Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 2, No 3 (2008)

Portraying language diversity through a monolingual lens: On the unbalanced representation of Spanish and English in a corpus of American films

Peter R. Petrucci
Issued Date: 11 Dec 2008

Abstract


This article discusses ways in which languages other than English are represented in recent American film. Referring to ten movies wherein realistic characterisations would call for some or all of the storyline to take place in Spanish, it is observed that background Spanish and accented English are used with greater frequency than actual lines of dialogue in Spanish. The article argues that these techniques result in language diversity being portrayed through a ‘monolingual lens’ which prioritises English and sidelines or ignores other languages. The unbalanced flow of languages can be interpreted in two ways: (i) as the filmmaker’s artistic licence to choose one language as opposed to another as the vehicle by which to tell a cinematic story or (ii) as a representation of a well-established monolingual mindset promoted by the American motion picture industry, which implies that movies worthy of production should be in English. The article closes by exploring these two interpretations.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.v2i3.405

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