Cuban Spanish Dialectology
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Cuban Spanish Dialectology

Variation, Contact, and Change

Alejandro Cuza, Alejandro Cuza

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eBook - ePub

Cuban Spanish Dialectology

Variation, Contact, and Change

Alejandro Cuza, Alejandro Cuza

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About This Book

Despite the significant presence of Cuban immigrants in the United States, current research on Cuban Spanish linguistics remains underexplored. This volume addresses this lacuna in Cuban Spanish research by providing a state-of-the-art collection of articles from a range of theoretical perspectives and linguistic areas, including phonological and phonetic variation, morphosyntactic approaches, sociolinguistic perspectives, and heritage language acquisition. Given increasing interest in Cuban Spanish among graduate students and faculty, this volume is a timely and highly relevant contribution to Hispanic linguistics and Cuban Spanish dialectology in particular.

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Miami Cuban Vowels

Ball State University
Brigham Young University
ONE OF THE MORE recent Spanish-speaking groups to arrive in the US are the Cubans living in Miami, Florida. The first waves of Cuban immigrants came to US soil between 1959 and 1962 as approximately 250,000 Cuban immigrants fled the communist Castro regime during the Cuban Revolution. Several more large waves of refugees came between 1973 and 1979 and in 1980 (López-Morales 2003). Consequently, Miami has become the first US city of more than 2,000,000 inhabitants that has a Spanish-speaking majority, and is often known as a truly bilingual city and referred to as the “Gateway to Latin America” (López-Morales 2003). Lynch (1999) states that bilinguals in Miami enjoy a higher status in the workplace than monolinguals of either English or Spanish, and Boswell (2000) observes that Miami Cubans enjoy a higher economic status than other Spanish-speakers in the US have enjoyed. He also asserts that “especially in Miami, Hispanics are empowered both economically and politically. Thus speaking Spanish is not associated with the stigma of poverty and social disaffection in Miami to the same degree that it is in many other large American cities” (Boswell 2000, 423).
As a result of this linguistic coexistence, English and Spanish are in constant, intense contact with one another in Miami. One consequence of this intense language contact situation are the reports of local linguistic norms. The Spanish spoken by this bilingual community has been well documented; for example, Varela (1974) and Otheguy and García (1988) analyze possible lexical and syntactic influences of English on Miami Cuban Spanish. Lynch (2000) studies possible English influence on Miami Cuban morphosyntax while Varela (1992) and Lynch (2009) focus on Miami Cuban Spanish phonology. Alvord (2010) examines Miami Cuban absolute interrogative intonation and the effect of contact with English and other varieties of Spanish spoken in Miami on the use of falling and rising interrogative patterns. Alvord and Rogers (2014) survey the Miami Cuban Spanish vowel systems.
However, the English spoken by Miami Cubans has been ignored in the literature. There are many anecdotes about a “Miami Accent” in the English spoken there; for example, Carter (2013) states that Miami English exhibits differences from general American English in the “pronunciation of vowels, intonation, stronger-sounding consonants, including the consonants ‘L’ and ‘R,’ and literal translations.” Many people believe that a vowel system that has been influenced by Spanish may be the most important feature of Miami English. Nevertheless, no known studies exist that look at the possible Spanish influence on any aspect of Miami Cuban English. The current study examines the vowels produced by Miami Cuban bilingual speakers in order to describe their Spanish and English vowel systems, explore possible cross-linguistic influences, and to provide an initial consideration of Miami English vowel pronunciation.

The English and Spanish Vowel Systems

There are a great number of differences between the English and Spanish vowel systems, many of which have been documented in laboratory studies (e.g., Quilis and Esgueva 1983; Quilis 1999) and highlighted in many Spanish phonetics textbooks (e.g., Whitley 2002; Guitart 2004; Hualde 2005; among many others). One of the most obvious differences is the scope of each vowel system. General American English has ten vowels—/i, ɪ, ɛ, æ, ɑ, u, ʊ, o, ɔ, ʌ/ (Trudgill and Hannah 1982; Ladefoged 2006)—while general Spanish has only five: /i u e o a/.1 The larger scope of the English system also undergoes much more variation than the Spanish system. For example, in syllable-final position, while Spanish vowels maintain their quality, in English diphthongization or off-gliding occurs (e.g. /e/ [e
], /o/ [o]). Another well-known phenomenon is that of unstressed vowel reduction or centralization to a mid-central lax vowel, often referred to as schwa (Brown 1990).
Another notable difference between Spanish and English vowels is the realization of the high back vowel /u/. With specific regard to the American English high back vowel, Labov (2006) reports that 90 percent of native English speakers in the United States front /u/ to some extent. This fronting can be observed through measuring the second formant, which correlates with tongue position on the horizontal axis (i.e., from front to back of the oral cavity). These productions of /u/ are often described as having “i-coloring” and can overlap the vowel spaces traditionally occupied by the English high front tense /i/ and lax /ɪ/ vowels yielding pronunciations such as [tiu] or [tɪu] for the English word “two.” Godinez and Maddieson (1985) compared the vowel productions of monolingual English speakers from Los Angeles with those of bilingual Chicanos, and found that the English productions of /u/ of the bilinguals were more backed than those of the monolingual English speakers. They explained this finding by citing possible influences of Spanish on the Chicano English /u/. In a more recent study, Fought (1999) examined the English of Chicano and Mexican American speech communities near Los Angeles, California. She found that speakers in both communities, despite being minority communities, fronted /u/ like their majority California English–speaking counterparts, showing that despite the influence of Spanish in their respective social circles, their English had been affected by a sound change that was associated with the majority speech community. Willis (2005) analyzed the vowels of a bilingual community in New Mexico and reported fronting of the Spanish /u/ by his speakers. While Willis makes no indication of the extent of English influence on the speakers of his study, based on the pervasiveness of /u/ fronting in American English, the possibility of /u/ fronting at the very least must be considered.
Until recently, the general assertion regarding the standard Spanish vowel system has been that it is relatively stable and exhibits little or no variation (e.g., Navarro Tomás 1977; Quilis and Esgueva 1983; Bradlow 1994). Several studies (e.g., Delattre 1969; Skelton 1969) cede that there is slight variation with the Spanish vowel system, specifically centralization of unstressed productions of the mid and low vowels, simultaneously observing that the most stable of the Spanish vowels was the high back vowel /u/, followed by the high front vowel /i/. More recently, Harmegnies and Poch-Olivé (1992) compared controlled and more spontaneous productions of the five Spanish vowels, and found a large amount of variation. Most of the variation they report occurred with unstressed mid and low vowels centralizing and reducing. Other studies report different types of vowel variations such as vowel deletion in Mexican Spanish (Lope-Blanch 1964), unstressed vowel reduction in Ecuadorian Spanish (Lipski 1990), and vowel devoicing in Andean Spanish (Hundley 1983; Delforge 2008). However, despite the studies that show different degrees of vowel variation and even a slight inherent tendency to centralize when unstressed, the general consensus continues to be that the Spanish vowel system is very stable, especially when compared to English.
Regarding English and Spanish vowels in contact, Godinez and Maddieson (1985) found that all of the contrasts (i.e., lax versus tense) present in the productions of monolingual English speakers from California were also present in the English vowel productions of bilingual Chicano speakers from East Los Angeles. However, they also report that in the Chicano productions the front vowels were more raised and fronted. Roeder (2010) studied the English vowels of Mexican Americans in Lansing, Michigan, and shows that their English vowel productions, with the exception of /æ/, all reflect the local norms of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift. Willis (2005), in his analysis of the Spanish vowels of a bilingual population in t...

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