Eleventh Heritage Language Research Institute

Heritage Languages in Unexpected Places

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The sociolinguistic situation in New Mexico through the lens of Perceptual Dialectology

by Damián Vergara Wilson (University of New Mexico)

The state of New Mexico is the fifth largest state in the union in terms of size but ranks 36th in population. It does not hold the attention of the national perceptual gaze in the same way as coastal states such as California or New York, but retains a strong identity. New Mexicans who have lived here encounter a rich diversity that includes strong impressions about languages and their speakers across time and space. This presentation gives an overview of the sociolinguistic situation of New Mexico as documented through work in Perceptual Dialectology. The main focus is on the aggregated responses to a map task in which participants indicated on a blank map of the state where they believed different speech communities existed and provided examples that represented those communities. As a result, we reveal how participants collectively perceived imagined speech communities to be distributed across geographical space. In order to provide insight into this distribution, this presentation will briefly mention attitudinal data that was collected in tandem to the map task. By way of conclusion, this presentation argues for the value of considering findings from sociolinguistic studies such as the present in understanding our heritage language learners.

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