Canarian Spanish

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Canarian Spanish (Spanish terms in descending order of frequency: español de Canarias, español canario, habla canaria, or dialecto canario[1]) 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 Hispanic American Spanish vernaculars because of Canarian emigration to the Caribbean and Hispanic America over the years.[citation needed] Canarian Spanish is the only Spanish dialect in Spain to be called usually español, instead of castellano[citation needed].

Canarian Spanish heavily influenced the development of Caribbean Spanish and other Latin American Spanish vernaculars because Hispanic America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands were originally largely settled by colonists from the Canary Islands and Andalusia; those dialects, 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.[2]

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,[3] 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.[4]

Their geography made the Canary Islands receive much outside influence, with drastic cultural and linguistic changes. As a result of heavy Canarian emigration to the Caribbean, particularly during colonial times, Caribbean Spanish is strikingly similar to Canarian Spanish.


  • As with most other varieties of Spanish outside Mainland Spain, the preterite is generally used instead of the perfect: hoy visité a Juan ("today I visited John") for hoy he visitado a Juan ("today I have visited John").[5][6]
  • Like most other varieties of Spanish outside central and northern Spain, ustedes is used for all second-person plurals: ustedes están is used for vosotros estáis. Only on a few parts of the islands of El Hierro, La Palma and La Gomera is the pronoun vosotros still sometimes used, and even there, it is decreasingly and generally only by 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 areas.[citation needed]
  • Like most other varieties of Spanish outside Mainland Spain, syllables are suppressed in some diminutives: cochito for cochecito ("small car") and florita for florecita.[citation needed]
  • As with many other varieties of Spanish outside Mainland Spain, de ("of") is deleted in some expressions: casa Marta for casa de Marta and gofio millo for gofio de millo.[citation needed]


  • Seseo, the lack of distinction between the pronunciation of the letters ⟨s⟩ and ⟨z⟩ or "soft" ⟨c⟩, is the most distinctive non-mainland characteristic; caza ('hunt') is pronounced exactly like casa ('house'), which occurs in Andalusia as well.[7] The feature is common to most parts of the Spanish-speaking world outside of the northern three quarters of Mainland Spain (Castile and the surrounding provinces have adopted the feature).[8][9]
  • /s/ is debuccalized to /h/ at the end of syllables, as is common in Andalusia, Extremadura, and Murcia and much of Spanish America.[10]
  • /x/ (spelled as ⟨j⟩ or, before ⟨e⟩ or ⟨i⟩, as ⟨g⟩) is usually aspirated (pronounced [h]), as is common in Andalusia (especially in its west) as well as in much of Spanish America.
  • Word-final /n/ is realized as a velar nasal [ŋ].


Canarian vocabulary has its own regionalisms different from standard Castilian Spanish vocabulary. For example, guagua ('bus') differs from standard Spanish autobús. The word guagua is an onomatopoeia stemming from the sound of a Klaxon horn ("wawa"). An example of Canarian usage for a Spanish word is the verb fajarse ('to fight').[11] In standard Castilian Spanish, the verb would be pelearse, and fajar exists as a non-reflexive verb related to the hemming of a skirt. The term of endearment socio is a very popular Canarian term. The Canarian vocabulary has a notable influence from the Guanche language, especially in the toponymy. In addition, many Canarian names come from the Guanche language, such as Airam, Gara, Acerina, Aydan, Beneharo, Jonay, Tanausú, Chaxiraxi, Ayoze, Yaiza and Zebenzuí. As Canarian Spanish was influenced by Andalusian Spanish, a few words of Andalusi Arabic origin are found, and there are some doublets of Arabic-Latinate synonyms with the Arabic form being more common in Canarian like alcoba for standard habitación or dormitorio ('bedroom'), alhaja for standard joya ('jewel'), or alacrán for standard escorpión (scorpion); Arabic influence in Canarian Spanish was even brought by returning Canarian settlers and their children from Spanish Sahara after its independence.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The terms isleño and dialecto isleño are also used, but they can be ambiguous, as they are applied to other island dialects as well.
  2. ^ "Faculte des arts | Faculty of Arts" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "The Canarian Spanish Dialect". Archived from the original on 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2016-01-09.
  5. ^ "On the biological basis of gender variation: Verbal ambiguity in Canarian Spanish | Almeida | Sociolinguistic Studies". Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  6. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-01-02. Retrieved 2019-04-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "What did sociolinguistics ever do for language history?: The cont..." ingentaconnect. 2006-01-01. Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  8. ^ "Biblioteca Virtual Universal" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  9. ^ Reese, Thomas J. (1989). Episcopal Conferences: Historical, Canonical, and Theological Studies - Thomas J. Reese - Google Books. ISBN 9780878404933. Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ fajar at Diccionario de la Real Academia Española.


  • Navarro Carrasco, Ana Isabel (2003), El atlas de Canarias y el diccionario académico, Publicaciones Universidad de Alicante, ISBN 978-8479082864