Language attitudes and opportunities for speaking a minority language: what lies ahead for Ozelonacaxtla Totonac

Rachel Irene Lynn McGraw (rmcgraw@ualberta.ca)
Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, University of Alberta
October, 2009
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From Northern Alberta, Rachel started studying Spanish in her undergrad degree. She finished with a minor in Spanish language and literature and a major in Linguistics. After a six-month exchange to La Universidad de Guadalajara, she began her Master's in Applied Linguistics. She also returned to Mexico during her degree to gather interviews for her research. Currently she teaches Introductory Spanish at the University of Alberta and has plans to begin a doctorate degree in the future.
 

Abstract

The present research describes the sociolinguistic situation in the minority indigenous community of San Juan Ozelonacaxtla in the state of Puebla, Mexico. Both Ozelonacaxtla Totonac and Spanish are spoken in the speech community. However, some bilingual parents use only Spanish in the home, ceasing the transmission of their native language to their children and placing the community in the early stages of language shift.

Spanish is seen as the language of opportunity in the context of recent and significant social, political, educational, and economic changes in San Juan Ozelonacaxtla. Parents claim they teach their children Spanish because it is more useful than Ozelonacaxtla Totonac, it enables their children to avoid discrimination associated with speaking an indigenous language, it is necessary for their children to do well in school, and it allows for more economic mobility. These factors are accelerating the integration of the community into majority Mexican society.