Chavacano is the lone Spanish-based creole in Asia and is spoken in different parts of the Philippine archipelago. Among the variants of this creole, Zamboanga Chavacano (ZC) stands out as the healthiest. Contrary to the usual marginality of hybrid languages in multilingual settings, ZC has achieved utmost social and political prestige in the locality even competing with the national language. What ZC represents is a singular example of the subversive agency of a creolophone community. This study explains to what ZC owes this singularity by adopting an interdisciplinary approach in the examination of pidgins and creoles. Departing from the notion that language is simultaneously a tool and a product of colonialism, we analyze the trajectory of a contact language, from being documented as an impoverished variant of a colonial standard (español de cocina) to being utilized as a resource for ethnic identity construction and vehicle for social prestige (un poquito español). By juxtaposing textual appearances of Chavacano in colonialist writing with the discourse of Chavacano heritage in present-day Zamboanga, this study foregrounds the explanatory potential of examining non-traditional modes of power in the colonial project such as the intersection of place and language.

This research investigates the social trajectory of Zamboanga Chavacano, a variant of the lone Spanish-based creole in Asia from a multidisciplinary perspective. The novel contribution of this study to the field of sociolinguistics is the bringing together of perspectives from cultural studies, specifically from postcolonial criticism, in the analysis of language endangerment or vitality. Bulk of the previous literature on the Philippine Chavacano creoles focused on empirical linguistic concerns such as investigating the genealogy of the Creole and its different variants or analyzing their unique orthographic, lexical, grammatical and syntactic features. What this study brings to the fore is not just the importance of examining the historical, social and political factors that shape a given language’s prestige but also how linguistic prestige is, in and of itself, mutable and evolves over time as a result of societal shifts.

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