Chapter 7 Perceptions on Language, Identity and Culture by Dominicans on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

In: When Creole and Spanish Collide
Author:
Daniel S. D’Arpa
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Abstract

On the island of St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the mainstream language is a creolized Caribbean English, there is a significant and growing speech community made up of Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Dominican Republic. These Dominican Spanish speakers report perceptions of being marginalized within the larger English-speaking community. Dominicans on St. Thomas further perceive that their variety of Spanish exhibits evidence of change, including the incorporation of common structures of St. Thomas English Creole (STTEC). This chapter reports on the answers to ethnographic interviews from the twelve out of the 34 consultants interviewed who produced a mid open front vowel common in STTEC, [ɛ], while speaking Spanish. Documented in these excerpts are the perceptions of Dominicans in St. Thomas on topics of identity, linguistic change, cultural differences, and discrimination. The goal of this chapter is to document qualitative evidence of the perceptions and experiences of Dominican Spanish speakers on St. Thomas regarding language, culture, and identity. A secondary goal of this chapter is to document instances of the occurrence of the STTEC allophone [ɛ] in the Spanish of this speech community. The intersection of these sociological and linguistic data will establish qualitative basis for future quantitative sociolinguistic studies, measuring how social pressures perceived by Dominicans may influence language choices by members of this speech community to negotiate their identity in a diverse but divided society.

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When Creole and Spanish Collide

Language and Cultural Contact in the Caribbean

Series:  Caribbean Series, Volume: 39

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