April 28, 2017 - 1:00pm


This dissertation investigates the Ethnolinguistic Vitality (EV) of the English based Creoles spoken in San Andrés and Providencia. Given that Spanish has a growing presence in these islands, this context opens the question of whether the Creoles may be threatened. The dissertation provides empirical evidence for EV, enabling a better understanding of how the Creoles, as low status languages, survive in these contexts. The study included 259 participants distributed in different subsets. A cross-sectional design was used to investigate the EV in four dimensions of analysis: (1) Objective EV, (2) Subjective EV, (3) Underlining ideologies of EV, and (4) Linguistic evidence. Standardized scales were used to assess the objective EV based on census information and archival research. A qualitative interview, a series of discussion groups, and two perception tasks were used to investigate the subjective EV and underlining ideologies. A series of speech tasks were used to collect linguistic data. 

Rather than a single outcome of EV, the results on the objective EV indicate a pattern of language maintenance in Providencia and a language-shift trend in San Andrés. On the subjective EV, the perceptions of vitality were consistent with the objective EV: higher in Providencia, lower in San Andrés, and negative among participants who are shifting to Spanish. On underlining ideologies, the analysis discloses ideologies of ethnic authenticity on Creole along with its stigmatization. It shows distinctive EV modalities per island and a different representation of interethnic relationships. Those who are shifting show emotional disengagement from the ethnic group and the instrumentalization of the languages. On the linguistic evidence, there are differences of fluency, lexical knowledge, Spanish use, and fine-grained Creole features between fluent speakers and shifters. Among fluent speakers, there are some differences per age group, with young adults using distinctive Creole markers, such as dem, deh, fi, and seh, more frequently than old adults. 

This is the first study to systematically assess the EV of Creoles in contact with dominant non-lexifier languages. It provides a comprehensive analysis of EV and adds empirical evidence to the burgeoning body of sociolinguistic studies of Creole languages in multilingual contexts.

Location and Address

CL 2818