history. According to the US Census Bureau, on April 1, 2010, Hispanics and their descendants counted about 50.5 million people, or 16.4% of the population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau on 2013, the Latino population was 53 million, making up to 17% of the population of the US (Census Bureau, 2013). In a number of cities and states in the country, Hispanics already make up a relative majority of the population; their share is rapidly increasing everywhere. The main problems of the community include overcoming the language barrier, desire to preserve their culture and illegal immigration.

Section II: History of Immigration

Latinos in the country are divided into two unequal groups: of autochthonous one (Chicano, CA) that is, descendants of Spaniards and Hispanicize inhabitants of the Spanish colonies located to the north of the Rio Grande before the Mexican-American War in 1848 belong to this group, and Puerto Ricans – who became the US citizens after seizing the island from Spain in 1898 (Leonard & Lugo-Lugo, 2010). This group makes no more than 10% of the total number of Spanish-speaking population of the US. The remaining 90% of the community are recent immigrants and their descendants in the second, third and fourth generations since 1910, but mostly from the 1960s-1970s. They are independent Latin American guest workers, political refugees and members of their families. In 1986 in the US, it was conducted the largest-ever amnesty of illegal immigrants, that is why legal Hispanic population of the country increased by three million people in three days. The proportion of Hispanics in the US in 20-21 centuries is steadily increasing from 0.7% in 1900 to 3.8% in 1960, 12.5% in 2000 and 20% in 2015 (Leonard & Lugo-Lugo, 2010).

62% of Hispanics are of Mexican origin, 15% belong to the culture of Puerto Rico, 5% descent from the island of Cuba, 3% think that their native country was Colombia, 15% of all others are from Latin American and countries (Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking) or from Europe (Spain, Portugal) (Leonard & Lugo-Lugo, 2010). Unlike other communities in the country, Latinos come to the United States from Spanish-speaking countries, are citizens of the United States (Puerto Rico) or immigrate from the states bordering with the United States (Mexico), or that are in close proximity (Cuba, Dominican Republic), and because they maintain ties with the historical homeland, including means of modern Hispanic media in the United States.

Therefore, in the Latin American environment in the United States, in contrast, for example, to Italian Americans or Americans of German descent, preservation of native Spanish language among them is very high, and assimilation goes slowly. For example, 60% of Hispanics use only Spanish in the daily life, 20% of them communicate using both Spanish and English and only 20% of Hispanics use mostly English.

Section III: Linguistic Features

Spanish is typical Iberian Roman language with all the features  of the languages of the group. The primary language group is Indo-European family of languages. The declension of nouns and adjectives in it has completely disappeared, while plurals were standardized and implemented with the ending -s (Deckert & Vickers, 2011). In declarative sentence in the Spanish language, the subject is usually in the first place, the verb is in the second. For example: “El maestro vendrá temprano mañana”. Every declarative sentence can be changed into interrogative. In Spanish, the formation of interrogative sentence changes word order of declarative one. The interrogative sentence predicate comes first, and subject goes in the second place.

At the same time, Spanish have developed a system of synthetic and analytical verbal times, dating back to the Latin models. In Spanish, there are 27 sounds, including 5 vowels and 22 consonants. A characteristic feature of this language is the fact that all vowels are pronounced very clearly in both stress and unstressed position. In contrast to the Spanish vowels, consonants are pronounced less clearly.

Phonetic form of words in Spanish is compared to the Common Latin, the common ancestor of all Roman languages. This language has undergone fewer changes than, for example, French, but they are still significant. Among the most notable may be mentioned the appearance of diphthongs in place of the Latin long vowels, as well as the transition of letters ‘f’ and ‘h’ in most silent words in spoken language while maintaining ‘f’ in the book written versions of words (Deckert & Vickers, 2011). Most Spanish dialects are characterized with convergence or complete fusion of the sounds represented by the letters ‘b’, and ‘v’. Spelling in Spanish is simple enough and close to the phonetic form of words. The Spanish alphabet has one additional letter and several digraphs. An interesting feature of Spanish punctuation is writing exclamation and question marks, not only at the end of the sentence, but also in the beginning but upside down.

Section IV: Language use and Language Maintenance

The Spanish language is widely used in all the spheres of social activity in South California. The number of population speaking Spanish determined development of specific politics in all municipal structures and it can be easily seen everywhere. All advertisements and news are streaming in both English and Spanish. It is notable that even the documentation and websites of White House and Congress are presented in Spanish as well. As it was mentioned earlier in the report, almost 60% of Spanish speaking population of South California prefer communicating using Spanish language only; that is why all segments of marketing sphere use advantage of this peculiarity and realize their activities using English and Spanish in equal proportion (Personal Communication).

The speakers of Spanish language prefer using it everywhere; they even read newspapers and magazines that are written only in Spanish (Leonard & Lugo-Lugo, 2010). There is a number of newspapers that are printed in Spanish and are popular in Southern California, for example, El Clamor Publico, El Bohemio, Hispano Americano, El Tecolote and many others (Personal Communication). According to numerous studies, the growing number of Spanish-speaking people determined specific tendency in television and other spheres. This has become particularly noticeable on the results of ratings of the TV channel Univision compared with English-speaking ESPN and ABC in the days of the World Cup in Brazil (Personal Communication). Viewers could choose which language to watch the broadcast, and most preferred Spanish to English. Mexico-Netherlands match set a record among the Hispanic audience as it gathered at screens more than 10.4 million people, who watched it in Spanish.

Due to this trend, many American media companies have launched projects in Spanish – in 2012, Fox opened MundoFox, NBC – Telemundo, as the largest international broadcasting corporation, Time Warner is planning to buy Univision, which is the first television channel in popularity among Hispanics (Leonard & Lugo-Lugo, 2010). Theater and cinematography industry can also boast its popularity among the Spanish-speaking population as this year they bought 25 percent of tickets for the movie premieres, while the English-speaking bought only 16 percent. Experts predict that next year the purchasing power of Spanish speakers will reach $1.5 billion (Leonard & Lugo-Lugo, 2010).

It is noticeable that Spanish language has no tendency to assimilation and it will not have it in the future as well due to a number of factors. For example, most schools have to realize the process of teaching in great variety of languages and Spanish classes are the most numerous (Personal Communication). Thus, Spanish is not only taught at schools as an independent subject but a number of other subjects are taught in Spanish in the district schools of South California. Besides, speaking Spanish is prestigious among the young population of South California which determines its everyday use by growing number of people (Personal Communication). Restaurants and cafes prefer having more visitors and they offer their menus in both English and Spanish, having advertisements in both languages as well. Moreover, public and government documents are presented in both English and Spanish, so that a person can choose Spanish in order to study and get the driving test using just Spanish if he/she likes, for example (Personal Communication).

Spanish-speaking communities consider that their language has no tendency to decline and they consider its growing percentage of use in everyday life, state and county official activities (Personal Communication). Older generations prefer that the younger generations were studying English but do not forget their native language and continue using it in their every day and non-official communication.

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