By  / Published May 21, 2012 / Fox News Latino

Allison Ramírez was born in Miami, and so was her accent. Though she always tells people she’s American they refuse to accept that as an answer to the question “Where are you from?”

“I’ve been here my whole life and I speak English better than Spanish,” said Ramírez, who is currently in graduate school in Savannah, Georgia and whose mother is Cuban and father is Colombian. “It’s like you can’t be from [the U.S.] if you have dark hair and dark eyes and you don’t sound like everyone else.”

Like Ramírez, American-born residents who live in longstanding Hispanic communities in areas such as Miami, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and cities throughout Texas and the southwest are rarely allowed to say they are American without also explaining that their ancestors were born in Latin America. Though many rarely speak Spanish as their primary language, their English is infused with the sounds, rhythms and grammar structure of Spanish.

The resulting English dialect, recognizable by the accent, can carry stigma outside of these Hispanic enclaves. Mainstream America has mistaken these accents for being a sign of recent immigration and the grammar as an indication of a poor command of English. Linguists disagree and are hoping that a current groundbreaking study in North Carolina may help break some of these associations.

“We need to educate the schools and society about what’s happening with the language, where it may be expected to go and to alleviate the Spanish-is-a-threat mentality,” said Walt Wolfram, who is directing the North Carolina study.

In the thick of the tension that has developed between a Hispanic immigration boom and anti-immigration laws, academics in North Carolina are studying for the first time how a dialect develops in the U.S.

“The amazing thing is so much comes down to personal identity,” said Jeffrey Reaser, a professor at North Carolina State University who is also involved in the research. “Brothers and sisters may sound very different from one another depending on who they identify with.”

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Source: Fox News Latino


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