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Spanglish: The Making of a New American Languageby Ilan Stavans
Synopses & Reviews
In exploring the formation of Spanglish, award-winning essayist Ilan Stavans reflects on, andalso codifies, the most transforming linguisticphenomena in America in the last one hundredyears — one that may predict our future as a nation and that of our entire hemisphere.
No tool is more useful in understanding the changes inculture than language. In today's America, communicationis built around inclusion and efficiency, and this is no more apparent than in the blending of the two most spoken languages in the United States: English and Spanish.
Spanish, the nation's unofficial second language, isimmediately obvious and audible on airwaves and mediascreens, streets and classrooms, from one coast to the other. But el español has not spread on this side of the Atlantic in its unadulterated Iberian form. Instead it is metastasizing into something altogether new: an astonishingly creative code of communication known as Spanglish, which in large part is the result of sweeping demographic changes, globalization, and the newly emergent "Latin Fever" that is sweeping the country. It is used predominantly by people of Hispanic descent but is also embraced by others in the United States, the Americas as a whole, and even Spain.
Naturally controversial, Spanglish outrages English-language-only proponents, who seek to ban all languages other than English north of the Rio Grande. Equal in their outrage are Spanish-language purists and the supporters of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language in Madrid, as they deem Spanglish a cancer to their precious and centuries-old tongue. With elegance and erudition, Ilan Stavans reflects on the verbal rift that has given birth to Spanglish. He fascinatingly shows the historical tensions between the British and Spanish Empires, and how in 1588, with the sinking of the grand Spanish Armada, the rivalry between the two empires was solidified, and to this day, the differences in religion and culture continue their fight linguistically.
He ponders major historical events, such as the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty of 1848 and the Spanish-American War fifty years later, as agents of radical linguistic change, although, as he rightly states, it is in the second half of the twentieth century that Spanglish sped into our daily reality.
Stavans also points out the similarities and differencesSpanglish has with Yiddish, so thoroughly blending intothe American vocabulary, and the much-debated Ebonics, which made headlines in the early 1990s as a uniquelyAfrican American blend of proper English and urban slang.Ultimately, Stavans deftly proves that the manner in whicha language stays alive is through mutation and that itssurvival doesn't depend on academies but on the averageperson's need for expression. This explains why it is increasingly used not only in kitchens and school but in music, TV, film, and literature, all expressions of the American collective soul.
Coupled with Stavans's insights is a substantial lexicon that shows the breadth and ingenuity of this growing vocabulary — at times, semantically obvious, then also surprisingly inventive. An ingenious translation into Spanglish of the first chapter of Don Quixote de La Mancha comes as a bonus. The added impact proves that Spanglish is more than a language — it is the perfect metaphor for an America that is a hybrid, a sum of parts.
What is Spanglish? Does it have a history? Who speaks it today? Is there only one form of Spanglish or are there many? And is it a verbal phenomenon limited only to los Unaited Esteits? What is the reaction of the academy and political establishment to its widespread popularity? Stavans has devoted almost a decade to classifying and studying the linguistic phenomenon. In this groundbreaking volume, he answers these and other questions in the sizzling, provocative style that has become his trademark. He offers us a groundbreaking lexicon of thousands of Spanglish terms, their etymology, and usage across the country. And he includes a controversial translation into Spanglish of the first chapter of Don Quixote de la Mancha.
At once entertaining and prophetic, Spanglish is proof that America is spelled with an accent.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 259-270).
About the Author
Ilán Stavans nació en México, en 1961. Cursó estudios de posgrado en la Universidad de Columbia, y ahora tiene la cátedra Lewis-Sebring de cultura latina y latinoamericana en Amherst College.
Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sibring Professor of Latin American and Latino Cultures at Amherst College. His books include On Borrowed Words, The Riddle of Cantinflas, and The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories. He has been a National Book Critics Circle Award nominee and the recipient of the Latino Literature Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other honors. His work has been translated into half a dozen languages. Routledge published The Essential Ilan Stavans in 2000, and his memoir On Borrowed Words will be published in the Fall 2001.
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