RESEARCH AND SCHOLARSHIP
Research in the Department often bridges Romance languages and cultures to other allied fields such as history, sociology, political science, cognitive science, bilingualism, East Asian studies, English, and peace and justice, among others.
Grant M. Berry's study, "Cross-linguistic influence in L1 processing of morphosyntactic variation: Evidence from L2 learners," we ask whether the way we interact with variation in a particular feature in our native language is affected by experience with a second language. Focusing on Spanish variable clitic placement (voy a leerlo vs. lo voy a leer, which both translate to ‘I’m going to read it’), we investigated whether proficiency in English, where placement is fixed (‘it’ always has to go after ‘read), affected the strategies bilinguals used when reading. We used a conversational database in Spanish to determine how native speakers tend to put the ‘it’ word before the verb versus after the verb, finding that pre-verbal placement is more common overall. We then hypothesized that since Spanish and English have similar structures when the ‘it’ word is placed after the verb, bilinguals should read those sentences faster than monolinguals because experience with English translates to increased experience with that word order. Not only did we find that bilinguals were faster than monolinguals overall, but they were even faster than monolinguals where both languages overlap (voy a leerlo). Our findings support usage-based theories of language, which suggest that mental representations are influenced by exposure and patterns of use rather than abstract rules.
Requena, P.E., & Berry, G.M. (2021). Cross-linguistic influence in L1 processing of morphosyntactic variation: Evidence from L2 learners, Applied Psycholinguistics, 42, 153-180. doi: 10.1017/S0142716420000685
Raúl Diego Rivera Hernández's book, Narratives of Vulnerability in Mexico’s War on Drugs (Palgrave, 2020), explores the current human rights crisis created by the War on Drugs in Mexico. It focuses on three vulnerable communities that have felt the impacts of this war firsthand: undocumented Central American migrants in transit to the United States, journalists who report on violence in highly dangerous regions, and the mourning relatives of victims of severe crimes, who take collective action by participating in human rights investigations and searching for their missing loved ones. Analyzing contemporary novels, journalistic chronicles, testimonial works, and documentaries, the book reveals the political potential of these communities’ vulnerability and victimization portrayed in these fictional and non-fictional representations. Violence against migrants, journalists, and activists reveals an array of human rights violations affecting the right to safe transit across borders, freedom of expression, the right to information, and the right to truth and justice.
Sydney Stewart '22 is pursuing a double major in Political Science and Spanish.
“I thought I wanted to minor in Spanish at Villanova, but once I saw the incredible resources and classes offered through the Spanish Department, I decided to take my Spanish journey further. The Department’s Language Tables, where students meet with professors to practice speaking, were helpful for building proficiency and getting to know faculty. RLL faculty are supportive, honest, and happy to help you outside of class. My favorite class so far has been Women Writers of Spain, where we explored female-authored works and their historical context before writing our own analytical essays.; I felt that my curiosity and ideas flourished, and my Spanish significantly improved through high-level discussion. I also had the chance to participate in Talk Abroad, which pairs students with Spanish-speaking students globally. Finally, one of my most enriching experiences was interning through the Community Interpreters Program between the Department and the law school, where I worked with asylum and immigration clients. Not only did my language skills improve exponentially, but my eyes were opened to the struggles that the Hispanic community faces in our own country. After graduation, I hope to pursue international relations as a diplomat or ambassador. I hope to work in a Spanish-speaking country or focus on issues of language justice or refugee/immigration crises in my career.”
Chris DiLullo ’22 is pursuing a double major in Communication and Spanish.
“Spanish has always been something I have been passionate about studying and learning. I was drawn to study Spanish as a major because of how distinct and different my Spanish courses are from any other course I had taken at the university. My coursework has deepened not only my understanding of the language, but also of the cultures and perspectives of those who speak it. Two of my favorite courses so far have been Women Writers of Spain with Dr. Cristina Percoco and Literature and Culture of Latin America with Dr. Miguel Ibáñez-Aristondo. In each course, I was exposed to different perspectives, patterns of thought, and cultures. My most memorable experience so far was in Dr. Ibáñez-Aristondo’s class, where I finalized a research paper looking at the state of democracy in Bolivia and its relation to the treatment and status of indigenous people in the country.”
“By studying Spanish, I am able to expand my perspectives as a person, and in my efforts to grow as a global citizen. As I near graduation, I am planning for a future in media and communications, with the ultimate goal to obtain a doctorate in Communications and become a university professor.”