Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures


José del Valle

Committee Members

Miki Makihara

Ariana Mangual Figueroa

Darío Rojas Gallardo

Rik Vosters

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Language and Literacy Education | Social History | Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature | Spanish Linguistics


Chile, Language and Literacy, Letter writing, Chilean working class, Nation state building


This study examines the linguistic construction of social personae (voice) of the Chilean working class during the process of nation-state formation in the late 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Specifically, it considers the mediation of writing in processes of identity formation and emerging political stances in a historical context characterized by the intense socioeconomic, linguistic and cultural transformations that took place in Chile during a period of capitalist development and national modernization. The corpus is made up of a set of seventy familiar letters written by soldiers, miners and women who experienced the territorial expansion brought about by the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), family separation due to the boom of the nitrate economy (1880-1930) and the imposition of an official language through the formal mechanisms of public education and linguistic standardization (1842-1938). The main objective is to identify the political functions of the sociolinguistic repertoires deployed in the letters, as well as describe the possible forms of access to these resources and their inscription within normative regimes. To do so, this study examines three types of linguistic contrasts: deixis, forms of address and style. I argue that, through these contrasts, the authors reveal critical stances about the structures and processes of social categorization involved in the construction of the nation state: the imposition of a national identity through modern categories like the war, gender and the standard. This study’s findings demonstrate that writing, as a technology introduced by the Chilean state, allowed for the expression of subjectivities that conflicted with the nation-state building process and which, simultaneously, reveal categories of social differentiation and shared interests and ways of feeling among working-class subjects.