The Limitations of Code Switching in Chicano/a Literature

  • Margaret Schmidt Pennsylvania State University


While scholars have extensively researched code switching in Chicano/a literature, none have explored how accommodating an English-speaking audience can negatively impact the perception of Chicano/a culture and identity. Many times the techniques used in a minimalist approach (just a smattering of Spanish infused into the text) work against the legitimization of the Spanish language. In this analysis, I will show that the intentions of Chicano/a authors, with regards to their choice of language, do not always match up with the rhetorical strategies they employ. More specifically, I will focus on three texts that use code switching as a strategy to document the realities of a multicultural and multilingual identity. In two of these texts, code switching between English and Spanish conveys a distinctive Chicano/a culture and asserts a unique Chicano/a identity that will persevere in American society despite the limitations and prejudices placed upon it; however, in the third, as I will show, some uses of code switching undercut the author’s purpose.