Canarian Spanish (Spanish: español de Canarias, español canario, habla canaria, isleño, dialecto canario or vernacular canario) is a variant of standard Spanish spoken in the Canary Islands by the Canarian people. The variant is similar to the Andalusian Spanish variety spoken in Western Andalusia and (especially) to Caribbean Spanish and other Latin American Spanish vernaculars because of Canarian emigration to the Caribbean and Hispanic America over the years.
Canarian Spanish, therefore, heavily influenced the development of Caribbean Spanish and other Latin American Spanish vernaculars. Hispanic America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands were originally largely settled by colonists from the Canary Islands and Andalusia so the dialects of the region, including the standard language, were already quite close to Canarian and Andalusian speech. In the Caribbean, Canarian speech patterns were never regarded as either foreign or very different from the local accent.
The incorporation of the Canary Islands into the Crown of Castile began with Henry III (1402) and was completed under the Catholic Monarchs. The expeditions for their conquest started off mainly from ports of Andalusia, which is why the Andalusians predominated in the Canaries. There was also an important colonising contingent from Portugal in the early conquest of the Canaries, along with the Andalusians and the Castilians from mainland Spain. In earlier times, Portuguese settled alongside the Spanish in the north of Gran Canaria, but they died off or were absorbed by the Spanish. The population that inhabited the islands before the conquest, the Guanches, spoke a variety of Berber (also called Amazigh) dialects. After the conquest, the indigenous Guanche language was rapidly and almost completely eradicated in the archipelago. Only some names of plants and animals, terms related to cattle ranching and numerous island placenames survive.
Their geographic situation made the Canary Islands receive much outside influence, causing drastic cultural changes, including linguistic ones. As a result of heavy Canarian emigration to the Caribbean, particularly during colonial times, Caribbean Spanish is strikingly similar to Canarian Spanish.
When visiting Tenerife or Las Palmas, Venezuelans, Cubans, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans are usually taken, at first, for other Canarians from a distant part of the Canary archipelago.
- As is the case with most varieties of Spanish outside Mainland Spain, the preterite is generally used instead of the perfect. For example, hoy visité a Juan ('today I visited John') instead of hoy he visitado a Juan ('today I have visited John').
- As is the case with most varieties of Spanish outside of central and northern Spain, Canarians use ustedes for all second person plurals. Thus, instead of saying vosotros estáis, they say ustedes están. Only in few areas of the islands of El Hierro, La Palma and La Gomera the pronoun vosotros is decreasingly used, generally only by some older speakers. In La Gomera and some parts of La Palma, ustedes vos vais is used. Archaic forms like vaivos are still used in some parts.
- As is the case with most varieties of Spanish outside of mainland Spain, in some diminutives, syllables are suppressed. Example: cochito instead of cochecito for small car, or florita instead of florecita.
- The most distinctive non-mainland (and Andalusian) Spanish characteristic is seseo: the merger that consists of pronouncing the sounds of "s" and "z/soft c" alike: caza ('hunt') is pronounced exactly like casa ('house'). The feature is common to most parts of the Spanish-speaking world outside of the northern three quarters of Spain (Castile and the surrounding provinces that have adopted a very similar way of speaking).
- /s/ debuccalization. As is the case with many varieties of Spanish, /s/ debuccalized to [h] in coda position, as is common in Andalusia, Extremadura, Murcia (where syllable-final /s/, /θ/, /x/), the area of the Caribbean, Veracruz, Mexico, the Colombian Caribbean Coast and Venezuela, and most of the rest of Hispanic America, with the notable exception of Mexico.
- /x/ (written as <g> before /e/ or /i/ or <j>) is usually aspirated or pronounced [h], also common in Andalusia (especially in Western Andalusian), the area of the Caribbean, southern coasts of Mexico, the whole Colombia, Caribbean Coast of Venezuela, and most of the rest of Hispanic America.
- Disappearance of de, which means "of", in certain expressions, as is the case with many varieties of Spanish outside Mainland Spain: casa Marta instead of casa de Marta, gofio millo instead of gofio de millo, etc.
The Canarian vocabulary has a notable influence from the Guanche language, especially in the toponymy where words of Guanche origin have become nativized by the Spanish settlers. In addition, many Canarian names come from the Guanche language, such as Gara, Acerina, Beneharo, Jonay, Tanausú, Chaxiraxi, Ayoze and Yaiza.
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- The term Guanche originally referred to the aborigines of Tenerife, but nowadays it is used commonly to refer also to the aborigines of the rest of the islands.
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