Towards Defining the Multilingual Speech Community: Dialect Divisions in the Papiamentu-Speaking Caribbean

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Patrick (2001) critically traces the development of the concept of the speech community in sociolinguistic research, identifying agreement and points of contention among scholars. He supports a view of the speech community as a “socially-based unit of linguistic analysis” (2001:9), but maintains that there are still many issues to be dealt with. In this paper, I explore and theorize one of these ‘remaining issues’—the multilingual speech community, or what Patrick terms the ‘multivariety situation’. In doing so, I crucially invoke the concepts of identity and urbanity. The theoretical proposals are based on ethnographic observations and linguistic data (129 sociolinguistic interviews, as well as a diachronic corpus of written texts) collected by this author in 2003 on the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao (Dutch Caribbean). On all three islands, four languages are in daily use: Papiamentu (Iberian creole; first language of about 80% of islanders), Dutch (official language), Spanish (regionally dominant), and English (used in commerce and tourism). The focus is on dialect divisions within Papiamentu, but these cannot be understood without reference to the other languages with which Papiamentu is in contact. I show that Aruba comprises one speech community and Curaçao and Bonaire another. Within each speech community are subgroups of speakers based on their first language (L1) and their multilingual repertoires (MRep). L1 and MRep partially determine linguistic norms and patterns of linguistic variation, which in turn are used to define each speech community. Identity and urbanity are also involved in the creation of linguistic norms and patterns of variation. In particular, I discuss the almost palpable social and political distance between Aruba on the one hand, and Curaçao and Bonaire on the other, and the ensuing social identities. Further, I show the role of urbanity via its effect on linguistic variation within the Curaçao-Bonaire community.


Keywords: Linguistics, Anthropology, Multilingualism, Caribbean, Papiamentu, Speech Community
Stream: Sociology, Geography, Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities, Psychology, Cognitive Science and Behavioural Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr Tara Savannah Sanchez

Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics, New York University
Philadelphia, PA, USA

Tara Sanchez is a sociolinguist specializing in the study of linguistic
variation, especially as it relates to language contact situations. Her
research primarily involves the multilingual contact situation on Aruba,
Bonaire, and Curacao (Dutch Caribbean). She has also worked on verbs of
quotation among African-Americans in Philadelphia, regional dialects in New
Orleans, Polish-English in Michigan, and the language of drag queens. She is
currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Linguistics at New York University.
Before that she taught at Williams College in Massachusetts and Michigan State
University. Dr. Sanchez has taught general linguistics and sociolinguistics,
and topical sociolinguistic courses such as Language and Gender, Pidgins and
Creoles, and Dialects of American English, at both the graduate and
undergraduate levels. She received a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University
of Pennsylvania in 2005, under the direction of Gillian Sankoff, Ellen Prince,
and Rolf Noyer. She also has an M.A. in Linguistics from Penn (2000) and an
A.B. in Anthropology-Linguistics from Brown University (1996).

Ref: I08P0011