Spanish in the Salinas Valley: Corpus
Introduction to Project

The Salinas Valley in California

The Salinas Valley in California is one of the major valleys and most productive agricultural regions in the state. Located within Monterey County, it is west of the San Joaquin Valley and south of San Francisco Bay and the Santa Clara Valley—Silicon Valley. It is also famously mentioned in many of John Steinbeck's novels, such as Of Mice and Men and East of Eden. The Salinas River, which geologically formed the fluvial valley and generated its human history, flows to the northwest or 'up' along the principal axis and length of the valley. Agriculture dominates the economy of the valley. Promoters call the Salinas Valley "the Salad Bowl of the World" for the production of lettuce, broccoli, peppers, and numerous other crops, such as strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, and spinach. The climate and long growing season are also ideal for the flower industry and grape vineyards planted by world-famous vintners. (Text adapted from the original on

Hispanic Presence in the Valley

The two counties associated with the Salinas Valley are Monterey and San Benito. A high percentage of the population in these counties is Hispanic and Spanish-speaking. For example, Hispanics account for 58% of the population in Monterey county and for 59.2% in San Benito county. In Monterey, 44% of Hispanics report Spanish as the home language, but in some cities, the percentage is much higher: Greenfield, 80.7%; Castroville, 79.3%; San Ardo, 72.8%; Gonzalez, 72.1%; Salinas, 63.9%; Soledad, 59.5%.  




The Project

This project was born in Fall 2014, while I was a faculty member at California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB). Considering that a high percentage of the population in the Salinas Valley, where the university is located, is Hispanic and report Spanish as their home language, and that Hispanic students constitute 34% of CSUMB’s total number of students, I felt it was important to examine the Spanish spoken in the area, particularly that of early bilinguals. Also, even though there had been many studies that had focused on the Spanish spoken in Southern California (e.g., Silva-Corvalán 1983, 1994) and in other regions of the country, such as the New York City area (e.g., Zentella 1981, 1997), no work had investigated Spanish in the valley.


Throughout the Spring 2015 semester, I conducted a research study with CSUMB students whose first language was Spanish. The study consisted of an oral interview, in which participants talked about their university experiences and family history, and a narrative of the story Little Red Riding Hood based on a series of illustrations. The interactions were recorded and later transcribed by a bilingual CSUMB student and Spanish major, Ms. Rubí Medina. Participants were compensated for their participation thanks to a CSUMB Faculty Support Grant from the Office of the Provost. Fifty-one students participated in the study. However, only 24 were early bilinguals. These criteria were used to classify them: (1) They had been born in the US or moved to the country before the age of 5; (2) Most of their education had been in English; and (3) Spanish was the home language.  


The data I collected are now available. The corpus consists of recordings and transcriptions of the interviews and stories, and are open for research/teaching purposes. You can find this material on this page. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Enjoy!

Acknowledgements: CSUMB Faculty Support Grant, Rubí Medina, and Damián Robles.