Latino Studies

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 65–90 | Cite as

The social meaning of Spanish in Miami: Dialect perceptions and implications for socioeconomic class, income, and employment

  • Phillip M. CarterEmail author
  • Salvatore Callesano
Original Article


In this study, we investigate the ways in which three national-origin varieties of Spanish commonly heard in metropolitan Miami—Cuban, Colombian, and Peninsular—are conceptualized by young adult residents of Miami-Dade County in terms of implicit perception. Further, we test whether or not perceptions about Spanish can predict social outcomes in the domains of labor, employment, and income. Three male residents of Miami were asked to read a text in their home variety of Spanish. All men were college educated in their respective countries of origin (Cuba, Colombia, and Spain) and are professionally employed in Miami. For each voice heard, participants were given background information about the speaker, including the parents’ country of origin. In some cases, the parents’ national-origin label matched the country of origin of the speaker (Speaker: Cuba, Origin-label: Cuba), but in other cases, the background information and voices were mismatched (Speaker: Cuba, Origin-label: Spain). This manipulation allows us to separate the perceptions based on the elements of the speech signal from the provided social information. Participants were asked to rate the voice/background permutations on five-point Likert-scales for a range of personal characteristics. Data were analyzed for significance using a three (dialect) X four (label) within-subjects ANOVA with a series of specific statistical contrasts. Our analyses of these judgments showed three kinds of significant effects: (1) main effects of language variety, (2) main effects of the background label, and (3) interaction effects. Overall, we find that adolescent Latin@s in Miami-Dade exhibit divergent perceptions of national-origin varieties of Spanish and that they use sociolinguistic differences to make predictive judgments about nonlinguistic, social attributes related to socioeconomic class, including family wealth, personal income, and profession.


Miami Spanish Dialect perception Sociolinguistics Cuban Spanish Latinidad 



We are grateful to the three anonymous external reviewers for their invaluable feedback on the manuscript, to Andrew Lynch and Melissa Baralt for their feedback at various stages of the research and writing process, and to David Neal for his expertise in study design and statistical analysis. We are especially indebted to Scott Schwenter for suggesting that we pursue this line of research, and to Sarah Mahler for including our study in this special edition and for providing invaluable feedback on several drafts of the manuscript. Any errors herein are our own.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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