Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Sergio Romero

Assistant ProfessorPh.D. Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania

Sergio Romero



Language variation and change; morphosyntax; deixis, discourse and social hierarchies; linguistic anthropology, Christian registers in indigenous languages, Mayan languages, Nahuatl, Quechua.


ILA 386 • Hispanicizatn Indg Lang Lat

45745 • Fall 2016
Meets T 5:00PM-8:00PM BEN 1.118
(also listed as LAS 381)

DESCRIPTION: This seminar examines the lexical, structural, social and stylistic influence of Spanish on the indigenous languages of Latin America.  It seeks to clarify the scope of changes in grammar and discourse induced by contact with Spanish. It starts with a critical review of theories of contact followed by the analysis of case studies representative of typologically distinct indigenous languages. It ends with a critical assessment of the study of contact phenomena in Latin America. Readings will cover not only change in phonology, morphology and syntax but also the emergence of new discourse genres and language ideologies. Case studies to be considered include, among others, Nahuatl, K’iche’ Maya, Yucatec Maya, Q’eqchi’ Maya and Quechua.


Knowledge of Spanish and/or an indigenous language of Latin America is desirable but not required.


Brody, Jill

            1995   Lending the unborrowable: Spanish discourse markers in indigenous languages. In Spanish in four continents: Studies of language contact and bilingualism. C. Silva-Corvalan, ed. Pp. 132-147. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press.

Campbell, Lyle

            1985   The Pipil Language of El Salvador. Berlin: Mouton.

Flores-Farfán, Jose Antonio

            1999   Cuatreros somos y toindioma hablamos: Contactos y conflictos entre el náhuatl y el español en el sur de México. Mexico City: CIESAS.

Hanks, William

            2010   Converting Words: Maya in the Age of the Cross. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Hill, Jane, and Kenneth Hill

            1999   Hablando mexicano: la dinámica de una lengua sincrética en el centro de México. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional Indigenista & CIESAS.

Karttunen, Frances

            1985   Nahuatl and Maya in Contact with Spanish. Austin: University of Texas Department of Linguistics.

Kockelman, Paul

            2003   The meanings of interjections in Q'eqchi' Maya: from emotive reaction to social and discursive action. Current anthropology 44(4):467-490.

Mannheim, Bruce

            2011   The Language of the Inka since the European Invasion. Austin: University of Texas Press.


            2002   Contact linguistics: Bilingual encounters Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Romero, Sergio

            2015a The emergence of of double and triple negation in K’ichee’ Mayan: A variationist perspective. Language Variation and Change 27(2).

            2015b            Language and Ethnicity among the K’ichee’ Maya. Provo: University of Utah Press.

Sankoff, Gillian

            2002   Linguistic Outcomes of Language Contact. In Handbook of Language Variation and Change. J.K. Chambers, P. Trudgill, and N. Schilling-Estes, eds. Pp. 638-668. Malden: Blackwell.


LAL 385K • Intensive Nahuatl I

40150 • Fall 2016
Meets MT 9:30AM-11:00AM SRH 1.319

Intensive cultural and literacy-focused training in an indigenous language at the beginning level in preparation for research.

LAL 385K • Intensive Nahuatl II

39543 • Spring 2016
Meets MT 9:30AM-11:00AM SRH 1.319

Intensive cultural and literacy-focused training in an indigenous languagein preparation for research.

SPC 320C • Clnlsm/In Lng/Rev In Mesoam

45189 • Spring 2016
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM SRH 1.320
(also listed as LAS 328)

This course examines the ambivalent role Mesoamerican languages have played as discursive vehicles of colonial power, on the one hand, and of subaltern contestation, on the other. It explores the inherent ambiguity of language in various discursive incarnations in Mesoamerican languages from the fall of Tenochtitlan in 1521 to the rise of the Maya Movement in Guatemala in the twentieth century.

ILA 386 • Lang & Index In Latin Amer

44925 • Fall 2015
Meets W 1:00PM-4:00PM CMA 3.134


This course will explore the social and cultural roles of language variation and change in Latin America. First, building on classic work in variationist sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology, we will consider the complex articulation of linguistic variation with macro- and micro-social phenomena. Taking a comparative perspective, we will contrast different analytic approaches such as Labov’s variationist sociolinguistics, Michael Silverstein’s work on indexicality and Mary Bucholtz’s recent work in socio-cultural linguistics. Second, we will examine the concept of “language ideology” in the work of scholars like Kathryn Woolard, Paul Kroskrity, Judith Irvine, Susan Gal, Michael Silverstein and Asif Agha. Armed with an understanding of the creative tension between representation and practice in language, we will study how cultural categories (ethnicity, race, social class, gender) and power relations are realized in naturally occurring linguistic interaction. Throughout the course we will discuss the role of sociolinguistic and ethnographic methods in the study of identity in interaction. Case studies will focus on Latin America – both indigenous and non-indigenous- and social issues pertaining to language contact in this area.


1)            The challenges of the study of language variation

2)            Language structure and linguistic practice

3)            Indexicality and communication

4)            Cultural categories and sociolinguistic variation

5)            Performance, identity and indexicality

6)            Language ideologies and communicative practice

7)            Ethnicity and gender in Latin American languages


Final paper                            50%

Paper presentation                 10%

Participation                          20%

Short presentations               20%


Agha, A. (2007). Language and social relations. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Hanks, W. (1988). Referential Practice. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Irvine, J. and S. Gal (2000). Language ideology and linguistic differentiation. Regimes of Language: Ideologies, Polities, and Identities. P. Kroskrity. Santa Fe, School of American Research: 35-83.

Kroskrity, P. (2000). Regimes of language: Ideologies, politics and identities. Santa Fe, School of American Research.

Labov, W. (1994). Principles of Language Change Vol. 1. Internal Factors. Cambridge, Blackwell Publishers.

Romero, S. (2015). Language and Ethnicity among the K’ichee’ Maya. Provo, University of Utah Press.

Schieffelin, B., K. Woolard and P. Kroskrity (1998). Language ideologies: Practice and theory. New York/Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Silverstein, M. (1976). Meaning in anthropology. Shifters, linguistic categories and cultural descriptions. Albuquerque, University of Mexico Press: 11-55.

Silverstein, M. (1981). The Limits of Awareness. Austin, Southwest Educational Development Library.

Silverstein, M. (2003). "Indexical order and the dialectics of sociolinguistic life." Language & Communication 23: 193-229.

Silverstein, M. (2003). "The Whens and Wheres— As Well As Hows—of Ethnolinguistic Recognition." Public Culture 15(3): 531-557.



LAS 328 • K'Ichee' Peoples: Cul/His/Lang

39644 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM SRH 1.313

This course is an introduction to the life and language of the K’ichee’ Maya, an ethnically diverse people speaking related varieties of the same language in the western highlands of Guatemala.

ILA 386 • Spanish In Contact In Lat Amer

46585 • Fall 2014
Meets TH 12:30PM-3:30PM BEN 1.118


This course is an introduction to Spanish language-contact phenomena in Latin America. It explores the structural outcomes and social contexts in which contact between Spanish and other languages -both indigenous and European- has taken place in Mexico and farther south, including the Caribbean. After a brief introduction to theories of language contact, the course considers the social history of Spanish and the role language contact has had in its expansion and dialectal diversification. An examination of the diffusion of Romance languages and the complexity of contact processes in the Iberian Peninsula will be a foretaste of what happened in many areas of Latin America. The reflexes of contact phenomena in phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicon will be examined with examples from different geographic areas and time periods.  Case studies to be examined in detail include Andean Spanish, Spanish-based Creoles such as Papiamentu and Palenquero as well as the structural and lexical influence of Nahuatl on Mexican dialects of Spanish and of Maya on Guatemalan dialects. Special attention will be devoted to the social contexts and power relations constraining language contact phenomena in Spanish America. The impact of Spanish on indigenous languages and code-switching between Spanish and various indigenous languages will be studied in detail as well.   


At least one introductory linguistics course. The course will be taught in Spanish, although many of the readings will be in English.


Silva-Corvalán, Carmen. 1997. Spanish in Four Continents: Studies in Language Contact and Bilingualism. Georgetown: Georgetown University Press.

Cerron-Palomino. Rodolfo. 2002. Castellano Andino: Aspectos sociolinguísticos, pedagógicos y gramaticales. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú

Romero, Sergio. 2014. Of accents, missionaries and poets: Language and ethnicity among the K’ichee’ Maya. Provo: University of Utah Press.

The instructor will provide additional readings.

ILA 386 • Intro Variatnist To Socioling

46545 • Fall 2013
Meets TH 5:00PM-8:00PM MEZ 1.104


This course is a graduate-level introduction to the basic concepts and methodology of variationist sociolinguistics. First, it systematically presents the fundamental principles of the discipline:  Variable, principles of sociolinguistic change, patterns of variation, speech community, gender, class, ethnicity, real time and apparent time constructs, types of changes, stylistic shift, etc. Second, it introduces the discipline’s methods and analysis, including the use of VARBRUL, R and other statistical software, in a hands-on manner. Students are expected to write a final paper using data they themselves are to collect during the course.


Eckert, Penelope and John Rickford. 2001. Style and sociolinguistic variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Labov, William. 1994. Principles of Sociolinguistic Change, Vol. 1. Internal factors. Blackwell Pub.: Walden.

Chambers, J.K., Trudgill, P. and N. Schilling-Estes. 2002. The Handbook of Language Variation and Change.  Blackwell Pub.: Walden.

Tagliamonte, Sally. 2006. Analyzing sociolinguistic variation. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. 

SPN 383M • Lang/Christnty In Col Lat Amer

46950 • Spring 2013
Meets TTH 5:00PM-6:30PM MEZ 1.204
(also listed as LAS 392S)


This seminar will explore the cultural and linguistic implications of the encounter between Native American and Catholic religious traditions after the European conquest. Focusing especially on Mesoamerica and the Andes, we will examine the development of the Spanish missionary project, the dilemmas of translating Christian theology and ritual, the rise of pastoral registers in indigenous languages, the notion of syncretism and its problems, the development of Native American Christianity in the Colonial period and the rise of indigenous ‘folk Catholicism’. Special attention will be given to the Nahua of Central Mexico, the Maya of Yucatan and Highland Guatemala and the Quechua of Southern Peru and Bolivia. We will do extensive readings of indigenous primary sources, and detailed analysis of key texts. Participants will be required to have a reading knowledge of Spanish and/or Portuguese. Knowledge of Nahuatl, a Mayan language or Quechua would be desirable. 


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