A Letter from the Managing Editor SpecGram Vol CXLVIII, No 3 Contents A Reconsideration of the Sino-Kiowan Problem--Tim Pulju

A Sociolinguistic Study of Bilingualism
in the Rio Grande Valley

1. Introduction. The Rio Grande Valley, on the border between Mexico and the United States, is a well-known area of language contact. The present study considers a number of parameters--specifically age, socioeconomic status, citizenship, nation of residence, and gender--in examining the extent to which bilingualism is exhibited by members of the Rio Grande Sprachbund.

2. Data. The data were collected from a wide range of speakers on both sides of the border. The results are presented in summary form in Table 1, below.

  Percent Bilingual German-English Speakers Percent Speakers of German but not English Percent Speakers of English but not German Percent neither German nor English Speakers
Rich Old People 8%1%54%37%
Poor Young US Citizens in Mexico 3%0%96%1%
Women in the United States 5%1%81%13%
Middle Class Mexican Citizens 4%5%42%49%
Austrian Citizens 50%50%0%0%
Guatemalan Citizens in Mexico 1%0%19%80%

3. Analysis. We were greatly surprised to find far lower levels of bilingualism than we had been led to expect. Also surprising was the fact that Austrian citizens exhibited a far greater level of bilingualism than any other group in the study. However, the small sample size of Austrian citizens in our study may have skewed the results somewhat. Our sample consisted of two people, Helmuth and Marta Schlusse, who were vacationing in Matamoros. They were a very nice couple, although it was hard to carry on a conversation with Marta, since she didn't speak any English.

4. Conclusions. Although our findings are diametrically opposed to those of many other researchers, we believe that our methodology was irreproachable and that our findings are therefore incontrovertible (aside from the Austrian question). The question then arises: why should our results differ so greatly from those of previous investigators? It is worth noting that, in some ways, our data do tend to bear our the findings of previous research. Thus, Guatemalans exhibit a lower level of bilingualism than do Mexicans, which is natural since Guatemalans are typically recent arrivals in the language contact area.

As for the larger question of divergences between our work and others', the most likely answer is that previous researchers, knowing the reputation of the Rio Grande Valley as a Sprachbund, were predisposed to find a greater level of bilingualism than actually exists. Using sloppy data-collection techniques, careless data compilation, and error-ridden statistical analyses, our well-meaning but hopelessly misguided colleagues naturally ended up seeing exactly what they wanted to see. Please note that we are not accusing anyone of deliberately tampering with data. Rather, the erroneous results of prior research stand as a clear cautionary tale concerning the difficulty, and also the importance, of maintaining objectivity when doing scientific research.

Hiroko Nakamura and Jimmy Battaglia Free University of Winnipeg

A Letter from the Managing Editor
A Reconsideration of the Sino-Kiowan Problem--Tim Pulju
SpecGram Vol CXLVIII, No 3 Contents