Back at the rancho: Language maintenance and shift among Spanish speakers in post-annexation California (1848-1900) Academic Article uri icon


  • This paper analyzes Spanish maintenance/shift in rural southern California after its annexation to the United States. Based on a dataset of personal letters, it examines the language choice and competency of the members of a bilingual/bicultural family living in a rancho and of the surrounding population. The data show that the ranchero children exhibited rapid shift in language dominance towards English, while rancho workers used virtually no English and showed no evidence of contact-induced features in Spanish. Among the neighbors, older generation Californios and the local LuiseƱo Indians retained Spanish, while the younger generations were not uniform in their mastery of English. Complex factors resulted in uneven levels of intergenerational maintenance and shift. Ranching favored Spanish retention, since it provided little opportunity or need for English, but groups expecting to achieve prominence in industrial American California made efforts to learn English, sometimes at the expense of Spanish.

published proceedings

  • Revista Internacional de Linguistica Iberoamericana

author list (cited authors)

  • Moyna, M. I

complete list of authors

  • Moyna, MI

publication date

  • December 2009