Canarian Spanish

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Canarian Spanish (Spanish: español de las 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 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 which is not called castellano and español is more used instead.

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.[1]

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,[2] 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.[3]

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.


  • 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').[4][5]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • Disappearance of de ("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.[citation needed]


  • The most distinctive non-mainland (and Andalusian) Spanish characteristic is seseo; the lack of distinction between the pronunciation of the letters < s > and <z> or "soft" <c>, so that caza ('hunt') is pronounced exactly like casa ('house').[6] 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 similar way of speaking).[7][8]
  • /s/ debuccalization. The phoneme /s/ is debuccalized to [h] in coda position, as is common in Andalusia, Extremadura, and Murcia, as well as many parts of Spanish America.[9]
  • /x/ (spelled as <j>, or as <g> before <e> or < i >) is usually aspirated (pronounced [h]), as is common in Andalusia (especially the western part), as well as in many parts of Hispanic America.
  • Word-final /n/ is realized as velar [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').[10] 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, Beneharo, Jonay, Tanausú, Chaxiraxi, Ayoze and Yaiza. 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).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Faculte des arts | Faculty of Arts" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "The Canarian Spanish Dialect". Archived from the original on 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2016-01-09. 
  4. ^ "On the biological basis of gender variation: Verbal ambiguity in Canarian Spanish | Almeida | Sociolinguistic Studies". Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ "What did sociolinguistics ever do for language history?: The cont..." ingentaconnect. 2006-01-01. Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  7. ^ "Biblioteca Virtual Universal" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  8. ^ "Episcopal Conferences: Historical, Canonical, and Theological Studies - Thomas J. Reese - Google Books". Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  9. ^ [2][dead link]
  10. ^ 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