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Topics in the historical sociolinguistics of Tejano Spanish, 1791–1910: Morphosyntactic and lexical aspects

Glenn Andrew Martinez, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation attempts to fill a void both in the study of Spanish in the United States and in studies of the social history of Mexican residents in Texas. It is a description and analysis of the lexical and morphosyntactic changes that arose in the Spanish language spoken in Texas during the nineteenth century. The role of the changing status of the language in the community as well as increasing levels of bilingualism are identified as primary motivations of the linguistic changes studied. I show that both grammatical simplification and sociolectal reduction played a part in shaping the language spoken in Texas. I identify sociolectal reduction in the changes affecting the verb form in -ra. The Spanish spoken in Texas maintained one indicative function of the form in -ra. I argue that this maintenance results from the interplay of socio-economic marginalization, land tenure loss, and the stylistic value that speakers ascribed to the form in this particular context. Similarly, most varieties of American Spanish have lost the imperfect subjunctive form in -se reserving this function for the form in -ra. While Tejano Spanish turns up the same trend, the loss of the form comes much later than in other parts of Mexico and Spanish America. I argue that this late loss of the form in - se is a result of shifting national identities that were indirectly inspired by the imminent threat of Anglo invasion in certain regions of Texas. I identify grammatical simplification in the language of Tejanos in the loss of the absolute construction in narrative discourse. I argue that as Anglo dominance grew stronger in the region, as the language of Tejanos came to be de-legitimized and displaced from the sites of language institutionalization, and as Tejanos were becoming bilingual in greater numbers, the narrative discourse of the community came to be syntactically simplified. The dissertation demonstrates that the language of Tejanos has been molded by the social context in which it has been embedded over the past one hundred and fifty years.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Martinez, Glenn Andrew, "Topics in the historical sociolinguistics of Tejano Spanish, 1791–1910: Morphosyntactic and lexical aspects" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9988819.