17 May 2009


A snippet from the novel Loosing My Espanish (2004), by Herman G. Carrillo:

“a mi me gusto mucho, been so good to all of mis hijos, I’ve overheard mothers say when they were certain that I was within earshot.”

This combination of Spanish and English (or Spanglish) is not unique to the Cuban-American community in Chicago. In the Philippines, Taglish (a code-switching variety of Philippine English, mixing Tagalog and English) is the rule rather than the exception in bestselling novels (which are, incidentally, romances). Linguists theorize that mixing languages is a way of identifying oneself with one's community. Literary critics have a much harder task: they must justify (or not justify) the sudden shifts to the mother tongue from the point of view of literariness. The shifts should not occur haphazardly or idiosyncratically; they must be demanded by the literary situation (character, plot, structure, whatever).

1 comment:

  1. The role of the literary critic that the blog defines seems too prescriptive ("must," "should," and "must" again). The blog does provide its own escape from the stance by including "whatever" in the enumeration of literary situations. Hence, I can see, as other reasons for sudden shifts, bravado, exhibitionism, and defiance of prescribed literariness.