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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English Composition



First Reader/Committee Chair

Dr. Caroline Vickers


While language shift is common in immigrant families by the third generation, maintenance of the heritage language is not impossible, depending on geography and other language socializing contexts such as parental communication and interactions with monolingual relatives of the minority language that provide the third generation with opportunities to use the language. The scholarship on the language shift to monolingual-English and the maintenance of Spanish in Latino immigrant families in the United States typically only considers how earlier generations socialize later generations to use one language over the other, without much attention to third-generation individuals themselves. Therefore, the purpose of the present thesis is to examine the narrative accounts of third-generation Mexican-American adults—the generation that typically loses the heritage language—in order to understand how they construct the experience of being socialized to use English and Spanish throughout their lives.

Data consist of ten, hour-long, transcribed audio-recorded interviews with ten third-generation Mexican-American individuals. The interview questions were quite open-ended about their use of Spanish. I conducted discourse analysis with the purpose of identifying narrative accounts that conveyed these third-generation individuals’ constructed realities regarding their own Spanish use and their interactions with various Spanish-speaking family members.

The findings indicate that the participants construct themselves as linguistically insecure with regard to their Spanish use. They explain their lack of ideologically “pure” Spanish in relation to socialization as they have interacted with various Spanish-speaking relatives throughout their lives. Moreover, they justify their lack of “pure” Spanish by constructing a third space for their Spanish use. They claim to use a new, localized variety of Spanish, which they consider to be illegitimate, thus self-defining as monolingual English speakers. However, I argue that their narrative accounts actually de-dichotomize bilingualism by opening the possibility of Third Space Spanish. Implications include the need for further research on the relationship between socialization, linguistic insecurity, and contested third space Spanish.