A language identifies people both socially and culturally, an integral part of distinguishing certain groups of people from others. The Chicanos, or persons either born or living in the US who are of Mexican-origin,1 speak not only in Spanish dialects, but some groups also speak variations of English collectively called Chicano English. Chicano English is a variation of English that is influenced by Spanish, particularly in the Southwest,2 although it is not simply a product of the recent English learner's interference from native Spanish;3 in some cases, Chicano English may constitute the linguistic interference from Spanish that native speakers experience when learning English, but one cannot assume that this holds true in every case. While Chicano English's phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon differentiate it from Standard English, its features also characterize a language independent of Spanish. Additionally, Chicano English remains distinct from Standard or "Anglo" English by illustrating its speakers' ethnic identities and declaring their cultural ties with Mexico.
Since one definition can reduce the multiple forms of a given language into a singular entity, problems arise when attempting to establish a single definition of a variation as complex as Chicano English. Linguists have debated over a concrete definition for decades, and still continue to investigate the features of Chicano English in order to establish one that is more inclusive than those of the past. Baugh describes this past debate over definitions as "the anguish of definition" (Baugh 3). Sawyer, for one, views Chicano English as "an imperfect state in the mastery of English" (qtd. in González, Chicano Speech 71), advocating a language variation based solely on speakers'
interference from a native Spanish base.4 According to Sawyer, Chicano English is only a temporary point, or "stage in the acquisition of English" (Wald 15), from which the native Spanish speaker must eventually pass in order to speak a more "appropriate" form of English. In contrast to Sawyer, other researchers such as Metcalf, Bills, and Penalosa discuss Chicano English in terms of its relationship to Spanish, although they also distinguish it from Spanish as they work their way to a definition of Chicano English which treats it like a separate dialect of English.5 In Chicano English: An Ethnic Contact Dialect, Joyce Penfield and Jacob Ornstein-Galicia consider Chicano English "an ethnic, border dialect" (16), examining the Southwest as a sociolinguistic setting in which language contact among Spanish and English variations plays a significant role in the production and perpetuation of Chicano English (see Appendix 1 and 2).
Although one may consider Chicano English a legitimate dialect of English, one cannot overlook the similarities among variations of Chicano English and "interference" English. Specifically, Joyce Penfield and Jacob Ornstein-Galicia find that "'Interference' English shares certain linguistic features with ChE [Chicano English] and does not share others" (Chicano English 16). For instance, some of the similar features between "interference" English and Chicano English include phonology, distinct stress patterns in speech, and intonation or prosodic patterns. While Chicano English phonology is much like the phonology of the recent English learner, Chicano English phonology also exhibits slight differences that categorize it as independent of Spanish phonological interference on English. At the same time, Chicano English sound patterns, which include phonology, distinguish it significantly from other non-standard dialects of English, as well as Standard English. Penfield notes that "Unlike Black English, the uniqueness of Chicano English lies at the phonological level rather than the syntactic level. Within the phonology of ChE, several researchers [such as Metcalf] have noted that one of most distinctive
characteristics of ChE is its intonation" (Chicano English 35). In addition, Chicano English differs from "interference" English in syntax and morphology, two features which overlap in some cases with other non-standard English dialects. The syntax of the recent English learner, then, is much more affected than that of the Chicano English speaker.6
Besides the differing linguistic features of Chicano English and "interference" English, perhaps one of the most significant distinctions between the two is social, since "'interference' speakers do not share a social identity and speech community as do ChE speakers -- at least not as far as English is concerned" (Penfield, Chicano English 17). Distinctive styles of Chicano English are used "to convey camaraderie, group identification, and brotherhood [or sisterhood]" (Penfield, Chicano English 17). Just as Chicano English speakers and "interference" English speakers differ socially, so do the
Anglo English speakers and the Chicano English speakers. However, just because one identifies as "Chicano" does not necessarily mean that that particular person belongs to the same social class, or has the same language capacities as others who may identify themselves in a similar fashion. The Chicanos' residence patterns directly reflect economic forces and massive migration from Mexico to the US over a period of almost two centuries,7 resulting in "different immigration groups often with different backgrounds correlated somewhat to the generation of immigration" (Penfield, Chicano English 20). Among the Chicano population of the US, social differences exist and separate at least four major groups of Chicanos into the following classes: upper class, middle class, working class, and migrants.8 Apparently, Chicanos who have lower socio-economic status reject dominant "Anglo" culture more strongly than those who are part of the upper class, which suggests that some middle class as well as working class Chicanos maintain their Mexican heritage by either speaking mostly in Spanish variations, or Chicano English. For example, Sánchez states that "Spanish-language radio is preferred by lower income Chicanos, by the older and less educated, and by listeners born in Mexico, while higher socio-economic Chicanos prefer English-language radio stations" (Sánchez 35), demonstrating the differences among Chicanos and their languages directly attributed to social class; her statement implies that both middle class Chicanos and upper class Chicanos prefer to listen to English-language radio stations, and hence, have begun to identify themselves with Anglo culture.
Yet, one cannot expect to find an absolute for all Chicano social groups, particularly since "there is no one Chicano language just as there is no one Chicano experience" (Anzaldúa 252). Actually, Anzaldúa focuses on the specifically female, Chicana experience in an excerpt from Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza, where she explains that "A monolingual Chicana whose first language is English or Spanish is just as much a Chicana as one who speaks several varieties of Spanish" Anzaldúa 252). Anzaldúa's message, though it is centered on women, applies to the diversity within the Chicano community. Although linguistic abilities often correlate to social factors, one cannot assume that just because a Chicano is from a higher socio-economic background, or may speak only English, he/she is any less Chicano than those who speak fluent Spanish or are native-born Mexicans; Chicanos with higher socio-economic standing may very well identify with Chicano culture, while also participating in
Furthermore, Chicanos' language ranges are just as diverse as their socio-economic situations in the US; in fact, socio-economic status most likely affects Chicanos' language abilities, controlling whether or not Chicanos are bilingual, and the degrees to which they are bilingual. Obviously, those Chicanos who come from a higher economic standing will have had greater education, and therefore will probably be literate in both Spanish and English. At the same time, however, Chicanos who come from lower socio-
economic backgrounds may also have knowledge of both Spanish and English. More importantly, the Chicano "may be bilingual only to the degree that he [or she] understands Spanish when it is spoken to him [or her]" (Garcia 447). In other words, the term bilingualism, like Chicano English, cannot be reduced to simply meaning knowledge of and literacy in both English and Spanish; in actuality, bilingualism can range from only understanding Spanish, or English for that matter, to being able to read and write in both languages, which, as a part of language contact, affects Chicano English.
Besides being bilingual to some degree, many Chicanos are monolingual as well, knowing only Spanish or only English. Those who do not know any English have probably not lived in the US for very long, or do not remain in the US year-round, although these possibilities may not hold true in every case. According to González, "the speakers of Chicano English would include recent immigrants as well as third and fourth generation Chicanos. Linguistically, this heterogeneity is manifested in a range of abilities, from monolingual Spanish at one end of the scale to monolingual English at the other end"
(Form and Function 33). Moreover, when discussing Chicano English speakers, one must
realize that there is "a scale ranging from monolingual Spanish speakers struggling with the basic sounds and structures of English to monolingual native-English speakers whose English variety may or may not be discernibly different from Anglo speakers of Standard English" (González, Form and Function 33). The Chicanos who are monolingual in English because they grew up speaking it, however, are significant to a discussion of Chicano English since they provide a stronger case for the distinctiveness of Chicano English as a separate dialect, as opposed to "interference" English.
Today, many Chicanos grow up speaking English, and though they may have some sort of contact with Spanish speakers, they remain fluent in English. East LA, for example, is home for a large portion of the Chicano community. In the article entitled "The Status of Chicano English as a Dialect of American English," Wald states that "both Spanish and English are used in the [Chicano] community [of East LA]. Spanish is more widely understood than spoken" (Wald 20). In fact, in some areas of East LA, children and adolescents have negative attitudes toward Spanish (Wald 20). Regardless of their negative attitudes, however, Chicano youths who live in East LA speak a distinctive form of English that sounds similar to recent learners of English. In a study which compared the vowel sounds of Chicano and general Californian English, Godinez finds that "In general, the vowels of the monolingual Chicano English group are more like those of their bilingual counterparts" (Godinez 56). More importantly, he finds that "All of the General Californian vowel contrasts are represented in Chicano English. This suggests that rather than being primarily determined by 'interference' from Spanish, Chicano English
represents an autonomous social dialect with distinct characteristics. . . . (Godinez 57). Thus, Chicano adolescents in East LA speak an English variation that is similar to, but not the same as "interference" English, and although this variation is similar to the English spoken by general Californian residents, it also remains separate. According to this language situation in East LA, early notions of Chicano English as merely a temporary state in the recent English learner's progress toward Standard English become incomplete and unacceptable.After learning that many Chicanos are monolingual English speakers, scholars have re-examined the features of Chicano English as a separate dialect of English. One of those features that distinguish Chicano English from other variations of English is its phonology. While the phonology of Chicano English resembles that of "interference" English, several distinctions remain. For instance, a salient feature of Chicano English phonology is the alternation of [ c ] and [ s ], where words like "show" are pronounced like chow and "check" is pronounced like shek. Although scholars may explain the substitution of [ c ] for [ s ] as a product of interference, they cannot explain why the Chicano English speaker would substitute [ s ] for [ c ]. In Spanish, [ c ] exists as a sound, while [ s ] does not,
explaining why a native Spanish speaker learning English would substitute [ c ] for [ s ]. However, as Penfield notes, "Speakers of ChE, especially those who are bilingual, freely substitute sh and ch for sh. Both possibilities may occur within the same sentence or even the same word, e.g. . . .'The shayl is going to chIrsh.' for 'child' and 'church'" (Penfield, Chicano English 39). Interestingly, Penfield observes that, unlike Standard English, which has separate phonemes for [ s ] and [ c ], Chicano English speakers produce "a phonetic variant somewhere between the ch of monolingual St Sp [Standard Spanish] speakers and the sh of monolingual StE [Standard English] speakers" ( Chicano English 40).
Other examples of Chicano English consonant variation that both differ and resemble "interference" English while remaining distinct from Standard English include the following: the devoicing of [ z ] in all positions; the devoicing of [ v ] in word-final position; the realizations of [ v ] as [ B ] or [ b ]; of [ ð ] as [ d ] and [ O ] as [ t ]; and of [ y ] for [ j ] in word-initial position (see Appendix 3). Like Chicano English, other non-standard American dialects like Black English follow patterns of defricatvization, particularly in words that begin with "th." Penfield suggests that "defricativization is most prominent among lower socio-economic class ChE speakers -- be they monolingual or bilingual" (Chicano English 43), illustrating that, once again, social class divisions can affect the language features of Chicano English speakers. More specifically, the similarities among Chicano and Black Englishes indicate the Chicanos' language contact with non-standard American dialects which greatly influence Chicano English's movement toward becoming a legitimate ethnic dialect of English.
In addition to the distinct consonant sound variations of Chicano English, vowel differences are also prominent features of Chicano English phonology. The vowel sounds of Chicano English resemble the vowel sounds of "interference" English, although a few slight differences exist. For example, Chicano English speakers tend to lax three tense vowels: [ I ], [ e ], and [ u ], particularly before the consonant [ l ]. Hence, words like "need," "mail," and "school" are pronounced like [nId], [mEl], and [skUl]. These features distinguish Chicano English pronunciation not only from recent English learners, but also from Standard English pronunciation. Penfield explains further that "The recent learner of English tenses all six vowels, creating a different set of homophones from those found in ChE" (Chicano English 44). While similarities exist between Chicano English vowel sounds and "interference" English, the two forms of English are not identical to each other, and both remain distinct from Standard English (see Appendix 4 ).
Along with distinct consonant and vowel sounds, prominent features of Chicano English phonology include the reduction of consonant clusters in word-final position, as well as the deletion of intervocalic flaps. The Spanish language, on the one hand, allows only certain consonants to end words, explaining why "interference" English speakers tend to end words with only certain consonants (see Appendix 5). In Chicano English, on the other hand, speakers reduce word-final consonant clusters by eliminating [ t ] or [ d ], similar to Black English, although "this pronunciation feature does not affect grammatical marking in ChE to the degree that it does so in Black English" (Penfield, Chicano English 45). Moreover, Black English consonant cluster reduction in word-final positions eliminates consonant sounds other than just [ t ] or [ d ]. Like the defricativization patterns in Chicano English phonology, word-final consonant cluster reduction occurs much more prominently among working class Chicanos (Penfield, Chicano English 46). Consonant cluster reduction is a fairly prominent feature in Chicano English speech, while deletion of intervocalic flaps and other consonants are not as widely mentioned (see Appendix 6).
Other phonological features that are widely mentioned in the literature concerning Chicano English include suprasegmentals or stress patterns, and intonation. Distinct stress patterns can be detected in words of four or five syllables, such as the following examples, where the capital letters indicate stressed syllables: converSAtion, compuTAtion, opporTUnity, and discirmiNAtion (González, Chicano Speech 78). In addition, one of the more common stress shifts occur on noun and verb compounds, which is exactly the opposite from Standard English; in noun compounds, stress is received on the second
word, while in verb compounds, major stress is on the first word. Penfield provides examples of these features: trouble-mákers in place of "tróuble-makers"; mini-skírt in place of "míni-skirt"; shów up for "show úp"; and páy attention for "pay atténtion" (Penfield, Chicano English 47). Penfield also notes a third alteration of stress assignment in Chicano English which occurs in individual lexical items such as the following: áccept for "accépt" and operáte for "óperate" (Chicano English 47). These individual stress patterns clearly separate Chicano English from Standard English, while they also provide some reasoning behind researchers' past arguments for Chicano English as a form of "interference" from Spanish. Clearly, the stress patterns sound similar to accented English,9 and they often cause problems in communication among Anglo and Chicano speakers. For instance, "a simple statement in Chicano English would have an additional implied meaning to a StE speaker: 'He can't sít up.' In StE such a statement would imply 'he may not be able to sit up but he can do something else, like stand up or jump up'" (Penfield, Chicano English 47). Differences in stress patterns, therefore, strongly influence the amount of communication among Chicano and Anglo English speakers.
Another feature of Chicano English phonology which affects communication among Anglo and Chicano speakers is intonation, or prosody. According to Metcalf, intonation is like adding a "Spanish accent" to English "often heard from people who have no ability to speak or understand Spanish, people who are monolingual as well as perfectly fluent in English" (qtd in González, Chicano Speech 79). An example of a common intonation pattern occurs when a Chicano English speaker ends his/ her sentence on pitch level two (González, Chicano Speech 79), which in Standard English means that the speaker has not yet finished speaking; this would create a feeling of awkwardness among Chicano and Anglo English speakers because the Anglo speaker would expect the Chicano speaker to continue his/ her sentence, while the Chicano speaker may not understand why the Anglo speaker has not responded to him/her immediately. Another common prosodic pattern is the rise-fall glides in sentence-final contours, which is one of the most stereotyped features of Chicano speech, illustrated by the cartoon character Speedy Gonzalez who always speaks in English (Penfield, Chicano English 50). Although this speech trait is stereotyped, it remains a prominent distinguishing factor of Chicano English, perhaps because it clearly marks speakers' Chicano identities. Other prosodic patterns investigated by Penfield include rising glides to highlight, initial contours above normal pitch of voice, and declarative, neutral statements terminated with a one-pitch contrast (see Appendix 7).
Unlike the phonology of Chicano English, the morphology and syntax are not that different from Standard English. In fact, some of the phonological features of Chicano English contribute to its minor morphological variations. Specifically, the deletion of word-final consonants often creates a loss of inflectional morphemes, significantly affecting Chicano English syntax. Chicano speakers often delete the plural or possessive suffix [ s ] or [ z ] in speaking and writing, which can drastically influence the meaning in a given sentence. Also, Chicano speech's tendency to reduce the word-final [ d ] and [ t ]
often causes the disappearance of past tense regular verbs, and hence affects the meaning in the sentence (see Appendix 8). While these morphological characteristics differ from Standard English, they are not radically different, although they do create problems for the Chicano English speaker who tries to become literate in Standard English.10
As stated earlier in the paper, the syntactic patterns of Chicano English are distinguishable from Standard English, but they are not as great as the syntactic patterns of "interference" English speakers. Non-standard dialects like Black English share some of the same syntactic patterns with Chicano English, particularly multiple negation forms, which are appropriate in Spanish as well. Besides multiple negation, other prominent syntactic features of Chicano English include topicalization, or pre-posed prepositional phrases; non-standard verb forms, such as the past participle in place of the simple past, or
the past participle without the auxiliary; embedded question inversion; and a use of the comparative which differs from Standard English (see Appendix 9). Not only do Black and Chicano Englishes share syntactic patterns like multiple negation, but they also share instances of non-standard verb forms. These common features support further the notion of contact among Chicano and Black English speakers, as well as contact with speakers of regional, non-standard English, separating Chicano English further from the English of the recent learner.
Despite the slight differences between Chicano and Standard English syntax and morphology, other more apparent differences exist in lexicon and semantics. Just as phonology strongly distinguishes Chicano speakers from other English speakers, so does the vocabulary. Particularly in the Southwest, new words have resulted from Spanish/ English contact. This language contact situation creates words that have come into English from Spanish, such as tortilla, taco, and mustang. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the word "mustang," for example, comes from the American Spanish (probably Southwestern Spanish) words, mesteno and mestengo, which mean stray animal, deriving from the Old Spanish word, mesta, or association of livestock owners (103). According to Garcia, other Spanish terms that have been mixed into Standard English, specifically those associated with ranching, include mesa, plaza, and rodeo (Garcia 446). Language contact, therefore, has not only influenced Chicano English, but has also affected the lexicon of American English in general.
Additionally, Spanish words have changed in form because of contact with the English language, a process that enriches Chicano speech, particularly in the Southwest. Pachuco Caló, for instance, defined as "a special type of Spanish. . . . similar to, but not identical with 'slang'" (Dumas & Lightner qtd. in Webb 181), is a product of Spanish/ English contact. According to Penfield, "[Caló] serves not only as a strong in-group symbol to bind the sub-culture together but it also serves a more practical function of keeping much of the conversation secret to out-group, mainstream members" (Chicano
English 11). Penfield adds that "Nowadays Chicano youngsters are fascinated by the Cholo [Pachuco] subculture almost to the point where they regard members of this sub-culture as heroes" (Chicano English 12). Moreover, Southwestern Spanish speakers constantly incorporate "deviant" terms coming from Caló, which perpetuates lexical change at a rapid rate (Penfield, Chicano English 12). In turn, this lexical change influences the richness of Chicano speech, since many Chicano English speakers, whether bilingual or not, are in constant contact with speakers of Southwestern Spanish argots like Caló. For example, a word like cerveza, or beer in Standard Spanish, becomes birria according to Caló, just as banda, or gang, becomes ganga, terms which indicate what Barker calls a phonemicization of English words (qtd. in Penfield, Chicano English 12). Because of constant contact with Spanish dialects like Caló, Chicano English speakers incorporate these kinds of lexical terms into their speaking and, as noted by Garcia, into their writing as well.11 In fact, according to Garcia, "The Chicano [who uses these kinds of lexical terms] is aware of such blendings and labels them Anglicismos, i.e., Anglicisms, and does not consider them unusual" (Garcia 446). By including lexical products that derive from Caló and Anglicismos, Chicano English speech becomes even more representative of the continued presence of a strong Mexican heritage.
Lexical terms that relate to identity also emphasize the Chicano speaker's association with his/ her Mexican background. Simply the word "Chicano" indicates the speaker's ethnic identity. According to Caló, Chicano means "Mexican, of Mexican ancestry or heritage, militantly proud of ties to Mexican culture" (Webb 184). Likewise, Anzaldúa defines Chicano as "a politically aware people born and/ or raised in the US" (Anzaldúa 255). Anzaldúa discusses other lexical terms that have become part of English when referring to speakers' ethnic identities, such as mestizo, Mexicano, and tejano. The term mestizo consciously affirms both Indian and Spanish ancestry, and the term tejano refers to Chicanos who come from Texas (Anzaldúa 255). Terms that relate to identity are important because they express who people are, and they also point out the distinctions among a people who would otherwise be lumped together into one category, or ethnic group.
Besides lexical terms produced from Spanish/ English word blendings and terms that signify one's identity, Chicano English has additional lexical terms that can confuse Anglo listeners or readers. Chicano English has homophonous pairs that differ from Standard English, including thing/ think, will/ would, and want/ won't. Although these pairs have clearly separate meanings and uses in Standard English, they are identical in Chicano English. Furthermore, some Chicano English speakers have difficulty distinguishing among and, in, and on. Apparently, students who speak Chicano English often use these terms interchangeably in their writing, unaware of the differences among
them in Standard English (see Appendix 10). Chicano English does not share these lexical features with "interference" English; instead, these features distinguish Chicano English as a separate form of American English that differs from the standard.
Because Chicano English is an ethnic variation of American English influenced by Spanish language contact, the relationship between the language and the culture is significant. As touched upon earlier, social and cultural issues pervade language issues since language is a social product; in other words, social class and culture have a direct impact on language. To reiterate, the Chicano community is made up of different socio-economic levels, which can directly affect the languages spoken by Chicanos. The Chicano's language is a symbol, or sign, of their cultural, national, and/ or economic aspirations, and language has identified and helped distinguish the Chicano community from the Anglo community (Sánchez 17). According to Sánchez, Spanish is a minority language because it does not have official status in the US, and the Chicanos have not been completely "absorbed culturally or linguistically by the dominant population" (Sánchez 2). Chicano English also fits under this definition of minority language, since it represents a language variation influenced by the minority language, Spanish. More importantly, Chicano English, although it is a form of English, remains outside the mainstream, occurring "in a number of varieties along a continuum of greater and lesser similarity to varieties of Standard American English" (Finegan 426).
For many Chicano individuals, learning English means assimilating to the dominant, American culture, and in a sense, turning their backs on their own culture. Chicanos have had a high failure rate in schools because of the "English only" ideology that has permeated throughout their education.12 "English only" reflects the dominant American ideology (Sánchez 4 -5), and hence, implies that in order to succeed in the US, Chicanos must turn away from their Mexican heritage.13 For the young Chicanos who speak Chicano English, learning a more standard form of the language also suggests leaving behind a part of themselves which links them to their Mexican roots. Indeed, learning Standard English to move upward in society is essentially the same thing as being hailed into the dominant ideology; all forms of education interpellate individuals into ideologies. Yet, education remains problematic for young Chicanos who see it as a means of eradicating all traces of their dialect, and thus eliminating a part of their culture, which is why "the teacher's acceptance of Chicano English, while simultaneously adding a standard variety to the Chicano's linguistic repertoire, can do much for the student's self concept and can greatly enhance the learning environment of the classroom" (González 80). Teachers must recognize that Chicano English is a legitimate, rule-governed variation (Finegan 422), identifying a culture separate from mainstream US; teachers should help the Chicano students learn Standard English while also accepting the students' dialects as a significant part of who they are.
Furthermore, Chicanos cannot separate themselves from their language because language itself is ideologically charged. As Bakhtin puts it, language is not only a system of abstract grammatical categories, but it also is ideologically saturated. Specifically, he states that "a unitary language gives expression to forces working toward concrete verbal and ideological unification and centralization, which develop in vital connection with the processes of sociopolitical and cultural centralization" (Bakhtin 271). A verbal utterance is not just a string of arbitrary, neutral linguistic signs; it also carries with it traces of the speaker's sociopolitical and cultural positions, as would a written statement. Bakhtin goes on to explain that "At any given moment of [a unitary language's] evolution, language is stratified not only into linguistic dialects . . . but also . . .into languages that are socio-ideological: languages of social groups, 'professional' and 'generic' languages, languages of generations and so forth" (Bakhtin 271-2). Hence, language is an ideological sign system; language betrays one's values and mindsets, emphasizing the places from which one speaks and writes, places which are influenced both socially and culturally. A Chicano's discourse overlaps both with English variations and Spanish variations, but it does not completely coher with either of these languages; instead, Chicano English becomes another language, easily understood by others within the community, yet not so easily understood by those who are outside of it. After all, a single form of American English does not exist; American English consists of many dialects that are not just indicative of a standard, white viewpoint, but are also Black, Chicano, female, homosexual, poverty-stricken, adolescent, elderly, and the list goes on. While the linguistic features and ideologies of some of these groups' variations may overlap at certain points with one another, they are also sure to conflict at others.
Unfortunately, dialects have not always been examined objectively, with attention placed on the richness of variety and multiplicity of the English language. Instead, several dialects, including Chicano English, have been discriminated against based on their deviations from the standard, treated as inferior rather than socially or culturally rich. This kind of language discrimination creates a Spanish/ English dichotomy within which Chicano youths are trapped, torn between two opposing cultures and languages. Since language and ethnic identity are bound up together, this division can create an identity crisis. Chicano English, as an ethnic dialect that incorporates aspects of both Spanish and English, breaks down the boundaries between the two languages, and opens the doors to a culture that is partly American while still remaining distinctly Mexican.
In Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street, a young Chicana named Esperanza experiences the harsh reality of living a dual life: one which is both Mexican and American. Cisneros establishes the Spanish/ English dichotomy by allowing the reader to experience Esperanza's struggle with the differences between the two languages: "At school they say my name funny as if the syllables were made out of tin and hurt the roof of your mouth. But in Spanish my name is made out of a softer something, like silver. . . ." (Cisneros, Mango Street 11). Here, Esperanza explains the phonological differences between the languages as she, a young Chicana growing up in a dual world,
views them; specifically, English is like tin and hurts one's mouth, which implies that it is sharp, metallic, and able to slice into one's palate, while Spanish is made out of a softer material like silver. Tin is not a precious metal, but one that is cheap, shallow, and will reverberate dully if one taps on it, whereas silver is a more valuable, softer metal that will ring if one taps it. Hence, for Esperanza, English is not as precious or as rich-sounding as Spanish; English words hurt the young Chicana's mouth, sounding empty and flat to her ears, while Spanish feels softer and sounds more musical and natural. These language characteristics, described so eloquently by Cisneros, capture the distinctly musical intonation and pitch of Spanish, which differs drastically from English. In addition, Cisneros' diction reveals the young Chicana's identity crisis, trapped somewhere between two opposing languages. Interestingly, Cisneros emphasizes this tension as one that occurs outside the home, at school, where other presumably Anglo children attempt to say "Esperanza." Esperanza, like other young Chicanos, experiences tension because she is stuck somewhere between the Spanish/ English dichotomy; she, like Chicano English speakers, must take part in American culture without forgetting her Mexican background, living "a synergy of two cultures with various degrees of Mexicanness or Angloness" (Anzaldúa 255).
Cisneros' work is an example of Chicano literature that "was born in the sixties along with the Chicano or La Raza Movement as a search for self-identity" (Penfield, Chicano English 74). Because of Chicano literature's emphasis on self-revelation and identity, it is also a place where Chicano writers like Cisneros express rich, distinctly Chicano language variations which correspond directly to their cultural values. In general, Chicano literature falls into five semantic categories: terms of address -- be they endearment or blasphemy; swear terms; interjections, which are highly affective and emotional idioms; terms for regional, or distinctly Mexican food; and terms for different groups of people, or Chicanos in particular (Penfield, Chicano English 88). As in Cisneros' short story entitled, "Little Miracles, Kept Promises," these semantic terms "are often embedded in total English contexts" (Penfield, Chicano English 89). Additionally, the reader would also argue that code-switching14 and syntactic generalizations are other categories found within Chicano literature, since they are found in Cisneros' short story (see Appendix 11).
Specifically, Cisneros' "Little Miracles, Kept Promises" conveys multiple variations of Chicano speech, including but not limited to Chicano English. Although the story consists of several letters written in varying forms of English and Spanish, the focus will be on four letters that represent differing forms of English which illuminate cultural signs. While some characters write their letters in a more standard variation of English, other characters use language that is characteristically Chicano. Some of the Chicano English features that Cisneros uses in the letters include Spanish terms sprinkled throughout the letters, code-switching, and certain syntactic patterns indicative of Chicano English. The language in each letter emphasizes differing degrees of Chicano culture; while some letters include signs of the Chicano culture, other letters indicate a closer affinity with Anglo, or mainstream American culture.
Cisneros mixes Spanish terms into her characters' prose in several of the letters to the saints. For instance, in one letter by a character named Barbara Ybanez, not only is the saint addressed in Spanish, but she also uses terms that relate to the body, identity terms, and terms for Mexican food (see Appendix 12). However, the character uses these Spanish terms in a predominantly English context, and the English that is used is near-standard. In spite of the educated version of English, the character addresses the saint, San Antonio de Padua, in Spanish to ask for a "real" man. She also uses Spanish terms when relating to the body, similar to swear terms, such as the word nalgas, or buttocks, and the word chichi, or teat. Moreover, she distinguishes among the terms "Chicano" and "Hispanic" when she asks for a man "who never calls himself 'Hispanic' unless he's applying for a grant from Washington, D.C." (Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek 117). Regarding the term "Hispanic," Chicana author Cherríe Moraga writes, "With the misnomer 'Hispanic,' Anglo America proffers to the Spanish surnamed the illusion of blending into the melting pot like any other white immigrant group" (Moraga 215 emphasis added). In the letter, Barbara's choice of a man who prefers to identify as "Chicano" rather than "Hispanic" emphasizes her pride in a distinctly Chicano experience, an experience that is different from other Latin American and Spanish-descended ethnic
groups in the US.
In contrast to the first letter of focus in Cisneros' short story, the second letter is written completely in English aside from the address to the saint, Nino Fidencio, suggesting assimilation into mainstream American culture. The brief letter is as follows: "I would like for you to help me get a job with good pay, benefits, and retirement plan. I promise you if you help me I will make a pilgrimage to your tomb in Espinazo and bring you flowers. Many thanks" (Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek 118). Like the previous letter, this letter is also a request; however, the character, César Escandón asks for a job with good pay and benefits, focusing on money. The letter does not center on any distinctly Chicano experiences other than being addressed to the saint; in fact, it most clearly represents the character's assimilation, or intention of assimilating, into dominant, American culture, where longing for "The American Dream" and prosperity can become an obsessive hunger for money. Significantly, the character makes his request first, completely in English, and he promises that if his request comes true, he will journey to the saint's tomb and give thanks; he does not honor the saint first. Obviously, moving
ahead, or becoming more secure financially, is most important for César, so he neglects to identify outwardly with Chicano culture beyond addressing the saint.
Besides the previous letter, other letters written in a more standardized form of English also make selfish requests dealing with money and material possessions. For instance, in the third letter, the character, Moises wishes his lottery ticket will win and hopes that his cousin will not cheat him out of his winnings (see Appendix 13). Again, the letter is written in a standard form of English, with no traces of distinctly Chicano speech characteristics. The only part of the letter that refers to Chicano culture is the address to the saints, or the "Seven African powers that surround our Savior" (Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek 119). Other than the address, Moises focuses on his own selfish requests, implying that he has placed all of his faith on money. Instead of proclaiming his devotion to the saints, he asks them to reward him with good luck (Cisneros, Woman Hollering
Creek 120). Just as there are no Spanish terms sprinkled throughout the letter, there are also no signs of faith in the Chicano culture. The English used in this particular letter illustrates the character's exaggerated faith in money, which, as part of the American idea of prosperity taken to extremes, signifies a movement away from Chicano values toward mainstream American ones.
While some of the letters in Cisneros' short story emphasize certain characters' assimilation into dominant American culture, other letters, like the one mentioned earlier by Barbara Ybanez, reinforce Chicano culture through the language styles used. In the fourth letter, for example, Cisneros uses not only Spanish terms, but she also uses non-standard syntactic patterns characteristic of Chicano English, as well as occasional code-switching (see Appendix 14). Cisneros sprinkles the word milagrito into the letter, which appears to be a variation of the Spanish word for miracle, milagro, for a stronger, more Chicano effect. Moreover, the character uses non-standard syntactic patterns like multiple negation and non-standard verb forms, differentiating the English used in this letter with the English of the previous letters discussed. For example, the following line demonstrates multiple negation: "Cause I don't like for no one to say Victor Lozano don't pay his debts" (Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek 121), which enriches the text with variation. Further, instead of using "isn't," the character uses "ain't;" he uses "got" in place of "have;" and he also uses "them" instead of "those," illustrating non-standard verb usage common in Chicano English.
In addition to the distinctly Chicano English syntactic features found in the fourth letter of Cisneros' story, code-switching from English to Spanish is also used briefly. Specifically, Cisneros uses code-switching in this letter when naming certain individuals such as "el Junior, la Gloria, and el Skyler" and "my Dianita bien lovey-dovey" (Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek 121 emphasis added). In these examples, Spanish is not just mixed into the prose; it is used in single sentences where the Spanish code replaces the English. Cisneros places definite articles before the children's names according to gender conventions of Spanish, something that is not done in English and represents code-switching in prose. Further, she uses bien in place of what could be either "very,"
"really," or "good-looking" among other possible English meanings to give readers a sense of Chicano speech styles. In this case, the code-switching indicates a strictly bilingual style of Chicano language. English could have easily sufficed, but the Chicano effect would not have been as strong. Indeed, the character's use of Chicano language suggests that he has not completely assimilated to mainstream culture. He thanks Saint Sebastian by leaving him a little golden house, and although the gift is expensive, leaving little "miracles" or gifts of thanks for the saints is apparently part of the custom. Unlike some of the other letters' subjects, this letter does not focus on gaining money and material
goods. Thus, the distinctly Chicano features of the language once again highlight a strong identification with Chicano culture.
As one can see, Chicano English cannot be separated from the Chicano culture; the language is bound up within the cultural identity of its speakers, an identity that differs from person to person and group to group. Chicana authors like Sandra Cisneros, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Cherríe Moraga among others use language to signify their resistance to assimilation into mainstream culture. As Moraga puts it, "An art that subscribes to integration into mainstream America is not Chicano art" (Moraga 218). On the contrary, Chicano literature like Cisneros' "Little Miracles, Kept Promises" points out the significance of language as a sign of remaining linked to Chicano culture. Those who use some form of Chicano speech in their letters have not "integrated" completely with American culture, just as those who use Standard English without any traces of Chicano English characteristics seem to have acculturated into mainstream society. Consequently, language has a serious impact on culture and vice-versa, and a discussion of Chicano English could not have been complete without examining the two.
However, the hunt for a single definition of Chicano English continues, despite the reductive nature of categorizing something as multiple as a language variation like it. Yet, scholars continue to investigate the features of this English contact dialect since the research that exists remains inconclusive. In lieu of the information that does exist, one views Chicano English as an independent system of language which is constantly enriched by its contact with Spanish and English dialects. While Chicano English has been
classified as simply "interference" English in the past, for the most part, those who speak Chicano English are monolingual English speakers with a limited knowledge of Spanish, if any. Even though the phonological, morphological, syntactic, and lexical features of Chicano English deviate from Standard English, it is a legitimate dialect deserving recognition, particularly in American school systems. While teachers should not be expected to teach the dialect, they must understand that it is woven into Chicano students' cultural backgrounds; alienating students on the basis of their language variations is the
same as discriminating against them because of their race or ethnicity. On a similar note, Gloria Anzaldúa states, "So, if you really want to hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity -- I am my language" (Anzaldúa 253). Because of this intricate relationship between the Chicanos' languages and their cultures, the dominant, American culture should not emphasize replacing ethnic dialects with Standard English; instead, emphasis should be on adding Standard English to the Chicano English speaker's repertoire, acknowledging his/ her ethnic community while also providing a means of survival outside of it.