Photo courtesy of Romeo Perez.

This Fall 2017, Spanish minor Romeo Perez has been conducting research along with a small group of his classmates through Associate Professor of Spanish Teresa Satterfield’s Spanish 487 Studies in Hispanic Linguistics: Afro-Hispanic Language course.

“We’re studying a direct language contact between African American individuals and Latino individuals that are using Spanish,”  while also “seeing how characteristics of African American English are carried over into their Spanish.” Perez said.

Perez and his group studied the spoken and written language of high school students in an English as a Second Language class in southeastern Michigan.  

Perez noted that he and his fellow researchers designed their study as an extension of Prof. Satterfield’s research in the area of U.S. Afro-Spanish.  Perez said his research group’s study focused on three linguistic characteristics:  gerund as adjective, high frequency double negation, and copula deletion.  

According to Professor Satterfield, “One example of US Afro-Spanish with copula deletion, which is an iconic form in African American English, is “he crazy”, and how we see it transferred to US Spanish: “él loco.”

In the study, Perez and his group asked pairs of students to talk with one another, then introduced a conflict example for discussion, in order to study the students’ stream-of-consciousness responses.

“Because there is a high contact between Latino and African American students [in this classroom], we thought there would be the direct contact between the languages and the direct carryover of the African American English into Spanish,” he said.

While the team formed this hypothesis at the beginning of the study, Perez said they also took an “exploratory approach” to see what their research findings would yield.  They are in the process of coding their study results at this time.

Spanish 487 was the first linguistics course Perez completed at the University of Michigan, after completing prior linguistics coursework at Indiana University.  He said he hopes to continue with Spanish linguistics coursework in the future.

“I really am very interested in linguistics,” said Perez.

Perez said his decision to minor in Spanish was driven by a significant personal interest in studying the Spanish language.

“The more I try to connect with my Latino identity and Latino family, [the more] I need to know Spanish,” he remarked.  

“I was taking Spanish because I wanted to acquire that second language,” Perez said.  “I think that has definitely impacted how well I’ve been able to use it and retain it.  I think my strong desire to learn Spanish helps me learn it better, and helps me know it better, and be able to use it in a more productive way.”  

“I think my increasing fluency in Spanish gives me a way to connect more with people, as we are limited to the languages we speak,” Perez noted.

After graduating from U-M, Perez said he plans to attend graduate school in psychology, which currently is his undergraduate major.

“My hope is to come back as a research professor in the psychology department of a large university and continue to do research and work with students,” said Perez.  “I’m really interested in social psychology, and more specifically I’m interested in doing research with LGBT individuals.”