Language and dialect contact in Spanish in New York: Toward the formation of a speech community

Ricardo Otheguy, Ana Celia Zentella, David Livert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

214 Scopus citations


Subject personal pronouns are highly variable in Spanish but nearly obligatory in many contexts in English, and regions of Latin America differ significantly in rates and constraints on use. We investigate language and dialect contact by analyzing these pronouns in a corpus of 63,500 verbs extracted from sociolinguistic interviews of a stratified sample of 142 members of the six largest Spanish-speaking communities in New York City. A variationist approach to rates of overt pronouns and variable and constraint hierarchies, comparing speakers from different dialect regions (Caribbeans vs. Mainlanders) and different generations (those recently arrived vs. those born and/or raised in New York), reveals the influence of English on speakers from both regions. In addition, generational changes in constraint hierarchies demonstrate that Caribbeans and Mainlanders are accommodating to one another. Both dialect and language contact are shaping Spanish in New York City and promoting, in the second generation, the formation of a New York Spanish speech community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)770-802
Number of pages33
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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