Subject Area

Linguistics; Sociology


This study examines how discrimination based on language hinges on the importance of language to one’s personal identity. In order to understand the connections between discrimination and language, the literature on discrimination and its various components is investigated. Scholars’ findings concerning the connection between language and identity are then examined. A discussion will follow of the neuropsychology of language and of the scientific argument that human language came about in response to an evolutionary need for symbolic communication. These themes create a framework for the following study. In order to understand the experience of discrimination as a result of language issues, the perception of discrimination by Spanish-speakers in Providence, R.I. is explored. Through a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods, it was investigated how language factors into perceived discrimination of Spanish-speakers in Providence, and what the role of language barriers are in the perception of discrimination. It was confirmed that the Spanish language is an essential element to one’s identity as a Spanish-speaker, more so even then race or gender. However, this study was inconclusive on the correlation between language as it is tied to identity with the frequency of perceived discrimination. It was discovered that Spanish speakers in Providence experience discrimination, and oftentimes perceive it as a result of language issues. The goal of this study is to provide an understanding of Spanish-speakers’ perception of discrimination, so that we may eventually overcome it.


Providence College


Spring 2012