Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hispanic Immigrants in Maine and Evolving English and Spanish

I'm sure some of you were wondering why I filed yesterday's post about Hispanic immigrants in Downeast Maine under "language." Well, when I was writing the first draft of the post in my mind, I intended to get into a tangent about the interaction between the English and Spanish languages. For some reason, when I actually wrote the short post, I forgot to include that part, but filed it under language, anyway.

So here's the part of the Washington Post story that really fired my imagination:

Now, it's la blueberry , el moose . The third one has a difficult name even in English -- "sea cucumber" -- so the workers who slice them up say pepinos , "cucumbers."

....For the new year-round residents, life in Maine took some getting used to. Although the Spanish language has words for "moose" and "blueberry," Perez-Febles said, the immigrants often didn't know them. He also had to explain the need to layer clothes in the bitter winter and the local taste for sweetened canned beans.

As a person who enjoys watching how languages change, this is a situation rife with potential. Inevitably, both the Spanish and English languages as spoken in Maine will adopt words from each other. This will first happen in the groups who come into contact with each other on a daily basis. Some words will become so useful that they will find their way into the general parlance. I can't wait to see what comes into Maine English from our Spanish-speaking population.

The idea that English words are working their way into Spanish out of the native Spanish speakers' ignorance of their own language's words for these items is especially revealing. I wonder if the immigrants' new words adopted from English will make inroads into Spanish as a whole, displacing the original Spanish words entirely.

In the early nineties, I went to Germany to study German. Afterwards, I went to Italy to visit a friend I had made in the school. I noticed English words peppered in Italian advertizing. I berated my friend for his country's lack of pride in one of the most beautiful languages in the world. How could they defile marvelous Italian with such ugly English words?

His only defense: "Better English than German."



Update: This is now my first open trackback post. I just applied this morning, and already found myself getting a trackback before I'd even designated a post. So I guess this is it. In general, any Tuesday post will be fine to ping with an open backtrack (in case I forget to designate one). I may not get a chance to post the links on the post till late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Linked by: Mark My Words, Freedom Folks

Linked to: The Liberal Wrong Wing, Freedom Watch, Common Folk using Common Sense, The Median Sib

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