Ethnic Identity in Spanish Speaking Countries
In most societies around the world language and ethnicity go hand in hand. Language plays a big role in forming ethnic identity. This is most definitely true with ethnic identities in Spanish speaking countries. Language is used to distinguish local peoples from larger communities, nationalities between Spanish speaking countries, and between age groups and classes.
In Spain the majority of the population speaks Spanish. However, in the state of Catalonia the local language Catalan is spoken. This language is used to show unity and in some circumstances to identify class structure. Originally the language was used to “make a leap in identification, renouncing the view of themselves as Castilians and establishing a strongly Catalan identity through their new language behaviors.” According to Language and Ethnicity. It is said that a native Catalonian can identify a non-native speaker by their accent. Generally if a native speaker detects a nonnative speaker’s accent they will not continue their conversation in Catalan, instead they change over to Castilian. Also, generally it is not acceptable for a non-native speaker to learn Catalan and they are seen as imposters.
Generally in Spanish, besides having many different local accents and dialects, within itself it has different registers that distinguish age groups and relay a certain level of respect or distance between speakers. “Usted” and “tu” are prime examples of this. Both of these words are the equivalent of the word “you” in English. Usted is used most frequently by younger generations to older generations. Usted may also be used to show respect or professionalism between speakers, for example by a waitress and a restaurant guest. Another use of usted is to show distance between two people. An example of showing distance may be between a single man and a married woman, the formality is used to acknowledge the fact that she is married and to be respectful of that fact. “Tu” is used for anyone else. “Tu” is informal and shows comfortablity and informality. It is generally offensive for children to use it to speak to adults they do not know or have just recently met.
Dialects and accents are important in Spanish to distinguish the difference in ethnicity not only between people within a country but also between countries. The majority of the population of the South