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Spanish in Contact With English in the United States  

Phillip M. Carter and Rachel Varra

In the United States, Spanish is spoken by more than 50 million people, making it one of the largest Spanish-speaking populations in the world. What differentiates Spanish in the United States from most other national contexts is the ubiquitous presence of English, which engenders two important and related effects. First, at the level of the individual, the overwhelming majority of Spanish speakers are bilingual. Second, at the level of the speech community, Spanish is involved in a situation of language shift, in which Spanish is continuously abandoned generation by generation. Linguists studying Spanish in the United States want to know if these factors, which together we call “contact with English,” influence the structures of Spanish in the United States. Decades of research on this topic seem to indicate that, with the exception of lexical-level phenomena, the degree to which English represents both a direct force on and a driving factor of change in Spanish in the United States may be less than previously anticipated. Even where the influence of English is indisputable—the lexicon—the durability of changes due to English is still a matter of empirical investigation. The influence of English, it is clear, interacts in variegated and nuanced ways not only with the internal linguistic mechanisms of the Spanish grammatical system but also with respect to the influence of Spanish dialects in contact with each other in particular local ecologies.