Spanish is also affecting the rhythm of English in Liberal. Most native English speakers have a tendency to emphatically emphasize a syllable in a given word. Like the first syllable in “FA-scinating,” or the second in “out-RAGE-ous.” Spanish also stresses certain syllables—almost always the second-to-last one—but the effect is less pronounced, making speech sound more even. One recording of a Liberal resident, interviewed by the KSU researchers, demonstrates this (pay attention to both instances of the word “visit”):

Because Liberal is relatively isolated, and its demographic changes have been swift, the evolution of language appears to be especially quick there. But similar evolution is no doubt happening across the country. As the population of Spanish speakers in the US grows, they learn English, but they change it, too.

This is the kind of shift that worries Americans who fear losing their identity. But more immigrants only makes that identity richer, says Kohn.

“There has always been this fear that language change is somehow dangerous or scary or will prevent communication,” she said, according to a press release. “When we see language change, what we really see is that a community is continuing to develop and grow. It’s a sign that we have a vibrant and lively community present. The only kind of language that doesn’t change is a dead language.”

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