Results and analysis
Quantitative results of /s/-weakening
Out of the three participants, only Gustavo, the HS of highland Ecuadorian Spanish, demonstrated consistent use of local variants throughout the stay abroad. At interval 0, just days before leaving the United States, his speech already contained coda ZsZ lenition at a rate of 21.3%. From interval 0 to interval 3, his use of the local variants increased, reaching a pinnacle at interval 3 (78.3%), at a rate higher than the average lenition rate (65%) of local Ecuadorian NSs from the same community (Escalante, 2016). After interval 3, his rate dropped to 58.1% and then increased again to 65.3% at the last interval, almost exactly mirroring the average rate of weakening among his native Ecuadorian counterparts.
Comparatively, Amalia (the HS of highland Colombian Spanish) and Bianca (the HS of Mexican Spanish) demonstrated less consistent use of local variants. A limited amount of ZsZ-lenition was present in the speech of Amalia at interval 0, but once in-country, she categorically retained all coda ZsZ during the next two intervals, not exhibiting any lenition again until interval 3 (4.5%). Interval 4 was the only time that she exhibited more substantial use of the local variants (19%), but by the last interval her use decreased again to nearly match the original rate of weakening present before she left the country (4.5%). Coda ZsZ-weakening was absent from Bianca’s speech during intervals 0-3. At interval 4, approximately nine months into the stay abroad, she exhibited ZsZ-lenition at a rate of 10% -still not approximating the community norm - but it dropped to 6.4% during the last interval.
Figure 4.2 illustrates the presence of the variable in the speech of the three focal participants throughout their stay abroad, as well as the overall rate of ZsZ-weakening present among NSs of the same community, as reported by Escalante (2016).
As the figure illustrates, Gustavo’s behavior in terms of coda ZsZ was quite divergent from that of Amalia and Bianca. In order to explore possible reasons for the different choices of the HSs, individual analyses of the sociolingüístic interviews were completed. Since the sociolingüístic interviews took place in Spanish, I have translated all quotations from the participants included in this section into English.
Figure 4.2 Percentage of weakened /s/ tokens produced by individual and exposure interval.
Bianca. Bianca was adopted at age four into a mixed family living in Los Angeles; she describes her mother as Mexican American (herself an HS of Spanish) and her father as a white first-language English speaker who acquired Spanish as a second language. Bianca reported mostly English being spoken at home, although her mom would occasionally speak to her and her siblings in Spanish and ask them to respond in the same language. Bianca did speak Spanish with her Spanish-monolingual maternal grandmother, who lived with the family during her early childhood, which is where she reported gaining most of her Spanish proficiency. She also reported that she may have been exposed to Spanish by her (Latina) birth mother and/or birth father from birth to four years; however, she was unsure of the quantity and quality of that possible input, as well as the dialect used. Growing up in Los Angeles, Bianca was exposed to Spanish outside of her home to some extent, mostly Mexican and Mexican American varieties (typically Zs/-maintaining varieties). She also traveled to Mexico with her family during her childhood to visit family members who lived there, but the trips were usually not longer than one week. Her initial Versant score of 58 out of 80 (correlating to an American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language [ACTFL] Oral Proficiency Interview [OPI] rating of Intermediate High) was the lowest among the three HSs.
Bianca attended a private Catholic university in the Midwest region of the United States, where she majored in sociology and peace studies. She noted that there was a lack of diversity at the school and that at times she felt like she had more to contribute during class discussions on topics of social justice, stemming from her experiences growing up in Los Angeles, than her classmates who came from more privileged backgrounds or more homogenous communities. However, at the same time, she noted feeling somewhat conflicted about identifying as a student of color because of her self-reported light complexion, height, and “non-Hispanic last name” (interval 5 interview). Bianca decided to volunteer with the NGO because she was interested not just in going abroad but also in working with issues of social justice and being able to integrate her faith into the experience. She was inspired by a six-day immersion experience that she had participated in during college in El Salvador (where she likely was exposed to /s/-weakening, albeit for a short time). She explained that volunteering abroad was a way to put her academic pursuits into action and that she was attracted to the NGO because of its mission and vision, but she reported being open to other organizations in other parts of the world as well (interval 0 interview). In fact, she noted that it wasn’t the NGO's location in Ecuador per se that was the most attractive to her but its focus on faith, social justice, and community involvement (interval 0 interview).
Once in Ecuador, she began her job assignments in social services and educational programming as well as her outreach to local families. She stated that arriving with proficiency in Spanish allowed her to integrate faster into the community than her L2L counterparts, but she still demonstrated some insecurity related to her language skills. “When I arrived,” she said, “I did know how to speak Spanish ... but 1 did not have confidence, and my vocabulary was very simple and 1 had to think a lot about what I was going to say” (interval 3 interview). She also noted some hesitation in visiting neighborhood families, because she felt perceived as an outsider: “At the beginning, I felt like a foreigner, like a gringa. It’s kind of hard to enter [neighbors’ homes], and 1 don't know, it’s like, what do 1 say? Or what should we talk about?” (interval 3 interview). By month six, however, she felt more comfortable in her environment and said that her Spanish had improved significantly, which gave her confidence to participate more fully in interactions with locals: “Now 1 feel like 1 can express myself better, without having to say things in such a simple way. ... Since my Spanish has improved and 1 am also more used to Ecuadorian culture, my visits with neighbors are more natural and not as forced” (interval 3 interview). These comments suggest that her integration into the community was more tied to her overall communicative abilities and an understanding of the local culture rather than the use of a local dialectal feature.
Although Bianca spoke positively about her involvement in her community, describing friendships with certain local families (mostly women) and encouraging experiences at her work sites (interval 2 interview), she also expressed enthusiasm for developing the smaller, volunteer CoP, where interactions took place almost exclusively in English. She often talked about “community nights” where they shared meals, meditations, discussions, and spiritual activities, and spoke positively of retreats and group trips where they increased bonds with the other volunteers. She also discussed her friendships back home, mentioning that she typically called, wrote, or
Individual differences 87 messaged friends back home about once a week (interval 3 interview). Around midyear, she hosted a ten-day visit from her dad, which included travel outside of the local community. These comments and experiences suggest that she was invested in balancing different types of CoPs - she was dedicated to her local Ecuadorian community, as evidenced by the priorities she placed on building relationships with her coworkers and neighbors, but she was also interested in developing a CoP among her fellow volunteers inside the volunteer house and in maintaining the networks she had at home. Her desire to balance these different CoPs and networks may have played a role in her lack of use of the local form.
One additional experience that differentiated Bianca from the other volunteers was that she left the local community and returned home at two different times during her stay abroad. Typically, the volunteers are not allowed to visit home during the year; however, for health reasons Bianca traveled home approximately two months into the stay and again approximately eight months into the stay. The disconnection from the local community and the reconnection to her more familiar, English-dominant context may have influenced her nonuse of /s/-weakening.
In addition to these experiential factors, a simple lack of consciousness of /s/-weakening may have played an important role in her lack of use of the dialectal marker. During the interval 5 interview, Bianca was asked to describe the local Ecuadorian dialect. She remarked that the overall speech rate was faster than in her home dialect and that “it was hard to understand people at first because they were running their words together”. She also mentioned intonational differences, citing that people “hang onto words longer”. Lastly, she noted that coastal Ecuadorian Spanish “sounds more aggressive, but not in a negative way”. Not only did she not mention anything related to /s/-weakening in her own characterization of the dialect, but even when 1 told her about /s/-weakening at the end of the final interview, she reported not having noticed it at all. According to the noticing hypothesis (Schmidt, 1990, 2001), input is not typically converted into intake without noticing. Although Bianca did produce a handful of weakened /s/ tokens in intervals 4 and 5, they may have been the result of consonant reduction related to gaining a faster speech rate rather than a conscious effort to produce the local dialect marker.
Amalia. Amalia’s mother was born in Cali, Colombia (an /s/-conserving dialect), and her father was born in the United States to an English-speaking white family. Growing up in New York City, Amalia spoke almost exclusively in Spanish when she was just with her mom, but when her dad was present the family spoke in English, since he did not speak the language. Her mother was a university-educated former teacher of English as a second language and court interpreter, which indicates that she maintained superior bilingual skills and was familiar with standard and prestigious Spanish varieties characteristic of the educational and judicial contexts of her profession. As a family, they spent some summers in Cartagena, Colombia (an
/s/-weakening dialect), when Amalia was young, but as she got older, she recalled fewer family trips. For her undergraduate studies, she attended a private Catholic institution in the Northeast, where she participated in a study-abroad program to Alcalá de Henares, Spain (an /s/-maintaining dialect), for five months. Her initial Versant oral proficiency score was in the middle of the three participants' scores in this study, at 68 out of 80 (corresponding to an ACTFL OP1 rating of Advanced Low).
Amalia joined the volunteer program because she had wanted to spend time abroad since graduating high school but never did so, and felt that the time was right after graduating college. She stated being attracted to the mission of the organization and its Latin American location (interval 1 interview). She had been involved in organizations that supported international students at her university and wanted to continue her involvement in community engagement within a Latin American context.
Once in Ecuador, she began her positions in educational and administrative services, and during each interview, she reported positive experiences. She, like Bianca, was dedicated to the cultivation of the volunteer CoP, noting that she enjoyed living in a community with other volunteers and that she got along with them well: “I really like living in community. The work is divided among everyone and we do a lot of things together” (interval 2 interview). By the interval 3 interview, she expressed that she and her housemates were growing close. “I think we are growing more like a family as time goes on”, she stated. “We are opening our hearts to tell each other what’s going on, things that are hard to talk about, and so I think that we’re going to have a really tight-knit community at the end of the year if we keep doing the same thing”.
She also found that her Spanish skills and knowledge of Latin American culture allowed her to integrate into the local community: “It helps that 1 can already speak Spanish, plus I’m kind of used to seeing the things we see here, like from my travels, so the transition has not been that hard” (interval 2 interview). She mentioned eight families whom she went to visit frequently, naming the women of each household specifically when she described her closest relationships in the local community. This suggests that she developed CoPs with local women more than with men. This may be due to a combination of factors, including the fact that more women were at home during the day than men (which is when Amalia would visit) and that culturally it was more acceptable to cultivate same-sex friendships. However, since women tend to use fewer stable, stigmatized variables than men (Labov, 1990), and because /s/-weakening is understood to be stigmatized in this community (Escalante, 2016), she was likely exposed to less /s/-weakening in these conversations than she would have been in conversations with men.
One event that affected Amalia’s experience was the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit Ecuador’s coast on April 16, 2016, which was about nine months into the volunteer year. Although none of the volunteers suffered injuries, after the event Amalia described feeling anxious about
Individua! differences 89 earthquakes occurring and noted that she began talking to her parents more often, even as often as every day for the first few weeks after the quake (interval 4 interview). She noted in the same interview that she began staying home more often on the weekends and not participating as much in local community events because of her anxiety, perhaps withdrawing slightly from local CoPs. At the same time, however, the interview where she described the earthquake had the highest instances of Zs/-weakening of the entire year abroad (19%), supporting Labov’s (1984) observation that narratives of personal experience, especially instances of fear, capture the closest approximation to the vernacular of unmonitored speech. Like Bianca, Amalia did not notice /s/-weakening at all, even after being immersed in the dialect for an entire year. When asked about differences that she noticed from her home dialect (Colombian), Amalia noted the use of usted and some individual lexical items but did not mention any phonological differences. Even at the end of the interview, when I shared examples of /s/-weakening with Amalia and described it as a characteristic of the local dialect, she reported no consciousness of it, which, according to the noticing hypothesis, may explain why it was not incorporated into her speech to a greater extent.
Gustavo. Gustavo was born in Quito, Ecuador. His mother is half Ecuadorian, half Italian, but was born and raised in the United States and learned (highland Ecuadorian) Spanish as a heritage language at home. As a young adult, she migrated to Ecuador, where Gustavo was born. Although Gustavo’s father, who was highland Ecuadorian, was not a part of his life, Gustavo spent time with family members on both his maternal and paternal sides during his childhood in Quito. He always spoke English at home with his mother while living in Ecuador (as English was her dominant language), but acquired Spanish - likely a variety of highland Ecuadorian (Zs/-maintaining) Spanish - simultaneously through contact with family members and then later upon entering school. When he was nine, Gustavo and his mother left Ecuador and migrated to California, where he began schooling in English. Gustavo often spent summers in Quito visiting family members, whom he describes as upper-middle-class professionals, and considers himself to maintain close relationships with his Ecuadorian family. His initial Versant score was 70 out of 80 (corresponding to an ACTFL OPI rating of Advanced Low), which was the highest score among the three participants. He expressed confidence in his Spanish language abilities but described his Spanish as “agringado”, or English influenced, because of bilingual aspects of his context of acquisition.
While attending college - a private Catholic institution on the West Coast -he participated in a semester-long study abroad program in El Salvador, a dialect that is characterized by radical /s/-lenition. He also had spent time in the Dominican Republic (radically/s/-weakening), Nicaragua (/s/-weakening), Mexico (/s/-maintaining), and Guatemala (/s/-maintaining). Because some degree of /s/-weakening was present in Gustavo’s speech in his initialinterview, before he even set foot in Guayaquil, it is likely that both his high proficiency in Spanish, given his unique context of learning, and his knowledge of different dialects of Ecuadorian Spanish, perhaps due to media influences and his contact with other varieties of Spanish (including extended contact with Salvadorian Spanish), may have led to his use of the weakened variant.
Gustavo was attracted to the NGO because of its focus on social justice -he noted that one of the only things he did not like about his university was that he felt many students were privileged and lacked a social conscience (interval 0 interview). He was also attracted to the NGO because of its location in Ecuador in particular, since he was interested in reconnecting with his heritage:
I want to take this opportunity to find out more about my roots ... My mom was gringa, well, in the way she acted, so I grew up inside the home and 1 noticed that my mom acts differently from my Ecuadorian family, and 1 always felt a little bit more Ecuadorian than my mom.
In addition to suggesting that Gustavo already felt an inherent connection to his country of birth, his sentiments promote the idea that someone can be “more” or “less” of a particular nationality than another person. By mentioning that he felt “more Ecuadorian” than his mother, he suggests that identity can be tied to performance, which may have prompted him to use /s/-weakening as a type of performance of his identity as a participant moving from peripheral to legitimate participation (see Lave & Wenger, 1991).
Once in Ecuador, Gustavo incorporated himself quickly, but for him assimilation was based not only on language ability but also on shared practice. When asked in the interval 5 interview about how he perceived his own integration into the community, he stated:
Compared to the other volunteers, I integrated very easily, but when I was with them as a group it was a bit harder. ... Only when 1 would go visit [the neighbors], talking with them, they realized that I am Ecuadorian. They would ask me, ’What is your favorite food?’ and I would say, ‘Locro’, and they would say, ‘Locro?! What do you know about locro?’ 1 played soccer, 1 act very Ecuadorian too, so people sawin my actions that I am Ecuadorian. ... 1 began to talk like them, the spices, the [foods], I went anyw'here, I ate anything. ... I think that helped me to enter more into the life of the neighbors.
His descriptions emphasize that although locals did not expect him to be such a cultural insider, he was able to leverage his cultural knowdedge to more quickly integrate.
Over time, Gustavo seemed to strengthen his allegiance to local CoPs as opposed to the volunteer CoP. He often criticized the activities that the volunteers were obligated to participate in, such as retreats and spirituality nights, and spoke more favorably of the time that he spent with locals. He stated that he tried “as much as possible to avoid seeming gringo. ... One, because of safety; two, to be more at peace; and three, to find the Ecuadorian inside of me” (interval 5 interview). He expressed frustration with some of the rules of the NGO, which did not allow certain practices that to him seemed to conflict with local cultural practices, such as not allowing locals to ride in the NGO’s vehicles or not being allowed to accept a beer at a neighbor’s home if offered. Gustavo also said that he was perceived differently than the other volunteers, explaining that he felt like the locals accepted him more than the others: “A lot of neighbors confided in me, and they would say things to me that they wouldn’t say to the other volunteers” (interval 5 interview). He mentioned that neighbors were more openly critical of the rules and practices of the NGO - expressing their frustrations to him but not to other volunteers. Additionally, Gustavo mentioned that he spent a significant amount of time with the guard of their house, “Enrique”, a working-class man around the age of 45. In his interviews, Gustavo described Enrique’s experience of growing up on the streets of Ecuador and being an expert on “un español callejero" [street Spanish]. Thus, according to the CoP framework, the relationship between Gustavo and Enrique can be considered one of mentor and mentee, where Gustavo may have learned from and been motivated to accommodate to local features used by Enrique.
By the end of the volunteer year, Gustavo felt like he had attained his goals of finding the Ecuadorian inside of himself and of understanding what it was like to be Ecuadorian. In fact, he reported that he understood the reality of being Ecuadorian much more than his family members who were born in and have lived in Ecuador their entire lives. According to Gustavo, the privilege of their professional-class experiences does not allow them to truly understand what it means to be Ecuadorian: “Now I know - even though I don’t sound like it - I am more Ecuadorian than my Ecuadorian family, like I know more of the reality than my family [in Quito]. They live in a cloud ... they live a very gringo lifestyle” (interval 5 interview). His sentiments reiterate his support of working-class communities and his devotion to local CoPs.
Gustavo was the only participant to identify the reduced /s/ as characteristic of local speech without being prompted. Perhaps because of his experience with other dialects, he was also more aware of linguistic variation than the other participants. For example, he noted other types of consonant reduction and described the local Spanish dialect as having a Caribbean influence. In addition, he was able to make comparisons to highland Spanish, describing the coastal variety as sounding “less formal and less like un español castellano [a Castilian Spanish] than in the highlands” and adding that “the language has more flavor on the coast”. Lastly, he understood the linguistic concept of stylistic variation, noting that he had learned how to vary his speech when talking to different neighbors based on factors such as power, social distance, and the level of formality present in the encounter. His awareness of several different linguistic phenomena related to the target dialect may have supported his ability to integrate them into his own speech.
Despite the fact that the three HSs were speakers of a non-/s/-aspirating dialect, all had one parent who was not an NS of the heritage language, and all were college-educated speakers of approximately the same age, there were several differences in their language backgrounds, exposure to other /s/-weakening varieties of Spanish, reasons for entering the program, cultivation of CoPs, and consciousness of /s/-weakening that may have contributed to Gustavo accommodating to the local feature much more than Amalia and Bianca did. While Amalia and Bianca were drawn to the NGO because of their interest in social justice within a Latin American context, Gustavo was perhaps more motivated to integrate himself into local Ecuadorian CoPs - especially those that embraced vernacular forms - because of his family ties and his personal goals of finding the Ecuadorian within himself. While Amalia and Bianca related positively to their identity as volunteers, Gustavo resented being seen as an international volunteer, as he felt that it positioned him as an outsider rather than an Ecuadorian. Gustavo’s high language proficiency, previous exposure to other /s/-weakening dialects, and ability to notice the phenomenon likely provided him with the tools to acquire /s/-weakening, and his status as a young man may have provided him with access to domains where /s/-weakening was considered a valuable asset. All of these factors combined likely contributed to Gustavo adopting /s/-weakening more consistently than Bianca and Amalia did.