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a portrait photograph of Norma Schifano

Dr Norma Schifano of the Department of Modern Languages  has been awarded a British Academy /Leverhulme Small Research Grant entitled ‘Heritage speakers of Spanish: the case of Latin American Londoners’.

The project (March 2022-March 2024) aims at investigating the varieties of Spanish spoken by the Latin Americans of London. Overlooked by official statistical data and largely absent from academic investigations, Latin American Londoners represent one of the least visible migrant communities of the capital, despite being one of the fastest growing groups. 

While progress has been made in sociology, surprisingly little is known about the grammatical properties of their languages. How does their grammar evolve outside of central/southern America? Does it exhibit any diverging properties with respect to their home variants which can be linked to prolonged English contact? Are there instead any innovations which can be interpreted as the output of contact with the community’s competing national varieties? Focusing on the Spanish-speaking population, this pilot study seeks to investigate such questions in order test and challenge existing theories on English-Spanish contact, which mainly rely on data from Northern American Spanish-speaking communities, and on language change more generally. Through the organisation of a dedicated workshop, this investigation also seeks to contribute to the promotion and greater recognition of UK heritage Spanish.