4.1. Attitudes on the Status Dimension
As noted above, a language with high status is one that individuals associate with power, economic opportunity, and upward social mobility. Attitudes on the status dimension are thus connected with a language’s utilitarian value (Gardner and Lambert 1972
). At first sight, the fact that both corpora contain more frequently-occurring descriptors that pertain to the status dimension than to the solidarity dimension may give the impression that positive attitudes toward Spanish prevail in terms of status. However, a closer investigation of the data indicates that this is not the case. In fact, neither of the two corpora contains any descriptors that directly and exclusively refer to positive attitudes toward Spanish on the status dimension. As Table 1
shows, the status-related descriptors in both corpora can be divided into three semantic categories: namely, directly negative, negative and positive, and indirectly positive.
Both corpora contain one frequently-occurring descriptor which suggests that the tweeters associate the Spanish language with a lack of economic opportunity, namely, unemployment/desempleo
). This indicates negative attitudes toward Spanish in terms of its status, as illustrated by the following tweet:
“In April, national unemployment for Latinos peaked at 18.5%. For Latina women, it was even higher, at 20.”
Both corpora also contain several frequent descriptors relating to the status dimension that are sometimes used in contexts in which they convey negative attitudes, while at other times, they are used in contexts where they indicate positive attitudes (see Table 1
). These descriptors make reference to employment (i.e., work/trabajo, working/trabajando
, and job
) as well as education (i.e., school/escuela
, and education/educación
). The latter semantic category relates to the status dimension in the sense that education is usually considered to be necessary in order to achieve economic opportunity and upward social mobility. To exemplify the different uses of certain descriptors in the English corpus, Figure 2
shows concordance lines illustrating the use of job
in ways that indicate positive attitudes, while Figure 3
shows concordance lines in which the same term is used in a manner that indicates negative attitudes toward Spanish on the status dimension. To exemplify the different use of certain descriptors in the Spanish corpus, Figure 4
shows concordance lines illustrating the use of trabajo
(“work”) in ways that indicate positive attitudes, while Figure 5
shows concordance lines in which the same term is used in a manner that indicates negative attitudes toward Spanish on the status dimension (see Appendix A
Notably, both corpora contain several frequently-occurring descriptors relating to the theme of politics—and specifically the 2020 US presidential elections—that indirectly allow us to draw conclusions regarding tweeters’ attitudes toward Spanish on the status dimension (see Table 1
). These terms (e.g., election/elecciones
, and voting/votación
) are relevant in this context because they make reference to the role that Spanish plays in politicians’ (re-)election by Floridians, as illustrated by the concordance lines in Figure 6
Florida is one of the so-called battleground states—that is, those states in which even a small number of votes can determine the outcome of the elections. As the quotes from some tweeters in our corpora illustrate, the Spanish language is seen to play a role in the voting decisions made by Spanish speakers, and the use of Spanish is found to be crucial in attracting more voters toward presidential candidates. For instance, the first tweet below shows that political parties that conduct more outreach toward Latinx groups have a higher likelihood of getting votes from those communities, contributing to their electoral success. The tweet indicates that without their support, the election results could potentially change, thus indirectly demonstrating positive attitudes toward Spanish on the status dimension:
“Because Trump is beating Biden with the Hispanic vote and 3/4 with Spanish speaking voters (did the poll in Spanish) Democrats made another stupid move and made Bush Republican Anna Navarro their Latino outreach. Democrats need to do better if they want to win.”
The same theme is present in the tweet below, which is taken from our Spanish corpus:
“Trump se encuentra en el sur de Florida en busca del voto latino, uno de los bloques de votantes más importantes del estado https …” (Trump finds himself in South Florida looking for the Latin vote, one of the most important blocks of voters in the state https …)
Predominantly Spanish-speaking media outlets also seem to be using Twitter to attract Spanish-speaking voters’ attention. The underlying idea is that once voters’ attention has been captured, they are more likely to vote for the political party that the media outlet is associated with. This indicates the power that Spanish-speaking voters are perceived to hold, which can be interpreted indirectly as an indication of status. This is exemplified in the following tweet:
“Telemundo seems to want their Spanish speaking audience to vote for Trump. Remember this is one of only two Spanish networks in America. They have a lot of power.”
An examination of lexical collocates in the English corpus supports our overall findings. We investigated the collocates of “Spanish,” “Spanish speakers,” and “Spanish-speaking,” and while we found no collocations for “Spanish” and “Spanish speakers” that provide insights into language attitudes, the expression “Spanish-speaking” collocates significantly with three pertinent terms, namely viewers (MI: 7.4), voters (MI: 3.0), and students (MI: 3.4). Viewers and voters are both part of the aforementioned, indirectly positive semantic category relating to the important role of Spanish in the 2020 presidential elections; the term students falls into the aforementioned semantic category of education—a prerequisite to economic opportunity and upward mobility.
On a related note, the term “Florida” itself also collocates with voters both in the English corpus (MI: 6.7) and in the Spanish corpus (MI: 8.7). This can be seen as further evidence for the importance of Florida, and the Spanish-speaking voters in the state, in the 2020 presidential elections. However, the term “Florida” does not collocate with any other pertinent terms that provide insights into the role of Spanish in this state.
In the Spanish corpus, we investigated the lexical collocates of the terms “español,” “(hispano-)hablantes,” and the lemma “hablar español,”5
which can be considered equivalent to the aforementioned terms examined in the English corpus (i.e., “Spanish,” “Spanish speakers,” and “Spanish-speaking”). Notably, in the Spanish corpus, none of these terms have significant collocates pertaining to attitudes on the status dimension. The collocates that are significant in the English corpus all have MI scores below the level of statistical significance in the Spanish corpus.
The lack of pertinent collocates in the Spanish corpus is likely linked to the fact that the relative frequencies of status-related descriptors were much lower in the Spanish corpus than in the English corpus, for each of the semantic categories—directly negative, negative and positive, and indirectly positive (see Table 1
). This, in turn, is likely to be a reflection of the fact that Spanish—at least in the tweets that constitute our corpus—is commonly used for one specific purpose, which is largely absent from our English data: namely, to direct users to specific links which allow them to view something in Spanish. This is illustrated by the fact that ve
(“watch!”) and vean
(“y’all watch!”) together have a relative frequency of 2.9 wptt, and these terms collocate significantly with en video
(“on video”) (MI: 6.65) and en link
(“through the link”) (MI: 8.07). The concordance lines in Figure 7
illustrate this point.
4.2. Attitudes on the Solidarity Dimension
As noted above, a language toward which individuals hold positive attitudes on the solidarity dimension is one that elicits feelings of attachment and belonging, and which individuals associate with the social group with which they identify. Attitudes on the solidarity dimension are thus linked with the aforementioned social identity and in-group loyalty (Ryan et al. 1982
). In both corpora, the relative frequencies of solidarity-related descriptors are lower than the relative frequencies of status-related descriptors (see Figure 1
). However, it is notable that the solidarity-related descriptors in both corpora clearly and exclusively make reference to positive attitudes toward Spanish. As Table 2
shows, the frequently-used positive descriptors can, in both corpora, be divided into two semantic categories: namely community and family.
The category of community contains not only the words community/comunidad
themselves, but also descriptors relating to different ways in which Spanish speakers are linked with each other (e.g., culture/cultura
) (Table 2
). The first tweet below illustrates how the language connects the tweeter to their community and allows them to bond with other community members:
“It is important speaking with them one on one (in Spanish) and connecting to the community in Spanish. When I was a kid, this was the only way for me to connect with my people.”
The second tweet illustrates how speaking Spanish affords the tweeter a sense of acceptance, attachment, and belonging to their community:
“I am half Colombian half Mexican. I start speaking Spanish and they’re like, where’d you learn that. It’s always so nice to see that your community and friends appreciate your language. This is my city, I belong here.”
Both of these tweets exemplify tweeters’ positive attitudes toward Spanish on the solidarity dimension, and they show clearly that the language is perceived to hold vital social meaning. Notably, while numerous tweets containing discourses of this kind are present in the English corpus, none could be found in the Spanish corpus.
We have included the frequently-occurring descriptor heritage/patrimonio
in the category of family (Table 2
), although it could arguably also be included in the category of community. Either way, it clearly suggests positive attitudes on the solidarity dimension. This is illustrated by the next Tweet, which discursively constructs the role of the Spanish language in the tweeter’s social identity:
“Speaking Spanish is my heritage. It is what makes me who I am.”
The category of family also contains not only the term families/familias
itself but also descriptors referring to specific family members (i.e., mom/mamá
, and children/niñas/niños
) as well as generation/generación
). Overall, the data reveal that families play a crucial role in transmitting the Spanish language to the next generation and that this is felt to be important—as illustrated, for example, by this tweet:
“My miami family made me embrace more my Spanish side and I realized how much I’ve been missing out.”
However, it should be noted that while some families transmit Spanish to their children and speak the language at home, our data also suggest that others are more careful about this—and some even consciously avoid it out of concern that speaking Spanish may harm their children’s future prospects. The tweet below shows how societal views of Spanish, particularly in education, have led the tweeter’s mother to reconsider the use of Spanish at home:
“I remember in elementary school being forbidden from speaking Spanish with my mom. They actually threatened to send child services to accuse my mom of leaving me unequipped to deal with American society for speaking Spanish to me.”6
Moreover, the following tweet illustrates that some families are not only concerned about the potentially negative consequences of speaking the Spanish language itself but also about the ’foreign’ accent it might lead to in English:
“My mom encouraged me to speak English at home to avoid an accent.”
An examination of lexical collocates in the English corpus again supports our overall findings: While there are no notable collocations for “Spanish” and “Spanish speakers,” the expression “Spanish-speaking” collocates very strongly with two pertinent terms, namely friends (MI: 4.3), which falls into the aforementioned semantic category of community, and family (MI: 4.1), which falls into the eponymous semantic category.
In the Spanish corpus, an investigation of the terms “español,” “(hispano-) hablantes,” and the lemma “hablar español” did not yield any statistically significant collocates pertaining to attitudes on the solidarity dimension. This is a parallel to the aforementioned findings regarding the status dimension. Again, this may be due to the much lower relative frequencies of descriptors relating to this dimension of attitudes, and again, this is in turn likely to be linked with the fact that the Spanish tweets in our corpus are so frequently used for the purpose of directing users to specific links which allow them to view something in Spanish.