Click here to submit your abstract to the 2024 conference now! Submissions close on 21 February, 23:59 GMT.

Codeswitching in the Pacific Northwest: a sociophonetic analysis of Mexican American speakers in the Yakima Valley

Numerous works (Poplack 1980; Myers-Scotton 1997; Muysken 2000; Torres Cacoullos and Aaron 2003; Aaron 2015) have shown that bare noun phrase insertions are most frequently codeswitched. Blom and Gumperz (1972) defined metaphorical codeswitching as constituting language switches that relate to types of topics of conversation. Chicano English is a sociolect of English that can have influence and/or incorporation from Spanish at many levels of the grammar (Fought 2003). While studies have focused on English-Spanish codeswitching in New York (Poplack 1980) and Southern California (Fought 2003), little work has been done on codeswitching in the Pacific Northwest. The Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington has a long, rich history of Mexican Americans living in the area, forming a sizable part of the community since the 1930s (Gamboa 1981). By using conversational speech data from the larger Pacific Northwest English (PNWE) study, I examine potential phonological incorporation of Spanish phonetics –– in utterances where codeswitching occurred –– in otherwise English speech. I look at the variation of /ɛ/ and /eɪ/ on stressed syllables and look for potential monophthongization of /eɪ/ in English, along with phonological incorporation of Spanish allophones of /t/ (e.g. apicodental [t̪]) in sentences that exhibit codeswitching. This study hypothesises:
1) English-origin words with /eɪ/ in the same sentence as a codeswitched token undergo monophthongization; 
2) English-origin words with /t/ in the same sentence as a codeswitched token become apicodental; 
3) nouns are the most frequently codeswitched item; and 
4) topics of conversation highlighting the speakers’ ethnic identity pattern with codeswitching (Fought 2003).
I used conversational speech data from 13 speakers in the PNWE corpus, all hailing from the Yakima Valley. All tokens were coded auditorily and acoustically in Praat. Four speakers codeswitched and had words with /ɛ/ or /eɪ/ on stressed syllables more than once in their data. Three of those speakers raised /eɪ/ to the typical vowel space of /i/, exhibiting clear upgliding; /eɪ/ in codeswitched sentences rarely underwent monophthongization. However, there were overlaps between Spanish and English productions of [ɛ] in codeswitched sentences, showing potential evidence for phonological incorporation of Spanish in English speech. There were 67 tokens of /t/, including Spanish and English words that contained /t/ word-medially or word- finally in a codeswitched sentence. While eight speakers often used [t̪] in Spanish words, there was little incorporation of Spanish allophones of /t/ in English words in a codeswitched sentence. Consistent with previous work (Poplack 1980; Myers-Scotton 1997; Muysken, 2000), most Spanish-origin words in the interviews were nouns (55/62). Within seven topics of conversation I deduced from the interviews, conversations about language features, family history, and leisure elicited the most Spanish-origin words. The use of Spanish-origin words in spontaneous conversation highlights the cultural significance of Spanish –– and the impact Mexican Americans have –– in the Yakima Valley. This study alone cannot conclude whether the English that Yakima Valley Mexican Americans speak can be classified as Chicano English; more variables need to be examined to conclude possible influences of speech from the Anglo Yakima population, the Indigenous Yakama population, or other groups.

Aaron, J. E. (2015). Lone English-origin nouns in Spanish: The precedence of community norms. International Journal of Bilingualism, 19(4), 459–480.
Blom, J. P., & Gumperz, J. (1972). Social meaning in linguistic structure: Code-switching in Norway. In L. Wei (2000), The Bilingualism Reader. Psychology Press.
Fought, C. (2003). Chicano English in Context. Palgrave MacMillan.
Gamboa, E. (1981). Mexican American Migration into Washington State: A History, 1940-1950.
The Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 72(3), 121-131.
Muysken, P. (2000). Bilingual Speech. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press.
Myers-Scotton, C. (1997). Duelling Languages: Grammatical Structure in Codeswitching (2nd
ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Poplack, S. (1980). Sometimes I’ll start a sentence in Spanish Y TERMINO EN ESPAÑOL:
Toward a typology of code-switching. Linguistics, 18(7-8), 581-618. https://doi-
Torres Cacoullos, R., & Aaron, J. E. (2003). Bare English-origin nouns in Spanish: Rates,
constraints, and discourse functions. Language Variation and Change, 15(3), 289–328.