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Radical Code-switching in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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This paper examines the use of Spanish in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) by Junot Díaz in the context of Torres' (2007) analysis of code-switching strategies by Hispanic authors. First, I consider the nature of the Spanish words that Díaz borrows from Spanish, which are not italicized or translated, and most of which would not be transparent to anglophones. Second, I examine his use of code-switching and point out how Díaz creates powerful bilingual images by flouting well-known constraints on intrasentential code-switching. Finally, using Muysken's (2000) typology of code-switching, I show that in contrast to other texts, which are characterized by sustained alternation, and which Torres (2007) calls 'Radical bilingualism', the main mechanisms used here are insertion and congruent lexicalization, which result in a text where, rather than alternating with English, Spanish becomes part of English. I call this strategy 'radical hybridism'.

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Code switching (CS) between Spanish and English is a prevailing and growing phenomenon. There has been a rise over the past two decades in the interest of Spanish-English CS, as it relates to the formation of the Hispanic identity and unity in the U.S. However, there has been little research comparing how CS between bilingual English/Spanish speakers in a natural environment differs or is similar to CS used by Spanish language teachers in the classroom. The researcher for the current study collected speech samples from Spanish teachers’ pedagogical language in lower level courses, which were later analyzed in order to determine if there were similarities in the reasons instructors initiate CS in their pedagogical language and the reasons previous studies have shown speakers to use CS outside the classroom. The data reveals that while the speech environment and dynamics between listener and speaker are different, Spanish language teachers and speakers outside the language classroom implement CS for similar reasons. La alternancia de códigos (AI) entre el español y el inglés es un fenómeno prevaleciente que está creciendo en los ambientes de contacto entre las dos lenguas. En las últimas dos décadas, ha habido un aumento en el interés en la AI entre el español y el inglés, al igual que en esta relación con una identidad hispana en los EEUU. Poca investigación se ha hecho, sin embargo, que compara cómo difiere o se asemeja la AI entre hablantes bilingües del español e inglés a la AI que implementan los instructores de español en sus aulas. La autora de este estudio recopiló muestras de habla del lenguaje pedagógico de clases de niveles bajos y las analiza para determinar si las razones por las que los instructores inician la AI en su lenguaje pedagógico son similares al uso de la AI fuera del aula. Los datos muestran que mientras los ambientes de habla y la dinámica entre oyente y hablante son diferentes, los instructores de español y los hablantes fuera del aula utilizan AI por razones similares. Article visualizations: </p
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Resumen En este trabajo analizo una actividad de imagen que participa directamente en la construcción de la identidad de individuos y grupos bilingües, pero que no ha sido identificada como tal hasta ahora, aunque el fenómeno a través del cual se realiza - la alternancia de lenguas en la interacción comunicativa entre dichos miembros de la comunidad bilingüe - cuenta ya con numerosos estudios. La comunidad bilingüe en que me enfoco es la de los hispanounidenses: los hispanos que residen en los Estados Unidos y usan en su comunicación diaria tanto el español como el inglés. Después de presentar unos datos acerca de la demografía hispanounidense y sobre el uso de los dos idiomas entre los miembros de dicha comunidad, reinterpreto testimonios de los usuarios y ejemplos de alternancia de lenguas recogidos en trabajos sociolingüísticos previos como actividades de imagen social en dos niveles diferentes: el macronivel de la interacción comunicativa global y el micronivel de ciertos actos de habla concretos dentro de dicha interacción. En el macronivel, se trata de una actividad de imagen de afiliación intragrupal y, simultáneamente, de autonomía extragrupal; mientras que en el micronivel se trata de efectos de cortesía atenuadora o intensificadora dirigidos a la imagen del interlocutor, o de ataques a la imagen del mismo, cuando no forma parte de la comunidad.
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Confession plays a crucial yet ambivalent role in Junot Díaz’s fiction and paratexts. While scholarship has emphasized confession as a powerful means of witnessing male misbehavior, the #MeToo era urges readers to question who or what, beyond mere representation, confession serves. I suggest that protagonist Yunior’s compulsive confessions of lying, cheating and womanizing in This is How You Lose Her (2012) expose how his sense of self is split between an authoritarian Dominican past and an oppressive US present. Yunior’s macho behavior conjures the historical specter of Dominican strongman dictator, Trujillo, while his confessions make readers complicit in his immorality, echoing Trujillo’s manipulation of information for control. Forging this uneasy textual intimacy between reader and narrator further underscores mainstream expectations, in the US present, that minority writers “confess” their intimate lives for entertainment, conscribing how and what they express. Yet Yunior’s narrative also conscribes female representation by centering—and then absolving—male misbehavior through a confession that looks like a dialogue (addressing “you”) but in fact functions as a monologue. I also interrogate Díaz’s authorial interviews and apply Lili Loofbourow’s idea of the “male self-pardon” to Díaz’s autobiographical essay “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma” (2018), in which he reveals surviving childhood sexual assault and confesses that he subsequently “hurt” intimate female partners. I argue that confession—whether Yunior’s or Díaz’s—perpetuates a masculine monologue that marginalizes women’s voices. Masculine confessions reach for intimacy but fail when they cannot imagine women as fully as men.
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Transculturation, Translanguaging and Junot Díaz’s Novel, "The Brief Wondrous Life" of Oscar Wao The aim of this article is to talk about two concepts: transculturation and translanguaging and how these theories are expressed in Junot Díaz’s novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”. The first term was coined by the Cuban anthropologist, Fernando Ortiz, and it refers to the encounter between cultures in which they are changed by adapting elements from the each other. Translanguaging is a process in which bilingual speakers use their languages as an integrated communication system. This term was described in detail by, among others, Ofelia García and Li Wei. After introducing these concepts, the article will focus on how these theories contribute to the creation of a text, in this case the novel by Díaz, that crosses linguistic and cultural barriers.
Article
This paper analyzes Junot Díaz’s most recent works The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007. The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao . New York: Riverhead) and This is How You Lose Her (2012. This is how you lose her . New York: Riverhead) by using Muysken’s (2000. Bilingual speech. A typology of code-mixing . Cambridge: CUP) typology of code-switching to illustrate the types of language mixing devices present in these two texts. I point out that Díaz’s innovative use of radical bilingualism is not due to the quantity of sentences including Spanish, rather to the quality of mixing and switching in his works. Further, I elaborate on Casielles-Suárez, Eugenia. (2013. Radical code-switching in the Brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao. Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 90. 475–487) study using Torres’ (2007. In the contact zone: Code-switching strategies by Latino/a writers. MELUS 32(1). 75–96) categorization of code-switching strategies utilized by U.S. Hispanic authors. I find that instead of Díaz’s texts gratifying the bilingual reader (Torres. 2007. In the contact zone: Code-switching strategies by Latino/a writers. MELUS 32(1). 75–96) or creating radical hybridism (Casielles-Suárez. 2013. Radical code-switching in the Brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao. Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 90. 475–487), that these two works illustrate radical bilingualism. In contrast to the majority of U.S. Spanish-English bilingual texts, which incorporate Spanish by using simple insertions, translations, bold font and italics, Díaz creates radically bilingual works by using a variety of Spanish and English varieties, the indirect influence of Spanish in monolingual English sentences, intra-word insertions, a diversity of insertion types and hybrid noun-phrases.
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Williams offers a reading of the bestselling but controversial Dominican-American writer Junot Díaz, which identifies in his work some of the unresolved language politics of empire, decolonisation, totalitarianism and migration. The chapter questions perspectives on Díaz which identify in his multilingualism a democratic, universalist impulse, by instead asserting that Díaz’s writing strategies must be read both as a part of his extensive authorly self-fashioning and the antagonistic relationship he cultivates with both readers and institutions. Williams also argues for a closer consideration of Díaz’s relationship with Caribbean history and philosophy. Ultimately, the chapter suggests that Díaz’s foregrounding of risk, antagonism and violence makes for an aesthetic of ‘dangerous multilingualism’.
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Bueno offers a discussion of how geek culture is found in literature, in an effort to expand the critical analysis of this topic beyond its presence in television and movies. Using examples from various literary works and drawing from concepts such as intertextuality, paratextuality, and hypertextuality, Bueno explores the nature of geeks and nerds and how they are found in novels such as Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The term geek metafiction, therefore, applies to the kind of literature where geek culture plays a central role.
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This study considers the English-Spanish code-switching employed by Susana Chávez-Silverman in her text Killer Crónicas (2004) in comparison to other bilingual texts like Sandra Cisneros’s Caramelo (2002) and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007). I view them in the context of Torres’s (2007) code-switching strategies utilized by US Hispanic authors. Then, I analyze two chapters of Killer Crónicas sentence-by-sentence using Muysken’s (2000) typology of code-switching to illustrate that congruent lexicalization is the category that the language mixing in this text most resembles. I show that, unlike Caramelo and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Killer Crónicas does not have a base language. Finally, I consider Casielles-Suarez’s (2013) concept of radical hybridism and whether Killer Crónicas exemplifies the same kind of radical language mixing. Torres (2007) notes that “[m]uch of the Latino/a literature written in English in the US incorporates Spanish at some level” (76). She categorizes three strategies that authors utilize for the inclusion of Spanish into their texts: transparent Spanish, gratifying the bilingual reader, and radical bilingualism. Transparent Spanish includes monolingual English readers by incorporating Spanish vocabulary, which is understood through the context. Gratifying the bilingual reader uses Spanish in a way that provides special pleasure to the bilingual reader. Monolingual readers can often decipher the meaning from the context, but sometimes must resort to a dictionary. The last category, radical bilingualism, contains sustained sections of code-switching and can only be read by a bilingual audience. Torres comments that Killer Crónicas is different from many other texts authored by Hispanic authors such as Sandra Cisneros and Junot Díaz, who both prefer English as the base language of their novels. For example, in Caramelo, the occurrences of Spanish come in the form of simple nouns and are usually italicized, most resembling transparent Spanish. Díaz’s bilingual text also uses English as the base language; however, the single nouns that he inserts are many times culturally charged words that gratify bilingual readers. As a result, they are not very transparent to monolingual readers. Chávez-Silverman, on the other hand, includes Spanish in her texts in a distinct way that exemplifies radical bilingualism. Torres (2007) comments about Killer Crónicas that “[t]he language of the text captures the author’s bicultural reality and her transnational experiences living in an ‘in between’ place” (89). My analysis of two chapters of Killer Crónicas found that more than 50% of the utterances contain sustained congruent lexicalization, which occurs when two languages share a similar language structure. These hybrid sentences would be unintelligible to monolingual English or Spanish readers. In comparing Killer Crónicas to other texts that include radical bilingualism, it seems that they employ radical language mixing in different ways. For example, Díaz’s novel uses English as the base language to include utterances which may not be understood by monolingual English readers, as in (1), taken from Díaz (2007). (1). In her twenties, sunny and amiable, whose cuerpo was all pipa and no culo, a “mujer alegre” (in the parlance of the period). Casielles-Suárez (2013) comments about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao that “the quantity and quality of the Spanish words and phrases which are constantly inserted in English creates hybrid phrases with the result that, rather than alternating with English, Spanish becomes part of English” (447), thus resulting in radical hybridism. Killer Crónicas, on the other hand, does not have a base language and can only be read by a bilingual audience, as in (2). (2). Oh, esos delicate, innocuous pale-pink blooms que de día no huelen a nada ahora overpower me, casi jaqueca-strong Díaz’s and Chávez-Silverman’s texts employ radical code-switching in distinct ways that the term radical bilingualism does not account for. I propose that Killer Crónicas exemplifies language fusion, which occurs as Spanish and English fuse together through the use of sustained code-switching and intra-word switches, to create a completely hybrid text...
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