||This article uses bare URLs for citations, which may be threatened by link rot. (February 2015)|
The Miami accent or Miami English is a regional accent of the American English dialect spoken in South Florida, particularly in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Monroe counties. The accent was born in central Miami, but has expanded to much of South Florida in the past few decades. The Miami accent is most prevalent in younger, native South Floridians.
The Miami accent developed amongst second- or third-generation Hispanics, particularly Cuban-Americans, whose first language was English, but were bilingual in Spanish. Although the accent originated with the city's Hispanic population, today, many non-Hispanic white, black, and other Miamians who were born and raised in the Miami area tend to adopt the accent as well.
Throughout its history, South Florida has attracted people from across Hispanic America. Beginning in earnest with the Cubans in the 1950s, Miami's Hispanic and Spanish-speaking population has grown consistently every decade. By 1970, the US Census stated 24% of Miamians spoke Spanish. By 2000, about 60% of Miamians spoke Spanish fluently.
Growing up bilingual in the city, second, third, and fourth generation Miamians of these early Spanish speaking arrivals, began mixing the sounds of the two languages, quickly creating the Miami accent. Today, the dialect has grown to be adopted by native Miamians of non-Hispanic origin as well, and has become a distinctive symbol of Miami's culture and heritage. Many of the region's politicians, teachers, and leaders, knowingly or unknowingly, speak with the Miami dialect, further spreading the use and prestige of the dialect.
The Miami accent is a native dialect of English, not learner English or interlanguage. It is possible to differentiate this variety from an interlanguage spoken by second-language speakers in that the Miami accent does not generally display the following features: there is no addition of /ɛ/ before initial consonant clusters with /s/, speakers do not confuse of /dʒ/ with /j/, (e.g., Yale with jail), and /r/ and /rr/ are pronounced as alveolar approximant [ɹ] instead of alveolar tap [ɾ] or alveolar trill [r] in Spanish.
The Miami accent is based on a fairly standard American accent but with some changes very similar to dialects in the Mid-Atlantic (especially the New York area dialect, Northern New Jersey English, and New York Latino English.) Unlike Virginia Piedmont, Coastal Southern American, and Northeast American dialects and Florida Cracker dialect (see section below), "Miami accent" is rhotic; it also incorporates a rhythm and pronunciation heavily influenced by Spanish (wherein rhythm is syllable-timed).
Phonology and sounds of the Miami accent as reported in the Miami Herald:
|“||The difference in the Miami sound lies primarily in the vowels, which have a certain affinity with Spanish pronunciation. English has 11 different vowel sounds, while Spanish only has five. English words like “man” and “hand” include a long nasal “A” sound that doesn’t exist in Spanish. Miamians now pronounce these words with a subtly Spanish shading a bit more like “mahn” and “hahnd.”
Miami’s “L” is a bit different from the rest of the country’s, too. Miamians tend to have a slightly heavier “L” — a bit more like the Spanish “L” — than most Americans. It can be heard in the way they drag the “Ls” in “Lauderdale” or “literally.”
Rhythm is also a factor. In Spanish words, all syllables are equally long, while English syllables fluctuate in length. The difference is only milliseconds, but it’s enough to be noticeable.
Features of the Miami accent from a report on the Miami accent from WLRN Radio:
|“||First, vowel pronunciation. In Spanish, there are five vowel sounds. In English, there are eleven. Thus, you have words like “hand,” with the long, nasal "A" sound, pronounced more like hahnd because the long "A" does not exist in Spanish.
While most consonants sound the same in Spanish and English, the Spanish "L" is heavier, with the tongue sticking to the roof of the mouth more so than in English. This Spanish "L" pronunciation is present in Miami English.
The rhythms of the two languages are also different. In Spanish, each syllable is the same length, but in English, the syllables fluctuate in length. This is a difference in milliseconds, but they cause the rhythm of Miami English to sound a bit like the rhythm of Spanish.
Finally, “calques” are phrases directly translated from one language to another where the translation isn’t exactly idiomatic in the other language. For example, instead of saying, “let’s get out of the car,” someone from Miami might say, "let’s get down from the car" because of the Spanish phrase "bajar del coche".
Notable native speakers
- Cristela Alonzo, comedian
- Alex Díaz de la Portilla, Former member of the Florida Senate
- Manny Díaz, Former Miami mayor
- Mario Díaz-Balart, US Congressman
- Gloria Estefan, singer
- Enrique Iglesias, singer
- William Levy, actor
- Danell Leyva, Olympic gymnast
- Carlos López-Cantera, Lieutenant Governor of Florida
- Jeanette Núñez, Florida Congresswoman
- Carlos Ponce, actor
- David Rivera, Former US Congressman
- Francis Suárez, Miami commissioner
- Xavier Suárez, Miami-Dade commissioner
Some colloquialisms common in Miami, include words such as: “supposably" (supposedly), “irregardless” (regardless), "pero" (but), "like", "super", "bro" (brother), and “libary” (library). A WLRN article also cites: "There’s even a distinct body language associated with it [the Miami accent], with Miamians rolling their eyes or craning their necks..."
Some Miami slang terms include:
- A mission
- Anything that takes a while
- Often used to start a sentence in the same sense as "well..." or "but..."
- Coffee, typically a Miami cortadito
- Casa yuca
- A place that is very far away.
- Short for "chancletas" (flip-flops)
- South Florida female subculture
- "Let's do it!"
- Pata sucia
- Literally "dirty feet". Someone who takes their shoes off and walks around barefoot.
- La sagüesera or la sawesera
- "South west area" of Miami, where the accent predominates. This includes the areas around Florida International University (FIU), Kendall, Westchester, and Tamiami.
- Used in situations such as: "qué cute" (how cute), "qué nice" (how nice), and/or "qué cool" (so cool)
- Used as "very" or "really"
Use in media
Many of the characters in the 1970s PBS sitcom, ¿Qué Pasa, USA? speak in the Miami accent. It was the first bilingual American sitcom. ¿Qué Pasa, USA? follows the Peñas, a Cuban-American family living in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. The series is praised as being very true-to-life and accurately, if humorously, portraying the life and culture of Miami's Cuban-American population. Today, the show is cherished by many Miamians as a true representation of life and language use in Miami.
- Origins of the Miami accent (WLRN)
- Birth of the Miami accent
- Comedic representation of Miamians with the Miami accent
- ¿Qué Pasa, USA? - Episode One
- Miami Accents: Why Locals Embrace That Heavy "L" Or Not | WLRN
- Miami Accents: How 'Miamah' Turned Into A Different Sort Of Twang | WLRN
- English in the 305 has its own distinct Miami sound - Lifestyle - MiamiHerald.com
- "The Miami Accent".
- "Miami Accents: Why Locals Embrace That Heavy "L" Or Not". WLRN (WLRN-TV and WLRN-FM). Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- "Miami Accents: How 'Miamah' Turned Into A Different Sort Of Twang". WLRN (WLRN-TV & WLRN-FM). Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- "'Miami Accent' Takes Speakers By Surprise". Articles – Sun-Sentinel.com. June 13, 2004. Retrieved 2012-10-08.
- English in the 305 has its own distinct Miami sound -- The Miami Herald