Lexical Availability in Diaspora Spanish: A Cross-generational Analysis of Chilean Swedes
Parada, Maryann N.
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Previous work has identified lexical narrowing and contact-induced lexical change as characteristic of heritage and diaspora Spanish. In order to nuance such attributions, this study performs quantitative and qualitative comparative analyses of the lexical profiles of two generations of Spanish-Swedish-(English) adult bi-/trilinguals residing in Stockholm, Sweden. The data are drawn from timed word association (i.e., lexical availability) tasks that, via prompts, elicited speakers’ vocabulary relating to 20 specific semantic domains. The role of trilingualism in lexical knowledge and borrowing is examined, as well as additional socio-experiential factors, including dialect contact, gender, parental education, exile background, heritage language instruction, and global language proficiency. The results suggest that diaspora Spanish speakers of the second generation have robust lexical knowledge across a wide range of semantic domains (spanning the domestic and extra-domestic). However, the organization of their mental lexicons (e.g., relationships among words) appears to be less complex than that of first generation speakers. The presence of Swedish and English origin contact lexicon in the speakers' productions was minimal, although for both generations Swedish exerted greater influence than English on the heritage language. The data also suggest that early L3 acquisition of English by the second generation does not threaten heritage language maintenance; on the contrary, stronger L3 English was correlated with greater proficiency in the heritage language. With regard to dialect contact in the form of recurrent travel to Spain, effects of this were observed in the notable presence among the participant productions of certain high-frequency lexical items belonging exclusively to Peninsular dialects. Additional qualitative analyses of the speakers' mental lexicons revealed how first generation conceptualizations of certain semantic fields (e.g., professions; modes of transportation) differed in striking ways from those of the second generation, likely resulting from divergent socio-cultural upbringings. This study advances the field's understanding of the lexical knowledge and use of Spanish heritage speakers, challenging its common depiction as "homebound" and "highly restricted", and further explores some of the community-specific factors conditioning language maintenance and change.