115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Language Hybridity in Chicanx Sociology

Bárbara Navaza, University of California, Riverside

Drawing from Bakhtin’s conceptualization of heteroglossia and Julia Kristeva´s theories on intertextuality, I analyze how Chicanx authors employ Spanish in their academic production in Anglophone journals in order to disentangle some of the ideologies and subjectivities related to cultural and linguistic hybridity in California.


In the twentieth century, Chicanx scholars explored the relationship between language and culture, language and identity and language and oppression while reflecting on their own personal experiences of linguistic hybridity. Chicanx folklorists, theorists and feminists provide different sociolinguistic approaches to bilingualism in California.

I study how Chicanx authors use Spanish in their academic productions in journals targeted at English-speaking audiences. These words with sound, meaning or form in Spanish are part of a polyphony that gathers multiplicity of views from academic disciplines, personal backgrounds and interpretations of informants’ voices. Drawing from Julia Kristeva’s idea of intertextuality, I explore how some Spanish words and discourses are employed as symbolic references to reinforce or challenge ideas about gender roles, (machovendida), social class (pachucoscholas)  or folklore (corridoscarne asada).

Authors reproduce what they have heard, recorded or remembered from their informants, their family and themselves. When these words were pronounced or felt in Spanish, they are normally also written in Spanish in their articles, frequently (but not always­­) accompanied by a translation. These voices are transformed into text acquiring new meanings related to identity and subjectivity. Thus, when Afredo Mirande writes “Mi noche triste”, he talks about a tristeza that remembers since his childhood, a subjective voice that speaks in Spanish. Américo Paredes and other folklorists turn into text Chicanos orality in Spanish and theorize about (mis)translation and paralinguistic elements such as irony. The transition also occurs inversely and words become voices with new meanings. Thus, feminists reflect about gender and sexuality through words that sometimes can only be read in Spanish. Sandra Cisneros remind the readers how to read mango in her text. The word has been written to be read in Spanish, a language in which “mango” acquire new meanings.

The linguistic duality is also explored through poetry, another voice within Chicanx sociology heteroglossia. Hence, Margaret Montoya quotes Andalzúa bilingual verses:

Because, I, a mestiza,

continually walk out of one culture

and into another.

because I am all cultures at the same time

 alma entre dos mundos, tres, cuatro,

me zumba la cabeza con lo contradictorio,

estoy norteada con todas las voces que me hablan



However, not all Chicanx authors feel fluent to write in Spanish. Some of them wrote about their frustration or sadness (tristeza) for having lost competency in Spanish. Prohibitions by fathers or schools to speak Spanish were bitterly reported by Chicanx sociologists. Nevertheless, the words and sounds of Spanish reflected in their academic production provide a rich resource of data to study cotemporary traces of Californio as well as the ideologies and subjectivities that emerged in relation to bilingualism and linguistic hybridity.