From "Spanish-Only" Cheap Labor to Stratified Bilingualism: Language, Markets and Institutions on the US-Mexico Border

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Alarcón, A. & Heyman, J. (2014). From ``Spanish-only'' cheap labor to stratified bilingualism: language, markets and institutions on the US-Mexico border. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2014(227), pp. 101-117


Recent sociolinguistic research adds new economic sectors, such as the service economy, to the list of key forces that shape unequal, dynamic and complex diglossia (e.g., Spanish in the United States). However, little detailed work has been done on the linguistic characteristics of specific labor sectors in the wider contexts of ``debordering'' and ``rebordering''. In this article we develop in depth the market mechanisms and institutional constraints that shape the valuation and social expansion of Spanish in El Paso, Texas. The study finds that in sectors with low skills and low linguistic intensity, linguistic management policies are effectively ``Spanish-only''. However, as skills increase and there is a greater need for regulated communication in the occupational role, more constraints are observed on how Spanish functions in work use and professional careers.