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Assembly Series

A tradition of convening thought leaders since 1953

McKelvey School of Engineering

Brown School

'They Put the /s/ Where it Goes': How Ideologies and Identities Shape Language Change

Friday, November 12, 2021 | 3:00 PM

Somers Family Hall, 216

Abstract: In this talk I examine the linguistic behavior of Spanish speakers in Boston, MA. Using the tools of variationist sociolinguistics, I argue that the way Spanish is spoken in the city is undergoing change, but only in certain domains. A pattern of structural convergence with the grammatical norms of English is observed in four linguistic features: (1) subject pronoun presence vs. absence, (2) subject pronoun position, (3) syntactic constituent order, and (4) filled pauses. In contrast, a fifth feature, coda-/s/ deletion, reveals no evidence of change. I propose that the key to understanding this pattern – that is, the co-occurrence of linguistic innovation and stability in the Spanish of Boston – is to recognize the power of ideologies to shape the trajectory of language change.

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations


Arts & Sciences


Humanities & Society



Event Contact


Speaker Information
Daniel Erker, Boston University
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