Spanish language contact in Latin America: The impact of internal migration and globalization on contact
varieties of Spanish
Massive social and economic transformations in Latin American during the twentieth century and early part of the twenty-first century, particularly increasing urbanization, have had detrimental effects on indigenous language maintenance and at the same time have brought about changes in local varieties of Spanish. During the twentieth century, Latin America was transformed from a predominantly rural to a predominantly urban society; it is predicted that by 2010, the Latin American urban population may reach 80 percent. Urbanization has not been restricted to cities; urban institutions and urban standards have expanded their influence into rural regions, in part through complex social networks formed with migrants to urban areas.
With these changes indigenous languages, which survived until the twentieth century primarily in rural, relatively isolated areas of Latin America, have come into increasing contact with Spanish and relatively rapid language shift has resulted. While studies have demonstrated that the indigenous languages have had virtually no structural influence on most varieties of Latin American Spanish, in areas where large numbers of speakers of indigenous languages reside and where there has been extensive bilingualism (especially in the twentieth century), contact-induced features can be found; these areas include the Yucatan region of Mexico, Guatemala, Paraguay, and the Andean region of South America. Increasing pressures from globalization and internal migration have brought speakers of these varieties into contact with speakers of non-contact dialects of Spanish. The specific language changes that have resulted will be examined as they relate more broadly to issues of language contact, dialect contact, cultural identity, and the processes of language change.
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Photograph courtesy of Hector Emanuel