The goal of this article is to offer some general reflections about the study of the sociolinguistic integration of the immigrant population. More specifically, on the basis of the results of the Hispalin-UAH team of the IN.MIGRA2-CM project1
, I shall consider certain aspects of the Madrid context, which, unlike other Spanish contexts, is officially monolingual. This fact explains the lack of any literature relating to multiculturality and plurilingualism, or to attitudes towards the plurilingual realities constructed by individuals belonging to this context.2
What is more, Madrid is held to represent what is regarded to be normative or standard Spanish (Alvar 1982
; Alvar 1986
; Moreno Fernández 2012b
; Cestero and Paredes 2018
; Sanz Huéscar 2008
; Sancho Pascual 2014, for the immigration context in Madrid
), a fact that shapes the transmission of certain linguistic ideologies.
We should point out that when talking about the immigrant population, we are referring specifically to economic migration from less developed countries than the host country. Due to its unique socioeconomic situation, this group generally has to undergo an integration process with a level of complexity greater than that of individuals who start off from situations of less vulnerability. Although in this paper we will generally be referring to this group, we should bear in mind that each person’s situation as an individual and as a member of certain social groups will affect specifically issues that we are going to address here, and subsequently influence their own process. In this sense, key factors include the source country (and, consequently, the source language, which will or will not be shared by the host community), the age of arrival, the length of residence or the size of the source group in the host community, among many others (including, as we pointed out, purely individual factors) (Caravedo 2014
). As regards the age of arrival, the difference between first-, second- and third-generation individuals is fundamental. Seeing as they join the educational system of the host country, second and third generations will find it easier to integrate into the host society. Their insertion into the group structure of the host community will, therefore, have different characteristics to that of first-generation members. This will affect the value system of these individuals, which will—entirely or partially—be developed in the host community, with the consequences that this will have from a social and linguistic point of view (Caravedo 2014
). As we mentioned, this paper does not set out to dissect the aspects that are going to be proposed according to each of these factors. However, the study and analysis of specific situations and contexts do require the incorporation of these elements.
In the course of this article I will commence by explaining social integration before introducing the sociolinguistic dimension and, finally, focusing on two of the aspects involved in the process which I think call for particular attention in order to re-think approaches to them. These are: the analysis of the host community, and the components that are modified in the acculturation process.
I shall adopt a cognitivist perspective with a view to underlining the importance of starting from the perceptions of those involved in the process in order to analyse and interpret the dynamic spaces and linguistic identities which they themselves construct (Moreno Fernández 2012a
; Caravedo 2014
; Bürki 2019
) and use in inter-group relations. My aim, then, is to highlight the need to change the starting-point of research into this phenomenon in order to avoid imposing researchers’ own perspectives, which are usually developed from their own perceptions and, therefore, give their research a subjective bias (Caravedo 2014
2. Social and Sociolinguistics Integration
When dealing with integration, our starting-point is Berry’s acculturation model (Berry 1990
) devised on the basis of transcultural psychology. Although the model’s original scheme has been revised and extended,3
it is a good place to start if we wish to define integration
. The importance of Berry’s model lies in its significant advances on earlier ones, and we shall refer to two of them. In the first place, it does not take acculturation as a synonym of assimilation; rather, assimilation is one of the process’s possible solutions. Acculturation sets in when two different cultures come into contact and is defined as “the process by individual change, both by being influenced by contact with another culture and by being participants in the general acculturative changes under way in their own culture” (Berry 1990, p. 204
). It follows that the context in which acculturation happens should be redefined through the adoption of various strategies, as we shall see.
The second important innovation in Berry’s model is its assumption that the process is bidirectional and, therefore, involves both the immigrant and host populations at all their respective structural levels (Gugenberger 2007
; Moreno Fernández 2009
). Consequently, the full weight of responsibility for the process does not fall solely on the immigrant population.
In line with Berry’s model, acculturation is measured by means of two independent attitudinal dimensions which, depending on how they combine, give rise to a range of possible solutions (Figure 1
). One of the dimensions has to do with the subordinate group’s (in our case, the group composed of migrants) maintenance of its cultural identity, the other with the extent to which relations with other group(s) are valued and maintained. Given that the process is taken to be bidirectional, both dimensions are present in both groups, that is to say, in the dominant group (the host society) and the subordinate group. Thus, Berry’s model takes into account, on the one hand, the desires of the minority group with respect to the two dimensions and, on the other, the preferences shown by the majority group with regard to immigrants. Viewed in this light, the concept of acculturation assumes that cultural changes occurring as a result of contact will affect both minority and majority groups, albeit to a lesser degree in the case of the latter (Berry 1990
Thus, when we talk about integration, we mean the desire to preserve one’s own cultural identity and also to strike up relations with other groups. From the point of view of the host community, the desire that migrants forge relations with other groups further implies a search on its own part for such relations. In this regard, Moreno Fernández
(2009, p. 131
) defines integration as the “process of mutual adjustment on the part of an immigrant community and of a resident population which enables the intersubjective construction of the social reality of both populations and leads them to share certain values, whether those of the resident population or of the resident and immigrant populations”.
As far as the process’s bidirectionality is concerned, it should be pointed out that the host community becomes the powerful group both macro- and microsocially, thereby controlling the creation and maintenance of the asymmetrical relations that arise by definition when there is a migratory movement. In this sense, regardless of the desires of the subordinate group—or, at least, over and above them—integration can only be achieved successfully if the dominant group has an open and inclusive attitude towards cultural contact and the preservation of different identities. In other words, the real prospects of integration depend on the stance of the majority group (Berry 1990
; Bourhis et al. 1997
; Navas Luque and Rojas Tejada 2010
). Consequently, as Berry
(2001, p. 619
) points out, integration depends on finding a society with multicultural (or intercultural) values, free of prejudices, with low discrimination levels, positive attitudes towards cultural contact and a predisposition to identify with different groups.
) has proposed a model for the study of sociolinguistic integration which treats the analysis of the linguistic dimension as a function of the process of social climbing and also in parallel to it. For Moreno Fernández, social integration is a process—and therefore dynamic—with four phases (Figure 2
The survival and work/school phases refer to individuals’ covering their basic vital needs and their employment or schooling needs, respectively. For its part, social integration entails the presence of the individual in society as such and as a member of a social group tied to his or her national, ethnic, linguistic or racial origin. In this phase, the individual is still identified as belonging to the category of “immigrant”. Finally, the phase of integrated identity implies that the host society recognises the immigrant as one of them “in social, cultural and affective terms” (Moreno Fernández 2009, p. 133
). This does not mean any loss of original identity, but rather that the individual can shuffle multiple identities.4
As the process advances, different phases of integration will be completed, always in tandem with changes on the linguistic plane (133 ff.). That is to say that what happens socially is reflected linguistically.
Through these different phases runs a continuum
in which social contacts and, in short, interpersonal relations between immigrants and natives, are projected ever more frequently. As a result, the components of the psychosocial spheres of both groups must be incorporated into the study. In other words, the migrant’s passage through the different phases entails a shift from maintaining simple relations with members of the host community to the establishment of more complex ones (Sancho Pascual 2019
). Completion of the integrated identity phase carries with it the de facto disappearance of the immigrant category and, therefore, a recategorization of the community’s social reality, that is, a recategorization of the groups that make up the community in terms of the feeling of belonging, on the part of the immigrants, and of the perception that the immigrants belong to other groups than that of the immigrants, on the part of the host society.
In short, the further the advance of integration, the greater and, in interpersonal terms, the closer the contact between different groups; and as this contact grows, the new context will acquire a negotiated re-definition in terms of shared values. On the basis of Tajfel’s theory (Tajfel 1984
) of social identity, and in view of the relation between language and identity (Tabouret-Keller 1997
; Moreno Fernández 2006
; Coupland 2007
), theories of communicational accommodation and ethnolinguistic identity (Giles and Johnson 1981
; Giles et al. 1991
; Viladot i Presas et al. 2007
) highlight the importance of the linguistic plane in the process of group categorization, where its role is crucial as a defining attribute of group identity. Thus, we take as our hypothesis that, as the integration processes advance and intersubjective relations are established between residents and arrivals, thereby leading to social recategorization—as, then, social identities come closer to each other (group limits are diluted)—the linguistic practices of members of the group will come closer together since, if the group is redefined, its defining characteristics will be modified, its linguistic ones among them. Thus, from the point of view of sociolinguistics, the changes produced in group configurations will be reflected in the speech communities’ linguistic patterns, which will be modified pari passu with the configurations.
Integration is a complex process involving various elements of different kinds. The IN.MIGRA2-CM project proposes a holistic model of sociolinguistic integration which encompasses them all (Figure 3
). The sphere of the individual is affected by factors related to origin society, host society, social context and the linguistic phenomena resulting from contacts between languages or language varieties. By analysing these factors, we shall be able to see how they impact the process and, therefore, to describe how the acculturation process happens.
Generally speaking, we need to point out two significant biases in research conducted into integration from different academic disciplines. Firstly, studies of acculturation have mainly focused on analysing acculturation strategies (whether preferred or actually carried out), and chiefly those of the minority groups (thereby ignoring studies about the host population). Secondly, the aspects of culture and identity that are modified on contact have received little attention to date, particularly once again in relation to dominant groups. One outcome of that is that changes arising in the psycho-social sphere of individuals and the ensuing subjective perceptions of the process on the part of those involved in it have been pushed into the background (González-Rábago 2014, p. 204
Thus, by working on the microsocial plane, which is where inter-group communication takes place and where, therefore, the new shared values mentioned earlier are negotiated, and by considering the linguistic dimension, we may turn our attention to two aspects: the study of the perception of individuals forming part of the host community and the study of the linguistic elements which are modified in the process of that intersubjective construction of the new shared reality. When it comes to the first of the elements, as we have pointed out, the real possibilities of the migrants will be limited by the desires, attitudes and behaviours of the host population. In this respect, in order to gain a full insight into how acculturation is taking place, it is vital to know the position of the host community and the way in which its attitudes and actions have an impact on those of the immigrant population and adjust them. As for the second aspect, the changes that take place in the cultural elements of the various groups in contact will shape a new shared reality, along with their cultural and social values. Therefore, it will be necessary to identify the linguistic changes taking place as a consequence of cultural contact and to determine the social significance that they are taking on within the community. In other words, the study of the acculturation process requires characterising, describing and interpreting the new reality constructed among the individuals that make up the community.
4. By Way of Conclusion: The Researcher as Member of the Host Community
) has emphasised, I would not like to end without mentioning the importance of the figure of the researcher. As far as methodology is concerned, we must take stock of some of the ideas set out above. Firstly, we have to be aware that, as an individual, the researcher is one more actor in the host community, which has its system of values, beliefs, attitudes and also its own categorizations of social reality. In this regard, the researcher needs to perform a considerable exercise of estrangement if his or her own beliefs are not to affect the research at both the design and the interpretation phases. If we wish to know how the process is evolving and whether or not integration is occurring, we cannot analyse the phenomena from our own point of view, in other words, by fitting the data into a series of categories which appear to be valid but are, in fact, of our own ethnocentric and subjective fabrication. As stated, the study of sociolinguistic integration must enable us to understand what significance and what interpretation the actors in the process give to the new array of linguistic uses defining the new reality which is being built dynamically and progressively by intersubjective contact. From the very instant that we find particular respondents for our research and call them immigrants, we are transferring to them our categorization and identifying them by means of an attribute which does not define them, but which has to do with a particular circumstance of their life. At the same time, we are shoe-horning them into belonging to a particular group which need not coincide with their own perception or sense of belonging to that or to any other group.
In short, that the process is complex is obvious, so too that it has many components, among them an element of individuality which is difficult to systematize, including as it does individuals’ wills and capacities to manage their own realities and their own conflicts of identity, whenever these arise as a by-product of migratory movement and cultural contact. Accordingly, there is no simple way to approach the process. Our work needs to be interdisciplinary in its combination of diverse qualitative and quantitative methods which will permit us to form an overview of the process after analysing the different variables impacting on it. It will also be necessary to introduce a cognitivist approach that trains its sights on how those involved in the process perceive it, as well as on inter-group and inter-subjective interactions. In our opinion, the first step to be taken if we wish to understand and explain the process must be that the researchers themselves take stock of this complexity so that they may then understand, identify and interpret the psychosocial elements that are at stake in a process of this nature. There can be no integration without a reorganization of pre-ordained social categories. There will be no reorganization until the initial ethnocentric perspectives of all involved are deconstructed. This entails a constant self-reflection and questioning of our social normality, which is acquired from the first stages of socialisation based on the development of perception as a cognitive tool of reality (Caravedo 2014
). As a result, re-socialisation—within the acculturation process—is not just the responsibility of the migrant population, but also of the host population. Therefore, the researcher must assume these premises and handle them appropriately when approaching the study of sociolinguistic integration. In this respect, we are facing a social issue of enormous psychosocial sensitivity that calls for an interest and a realistic engagement on the researcher’s part. In this sense, it is crucial to learn how to self-question one’s own prejudices and know how to recognise and control them when dealing with the study of sociolinguistic integration. Only then will the researcher be able to comply with the principle of debt incurred (Labov 1982, p. 173
) in pursuit of a fairer and more egalitarian society (Moreno Fernández 2009, p. 153