The pragmatics and perceptions of multicultural Puerto Ricans

Miriam Eisenstein Ebsworth, Timothy Ebsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Integrating natural observation, interviews, and quantitative analysis, this study used a recursive research approach to compare the sociolinguistic judgments of four groups: 38 Puerto Ricans who were encultured on the US mainland, 38 return migrants to Puerto Rico, 161 Americans encultured in the Greater New York metropolitan area (continental Americans), and 86 bilingual Puerto Ricans encultured on the island of Puerto Rico (island Puerto Ricans). These participants evaluated alternative sociolinguistic strategies to critical incidents presented in English. Four alternative responses to five critical incidents were surveyed (20 responses in all). Discriminant analysis of group judgments on three subscales (evaluation, social cooperation, and dynamism) showed that while the participants had much in common, there were significant differences and surprising similarities on one or more subscales for 17 of the 20 alternate responses to the critical incidents. Bilingual-bicultural experts and group members interpreted the data in open-ended interviews; analysis of the interview transcripts revealed both subtle and striking differences in the norms and values underlying sociolinguistic behavior in one or another community. Mainland and migrant Puerto Ricans were surprisingly alike in their judgments, which in the majority of cases were more like those of Island Puerto Ricans than of continental Americans. Nevertheless, differences revealed possibilities for misunderstandings with mainland and migrant Puerto Ricans in their interactions with both continental Americans and island Puerto Ricans. Areas identified with the potential for sociopragmatic failure included obligations to strangers, the categorization of truth and lies, the use of time in caring for others, approaches to conflict resolution, and balancing social responsibilities. © Walter de Gruyter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberBerlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Pages (from-to)731-770
JournalMouton Classics
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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