Chicano English, or Mexican American English, is a dialect of American English spoken primarily by Mexican Americans (sometimes known as Chicanos), particularly in the Southwestern United States, ranging from Texas to California, but also apparently in Chicago. Chicano English is sometimes mistakenly conflated with Spanglish, which is a grammatically simplified mixing of the Spanish and English languages; however, Chicano English is a fully formed and native dialect of English, not "learner English" or interlanguage. It can even be the native dialect of speakers who know little to no Spanish.
A high level of Mexican immigration began in the 20th century with the exodus of refugees from the Mexican Revolution (1910) and the linkage of Mexican railroads to the US (Santa Ana, 1991). The Hispanic population is one of the largest and fastest-growing ethnic groups in the US. In the Los Angeles area alone, they form 40% of the population (roughly 1.4 out of 3.5 million, in the 1990 Census). The result of the migration and the segregated social conditions the immigrants found in California made an ethnic community that is only partly assimilated to the matrix Anglo (European American) community. It retains symbolic links with Hispanic culture (as well as real links through continuing immigration), but linguistically, it is mostly an English-speaking rather than a Spanish-speaking community. However, its members have a distinctive accent.
The phonological inventory appears to be identical to that of the local Anglo community. For example, the long and short vowels are clearly distinguished, as is the relatively rare English vowel /æ/. Speculatively, it seems that the main differences between the Chicano accent and the local Anglo accent are that the Chicanos are not participating in the ongoing phonetic changes in the Anglo communities (the raising of /æ/).
As Spanish-speaking people migrated from other parts of Hispanophone world to Southwest, Chicano English is now the customary dialect of many Hispanic Americans of diverse national heritages in Southwest. As Hispanics are of diverse racial origins, Chicano English serves as the distinction from non-Hispanic and non-Latino Americans in Southwest.
Chicano English has many features influenced by Spanish.
The rhythm of Chicano English tends to have an intermediate prosody between a Spanish-like syllable timing, with syllables taking up roughly the same amount of time with roughly the same amount of stress, and General American English's stress timing, with only stressed syllables being evenly timed.
Chicano English also has a complex set of nonstandard English intonation patterns, such as pitch rises on significant words in the middles and ends of sentences or initial-sentence high pitches, often accompanied by the lengthening of the affected syllables.
The /z/ undergoes devoicing in all environments: [ˈisi] for easy and [wʌs] for was.
The /v/ is devoiced after the last vowel of a word: [lʌf] for love, [hæf] for have, and [waɪfs] for wives.
Dental fricatives change pronunciation so think may be pronounced [ˈtiŋk], [ˈfiŋk] or [ˈsiŋk]. Most Latin American Spanish dialects, such as Mexican Spanish, undergo a feature called seseo; /θ/ merges with /s/.
/tʃ/ merges with /ʃ/ so sheep and cheap are pronounced alike. The outcome of this merger varies and can be either a fricative [ʃ] (both cheap and sheep sound like sheep) or an affricate [tʃ] (both cheap and sheep sound like cheap).
English [lˠ] is develarized so it is pronounced similarly to a Spanish alveolar lateral approximant.
/ɪŋ/ sounds like /iŋ/: sink sounds like seenk and also sing sounds like seeng. That is also a feature of general California English.
Some realizations of /iː/, /eː/, /oː/ and other long vowels were transcribed as monophthongs. That may be an effect of Spanish, but other American English dialects (Minnesota, and Wisconsin, for example) also show monophthongization of these vowels, which are most commonly diphthongs in English. Also, such vowels are underlyingly long monophthongs, so the general effect here is to simplify the system of phonetic implementation, as compared with the /ij, ej, ow, uw/ of many other English dialects.
A fair to strong degree of variation exists within Chicano English phonology|phonologically. Its precise boundaries are difficult to delineate, perhaps from its separate origins of the dialect in the Southwest as well as the Midwest.
One subvariety, referenced as Tejano English, is used mainly in southern Texas, and New Mexican English is used in central and northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. California subvarieties are also widely studied, especially that of metropolitan Los Angeles, such as East Los Angeles Chicano English, which includes elements of African American Vernacular English and California English.
Notable native speakers
- Gloria Anzaldúa — "I spoke English like a Mexican. At Pan American University, I and all Chicano students were required to take two speech classes. Their purpose: to get rid of our accents."
- César Chávez — "His speech was soft, sweetened by a Spanish accent"
- George Lopez — "Chicanos are their own breed. Even though we're born in the United States, we still have accents."
- Cheech Marin — "a hint of a Chicano accent" — "a Spanish accent or stereotypical East Los Angeles cadence like Cheech Marin"
- Paul Rodriguez
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- Newman, Michael. "The New York Latino English Project Page." Queens College. Accessed 2015. "Almost all recent research on Latino English in the US has been done in the Southwest, particularly California. NYLE [New York Latino English] differs in two respects from these forms."
- Santa Ana, 2004b, p. 374
- Santa Ana, 2004b, p. 375
- Santa Ana & Bayley, 2004a, p. 426
- Santa Ana & Bayley, 2004a, pp. 427, 429
- Maddieson & Godinez, 1985, p. 45
- Santa Ana & Bayley, 2004a, p. 421
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- Maddieson & Godinez, 1985, p. 56
- Archived May 14, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
- Santa Ana, 2004a, p. 419
- Santa Ana, 2004a, p. 433
- Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1999. p. 75-76.
- Chavez, Cesar (1975). "Preface." Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa. University of Minnesota Press. p. xxi.
- Lopez, George (2004). Why You Crying?: My Long, Hard Look at Life, Love, and Laughter. Simon and Shuster. p. 6.
- Van Matre, Lynne (1985). "Cheech and Chong Turn A New Leaf: They're Going Straight--almost--for Video." Chicago Tribune.
- Vallejo, Jody (2012). Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican American Middle Class. Stanford University Press. p. 106.
- A Handbook of Varieties of English: CD-ROM. Retrieved 2015-02-18.