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20. Where and how does <i>bozal</i> Spanish survive?

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Abstract

<i>Bozal </i>Spanish – pidginized language once spoken by African-born slaves acquiring Spanish under duress – has usually been approached only through historical reconstruction based on second-hand written documents. Central to the debate over the reconstruction of<i>bozal </i>language is the extent to which<i>bozal </i>speech exhibited consistent traits across time and space, and the possibility that Afro-Hispanic pidgins may have creolized across large areas of Spanish America. Literary imitations – all of questionable validity – are insufficient to resolve the issue; only first-hand data from legitimate Afro-Hispanic speech communities may shed light on earlier stages of language contact. The present study reviews four sources of authentic data: surviving Afro-Hispanic linguistic isolates; collective memories of recently disappeared<i>bozal </i>speech; ritualized representations of<i>bozal </i>language; descendents of return-diaspora<i>bozal </i>speakers. The surviving Afro-Hispanic speech communities that have been studied to date are found in Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Ecuador. These speech communities exhibit only a few deviations from monolingual Spanish, and do not suggest the prior existence of a stable Spanish-derived creole. New data are presented on a recently-discovered Afro-Bolivian speech community, where a fully restructured Afro-Hispanic dialect still survives. The Afro-Bolivian dialect provides a scenario for the formation of reconstructed varieties of Spanish in the absence of a pan-American creole. Ritualized representations of<i>bozal</i>language are found among the<i>negros congos </i>of Panama and in Afro-Cuban<i>santería </i>and<i>palo mayombe </i>ceremonies. Collective recollections of recent<i>bozal </i>language are found in Cuba, where the last African-born<i>bozales </i>disappeared less then a century ago. Finally, return-diaspora speakers have been reported for Benin, Nigeria, and Angola, and may be found elsewhere in West Africa. By combining data from these remaining sources and comparing them with literary and folkloric texts, a more realistic reconstruction of emergent Afro-Hispanic contact varieties can be obtained.

References

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