Distinguished Dissertation of the Year: Luz Rincon

Luz Rincon
Luz Rincon

Speech and Structures of Language

Luz Rincon is well on the way to making her mark as a linguistic scholar. Her dissertation research focused on analyzing the speech and phrase structures of the Spanish language spoken among the middle in la ciudad bonita--the beautiful city--Bucaramanga, the largest city of northeastern Colombia in South America.

"I was compelled to choose Bucaramanga as the context of my research because that population's language had not been studied before, nor have most urban Spanish varieties in Colombia," says Rincon, a Ball State University alumna from the Department of English. "Another reason is that Bucaramanga constitutes an important center of social, economic, and linguistic influences in the region, and as such, its language needed to be investigated."

Using a sociolinguistic methodology, Rincon interviewed 70 participants, primarily family groups, over a three-month period, transcribing between 10 and 15 minutes of each speaker. Through her syntactic and phonological analysis, she found that the middle-aged speakers showed a different linguistic behavior than that of the younger and older speakers. "Phonologically, the middle-aged speakers seem to conform less to what is considered the standard, yet they seem to be very concerned with linguistic correctness," Rincon says, noting that other "discourse markers" were characteristic of younger speakers.

"Dr. Rincon's project adds to our documentation of Colombian dialectology and to our understanding of the social factors with dialect variation in Bucaramanga," says Department of English professor Carolyn MacKay, the advisor for Rincon's dissertation. "Her dissertation is an exceptionally well-designed, large-scale study with implications for Latin American sociolinguistic theory and methodology."

Rincon's research efforts in diversity have received mention in Richmond, Indiana's newspaper, the Palladium-Item, and she has received the Martin Luther King Jr. award for her contributions to diversity understanding from Indiana University East, where she was a lecturer and chair of the international studies program committee. Now teaching at Texas A & M at Texarkana, Rincon says she plans a second study, which will focus on the Bucaramanga language lexicon.