The Linguistic Market of Codeswitching in U.S. Latino Literature Dissertation

thesis or dissertation chair

fiu authors

  • Zeledon, Marilyn


  • This dissertation is a multidisciplinary study that brings together the fields of literature, sociolinguistics, and cultural studies in order to understand the motivation and meaning of English-Spanish codeswitching or language alternation in Latino literature produced in the United States. Codeswitching was first introduced in Latino literature around the time of the Chicano Movement in the 1970s and has been used as a distinctive feature of Latino literary works to this day. By doing a close linguistic analysis of narratives by four different authors belonging to the largest Latino communities in the country (Chicano, Puerto Ricans, Dominican Americans, and Cuban Americans), this study examines whether codeswitching is used as a mere decorative element to add ethnic flavor, performs a mimetic role of oral codeswitching, or responds to a political strategy.

    To reach representative conclusions, the political, social, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds of each community are studied in order to establish commonalities or differences in the experiences of these immigrant communities in the United States and how these experiences inform their writing. Considering the negative views held by speakers of both English and Spanish regarding the use of oral codeswitching, the need to study its use in literature is compelling. To that end, I have adopted social, and sociolinguistic theories to identify whether codeswitching operates as linguistic and symbolic capital in Latino literature, which authors may profit from to advance a Latino agenda.

    This work concludes that how codeswitching is used in Latino literature and the goals it ultimately achieves—if any—hinge on the positioning of the authors vis-à-vis hegemonic English monolingualism and their own experience as members of the Latino community to which they belong. Thus, the role of codeswitching may indeed be solely ornamental or ethnic or it may be a political one; that of expanding the space in which Latinos are allowed to operate.

    The narratives studied include Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima (1972), Esmeralda Santiago’s When I was Puerto Rican (1993), Cristina García’s Dreaming in Cuban (1992), and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007).

publication date

  • November 13, 2015


  • Latino literature
  • Latino studies
  • code-switching
  • codeswitching
  • sociolinguistics

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)