About CoBiVa

This project is the first comprehensive digital documentation, description and analysis of bilingualism in the Rio Grande Valley. This digital archive of sociolinguistic interviews provides a collection of oral narratives documenting local histories, cultural events, and language attitudes. This corpus is meant to inform scholars on bilingualism, sociolinguistics and border languages and educate the community on issues of dialect awareness, thereby fostering an appreciation of local language varieties in the Rio Grande Valley.

Through the development of a corpus of naturally occurring bilingual speech in the Rio Grande Valley, our goal is to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Foster respect for linguistic diversity and admiration for bilinguals of the border region of the Rio Grande Valley
  • Legitimize the local variety by incorporating its usage in the university classroom
  • Promote dialect awareness within the university and broader community
  • Provide data for numerous and diverse analyses of local language varieties, fostering a scientific approach for language analysis that is detached from prejudice and hegemonic notions of language
  • Train students in sociolinguistic research methodology including data collection, transcription and analysis
  • Establish and enhance connections between the university and the local community
  • Facilitate student research, presentations, and publications based on this IRB-approved local data

This corpus documents the language varieties spoken throughout the RGV through sociolinguistic interviews (Labov, 1972a), the goal of which is to elicit natural and informal speech. Trained contributors and research assistants conduct hour-long interviews on various conversational topics with community members who are recruited through convenience sampling. Language-related topics are discussed during the last ten minutes, since heightened awareness of language may impact the participant’s speech.

After the interview, participants fill out demographic information (Carvalho, 2012) and a Bilingual Language Profile (BLP) (adapted from Birdsong, Gertken, & Amengual, 2012; Carvalho, 2012). The BLP collects self-reported data on the participants’ Linguistic History, Language Use, Competency, and Attitudes. The interviewers also provide demographic information (Carvalho, 2012), including an open-ended evaluation of their language abilities and an open-ended description of ethnicity. Responses to all sections of these documents are optional.

Before integration on the website, the participants’ audio recording, transcription, and documentation are de-identified. This process involves the removal of all audio and written references to names, schools attended, street names where the participant has lived, etc. The audio is silenced in these instances, and the corresponding part of the transcript is labeled as XY. Each participant and interviewer is assigned a code and number to further protect confidentiality.

This corpus contains interviews in both English and Spanish conducted by undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). While the students are trained in class on sociolinguistic interview techniques, for many of the interviewers this is their first attempt at sociolinguistic research. As such, the quality of the interviews varies greatly.