Language in Society


Social class and gender impacting change in bilingual settings: Spanish subject pronoun use in New York

Naomi Lapidus Shina1 and Ricardo Otheguya2

a1 Department of Spanish & Portuguese, Department of Linguistics, The University of New Mexico, MSC03-2100, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001, USA

a2 Linguistics Program Graduate Center, City University of New York, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA


This study examines the role of social class and gender in an ongoing change in Spanish spoken in New York City (NYC). The change, which has to do with increasing use of Spanish subject pronouns, is correlated with increased exposure to life in NYC and to English. Our investigation of six different national-origin groups shows a connection between affluence and change: the most affluent Latino groups undergo the most increase in pronoun use, while the least affluent undergo no change. This pattern is explained as further indication that resistance to linguistic change is more pronounced in poorer communities as a result of denser social networks. In addition we find a women effect: immigrant women lead men in the increasing use of pronouns. We argue that the women effect in bilingual settings warrants a reevaluation of existing explanations of women as leaders of linguistic change. (Language change, social class, gender, bilingualism, Spanish in the US, pronouns)*

(Received June 07 2012)

(Revised October 09 2012)

(Accepted October 27 2012)

(Reviewed January 10 2013)


*  The authors wish to thank Helen Cairns, Ana Celia Zentella, as well as the two reviewers and the journal editor, for their helpful feedback on the manuscript.