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College of Arts & Sciences
Linguistics Program

Deconstructing Mock Spanish: A multidisciplinary analysis of Mock Spanish as racism, humor, and insult

Carla Maria Breidendbach

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This dissertation analyzes Mock Spanish from a multidisciplinary perspective to address the general question: How does Mock Spanish work? Drawing on a variety of theories and research methods from the fields of linguistic anthropology, psycholinguistics, and sociolinguistics, this dissertation attempts to answer that broad question by examining what Mock Spanish involves, namely, whether Mock Spanish is racist in all contexts or are there contexts in which Mock Spanish might have a different interpretation such as humorous or insulting, and what makes Mock Spanish racist. Based on my previous research (Breidenbach 2002, unpublished study). I argue that there are four important factors that contribute to a more complete understanding of the interpretation of Mock Spanish as a form of covert racism: (1) the ability and willingness to consciously acknowledge the past and present socio-historical context of the Hispanic American experience, (2) the relationship between participants involved in the Mock Spanish exchanges or discourses, (3) the ideological frameworks hidden behind the utterance, and (4) the intentionality of the source.

I also argue that Mock Spanish can have multiple interpretations if analyzed within a framework that treats meaning as flexible (Hall 1996, Fenigsen 2005), whereby meaning can be "fixed" or "frozen" for a moment (Hall 1996) within the broader structures of society such as ideologies, power, and knowledge (Foucault 1980). In other words, meaning is interpretation at one moment in time when all the appropriate factors (e.g., ideologies, power, and knowledge) converge to produce a meaning for one person at that point in time. Mock Spanish images and discourses are not fixed but have a potentially wide range of meaning.