The United States has the second largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, reaching more than 46 million speakers (Instituto Cervantes, 2017). The vitality of U.S. Spanish stems from the large number of immigration rates from other Spanish-speaking countries. The majority of the Latino population comes from Mexico (65% of all U.S. Latinos), followed by Puerto Ricans (9%), Cubans (4%), and Dominicans (2.8%) (Pew Hispanic Center, 2012; Potowski, 2015). This demographic circumstance has recently attracted a considerable deal of interest in the field of sociolinguistics, where numerous researchers and scholars have analyzed the Spanish-English contact situation of the U.S., in which Spanish has the status of a minority language (Potowski, 2015; Ramos-Pellicia, 2004, 2007; Torres, 1997). This context has significant consequences for the transmission of Spanish among different generations, as well as for the identity factors or attitudes of its speakers (Potowski, 2015). Language certainly influences the social life of members of Latin American communities in the diaspora, and they negotiate their identities through their interactions with the culture of the receiving country as well as with their own culture (Potowski, 2015).
The Hispanic population in the state of Virginia is the 15thlargest in the U.S., reaching up to 732,000 Spanish speaking speakers of all U.S. Hispanic population. The Latino population in the state of Virginia does not reflect the numbers presented above with regards to the United States. As stated before, Mexicans are the largest Latino group in the Mainland U.S. However, in Virginia, Puerto Rican residents are the dominant group, reaching 22.5% of its overall Latino population, followed by Mexicans (20.1%), and Salvadorans (14.5%) (Pew Research Center tabulations of the 2014 American Community Survey).
Table 1: Hispanic or Latino population in Virginia. Source: Pew Research Center tabulations of the 2014 American Community Survey.
Spanish is not a foreign language in Virginia. Many Virginia residents speak Spanish on a regular basis at home, at work, and with friends and neighbors. The same happens in Roanoke, where 6.4% of the overall population are Hispanic or Latino. Spanish, in fact, can be heard through the different Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods in Roanoke/Salem. Many signs of restaurants, churches, institutions, organizations are in Spanish. Some examples are Somos Virginia, El Toreo, or La Bodeguita Hispana.
Therefore, since Spanish is visible in the public space, the creation of a corpus is necessary in order to document the Spanish spoken in the Roanoke area (and Virginia in general) and to bring visibility of the different varieties spoken. It provides open learning tools that allow teachers, students and the general public to explore Spanish language variation. Similar projects have successfully been accomplished in other regions of the U.S. such as Texas, California or New England (Amaral & Gubitosi, 2012; Brown, 2018; Bullock & Toribio, 2014).
The project director is Dr. Alba Arias Álvarez.
Contents of this website were developed by a Starter Grant from Roanoke College in 2018-2019.