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Running Head: LANGUAGE VARIATION

Language Change in the City of El Paso


Marina Rodriguez
The University of Texas at El Paso

Language Variation

Abstract
The El Paso region is found with a great amount of diversity either with migrants from
parts of Mexico or other places from the United States and even out of the country who come to
study at the university or get a job. The most amount of people found in the city are Hispanics
who come from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, the border town or best known as the sister city. While
in the city many people will have to learn the best know language of America, which is English,
but many people keep their influences and speak Spanish as well. The speaking language of El
Paso has many implications the native people use such as the vocabulary acquired, culture
differentiation, and assimilation because once one is together they combine and share their habits
with other people. The purpose of this literature review is to discuss the language change in the
city of El Paso, Texas and how it formed throughout the years and how the people living there
are adapting to it.

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Spanglish Language
The official language in El Paso, Texas is what some may consider Spanglish. Many
people speak Spanish because of the sister city Ciudad Juarez. Most of the city is populated with
citizens of other cities in Mexico who Migrate to El Paso, TX to get a better lifestyle for their
families. The main problem with many of these people is that Spanish is their first language and
do not understand English or speak it, which is difficult for them to get a job therefore invest
money in learning English. Causing the city to become illiterate in the language and only play a
certain role on their life, meaning that they will combine the words they learn, speak, or hear
from other places and use them for their own knowledge. When the city is populated with
Hispanics there is a greater possibility for citizens to pick up new words that are going to sound
better for the speaker and just be a habit for them to properly speak them or use them as slang.
The way native people of El Paso, TX communicate impact their speaking habit such as their
texting habits, in school, with friends, or wherever they read something. Also the city influences
these aspects by publishing them in the newspaper Once immersed in the social, historical, and
economical aspects of a place, the ontological approach helps to cast light on how individuals in
specific, localized economies create, evolve, and practice literacies in times of rapid
technological change (Zapico, 2010). Cultural invasion is an impact as well because immigrants
who come to El Paso, Texas bring their influences and keep them, some of them are shared
within other people. Ultimately debates about the appropriate language of El Paso, TX and the
cultural diversity will be answered throughout these four questions:
1.
2.
3.
4.

How do people learn a language?


What influences the speaking language of El Paso, Texas?
How does El Paso, Texas acquire language?
What are the social implications of language change?

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These questions will narrow the focus of the language change in El Paso, TX with appropriate
background information from an expert in that field, and some information used from the
University of Texas at El Paso as well from outside resources in language variation and
acquisition in the city within the people.
Methodology
By releasing an interview on March 14, 2016 via email with Dr. Natalia Mazzaro, an
assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, with a Ph.D. from the University of
Toronto specializing in Spanish sociolinguistics, phonetics, quantitative and laboratory
approaches to the study of sound variation and change and morpho-syntactic variation in
Spanish. She currently has a thesis of Experimental Approaches to Language Variation and a
Ph.D. in Hispanic Linguistics. A series of questions were asked to see her perspective on the
issue, what is the language consideration and influences of El Paso, Texas? How are the
students or Hispanics in general integrating? The interview conducted helped approach a
perspective of language acquisition in the El Paso, Texas region. The responses give a better
understanding at the language spoken in the area in depth with an explanation about this topic
based on what she observed within the time living in the city. The responses given determine the
language change in a certain area. Overall the survey gives a better insight at language
acquisition in the El Paso region.
How do people learn a language?
Many people believe language is learned through ones childhood, the first few stages a
toddler begins to walk Almost all human beings acquire a languageto the level of native
competency, before age 5 (Mahoney n.d.). A spoken broadcast from PRI includes information
from infants and how they relate sound to language. According to Eino Partanen, a Finnish

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neuroscientist at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, fetuses can be exposed to specific
types of sounds and then elicit some sort of reaction to them after they have been born. He
means that the baby will recognize sound while in the womb of their mother and after they are
born they will start to mumble it. Janet Warker a developmental psychologist at the University of
British Columbia, said From the moment a newborn baby is born whos growing up in a
bilingual environment, they listen preferentially to speakers of either of the languages they
heard.
Throughout the broadcast the speakers Werker and Partanen discuss the research done by
Partanen to babies that proved that in can indeed change factors of how they begin to mumble
repeated letters. In which he and his colleagues took a group of pregnant moms for 15 minutes
each day, 5 days each week, during their last trimester, he asked them to play a recording. After
the babies were born Partanen played the stimuli to the newborns and used an EEG to monitor
their brain activity. He compared it to a group of newborns who did not receive the in
utero tatata stimulation. This resulted for the babies in which responded identically to the
sequence with the different vowel. After this study Partanen was able to prove that babies
gather their hearing sounds when they are in the womb. After the baby is born they begin to
recognize the language that is common spoken through their family members or what they
surround themselves with either by watching TV or listening to a device.
What influences the speaking language of El Paso, Texas?
The city of El Paso, Texas is situated on the border with Mexico, features a scenic
landscape and friendly population highly regarded for its unique cultural blend (El Paso
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, 2016). The city is rich in culture and dynamic growth the

Language Variation
one thing that El Pasos dynamic growth has been credited for is the development of an
integrated international trade region with Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, long before free trade zones
and global markets flourished (2016). Mainly focusing in the Hispanic community of El Paso
because of the population growth the race has overcome in the city. A Minero Magazine article,
Sorry, I dont speak Spanish: Hispanics deal with the loss of Spanish fluency written by Guerrero
Garcia (2013) claims The U.S. 2010 Census indicates that 72.8 percent of El Pasos population
speaks Spanish at home, a result of the citys demographic profilewhere more than 600,000 are
Hispanic or Latino. The demographic shows that language acquisition change the way language
is used by a certain community based on the people who surround it. According to Dr. Mazzaro
the physical situation in the city of El Paso is being considered from bilingual students, more
students come every day from international boundaries to study in schools here and they need to
learn English. In this case students bring their culture and try to adapt to the regulations in the
city but when they integrate with other students they share their thoughts with them by
communicating and adapting to the new way of speaking.
While the culture is an impact El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce discusses some
of them a culture shaped by 400 years of history and influenced by several diverse groups
from the Mission Trail to opera and rodeo. Here it details the life of an El Pasoan with a diverse
culture within the border city. Garcia shares a story about students who attend the University of
Texas at El Paso where they are discussing the language spoken at home with their mother, If
we mispronounce a word in Spanish, our mother will correct us and tell us it has to be proper
Spanish, she hates Spanglish (2013) says student Jocelyn Gomez talking about her and her
sister. This student recognizes that the proper language in her house is Spanish and her mother
influences that on them, they also learn Spanglish by acquiring what they hear from people

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who they surround themselves with, also speaking English changes their speaking habit from
being in school and at home.
These implications have to do with the way one speaks, since the city has a greater
population of Hispanics this shows that they will learn new vocabulary. Also the students who
cross the border to come to school are changing their vocabulary with the people they speak it
with such as teachers, or older people, once they are with their friends they will speak the same
language because it is an assimilation to their language. Culture impacts and race has many
things to do with how ones language is influenced and how it is spoken.
How do citizens of El Paso, Texas acquire language?
Language is acquired through many stages in the human listening skills whether they
have learned it from their family members or people in the same city who have different customs
than theirs. Based on Dr.Mazzaro Hispanics are integrating to the speaking language of El Paso
and discussing the discourse as being bilingual, here the doctor acknowledges that bilingual is
common within the people who live in the city of El Paso, TX. A study done to four familys
shows the responses in the language they speak daily the results includes findings from actual
conversations of English/Spanish bilingual speakers residing on the El Paso, Texas/Juarez,
Mexico (Baca, 2011). Providing several speaking ethics based on their life and contributions
between these speakers' home life, classroom, & work place in terms of their language use
(Baca, 2011).
A study done by Brannon Bradford, a graduate student from the University of Texas at El
Paso shows the acquisition of colloquial speech and slang in Second Language learners of
English in El Paso, Texas. Colloquial speech is informal, often racy or popular spoken
language that differs in some way from formal language (Bradford). The study gives theory of

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the slang words used by people in the city of El Paso and those who get influences from Ciudad
Juarez speakers. In this study Bradford did a survey which includes words given that they call
to be drunk in Spanish and English. The given responses according to Figure 1 shows the
different words people use in the city of El Paso that they relate to that particular word.
This study reveals that perhaps people use other vocabulary for the same specific word,
Figure 1. Phrasal v. Lexical Answers

although it only shows one example of


the word lexical vocabulary is used
based on what the person knows and
what is spoken in their surroundings.
The implications are based off their
knowledge and where they came from
which can cause problems if they are

Source: Brannon Bradford (2010) The Acquisition of Colloquial Speech


and Slang in Second Language Learners of English in El Paso, Texas,
Retrieved from

willing to speak the proper language of


United States.

http://0-search.proquest.com.lib.utep.edu/docview/847014656?
accountid=7121

What are the social implications of language change?


Being Bilingual can be a benefit to its speakers but many families want their children to
learn both languages Spanish and English. According to the article For Latino Parents, Bilingual
Classrooms Aren't Just About Language, Spanish-dominant students learn English faster and
better in classrooms that include Spanish-language instruction, according to a 2006 National
Literacy Panel report (Korducki,2014 ). This fact implies a social impact on people who want to
give their children an opportunity to learn a new language and according to Robert Petersen a
bilingual, multicultural school founder in Wisconsin All children should have the right to learn

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two languages, including their home language," says Petersen. "We are proud to be bilingual,
multicultural learners."
In other words Nicole Mahoney a researcher states that shifts often occur in response to
social, economic and political pressures. History records many examples of language change
fueled by invasions, colonization and migration. This implication shows its assimilation to the
city of El Paso, Texas with all of its diversity from the people who have migrated and continue to
influence the city with their spoken language implicating the social structures that make a
language change throughout time. One of the things that make language change as described
from Mahoney is new technologies, industries, products and experiences simply require new
words (Mahoney).
Conclusion
Ultimately English and Spanish speakers will acquire a new language by listening
to their surroundings and other people. The way we communicate is a common impact that
influences the variation of language and as well as bringing each of the peoples culture together
in one city. Bilingualism in the city of El Paso, Texas is growing more and more within the
citizens, now many cultural aspects are playing a major role to the people because of their
parents influence even with the people we come across with every day. Listening to each others
words will make them recognize the new words and use them as their vocabulary. Even bilingual
speakers communicate with slang because they find it easy to communicate and its a type of
discourse that they use when communicating with friends or people they are familiar with.
Overall the border city, slang, culture diversity, news, performances and social media has a major
impact on the way a person can acquire a language in the city of El Paso.

Language Variation

References
Baca, I (2011) English, spanish, or los dos? examining language behavior among four
English/Spanish bilingual families residing on the el paso, Texas/Juarez, mexico

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border Available from Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA).
(85535253; 200202603). Retrieved from
http://0-search.proquest.com.lib.utep.edu/docview/85535253?accountid=7121
Bradford, P. B. (2010). The acquisition of colloquial speech and slang in second language
learners of english in el paso, texas (Order No. 1484150). Available from Dissertations &
Theses @ University of Texas - El Paso; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.
(847014656). Retrieved from
http://0-search.proquest.com.lib.utep.edu/docview/847014656?accountid=7121
Daniel, A. (2016, March 03). Our ability to speak doesn't begin with our first words. It begins in
the womb. Retrieved March 03, 2016, from
http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-03-03/our-ability-speak-doesnt-begin-our-first-words-itbegins-womb
El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce - All About El Paso, Tx. (n.d.). Retrieved March 02,
2016, from http://www.ephcc.org/AllAboutElPaso.aspx
Garcia, G. (2013, February 12). Sorry, I dont speak Spanish: Hispanics deal with the loss of
Spanish fluency. Minero Magazine. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from
http://www.mineromagazine.com/sorry-i-dont-speak-spanish-hispanics-deal-with-theloss-of-spanish-fluency/
Korducki, K. (2014, April 03). For Latino Parents, Bilingual Classrooms Aren't Just About
Language. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from
http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/04/03/298377276/for-latino-parentsbilingual-classrooms-arent-just-about-language

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Mahoney, N. (n.d.). Research Areas. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from
https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/linguistics/change.jsp
Scenters-Zapico, J. (2010). Generaciones' narratives: The Pursuit & Practice of Traditional &
Electronic Literacies on the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. Logan, UT: Utah State University.