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For the James L. Brooks motion picture, see Spanglish (film).

Spanglish (or Espanglish) is a Latin - Germanic language formed by the blend (at different degrees) of Spanish and English, in the speech of people who speak parts of two languages, or whose normal language is different from that of the country where they live. The term Spanglish was first brought into literature by the Puerto Rican Salvador Tió.[1]

Despite its widespread use among the Hispanic population, Spanglish is not an actual language. Linguists commonly refer to a phenomenon like Spanglish as a pidgin, which is a language based on a simplified syntax and grammar that acts as an intermediary between people who don't have a common language.[2]


Spanglish is very common in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as the United States Army and the early colonial administration tried to impose the English language on island residents. Between 1902 and 1948, the main language of instruction in public schools (used for all subjects except Spanish language courses) was English. Consequently, many American English words are now found in the Puerto Rican vocabulary. Spanglish may also be known by a regional name. Spanglish does not have one unified dialect and therefore lacks uniformity; Spanglish spoken in New York, Miami, Texas, and California can be different. Although not always uniform, Spanglish is so popular in many Spanish-speaking communities in the United States, especially in the Miami Hispanic community, that some knowledge of Spanglish is required to understand those in the area (Ardila 2005: 61).

Many Puerto Ricans living on the island of St. Croix speak in informal situations a unique Spanglish-like combination of Puerto Rican Spanish and the local Crucian dialect, which is very different from the Spanglish spoken elsewhere. The same assumption goes for the large Puerto Rican population in the state of New York and Boston.

Spanglish is not a pidgin language, but may become one in the foreseeable future. It is informal; there are no set hard-and-fast rules. From a linguistic point of view, Spanglish can be labeled many things. It can be a pidgin, because many of the English borrowings are due to the desire to have a common meaning for various words among all native Spanish speakers that may have varying definitions of the same word. Spanglish can be considered a creole or dialect of Spanish as well, as it has become the native language of some second-generation Hispanic children who are often exposed to Spanglish at home and when using this dialect, mostly understood by monolingual Spanish speakers. Spanglish may also be considered a Spanish-English interlanguage as it represents the linguistic border between Mexico and the United States (Ardila 2005:66).”

Spanglish patterns[edit]

There are two phenomena of Spanglish, borrowing and code-switching. English borrowed words will usually be adapted to Spanish phonology. Code-Switching and Code-Mixing on the other hand is commonly used by bilinguals. Code-switching means that a person will begin a sentence in one language and at a certain point will begin speaking in another language (Ardila 2005:70). This switch will occur at the beginning of a sentence or a new topic. In code-mixture this change in language will occur at any given time with no regard to the beginning of a sentence or topic. Code-switching normally happens when someone is speaking Spanish as opposed to English, because it is supposed that native Spanish speakers understand more English than native English speakers do Spanish; therefore, this code-switching that results in Spanglish seems acceptable to native Spanish speakers (Ardila 2005:71).

There are two types of code-switching: intersentential and intrasentential. The first refers to code-switching between sentences and the second refers to code-switching within sentences. Intersentential code-switching normally happens when speaking and intrasentential when writing. Many researchers believe that intrasentential code-switching is more elaborate and involves a bilingual individual who is proficient in both languages, as switching within sentences requires a high level of efficiency to avoid violating grammatical rules of either language (Montes-Alcalá 2000:219).

  • Intersentential code-switching: She wanted to experiment. Quería ver qué había allá afuera del palacio (Montes-Alcalá 2000:219)
  • Intrasentential code-switching: El lobo went to the old lady’s house and la echó (Montes-Alcalá 2000:219).

There are some important syntactic constraints on code-switching.

  • The equivalence constraint claims that code-switching is allowed where the grammars of Spanish and English coincide (Belazi, Rubin, and Toribio 1994:224) citing (Poplack 1981).
  • Equivalence Constraint Example: “The student brought the homework para la profesora.” is grammatical, because both languages place the prepositional phrase in the same place,after the object, in the sentence (Belazi, Rubin, and Toribio 1994:224) citing (Poplack 1981).
  • The object clitic (pronoun or determiner) constraint relates to the equivalence constraint, as it deals with coinciding grammars, and claims that the clitic must be in the same language as the verb and in the position required by the language of that verb (Woolford 1983:527).
  • Object Clitic Constraint Example: “Yo lo bought.” and “I it bought.” are both ungrammatical (Woolford 1983:527).
  • The noun phrase constraint claims that no switching occurs between a noun and a modifying adjective that follows this noun (Woolford 1983:527) citing (Gingràs 1974).
  • Noun Phrase Constraint Example: “El hombre old está enojado.” is ungrammatical whereas switching between the determiner and the rest of the noun phrase that follows or between an adjective and a noun that follows form grammatical sentences, such as “El old man está enojado.” (Woolford 1983:527) citing (Gingràs 1974).
  • The free morpheme (something that can stand alone as a word) constraint claims that a switch may not occur between a bound morpheme (something that appears only as a part of words that cannot function independently) and a lexical form (something that represents actual word forms) unless the lexical form has been integrated into the language of the bound morpheme. (Sankoff and Poplack 1981:5).
  • Free Morpheme Constraint Example: This constraint prohibits combining the Spanish bound morpheme “-eando” with the lexical form “run” in English to try to form “runeando” which would mean running (Sankoff and Poplack 1981:5).

There is no clear demarcation between Spanglish and simple "bad" Spanish or English:

  • "Chequear" for "to check" is standard throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Latin America, although the Real Academia of Spain records the word as being of English extraction, and indeed it is not widely used in Spain, "comprobar" or "verificar" being more common instead. This suggests that it is North America's higher exposure to English that has created and promoted the new verb.
  • "Parquear" for "to park" is clear deliberate Spanglish of relatively recent development as is the case with "Faxear" for "to fax" and "Textear" for "to text".
  • "Actualmente" for "actually" rather than "at present" is closer to erroneous use of a false friend, and ambiguous as it has a clear, but different, meaning in true Spanish.

Researchers[who?] differentiate between those who mostly speak Spanish (who are labeled limited English proficient), and those that can switch codes freely, who are considered bilingual.

Linguistic Relativity[edit]

According to the dictionary of the Real Academia Española, "espanglish" is defined as an expression used by the Hispanic population in the United States in which lexical mixing of Spanish and English is used.[3]

In Mexico and the southwestern U.S., Spanglish speakers are called Pochos (said of Mexicans that adopt customs or manners of the people of the United States of America, according to the dictionary of the Spanish language of the Real Academia Española).[4] English-influenced Spanish is called mocho, "mutilated", "amputated".

Hispanic-American authors Junot Diaz, Giannina Braschi, Piri Thomas, and Pedro Pietri have written poetry, fiction, and drama in Spanglish.[5]

The use of Spanglish has evolved over time. It has emerged as a way of conceptualizing one's thoughts whether it be in speech or on paper.


In the late 1940s, the Puerto Rican linguist Salvador Tió coined the terms Spanglish, and the less commonly used inglañol[1] for English spoken with some Spanish terms.

It is common in Panama, where the 96-year (1903–1999) U.S. control of the Panama Canal influenced much of local society, especially among the former residents of the Panama Canal Zone, the Zonians. Some version of Spanglish, whether by that name or another, is likely to be used wherever speakers of both languages mix.

H.G.Wells, in his 1933 future history The Shape of Things to Come, predicted that in the Twenty-First Century English and Spanish would "become interchangeable languages".[6]

"Spanglish" radio stations are found, mostly in Southern California.


The inception of Spanglish is due to the influx of Latin American people into North America, specifically the United States of America.[7] The phenomenon of Spanglish can be separated into two different categories: code switching or borrowing, and lexical and grammatical shifts.[8] For example, a fluent bilingual speaker addressing another bilingual speaker might engage in code switching with the sentence, "I'm sorry I cannot attend next week's meeting porque tengo una obligación de negocios en Boston, pero espero que I'll be back for the meeting the week after" (I'm sorry I cannot attend next week's meeting because I have a business obligation in Boston, but I hope to be back for the meeting the week after). An example of the lexical phenomenon in Spanglish is the emergence of new verbs, when an English verb is added onto the Spanish infinitive morphemes (-er, -ar, and -ir). For example, the Spanish verb to call, llamar, becomes, telefonear (telephone+ar), the Spanish verb to eat lunch almorzar becomes lunchear (lunch+ar), etc. (watchear, puchar, parquear, emailear, twittear).[9]

Calques represent the simplest forms of Spanglish, as they undergo no lexical or grammatical structural change, and are the most common form of Spanglish.[10]

Examples of Spanish calques in Spanglish:[10] - Lasso - Rodeo - Amigo - Mañana - Tortilla - Hasta la vista

Examples of English calques in Spanglish:[11] - Bacuncliner - Sandwich - El mouse - El top - Jamberger


Spanish street ad in Madrid humorously showing baidefeis instead of the Spanish gratis (free).
Baidefeis derives from the English "by the face"; Spanish: por la cara, "free".

Fromlostiano is a type of wordplay which consists of taking Spanish idioms and translating them literally into English. The name fromlostiano comes from the expression from lost to the river, a word-for-word translation of de perdidos al río, which means that one is prone to choose a particularly risky action in a desperate situation (this is somewhat comparable to the English idiom in for a penny, in for a pound). The humor comes from the fact that while the expression is completely grammatical in English, it makes no sense to a native English speaker. Hence it is necessary to understand both languages in order to appreciate the humor.

This phenomenon was first noted in the book From Lost to the River in 1995.[12] The book describes six types of fromlostiano:

  1. Translations of Spanish idioms into English: With you bread and onion (Contigo pan y cebolla), Nobody gave you a candle in this burial (Nadie te ha dado vela en este entierro), To good hours, green sleeves (A buenas horas mangas verdes).
  2. Translations of American and British celebrities' names into Spanish: Vanesa Tumbarroja (Vanessa Redgrave).
  3. Translations of American and British street names into Spanish: Calle del Panadero (Baker Street).
  4. Translations of Spanish street names into English: Shell Thorn Street (Calle de Concha Espina).
  5. Translations of multinational corporations' names into Spanish: Ordenadores Manzana (Apple Computers).
  6. Translations of Spanish minced oaths into English: Tu-tut that I saw you (Tararí que te vi).

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Cruz Rivera, Yasmine (2009). El humor puertorriqueňo en los Tirabuzones de Salvador Tió
  2. ^ Is Spanglish a language? - Curiosity
  3. ^ Diccionario de la lengua española | Real Academia Española
  4. ^ Definition of "pocho"
  5. ^ Stavans, Ilan. Spanglish, The Making of a New American Language. Harper Perennial. 
  6. ^ H.G.Wells, The Shape of Things to Come, Ch. 12
  7. ^ Morales, Ed (2002). Living in Spanglish: The Search for Latino Identity in America. Macmillan. p. 9. ISBN 0312310005. 
  8. ^ Ardila, Alfredo (February 2005). "Spanglish: An Anglicized Spanish Dialect". Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 27 (1): 60–81. doi:10.1177/0739986304272358. 
  9. ^ Rothman, Jason; Amy Beth Rell (2005). "A linguistic analysis of Spanglish: relating language to identity". Linguistics and the Human Sciences 1 (3): 515–536. doi:10.1558/lhs.2005.1.3.515. 
  10. ^ a b Stavans, Ilan (2000). "The gravitas of Spanglish". The Chronicle of Higher Education 47 (7). 
  11. ^ Alvarez, Lizette (1997). "It’s the talk of Nueva York: The hybrid called Spanglish". New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Ochoa, Ignacio; Frederico López Socasau (1995). From Lost to the River (in Spanish). Madrid: Publicaciones Formativas, S.A. ISBN 978-84-920231-1-0. 
  • On So-Called Spanglish, Ricardo Otheguy and Nancy Stern, International Journal of Bilingualism 2011, 15(1): 85-100.
  • Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language, Ilán Stavans, ISBN 0-06-008776-5
  • Spanglish: The Third Way, A Cañas. Hokuriku University, 2001.
  • Spanish/English Codeswitching in a Written Corpus, by Laura Callahan, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2004.
  • The Dictionary of Chicano Spanish/El Diccionario del Español Chicano: The Most Practical Guide to Chicano Spanish. Roberto A. Galván. 1995. ISBN 0-8442-7967-6.
  • Anglicismos hispánicos. Emilio Lorenzo. 1996. Editorial Gredos, ISBN 84-249-1809-6.
  • "Yo-Yo Boing!", Giannina Braschi, introduction by Doris Sommer, Harvard University, ISBN 978-0-935480-97-9.
  • “Lives in Translation: Bilingual Writers on Identity and Creativity,” Isabelle de Courtivron, Palgrave McMillion, 2003.
  • "In the Contact Zone: Code-Switching Strategies by Latino/a Writers: Giannina Braschi and Susana Chavez by L Torres. MELUS, JSTOR, 2007.
  • Ursachen und Konsequenzen von Sprachkontakt – Spanglish in den USA. Melanie Pelzer, Duisburg: Wissenschaftsverlag und Kulturedition (2006). (in German) ISBN 3-86553-149-0
  • BETTI Silvia, 2008, El Spanglish ¿medio eficaz de comunicación? Bologna, Pitagora editrice, ISBN 88-371-1730-2 (in Spanish).Presentación de Dolores Soler-Espiauba (in Spanish).
  • "Bilingües, biculturales y posmodernas: Rosario Ferré y Giannina Braschi," Garrigós, Cristina, Insula. Revista de Ciencias y Letras, 2002 JUL-AGO; LVII (667-668).
  • "Escritores latinos en los Estados Unidos" (a propósito de la antología de Fuguet y Paz-Soldán, se habla Español), Alfaguara, 2000.
  • "Redreaming America: Toward a Bilingual American Culture," (Suny Series in Latin American and Iberian Thought and Culture), Debra A. Castillo, 2005.
  • Metcalf, Allan A. "The Study of California Chicano English". International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Volume 1974, Issue 2, Pages 53–58.
  • Ardila, A. Spanglish : An anglicized Spanish dialect. Hispanic journal of behavioral sciences, 27(1), 60-81.
  • Ardila, Alfredo. “Spanglish: An Anglicized Spanish Dialect.” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences (2005): 61-71. Web. 16 April 2013.
  • Belazi, Hedi M, Edward J. Rubin, and Almeida Jacqueline Toribio. “Code Switching and X-Bar Theory: The Functional head Constraint.” Linguistic Inquiry Vol. 25 (1994): 224. Web. 18 April 2013.
  • Gingras, Rosario. “Problems in the description of Spanish/English intrasentential code-switching.” Southwest areal linguistics, ed. Garland D. Bills (1974): 167-174. San Diego, Calif.: University of California Institute for Cultural Pluralism.
  • Greenspan, Eliot (7 December 2010). Frommer's Belize. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 235–. ISBN 978-1-118-00370-1. 
  • Montes-Alcalá, Cecilia. “Attitudes Towards Oral and Written Codeswitching in Spanish English Bilingual Youths.” Research on Spanish in the United States: Linguistic Issues and Challenges (2000): 219. Web. 17 April 2013.
  • Otheguy, Ricardo and Nancy Stern. “On so-called Spanglish.” International Journal of Bilingualism (2010). 91. Web. 20 April 2013.
  • Poplack, Shana. “Syntactic structure and social function of codeswitching.” Latino language and communicative behavior, ed. Richard P. Duran (1981): 169-184. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex
  • Sankoff, David and Shana Poplack. “A Formal Grammar for Code-Switching.” International Journal of Human Communication 14 (1) (1981): 5. Web. 16 April 2013.
  • Woolford, Ellen. “Bilingual Code-Switching and Syntactic Theory.” Linguistic Inquiry Vol. 23 (1983): 527. Web. 18 April 2013.

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