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Armchair travel to the Falkland Islands

Yliana Rodríguez was in the middle of a second fieldtrip in the Falklands researching Spanish-English language contact, when global lockdown measures were announced. Sit back, relax and enjoy reading about Yliana's research into a unique speech community.

Yliana Rodríguez (external PhD researcher at Leiden University Centre for Linguistics) is currently investigating Spanish-English language contact in the Falkland Islands. She is particularly interested in language attitudes and the use of Spanish loanwords and place names. The Falklands remain the subject of a sovereignty dispute between Britain and Argentina, which has affected Islanders’ attitudes towards Spanish. But until now, no research has been done on attitudes towards the Spanish language or on the use of Spanish loanwords and place names. 

As she explains, “The Falkland Islands' English variety is the youngest in the world and one of the few native Englishes of the Southern Hemisphere. In spite of the absence of a native population, language contact took place during the nineteenth century, when gauchos (South American cowboys) went to work in the livestock industry as cattle herders. Through this research, I hope to first and foremost contribute to the local community by providing them with a thorough analysis of their history and culture and shed more light on the Falklands’ rich linguistic past and present.

Yliana Rodríguez travelling in the Falklands

Meeting the local community

Rodríguez first visited the Falklands in December of last year and revisited the Islands in March, just before global lockdown measures went into effect. Taking her baby with her (she was still breastfeeding at the time) she spent time interviewing many members of the local community. “I had already been in contact with the community before travelling to the region. So when I travelled to the Islands everybody was very kind and understanding. I even managed to travel to many of the countryside settlements with my baby.”  

In March, Rodríguez was invited to present her study to the general public at the Historic Dockyard Museum of Stanley. “This was perfect," she says. "After my presentation I received lots of feedback from different Islanders groups, which added to the mixed methods I will use in my further research.

Unique speech community

Active participation by the locals has given Rodríguez an extraordinary opportunity to investigate the unique Falkland Islands speech community. The Falklands’ linguistic past and present is influenced by many cultures, peoples and nations. “Unfortunately, the conflict and the war with Argentina in 1982 has received all the attention, and most people are unaware of the melting pot of historical events,” says Rodríguez.

When asked why this research is so important she replies: “I am convinced that by learning the shared history and commonalities amongst different societies, we can better understand our problems and consequently solve them with more success. This knowledge is particularly valuable for the region as there are many hostile viewpoints about the Islands and its people.

Yliana Rodríguez is an external PhD student at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL), her research is funded by Universidad de la República in Uruguay. Her promotor at LUCL is Niels Schiller (co-promotor is Paz González). At the Universidad de la República, her co-promoter is Adolfo Elizaincín. She has received funding from the Falkland Islands Government, the Foreign Commonwealth Office and the British Embassy in Uruguay.

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