Endangerment of a transnational language: The case of San Lucas Quiavini Zapotec
Perez Baez, Gabriela
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This dissertation investigates the factors determining maintenance and shift of an indigenous language of Mexico in a transnational setting. The language is San Lucas Quiaviní Zapotec, a variety of Valley Zapotec (Otomanguean) spoken indigenously in San Lucas Quiaviní, Oaxaca. Since the 1970s, there has been large-scale migration from San Lucas to Los Angeles, where an estimated 30% to 50% of the San Lucas Quiaviní Zapotec speaker base now lives. The focus of this study is the impact of emigration on the vitality of Zapotec in San Lucas, in the context of regular and sustained contact between the two linguistic communities. The hypothesis tested and confirmed is that language choices among migrants affect language choices in San Lucas, thereby destabilizing the domains of Zapotec use in the native community. As an indispensable ethnographic foundation for the research, sociolinguistic profiles ('community profiles') of the two communities, elaborated during long site visits, are provided. Data from participant observation, interviews and censuses are presented to show that in San Lucas the language remains vital while in Los Angeles there is an ongoing shift towards Spanish and English. Since the San Lucas and the Los Angeles communities maintain regular contact, SLQZ is considered in this study as a transnational language. Shuttle migration explains that language choices among immigrants have a negative impact upon the stability of domains of Zapotec use in San Lucas. In their interaction with Los Angeles relatives, San Lucas residents accommodate to their usage by shifting to Spanish even at home, which would otherwise be a Zapotec-only domain. In describing language use and attitudes special emphasis is placed on parent-child communication. In Los Angeles there is a notable decrease in the transmission of Zapotec. Recordings from Los Angeles children show much lower competence and production skills when compared to those from their counterparts in San Lucas. The context of transnationalism and the social networks bridging the two communities account for the shift away from San Lucas Quiaviní Zapotec in Los Angeles, which has a backlash effect of compromising the vitality of the native language even in its original site of San Lucas.