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CENTRO JOURNAL VOLUME XX NUMBER i SPRING 2008

Functions and valorization of language in Puerto Rico INTRODUCTION

ALICIA POUSADA,

Quest editor

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ILINGUALISM AND LANGUAGE CONTACT (primarily between Spanish and English) are topics of great interest and controversy in Puerto Rico, linked as they are to the burning issues of cultural identity, political status, pedagogy, and economic development. However, while there is a wealth of written opinion (both journalistic and academic) regarding the dynamics of bilingualism and numerous accounts of the rather bizarre history of chaotic language policies in the public school system, there is a much more limited body of work that examines the roles that Spanish, English, and other languages play on the island, their discourse structures and functions, and the values attached to each. The current issue of the CENTRO jfouma/presents some of the most recent additions to this fund of knowledge. The contributions cover a wide range of genres, including interview, poetry, discourse analysis, short story, text analysis, ethnography, Internet language, legal discourse, historical analysis, and biography. Most of the contributors currently live in Puerto Rico or have only recently moved to the U.S. A few live in the U.S. but have intimate ties to the island. Some are veteran researchers or writers, while others are only beginning their careers. The issue begins with two pieces dedicated to Luz MarĂ­a Umpierre, Puerto Rican poet, literary critic, and social activist, born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, and presently residing in Lewiston, Maine. The first is an interview with Dr. Umpierre by Carmen HaydĂŠe Rivera, professor of literature at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Rio Piedras. The second is a discourse analysis of Luzma's poetry by UPR, Rio Piedras linguistics professor. Alma Simounet.

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The interview focuses on questions of bilingualism and language valorization among Puerto Ricans, both on the island and in the diaspora. It also explores the multiple literary influences in Luzma's life, the development of Latino(a) studies in the U.S., the many obstacles faced by Latina writers in particular, and the effects of homophobia and cultural narrowness in academia. According to Luzma, for Puerto Ricans on tbe island, "Spanish is the language of the soul, and English is the language of survival." For Puerto Ricans in the U.S., "Spanish is still loved dearly, although many new generations of the diaspora do not speak it." She quotes linguist Bill Van Patten as having said: "Puerto Rico is one place where Spanish is in constant development...because of the exchange with English." Luzma also explains the use of English and Spanish in her poetry and defends the literary employment of code switching and Spanglish by referring to CzeslawMilosz, who claimed that "language is our only homeland." She declares tbat "Spanglish and code switching are just as valuable as speaking any other language tbat exists" and concludes, "If your house within is speaking multiple languages, so be it." Simounet's deconstruction of the counter-discourse of Umpierre's work utilizes Teun Van Dijk's (1993,1994,1999, 2004) model of critical discourse analysis. By "counter-discourse," she refers to the language of cultural resistance tbat empowers oppressed individuals (in this case, Puerto Ricans, women, and lesbians)

Luzma also explains the use of English and Spanish in her poetry and defends the literary employment of code switching and Spanglish by referring to Czeslaw Milosz, who claimed that "language is our only homeland." in their struggles against the patriarchal and "othering" ideologies of tbe Catholic Church and of academia. Critical discourse analysis elucidates the ways in which language and power interact. Simounet isolates linguistic and rhetorical devices at tbe macro and micro levels, the macro being tbe entire poem as a text and the micro referring to internal elements within the poem. Among tbe devices she examines are language choice (Standard English, Standard Puerto Rican Spanish, Relaxed Spanish, code-switching, and Jeringonza {similar to Pig Latin]), the use of taboo topics (lesbian sexuality), lexical choices (selection of words with subtle connotations and manipulation of word morphologies in verbal play), and tbe shifting among varying registers and styles. Simounet concludes that Umpierre's unceasing and valiant struggles against accepted norms indicate that she would "rather be marginalized than erased." Tbe two pieces about poet Umpierre are followed by three poems that express different aspects of language valorization in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican poet Elidi贸 La Torre Lagares' heartrending poem "White Blindness" describes his trilingual grandmother's gradual loss of her Itahan, Spanish, and English skills "when tbe hands in her clock started spinning backwards." Though she always taught him that "the world is made of language," in the end she was tragically left in a "white blindness" void of language. In "Learning Spanish," UPR, Rio Piedras English professor Richard Marx Weinraub laments his failed attempts at acquiring Spanish despite having resided


in Puerto Rico for many years. He expresses a wistful desire to absorb the language in his sleep by listening to a tape of Nemda's poetry until he awakens "Hispanic and holy, speaking in tongues so roily that even my stoniest student can understand me," but concludes that perhaps his only option is to access the language by entering "the gloss and glottis" of a "Spanish darling." Puerto Rican poet Urayoán Noel (now living in the Bronx) utilizes repeated code switches and cross-linguistic word play in his poem "You are now entering Bronx Piedras." He dramatically brings to life the lively cultural nexus "where the Rio Piedras meets the Bronx River" and "the Grand Concourse meets la Ponce de León" and considers "the fate of these cities in mindscape" from the perspective of the transplanted Boricua. The three poems are followed by a short story by José Delgado-Costa of Ohio University titled "Fifo's Pizza," which expresses the linguistic and cultural ruminations of a return migrant in Puerto Rico ("otro Boricua desenraizado acabadito de regresar" [another uprooted Puerto Rican newly returned to the island]). The story is written primarily in Standard Spanish but with extensive use of English loanwords and phrases typical of Puerto Rican Spanish (or Boricua, as he terms it), glossed in footnotes for the readers' convenience. It is an excellent example of the creative use of code switching to convey a multicultural persona.

He considers that, just like the pizza he is now devouring, neither Spanish nor English were born in Puerto Rico. The narrator contemplates Puerto Rican cultural identity while waiting for a friend at a bustling pizzeria near Arecibo. ''Fifo's Pizza es el purito new world order rugiendo ^full." [Fifo's Pizza is pure new world order roaring full blast.] He muses about how he arrived in the States at the age of i8 and has now returned to the island more than twenty years later, only to discover that he doesn't sound like a native of either place—"Otro jodido deslenguado" [another tongueless unfortunate]. He considers that, just like the pizza he is now devouring, neither Spanish nor EngUsh were born in Puerto Rico. He refers to the cultural syncretism which has resulted from the contact between the two imposed colonial languages as an "entrecruce" [cross breeding] that has ended in "transculturación" [intercultural transformation]. As he munches and waits for his friend, he asks himself why Puerto Rico spends so much time debating language and identity and taking its own cultural pulse. "Será porque se siente acosado, en peligro?" [Could it be that it feels threatened and in danger?] He concludes that Puerto Rican culture is the most flexible on earth due to being pulled between two opposing cultural giants. He also calls for a recognition of Boricua as the official language of the island and describes it as one of many offshoots of Spanish being created around the world ("la ovejita negra del castellano" [the black sheep of Castilian Spanish]). The next group of contributions to this issue on language function and valorization in Puerto Rico is written from an anthropological and linguistic stance. Catherine Mazak, professor of English at the UPR in Mayagüez, provides an ethnographic description of the English literacy practices of ten teenagers and adults [6]


in a rural school library in Puerto Rico. Her research is informed by the theoretical precepts of Bakhtin (1981), who sees language diversity as inextricably linked to ideology and embedded in sociohistorical context, and who conceives of language users as active agents appropriating language for their own uses. The research is also rooted in Gloria Anzaldúa's (1987) notion of the "linguistic borderlands," in which languages rub elbows and generate new structures and practices. Mazak's data (which are coded for socio-contextual domain, age, gender, and level of English expertise of speaker) stem from four months of participant observation and from interviews with the ten focal participants. In direct contrast to the popular belief in Puerto Rico that rural people do not use English, Mazak is able to identify many English literacy practices. Those of the young people are centered on social interaction and entertainment (e-mail, pop star websites, music, etc.), while those of the adults are mainly related to financial and health concerns. Individuals of varying English proficiencies access English through different strategies. Participants expect certain texts to be in English (e.g., computer menus, car manuals, federal tax forms) and are thrown off when Spanish versions are encountered. However, all talk around the English texts is in Spanish. Mazak reports that the general attitude is that it is "normal, even natural, to read in one language and talk about the reading in another." Mazak links her findings to the processes of global capitalism, which purveys commodities of popular culture and technology in English. She notes that "in some ways, the Americanization campaign of long ago is still present, not as explicit policy in Puerto Rico, but as a continuing consequence of colonialism and global capitalism." Another article dedicated to exploring English in rural Puerto Rico is that of Elena González, professor of English at the UPR in Cayey and former public school ESL teacher. Gonzalez's article presents an abbreviated version of an enormously detailed ethnographic study carried out in 1996-1997 with eight of her teenage students in an isolated, highly inbred, poor. Black community in Orocovis. Her data are derived from participant observation, interviews, life histories, and review of historical documents. In the article, she presents the history of the Black community and the biographies of three representative students in order to demonstrate the social distance and isolation they suffer within their first language environment because of their race, and to underscore the total lack of contact they have with native speakers of English. She convincingly documents the difficult living conditions and the prejudice experienced by her students and their families, both in and out of school, and the impact of these forces on the children's learning. She reports that while all the Black families valorize Spanish and consider English worth learning, few have the ability to help their children with their schoolwork, particularly in English. onzález recommends utilizing content-based curriculum to teach Puerto Rican students to appreciate racial diversity, acquire knowledge about the contributions of Blacks in Puerto Rico, and meet notable Black men and women who can serve as role models. Since many of the Black students have serious reading problems in their native language, she stresses the need to assure their literacy in Spanish before beginning English literacy training. She additionally urges schools to become involved in improving community conditions which prevent Black students from focusing on their studies. Kevin Carroll (of the University of Arizona at Tucson) gives us a peek at the role of language in a very different sort of Puerto Rican community—the virtual community ofMySpace.com. Carroll analyzes 50 profiles of Puerto Ricans aged 18-22 in terms

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of language distribution among the different sections ofthe web page (user's quote, personal description, interests, songMdeo, and comments). He finds that most ofthe sections (except for comments) are in English, apparently in an attempt to appeal to the larger, English-speaking global community. It is in the comments section (which contains asynchronous chats between the page owner and his/her cyber-friends) that Spanish reigns. Nearly half of the comments are entirely in Spanish, and another forty percent are in both languages, with Spanish predominating.

It is in the comments section (which contains asynchronous chats between the page owner and his/her cyber-friends) that Spanish reigns. In addition, a new variety he terms "Puerto Rican netspeak" is developing. It utilizes abbreviations, speUing changes, elimination of capitalization, accents, tildes, and punctuation, as well as employment of English loanwords and emoticons to express messages. Carroll comments that "the usage of Puerto Rican netspeak appears to be a venue in which traditional language use is consciously and consistently ignored and in a sense frowned upon." He also argues that "language maintenance of PRS (Puerto Rican Spanish) has been highly successful because of Puerto Ricans' acceptance and creativity in embracing new forms of expression." The Internet may thus serve to reinforce Spanish language maintenance, both on the island and in the diaspora. The next two articles turn to the role of language in the judicial system in Puerto Rico. The first, by Aida Vergne, doctoral student in the Literature and Languages of the English-speaking Caribbean program at the UPR in Rio Piedras, looks at the use of language, power, and discourse strategies in hearings in Spanish before the Supreme Court of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The second, by Alicia Pousada, professor of English linguistics at the UPR, Rio Piedras, focuses on the mandatory use of English in the U.S. federal court in Puerto Rico. Vergne's study is based on the essential premise that language is the core of law, since it is via language that law is created and upheld. More specifically, language is the means of representing disputed claims. However, despite constitutional guarantees of equality before the law, there are clear lines of power in the courtroom that can be made apparent via analysis of the legal discourse. To this end. Verge microanalyses four hearings to determine probable cause. In particular, she looks at the cross-examinations and re-cross-examinations, utilizing the methodological framework established by O'Barr (1982) at the Law and Language Project of Duke University and by Matoesian (1993) to ascertain how the relative power of the participants affects the content, form, and comprehension ofthe speech acts produced in court. Her data consist of official transcripts ofthe hearings along with her personal observations of three of the four hearings. Vergne focuses on the following parameters in her analysis: the form that questions take, the way the lawyer controls the topic, the evaluative comments made by the lawyer, and the way in which the lawyer casts doubt on the witnesses' knowledge. She also identifies in the corpus linguistic features, such as the use of multiple negation, unclear or complex questions, technical vocabulary, and unclear {8}


pronoun referents to confuse the witness, the act of nominalization of verbs to obscure the actors in an event, the repetition of questions, asking of irrelevant questions, and choice of specific w^ords, all to discredit and cast aspersions on the reliability of the witnesses. She furthermore utilizes Hymes' model (1974) for the analysis of a communicative event and describes the tone or key of the event, the participants, message form, registers or styles, message content, sequence of acts and turns, rules for interaction, and norms for interpretation. Each aspect of the analysis is backed up with examples from the transcripts. Via her disciplined description of the hearings, Vergne demonstrates without a doubt how a cross-examination is a "laberinto lingßístico de intrincados caminos" [a linguistic labyrinth of intricate pathways] in which the lawyer controls the interaction, violates every rule of ordinary conversation, and creates tbe "truth" most convenient to his or her case. She suggests that more analysis of this type could be useful in uncovering and addressing tbe inherent inequalities present in a courtroom. While Vergne's study is "micro" in nature (looking at the structural details of courtroom interaction in Spanish), Pousada's study of tbe federal courts in Puerto Rico is "macro" in perspective since it deals witb language policy at a societal level. Pousada begins by establishing the undeniable role of Spanish as the beloved mother tongue and English as the voice of foreign capital in Puerto Rico, a reality which creates a linguistic dilemma which Puerto Ricans negotiate on a daily basis. The one place where language is non-negotiable is in the Federal District Court, where English reigns supreme. In order to clarify the Alice in Wonderland-like situation, in which Spanish-speaking judges, lawyers, clerks, witnesses, and juries are all obligated to utilize English or resort to interpreters in tbeir own land, sbe then traces the historical development of the District Court (and its antecedent, the Provisional Court) after the U.S. occupation of the island in 1898. The historical account relates the different forms and functions of the District Court witb tbe passing of legislation like the Foraker Act in 1900, the Jones Act in 1917, and the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act in 1950, which successively redefined Puerto Ricans and their relationship to Washington. Pousada points out the opposition that arose at each point in the trajectory and how it was crushed. be then turns to the issue of language in tbe local courts (wbicb have, since 1965, recognized Spanish as tbe procedural language of Puerto Ricans) and compares it to tbe rules for the federal court, wbicb require English for all proceedings, despite the fact that less than a quarter of tbe population claims to speak the language well. She describes popular resistance to tbe learning of English in Puerto Rico as a form of "motivated failure" (to use Resnick's 1993 terminology) and attributes recurrent demands to cbange tbe District Court's language policy to a self-defensive posture that views the imposition of Englisb as "an assault upon tbe essence of Puerto Rican culture, whicb is the Spanish language." Pousada sums up the basic arguments for overturning tbe Englisb language requirement, rebuts tbe position taken by the seven judges of the District Court in 1989 objecting to tbe proposed use of Spanish, and offers an alternative language policy requiring "all proceedings to be carried out in Spanisb with mandatory translation into Englisb of all written records for tbe purposes of later appeals and provision of court interpreters for the few Englisb monolingual speakers who appear before the court." She backs up her proposal by demonstrating how tbe current English-only policy violates tbe guarantees of tbe United Nations Charter,

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the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights. It also runs counter to the basic tenets of good language policy. Pousada concludes that maintaining English as the language of the District Court in Puerto Rico may have made sense when the judges were non-Spanish-speaking Americans, but today it appears to have only one purpose: "the reiteration of the sovereignty of the U.S. Congress over the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico."

Castro Ferrer pays tribute to the way in which Vaquero has been able to carry out ground-breaking work in the areas of Puerto Rican Spanish phonetics and lexicography, while simultaneously inculcating in her students and the general public (via her newspaper articles) her love of the Spanish language and its scientific study. The last contribution to this issue on language function and valorization in Puerto Rico is a homage to Dr. Maria Vaquero, a Spaniard who has dedicated her professional life to the scientific documentation of language use and structure in her adopted homeland of Puerto Rico. Maria Inés Castro Ferrer (Spanish professor at the UPR in Rio Piedras and one of Vaquero's former students) lovingly describes the career and historical significance of the teacher, researcher, newspaper columnist, and founding member of the Puerto Rican Language Academy who has been dubbed "the most Puerto Rican of the Spaniards" by colleague and linguist Humberto López Morales (1999). Castro Ferrer pays tribute to the way in which Vaquero has been able to carry out ground-breaking work in the areas of Puerto Rican Spanish phonetics and lexicography, while simultaneously inculcating in her students and the general public (via her newspaper articles) her love of the Spanish language and its scientific study. She credits Vaquero with being one of the principal columns in the development of the linguistic study of Puerto Rican Spanish, following in the exalted traditions of philologist and phonetician Tomás Navarro Tomás and lexicographer, teacher, and lawyer Augusto Malaret. In sum, there is much to digest in this issue oí CENTRO Journal. On behalf of all the contributors, let me wish you an enjoyable journey through the volume. It is our fondest hope that the work presented here will stimulate interest in the Puerto Rican language scene and provoke future studies and creative outpourings.

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REFERENCES

Anzaldúa, G. 1987. Borderlands/Lafrontera:The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Spinsters/ Aunt Lute. Bakhtin, M. M. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination. Austin: University of Texas Press. Hymes, Dell. 1974. Foundations in Sociolinguistics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. López Morales, Humberto. 1999. Semblanza. La más puertorriqueña de las españolas. En Estudios de Lingüística Hispánica. Homenaje a Marta Vaquero, eds. Amparo Morales, J. Cardona, Humberto López Morales y Eduardo Forastieri, xxxiiixxxviii. San Juan: Editorial Universidad de Puerto Rico. Matoesian, Gregory M. 1993. Reproducing Rape: Domination Through Talk in the Courtroom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. O'Barr, William. 1982. Linguistic Evidence: Language, Power and Strategy in the Courtroom. London: Academic Press. Resnick, Melvyn. 1993. ESL and Language Planning in Puerto Rican Education, TESOL ^arterly 27(2): 259-75. van Dijk, Teun A. 1993. Principles of Critical Discourse Analysis. Discourse and Society 4: 249-83. . 1994. Editorial. Discourse and Society 5: 435-6. . 1999. Keynote Address. Conference of the Asociación Latinoamericana de Estudios del Discurso. Universidad de Santiago, Chile. April. . 2004. Discurso y dominación. Grandes conferencias en la Facultad de Ciencias Humanas. Congreso Internacional de Lingüística. Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Sede de Bogotá. 18 de febrero.

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LING3 - Functions - Valorization  

español de puerto rico

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