Human language is very unique in itself because it is not acquired biologically like other human traits but it is learned. Human beings use language to communicate by the use of symbols and signs that are conventional (Raymond, 1997). Communication systems especially language is very flexible, that is it keeps changing according to the situation and the people using the language. This happens because language is highly influenced by so many factors thereby bringing a lot of variations. This paper therefore discusses the factors that affect language patterns in Miami, Florida.
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One factor that affects the language pattern of an area is population movement. For instance, Indians initially occupied Miami, and they used to have their own language. By 1567, population movements were rampant and they saw the settlement of the Spaniards into Miami. In 1959, when Fidel Castro became the leader of Cuba, many Cubans migrated into Miami from Cuban fear of Castro’s governance (http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118555510/issue). These population movements brought so many changes in terms of language in Florida. This is especially so because the immigrants had to look for jobs and therefore they had to create a language that could help them to communicate and interact. Population movements affect the speech pattern of an area in that, the people who migrate into that area come there with their own language and the different languages have to be incorporated into the community. This affects the language patterns used. For example the first bilingual public school in Miami was established in 1963. This is because the Cubans preserved their language when they migrated into Miami and in fact, today, Spanish is widely spoken in Miami than in any other Hispanic populations. As a result when English was declared the official county language in the 80s, this sparked violent riots among the Cubans living in Miami (http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118555510/issue). This explains how population movements affect the language patterns of an area.
Another factor that affects the language patterns of an area is the settlement patterns. This situation has resulted in a lot of languages being spoken in Miami. Population movements saw a lot of immigrants settle in Miami. These immigrants altered the language patterns initially used in Miami. For instance, despite the fact that Miami is considered to be a city inhabited by Hispanics and Caribbean immigrants, this is not the case because so many other immigrants settled there and they use their native language and therefore altering the language patterns (Raymond, 1997). The other immigrants who settled in Miami apart from the Hispanic and Caribbean communities include Russians, Italians, French Canadian, Germans and French communities. Due to these settlements, the communities living in Miami have different languages that they use to communicate. Some of these languages include: Spanish, which is spoken by the majority of the population, followed by English, French Creole and French respectively. Other languages spoken in Miami include: Greek, Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic, German and Italian. In general the main language used in day-to-day talk is Spanish, though most of the population is bilingual, that is, they use English even though they are not so fluent (Raymond, 1997). Haitian French Creole is mainly used on the northern part of Miami. Mostly public announcements and signs are mainly done in Spanish, English and Creole. This is done in order to communicate to the diverse immigrants in Miami. Miami has one of the largest populations, which has a first language other than English. These settlements patterns have changed the language patterns used in Miami, for instance since many of the immigrants are bilingual, they therefore feel the need to code-switch between English and their native languages (http://brj.asu.edu/vol30_no1/art3.pdf). And at times they even replace some English words with a common word in their first language. This situation has really altered the language patterns in Miami.
A third factor that affects the language pattern of an area is the physical geography/environment (Raymond, 1997). For instance the physical environment of a person encourages him/her to adapt to that environment. Similarly since one has to communicate with the others there is the need to find a common language of doing this. Raymond says these immigrants had to learn English since it is the main language that is used when conducting business and in government offices. Their physical environment requires them to be bilingual in order to communicate well, this affects altered the language pattern of Miami. French and Portuguese are other languages that are spoken in Miami but these are centered on the tourists’ destinations. This situation explains why certain languages are used in specific regions in Miami, for example Spanish is spoken along the south of Miami, Haitian Creole along the north of Miami and French and Portuguese along tourists’ destinations sites (http://brj.asu.edu/vol30_no1/art3.pdf).
Language is unique to human beings and cannot exist in isolation. People use symbols and signs (language) in order to communicate. This means that, if necessary, the language has to change to meet the needs of the people. The change is brought about by many factors and some of them have been discussed in this paper. For instance code switching is one way in which people modify their language to easy their communication. As a result this change definitely alters the language patterns of an area. Initially most communities are monolingual but due to the factors that affect their language, like population movements, population settlements and physical adaptation, these same communities end up being multilingual. This results in changes in their language patterns as highlighted in the case of Miami, Florida.
- Raymond, A. The Making of Urban America, New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997.
- Spanish among Miami Cubans.
- Bilingual language use in Hispanic adults.