LENGUA PALENQUERA AND SPANISH: WHAT KEEPS THEM APART? WHICH SPECIFIC ELEMENTS OF LANGUAGE STRUCTURE INFLUENCE A BILINGUAL'S PERCEPTION OF CODE-SWITCHING?

Open Access
Author:
Barnes, Rebecca
Area of Honors:
Letters, Arts, and Sciences
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • John Lipski, Thesis Supervisor
  • John Lipski, Honors Advisor
  • John Selzer, Faculty Reader
Keywords:
  • Code-switching
  • Linguistics
  • Creole
  • Spanish
  • Colombia
Abstract:
Lengua Palenquera, which literally means ‘Language from Palenque’ in Spanish, is a creole language spoken in San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia that is thought to originate from kikongo, a Bantu language from Central Africa. Although Lengua Palenquera has a completely unique grammar structure, it shares most of its vocabulary with Spanish. Despite their linguistic similarities, the people of San Basilio de Palenque, referred to as Palenqueros, consider these languages to be completely distinct and refer to themselves as bilinguals. In an effort to bring greater understanding of Lengua Palenquera, this thesis presents two studies, conducted over the course of three years, in which the boundaries between Spanish and Lengua Palenquera were explored. The first study, based on historical accounts of social ostracization and subsequent language revitalization, hypothesized that older members of the community would identify the components of code-switched sentences more accurately than their younger counterparts. The study established that, in fact, younger members of the community who had participated in the language revitalization program complete the task more accurately than the older members of the community that had been speaking Lengua Palenquera since birth. After assessing the weaknesses of this pilot experiment and exploring the unforeseen variables that influenced its results, the second experiment was designed to better understand whether Spanish-Lengua Palenquera speakers assign a language to code-mixed sentences based on certain quantities of linguistic clues or on certain types of language structures presented in an utterance. Although the results from this second study were mixed, the quantity analysis indicated a preference for utterances with more Spanish, and the quality analysis suggested a preference for stimuli that switch at or after a preposition. In addition to the results and the implications of these studies for the African diaspora, this thesis also concludes with personal notes and observations about working outside of a laboratory setting in such a unique and historically charged community.