New Mexican Spanish

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New Mexican Spanish
español neomexicano, novomexicano
Early forms
Latin (Spanish alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolognewm1235  New Mexican Spanish
Nuevo México español por condados.png
Spanish language distribution in New Mexico by county

New Mexican Spanish (Spanish: español neomexicano, novomexicano) refers to a variety of Spanish spoken in the United States in New Mexico and the southern part of the state of Colorado. It includes a Traditional dialect spoken generally by the Hispanos of New Mexico, descendants of colonists who arrived in New Mexico before its annexation by the US, in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, and a Border dialect spoken in southern New Mexico. Despite a continual influence from Mexican Spanish to the south, New Mexico's unique political history and relative geographical and political isolation from the time of its annexation to the US have caused Traditional New Mexican Spanish to differ notably from the Spanish spoken in other parts of Hispanic America, with the exception of certain rural areas of Northern Mexico and Texas.[1]

Those reasons caused these main distinctive features of Traditional New Mexican Spanish, compared to other forms of Hispanic American Spanish: the preservation of forms and vocabulary from colonial-era Spanish no longer present in the standard (such as, in some places, haiga instead of haya or Yo seigo, instead of Yo soy),[2] the borrowing of words from Puebloan languages for some indigenous vocabulary[3] (in addition to the Nahuatl loanwords that the colonists had brought),[4] independent lexical and morphological innovations,[5] and a large proportion of English loanwords, particularly for technology (such as bos, troca, and telefón).[6]

In recent years, the Traditional Spanish of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado has taken in more vocabulary from Mexican Spanish due to the increasing popularity of Spanish-language broadcast media in the US and intermarriage and interaction between Hispanos and Mexican immigrants, resulting in greater similarity between the Traditional and Border dialects.[7][8] This new dialect has been called Renovador.[1]


The Spanish language first arrived in New Mexico with Juan de Oñate's colonization expedition in 1598, bringing 600-700 settlers. Almost half of the early settlers were from Spain, many from New Spain, the rest from "various parts of Latin America, the Canary Islands, Portugal, and so forth." Following the Pueblo Revolt in 1680, New Mexico was resettled again starting in 1692, primarily by refugees from the Pueblo Revolt and others born in northern New Spain. The Spanish-speaking areas with which New Mexico had the greatest contact were Chihuahua and Sonora.[9] Likely as a result of these historical origins and connections, Traditional New Mexican Spanish shares many morphological features with the rural Spanish of Chihuahua, Sonora, Durango, and other parts of Mexico.[10] Colonial New Mexico was very isolated and had widespread illiteracy, resulting in most New Mexicans having little to no exposure to "standard" Spanish.[11] This linguistic isolation facilitated New Mexican Spanish's preservation of older vocabulary[2] as well as its own innovations.[5]

During that time, contact with the rest of Spanish America was limited because of the Comancheria, and New Mexican Spanish developed closer trading links to the Comanche than to the rest of New Spain. In the meantime, some Spanish colonists co-existed with and intermarried with Puebloan peoples and Navajos, also enemies of the Comanche.[12]

Even during colonial times, New Mexican Spanish was not immune to change and as a result the Traditional New Mexican Spanish of the 20th and 21st centuries is not identical to the Spanish of the early colonial period. Rather, New Mexican Spanish evolved considerably, and this evolution is reflected in writing.[13] For example, New Mexican Spanish speakers born before the Pueblo Revolt were generally not yeístas; that is, they pronounced the ⟨ll⟩ and ⟨y⟩ sounds differently. After the Pueblo Revolt, New Mexico was re-settled with many new settlers coming in from central Mexico, in addition to returning New Mexican colonists. These new settlers generally did merge the two sounds, and dialect leveling resulted in later generations of New Mexicans consistently merging /ʎ/ and /ʝ/.[14] Some other changes resulted in convergence with other modern varieties of Spanish, such as the elimination of the future subjunctive tense, and the elimination of the second-person forms of address vuestra merced and vuestra señoría.[13] Also, the standard subjunctive form haya and the nonstandard form haiga of the auxiliary verb haber have always coexisted in New Mexican Spanish, but the prevalence of the nonstandard haiga increased significantly over the colonial period.[15]

Before the middle of the 18th century, there is little evidence of the deletion and occasional epenthesis of ⟨y⟩ and ⟨ll⟩ in contact with front vowels, although that is a characteristic of modern New Mexican and northern Mexican Spanish. The presence of such deletion in areas close and historically connected to New Mexico makes it unlikely that New Mexicans independently developed this feature. Although colonial New Mexico had a very low rate of internal migration, trade connections with Chihuahua were strengthening during this time. Many of the people who moved into New Mexico were traders from Chihuahua, who became socially very prominent. They likely introduced the weakening of ⟨y⟩ and ⟨ll⟩ to New Mexico, where it was adapted by the rest of the community.[16]

New Mexico's 1848 annexation by the US led to a greater exposure to English. Nevertheless, the late-19th-century development of a culture of print media allowed New Mexican Spanish to resist assimilation toward American English for many decades.[17] The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, for instance, noted, "About one-tenth of the Spanish-American and Indian population [of New Mexico] habitually use the English language."[18] At the beginning of the 20th century, there was an attempt by both Anglos and Hispanos to link New Mexico's history and language to Spain, rather than Mexico. This led to the occasional use of vosotros rather than ustedes in some newspaper ads. Since vosotros isn't actually part of New Mexican Spanish, in these advertisements it was used interchangeably with ustedes, occasionally with both being used in the same ad. That artificial usage differs drastically from the natural usage of vosotros in Spain.[19]

After 1917, Spanish usage in the public sphere began to decline and it was banned in schools, with students often being punished for speaking the language.[20] This punishment was occasionally physical.[7] Newspapers published in Spanish switched to English or went out of business.[21] From then on, Spanish became a language of home and community. The advance of English-language broadcast media accelerated the decline. Since then, New Mexican Spanish has been undergoing a language shift, with Hispanos gradually shifting towards English.[22] In addition, New Mexican Spanish faces pressure from Standard and Mexican Spanish. Younger generations tend to use more Anglicisms and Mexican and standard Spanish forms. This is in part due to language attrition. The decline in Spanish exposure in the home creates a vacuum, into which "English and Mexican Spanish flow easily."[23]

As of 2010, the Spanish variety of northern New Mexico, including Albuquerque, has been heavily influenced by Mexican Spanish, incorporating numerous Mexicanisms, while at the same time retaining some archaisms characteristic of traditional New Mexican Spanish. The use of Mexicanisms is most prominent in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, compared to other areas in the north.[7] Some older Spanish speakers have noted Mexican immigrants showing surprise at non-immigrants speaking Spanish. In Albuquerque, the use of Mexicanisms correlates only with age, with younger speakers, regardless of their parents' background, being more likely to use Mexicanisms.[8]

Geographic distribution[edit]

New Mexican Spanish refers to the Spanish varieties spoken throughout the state of New Mexico and in the southern portion of Colorado. This label is applied to southern Colorado as well because Colorado was historically part of New Mexico until statehood in 1876 and because Spanish-speakers from New Mexico settled southern Colorado, resulting in most Spanish-speaking southern Coloradans having ancestry from New Mexico.[24]


There are two main Spanish dialects in New Mexico and southern Colorado. One is what Bills and Vigil call Traditional New Mexican Spanish (abbreviated TNMS),[25][26] spoken in the northern and central parts of the region, whose speakers generally represent early colonial settlement. TNMS has been the subject of extensive study.[27][28] The other has been called Border Spanish, found in the southern third of New Mexico plus the Grants area in northwestern New Mexico and Crowley and Otero County, Colorado along the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado.[29] It is primarily the result of 20th-century Mexican immigration and whose speakers typically have closer contact with Mexican Spanish.[30] Both of these varieties contain various sub-dialects,[31] although the Traditional area has greater variation between different communities,[32] and it also has high idiolectal variation within the same community. This variation is a consequence of both historical isolation and the modern language shift towards English.[33]

The biggest dialect division within Traditional New Mexican Spanish, identified on the basis of lexicon, is between the Río Arriba or upper river dialect and the rest of TNMS. This corresponds to the colonial separation between the Río Arriba and the Río Abajo, or lower river.[34] The dialect boundary is an approximately east-west line running through Santa Fe.[35] The Río Arriba dialect includes a North Central dialect in the middle portion of the Río Arriba dialect's area[36] and a Northeastern dialect in its eastern portion.[37] TNMS also has a less clear-cut West Central dialect centered around the southwest of Albuquerque.[38]

There also exists regional phonological variation within TNMS. For example, syllable-initial /s/-aspiration, while occurring throughout New Mexico and Southern Colorado, is particularly notable along the upper Rio Grande between Albuquerque and Taos.[39]

Although the Spanish of Albuquerque has traditionally been considered part of the Traditional area, the high presence of Mexicanisms in Albuquerque Spanish has led some to consider it to constitute a third dialect zone, between Traditional and Border Spanish.[8] In fact, the use of Mexicanisms is widespread across the Traditional Spanish zone, especially in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and especially among the younger generations.[7]

Some diversity in Border Spanish is to be expected, given the continuous Hispanic presence in southern New Mexico since the colonial period, and the movement of some Traditional Spanish speakers to south of Las Cruces after the Mexican-American War. One sub-dialect of Border Spanish can be found in the southwestern corner of the state, including Doña Ana County and the areas to its west. This is the region closest to the border with Mexico. The southwestern sub-dialect is characterized by a number of lexical variants, all but one of which are typical of Mexican Spanish usage. For example, while most of New Mexico uses the term bolsa for 'purse', and the Río Arriba area north of Santa Fe uses maleta, while the southwestern corner of New Mexico uses the standard cartera.[32] Also, southwestern New Mexico tends to use la craca for 'cracker', while the rest of New Mexico tends to use el craque. Forms with galleta 'cookie', such as galleta de sal 'salt cookie', are found throughout New Mexico.[40]


Some of the grammatical differences between New Mexican Spanish and standard Spanish, according to Cobos.[1]

The Spanish spoken in New Mexico and Southern Colorado has a complex relationship with the norma culta or educated norm of standard Spanish grammar. New Mexican Spanish speakers are generally aware of and express preference for standard Mexican Spanish norms, although they often break these norms in daily conversation, and prefer salemos and pidimos to the standard salimos 'we leave' and pedimos 'we request'.[41] That said, New Mexican Spanish, especially the Traditional variety, is known for a large number of nonstandard forms.[42] Use of such forms is not universal, usually correlates negatively with education,[43] and the most characteristic traits of Traditional New Mexican Spanish are generally more common among older speakers.[44]

The following is a list of some characteristics of Traditional New Mexican Spanish's morphology, many of which are also found in Border Spanish:

  • The second person preterite endings can be -astes, -istes or -ates, -ites instead of the standard -aste, -iste.[1] The -astes, -istes forms are found throughout the Spanish-speaking world, while the -ates, -ites forms are much more rare.[10]
  • Use of older preterite forms such as:
    • Widespread use of vide, vido for vi, vio. This usage shows little regional patterning, being found in both Border Spanish and Traditional New Mexican Spanish. Instead, these nonstandard forms correlate negatively with exposure to standard Spanish and are less used by younger people.[45]
    • Widespread use of the regularized -jieron ending instead of -jeron, as in trajieron for trajeron, 'they brought'. This also shows little regional patterning.[46]
    • Less widespread use of the older truj- stem of traer, 'to bring' in the preterite, resulting in trujieron. The truj- stem is strongly associated with TNMS rather than border areas, and is more stigmatized than the regularized suffix -jieron.[47]
  • Extension of vowel raising in those stem-changing verbs which already have it. They have the raised stem vowel -i- or -u- in any unstressed position, including the infinitive. Diphthongization in stressed positions is preserved. Examples:
    • Durmir instead of dormir, 'to sleep'. Duermo, 'I sleep', the standard first person present with diphthongization, is used in Traditional New Mexican Spanish.
    • Dicir instead of decir, 'to say'.[48][49]
  • Subjunctive present of haber is often haiga, instead of haya.[1] This is common in non-standard Spanish varieties.
  • Generalization of the ha- root to the first person in forms of haber as an auxiliary verb, instead of he-: "nosotros hamos comido," instead of "nosotros hemos comido," "yo ha comido" instead of "yo he comido."[1] This appears to be a more recent development, as younger and less-educated speakers are more likely to use it. It's found across New Mexico and Southern Colorado.[50]
  • The plural forms of words which end in a stressed vowel, such as papá and café, are often formed with the suffix -ses instead of the standard -s. This is widespread in colloquial Spanish.[51]
  • The word decía 'he/she/it/they said' is often pronounced like it were dejía or dijía, like [deˈxi.a] or [diˈxi.a] rather than [deˈsi.a]. This differs from the phonological trait where the s sound can be aspirated, or pronounced like an H, which is also present throughout New Mexico and southern Colorado.[52][53]

Peculiar verb forms[edit]

While many of the characteristics of Traditional New Mexican Spanish morphology are also characteristic of popular Spanish worldwide, some are more peculiar. All of these more peculiar verb forms are also found in rural Jalisco and Guanajuato, and some of these forms may also be found in Chihuahua, Durango, and Sonora, which were historically connected to New Mexico, as well as Tlaxcala. Also, all of these, with the exception of the -mos to -nos shift, are also found in Chilote Spanish in the south of Chile, and several others are found in various other Spanish dialects throughout the world.[10]

These include:

  • In TNMS, imperfect conjugations of -er and -ir verbs whose stems end in vowels end in -iba, with the preceding -i- diphthongized into the previous vowel, as in: caiban vs. caían, traiba vs. traía, creiban vs creían.[42][54] Bills & Vigil (2008) view this as a retention from Latin, while Sanz (2009) views this as the result of a morphological analogy with other forms with a -b- in them. Sanz (2009) also argues that, since this -b- only appears after vowel-final roots, there is little evidence of etymological preservation.[55]
  • TNMS has a change from -mos to -nos in the first-person plural (nosotros) endings with antepenultimate stress, as in the past subjunctive, imperfect, and conditional tenses, ie: nos bañábamos to nos bañábanos, nos bañáramos to nos bañáranos, nos bañaríamos to nos bañaríanos, under the influence of the clitic nos. This also occurs in the present subjunctive, with a shift of stress, as in nos báñenos.[1][20]
  • The second-person preterite forms -ates, -ites alongside the more widespread -astes, -istes and the standard -aste, -iste[10]
  • Nosotros ending -emos for present and -imos for past in -er/-ir verbs.[1][57] In standard Spanish conjugation, verbs ending in -ir are conjugated -imos in both the present and preterite tenses, while verbs ending in -er are conjugated -emos in the present and -imos in the past. Such a merger helps speakers to distinguish the present from the preterite.[57] An example of this change would be salemos for 'we leave', from the -ir verb salir. A merger of the -er verbs conjugations' into those of the -ir verbs is found in Chilote Spanish.[10]
  • Non-standard -g- in many verb roots, such as creiga, juigo, vaiga.[58][42] Also, epenthetic -g- in aire and related words is found in TNMS.[58]

Also, although not part of verbal morphology, Traditional New Mexican Spanish often turns the clitic nos into los.[20] This quite uncommon change is also found in Chilote Spanish, but not in rural Mexico.[10]

Some of these forms were, until recently, present in major cities. For example, creiga and -ates, -ites was documented among the lower class of Bogotá in the middle of the 19th century, and -ates, -ites was present in Mexico City's lower class speech in the late 1800s. This shows that social exclusion and marginalization, as well as geographical remoteness, can help to preserve such nonstandard forms.[59]

All of these variants have been documented in rural areas of western Spain, such as in León, Salamanca, western Andalucia, and Extremadura, and they seem to have been more widespread in the past. These same western regions of Spain were also the origin of many conquistadors who settled the Americas and who may have brought these dialect traits to various regions.[60] These features may also be widespread because of ease of acquisitions in contact situations. That is, if various speakers of different dialects come together in a single area, those grammatical forms which are easiest to acquire may become dominant over time. The prevalence of these forms in Judaeo-Spanish varieties seems to support that hypothesis, since Judaeo-Spanish varieties typically had much heavier input from eastern Ibero-Romance dialects.[60]

English influence[edit]

Many features of New Mexican Spanish are shared with the Spanish spoken throughout the United States, as a result of language contact with English. For example, llamar para atrás for 'to call back' and other such seemingly-calqued expressions with pa(ra a)trás are widespread.[61] In expressions where use of the subjunctive mood is considered obligatory according to prescriptive grammar norms, New Mexicans with greater proficiency in Spanish and greater education in Spanish are more likely to actually use the subjunctive. However, it is worth noting that even in monolingual Spanish varieties, such as that of Mexico City, speakers do not always use the subjunctive mood in such supposedly obligatory situations.[62]


  • New Mexican Spanish has seseo (orthographic ⟨c⟩ before /e/ and /i/ as well as ⟨z⟩ represent a single phoneme, /s/, normally pronounced [s]). That is, casa ("house") and caza ("hunt") are homophones. Seseo is prevalent in nearly all of Spanish America, in the Canary Islands, and some of southern Spain, where the linguistic feature originates.
  • New Mexican Spanish, like nearly all Spanish dialects, is yeísta. The sound represented by ⟨ll⟩, /ʎ/, has merged with that represented by ⟨y⟩, /ʝ/. Before the Pueblo Revolt and subsequent reconquest of New Mexico, New Mexican Spanish actually distinguished /ʎ/ and /ʝ/, but dialect leveling resulted in the spread of this merger.[63]
  • /x/, the phoneme represented by ⟨j⟩ and by ⟨g⟩ before ⟨i⟩ and ⟨e⟩, is most frequently pronounced as a voiceless velar fricative [x] but may also be a voiceless glottal fricative [h][64] or a voiceless uvular fricative [χ].[65]

The following tendencies are common in Traditional New Mexican Spanish, though are not universal, and many are characteristic of Border Spanish or colloquial Spanish worldwide:

Feature Example Phonemic Standard N.M. Spanish
Phrase-final epenthetical
[e] or [i][66][67] after an alveolar consonant[5]
voy a cantar /ˈboi a kanˈtaɾ/ [ˈboi̯.a.kanˈtar] [ˈboi̯.a.kanˈta.ɾe]
dame el papel /ˈdame el paˈpel/ [ˈda.mel.paˈpel] [ˈda.mel.paˈ]
Conditional elision of intervocalic /ʝ/.[a][68][67] ella /ˈeʝa/ [ˈe.ʝa], e.a]
estrellita /estɾeˈʝita/ [es.tɾeˈʝi.ta] [es.tɾeˈi.ta]
Insertion of [j] between vowels.[b][69] sea /ˈsea/ [ˈsea] [ˈseja]
/ɾ/ may be an alveolar approximant [ɹ]
before alveolar consonants,
or after /t/[67][70][71][72]
carne /ˈkaɾne/ [kaɾ.ne] [kaɹne]
letra /ˈletɾa/ [ˈletɾa] [ˈlea]
"Softening" (deaffrication) of /t͡ʃ/ to /ʃ/ [c][67][73] muchachos /muˈt͡ʃat͡ʃos/ [muˈt͡ʃa.t͡ʃos] [muˈʃa.ʃos]
Elision of intervocalic
/d/, especially in
ocupado /okuˈpado/ [o.ku.ˈpa.ðo] [o.kuˈpa.o]
todo /ˈtodo/ [ˈto.ðo] [ˈto.o] ~ [ˈto]
Occasional elision of

intervocalic /b, g/[52][74][75] or initial /b/[76]

trabajo /traˈbaxo/ [traˈβaxo] [ˈtraːho]
haga /ˈaga/ [ˈaɣa] [ˈaː]
vamos /ˈbamos/ [ˈbamos] [ˈamos]
Aspiration of /f/, typically before /w/.[e][65][77] me fui /me ˈfwi/ [me ˈfwi] [meˈhwi]
Velarization of prevelar consonant
voiced bilabial approximant[78]
abuelo /aˈbuelo/ [a.ˈβ̞we.lo] [aˈɣʷwe.lo]
Syllable-initial or syllable-final
aspiration or elision of /s/[f][g][67][73][77][79][39]
somos así /ˈsomos aˈsi/ [ˈso.mos.aˈsi] ho.mos.aˈhi]
Word-initial h aspiration in some words, as [x], [h], or [χ][h][65][77] humo /umo/ [umo] [humo]
Replacement of the trill [r] by the tap [ɾ][i][80][81] Rodrigo /roˈdɾigo/ [roˈðɾiɣo] [ɾoˈðɾiɣo]
Raising of final unstressed /e/[82] noche /ˈnot͡ʃe/ [ˈnot͡ʃe] [ˈnot͡ʃi]
General confusion between unstressed /e/ and /i/[83] vestido /besˈtido/ [besˈtiðo] [bisˈtiðo]
visita /bisita/ [biˈsita] [beˈsita]
Intervocalic /b/ pronounced as [v][j][k][84][85] caballo /ˈkabaʝo/ [ˈkaβaʝo] [ˈkavajo]
Words ending in -ía sometimes becoming oxytone
in colloquial speech[86]
parecía /paɾeˈsi.a/ [paɾeˈsi.a] [paɾeˈsja]

There is considerable variability in the pronunciation of Spanish rhotics in New Mexico. In addition to the realization of the tapped /ɾ/ as [ɹ] before coronal consonants or after /t/ and the replacement of the trilled /r/ with a tap, Vigil (2008) has found that in Taos /r/ is often realized as a voiced apical fricative, transcribed [ř].[87]

Northern New Mexican Spanish, like other dialects, tends to avoid hiatus by combining or deleting vowels. One notable feature of hiatus resolution in northern New Mexico is the tendency to delete the initial /e/ of words beginning in /es/ before a consonant, such as estar, escribir, español. Thus, no escribo, 'I don't write', is pronounced [nosˈkɾivo]. It has been suggested that this behavior may be explained by the initial /e/ in these words being prosthetic, not present in their underlying representations. Thus, the vowel at the end of the preceding word fills in the vowel slot before /sC-/ cluster, and no /e/ needs to be added.[88]

Traditional New Mexican Spanish has a number of syllabic consonants.[89][90] A syllabic [m̩] can arise as the result of mi or un before a bilabial consonant, as in un beso 'a kiss' [m̩ˈbeso] or mi papá 'my dad' [m̩paˈpa]. /m/, /n/ and /l/ can also become syllabic before a sequence of /i/ followed by a coronal consonant. These often, but not always, occur before the diminutive endings -ito and -ita. Some examples are Anita [an̩ta], permiso 'permission' [perm̩so], and bolita 'little ball' [bol̩ta]. Finally, a syllabic /r/ appears, but only before /it/, as in burrito [bur̩to].[90]

For many speakers the syllabic derived from mi has acquired an epenthetic -/e/, becoming [em]. This is often reflected in writing, as em papá or empapá.[89][91]


One of the most notable characteristics of Traditional New Mexican Spanish is its vocabulary. New Mexican Spanish has retained a lot of older vocabulary, or common vocabulary with older meanings, that has been lost in other Spanish varieties.[2] This is one of the reasons it's often called "archaic". It's also developed a lot of vocabulary of its own,[5] inherited many Nahuatl loanwords from Mexican Spanish,[4] and taken in more loanwords from neighboring indigenous languages and from English.[6]

New Mexican Spanish retains many older variants of common function words no longer current in standard Spanish, such as asina for así, 'like this/that', cuasi for casi, 'almost', muncho for mucho, 'a lot of; many', naide or nadien for nadie and onde for donde, 'where'.[92][93] Many of these terms are found in the colloquial speech of other regions as well.[94] Asina and ansina are more often used instead of así when the speaker is talking about some activity related to a traditional, rural way of life. The variant ansí is also occasionally used in northern New Mexico, but it is much less frequent than the other ways.[95]

TNMS has also retained many content words that have been lost in other varieties. For example, TNMS retains the word ánsara, meaning 'goose'. ánsara is a feminine form of the term ánsar, which referred to wild geese, while ganso referred to the domesticated goose. That distinction seems to no longer be made, and ganso has become the typical term throughout most of the Spanish-speaking world.[96] The term ánsara is also retained in Zwolle-Ebarb Spanish.

Independent lexical innovations have occurred in TNMS. One example is the coining of ratón volador lit.'flying mouse' to mean 'bat'. Also found in New Mexico is the standard term, murciélago, and a murciégalo variant. Murciégalo may be a retention of the original form, before metathesis switched the l and the g, or it may be a metathesized variant of the standard form.[97] The standard form, and murciégalo, are mainly found in the Border Spanish area, in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and along the Arkansas River in Colorado.[98]

Several definite examples of metathesis have occurred in New Mexican Spanish: estógamo from estómago 'stomach', idomia from idioma 'language', pader from pared 'wall', probe from pobre 'poor' and redetir from derretir 'to melt'.[97]

While throughout the Spanish-speaking world, trucha means 'trout', throughout much of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, trucha is used to refer to fish in general, instead of the standard pescado 'caught fish' or pez 'live fish'. This extension is generally found in the areas north of, and including, Santa Fe and San Miguel County. The verb truchear, literally 'to trout', is also used in this area to mean 'to fish', as are other verbal expressions such as pescar trucha, ir a la trucha, andar en la trucha, and cazar trucha.[99]

New Mexican Spanish, including both the Traditional and the Border varieties, has also regularized the gender of some nouns, such as idioma 'language' and sistema "system". That is, many speakers treat them as feminine, even though it's normatively considered a masculine noun.[100] Residents of Martineztown, Albuquerque in the early 80s viewed the feminine form, la sistema, as slightly more correct than the traditional masculine.[101]

After 1848, New Mexican Spanish has had to adopt or coin its own terms for new technological developments. One such development is the invention of the automobile. Like much of Latin America, New Mexico extended the meaning of carro 'cart' to include cars. Traditional New Mexican Spanish also ended up extending the term arrear, which referred to driving animals, to include driving cars, although the standard manejar is most common across New Mexico and southern Colorado. This is the same solution that was chosen in English,[102] and in the Zwolle-Ebarb dialect. The word telefón, a loanword for 'telephone', is also used across New Mexico and southern Colorado, with little geographical patterning, being found as far south as Las Cruces. More educated speakers tend to use the standard teléfono.[103]

The word oso 'bear' is occasionally pronounced joso in TNMS, with the nonstandard form being more common among old people.[104]

Language contact[edit]

New Mexican Spanish has been in contact with several indigenous American languages, most prominently those of the Pueblo and Navajo peoples with whom the Spaniards and Mexicans coexisted in colonial times.[3] For centuries, Hispanics had hostile relations with the Navajo and other nomadic peoples, such as the Apache. As a result, New Mexican Spanish has borrowed few terms from their languages. Cobos (2003) gives only two examples of loans from Navajo: chihuil 'small valley' and josquere, as in the phrase andar en el josquere 'to be sowing one's wild oats'.[105] The term gileño, referring to the Gila Apache, is cited as a loan from an Apache language. In the opposite direction, Navajo, which typically doesn't adopt many loanwords, has borrowed some terms from Spanish as well. For example, the Navajo terms for "money" (béeso) and "Anglo" (bilagáana) are borrowings from Spanish peso and americano respectively.[106]

Hispanic contact with the Puebloans was much closer, though linguistic contact was somewhat uneven. Most of the bilinguals who mediated between Hispanics and Puebloans were themselves Puebloans since few Hispanics spoke a Pueblo language. As a result, Puebloan languages borrowed many words from Spanish, while New Mexican Spanish borrowed fewer words from Pueblo languages.[107] For an example of loanword phonological borrowing in Taos, see Taos loanword phonology.

Most Puebloan loanwords in New Mexican Spanish have to do with people and place names, cultural artifacts, foods, and plants and herbs.[108] One such loan is the term cunque, which comes from either a Zuni word for "bits of ground corn or cornmeal used for ceremonial purposes" or a Rio Grande Tewa term for grains of corn. It's most commonly used to mean "coffee grounds". This usage is also attested in northern Chihuahua. It's also used to mean "crumbs" by speakers from south-western New Mexico, although speakers elsewhere prefer the standard migajas.

New Mexico came into contact with the French language in the early 18th century due to interactions with French Fur trappers and traders. These interactions increased after Mexican independence.[51] Some family names, such as Archibeque, Gurulé, and Tixier, are attributable to French influence. New Mexican Spanish has otherwise borrowed few words from French, though two prominent ones are puela,[51] meaning "skillet", and chamuz,[109] meaning "slipper". The only other Spanish variety where puela is used is the Brule variety of Isleño Spanish, which has been greatly influenced by French. The term pantufla is also used in New Mexico for "slipper", but it's associated with the border region, and is widely used across Latin America and Spain.[110]

New Mexican Spanish has also been in substantial contact with American English. The contact with American English began before the Mexican–American War, when New Mexico did trade with the US,[21] and increased after New Mexico's annexation by the US. One effect of this is semantic extension, using Spanish words with the meaning of their English cognates, such as using realizar to mean "to realize."[21] Contact with English has also led to a general adoption of many loanwords, as well as a language shift towards English with abandonment of Spanish.[22]

Legal status[edit]

New Mexico law accommodates the use of Spanish. For instance, constitutional amendments must be approved by referendum and must be printed on the ballot in both English and Spanish.[111] Certain legal notices must be published in English and Spanish, and the state maintains a list of newspapers for Spanish publication.[112] Spanish was not used officially in the legislature after 1935.[113]

Though the New Mexico Constitution (1912) provided that laws would be published in both languages for 20 years and that practice was renewed several times, it ceased in 1949.[113][114] Accordingly, some describe New Mexico as officially bilingual.[115][116] Others disagree and say that New Mexico's laws were designed to facilitate a transition from Spanish to English, not to protect Spanish or give it any official status.[117]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Occurs between /i/ and another vowel, or after /e/ and before /a/ or /o/. /ʝ/ in general is very weak in Traditional New Mexican Spanish, pronounced as a semivocalic [j] at most. Y-deletion also occurs in much of northern Mexico and used to be more common there, and in several other dialects.
  2. ^ Occurs in the same contexts as /ʝ/-deletion. Occasionally found in northern Mexico
  3. ^ This is also a feature of the Spanish spoken in the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora, other northwestern states of Mexico, and western Andalusia. It is found throughout New Mexico, in both the Traditional and Border dialects.
  4. ^ This is a feature of many Spanish dialects, both in the Americas and in northern and southern Spain.
  5. ^ This is related to the change of Latin /f/- to Spanish /h/-, in which /f/ was pronounced as a labiodental [f], bilabial [ɸ], or glottal fricative [h], which was later deleted from pronunciation.
  6. ^ Aspiration is much more common than deletion syllable-initially.
  7. ^ Many New Mexicans do not aspirate /s/, and while syllable-initial /s/ aspiration is found throughout New Mexico and southern Colorado it is particularly notable along the upper Rio Grande between Albuquerque and Taos.
  8. ^ This only occurs in a few words, all of which had /f/ in Latin. [x] is the most common realization when word-initial h is pronounced, while [χ] is the least common.
  9. ^ Most often in word-initial position, least often in word-medial position where it's spelt -rr-. This is more advanced in Northern New Mexico.
  10. ^ Labiodentals occur over 70% of the time in high-frequency words among speakers from northern New Mexico. In low-frequency words they occur slightly less than half the time, and are affected by the word's spelling, being less frequent in words spelled with ⟨b⟩, especially in those with an English cognate spelled with ⟨b⟩.
  11. ^ The labiodental [v] was not attested in northern New Mexican Spanish in the early 20th century. Linguists such as Juan Bautista Rael and Aurelio Macedonio Espinosa Sr. mentioned its absence.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Cobos (2003), "Introduction"
  2. ^ a b c Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 51–74, Ch.5 "Retentions"
  3. ^ a b Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 153–164, Ch.9 "Uneasy Alliances"
  4. ^ a b Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 93–120, Ch.7 "Nahuatlisms"
  5. ^ a b c d Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 123–151, Ch.8 "El Nuevo México"
  6. ^ a b Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 165–190, Ch.10 "Anglicisms"
  7. ^ a b c d Waltermire, Mark (2020). "Mexican immigration and the changing face of northern New Mexican Spanish". International Journal of the Linguistic Association of the Southwest. 34: 149–164. Retrieved 26 March 2022.
  8. ^ a b c Waltermire, Mark (2017). "At the dialectal crossroads: The Spanish of Albuquerque, New Mexico". Dialectologia. 19: 177–197. ISSN 2013-2247.
  9. ^ Lipski (2008), pp. 193–200.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Sanz & Villa (2011), p. 425.
  11. ^ Lipski (2008), pp. 200–202.
  12. ^ Hämäläinen, Pekka (2008). The Comanche Empire. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12654-9.
  13. ^ a b Sanz (2009), p. 256.
  14. ^ Sanz & Villa (2011), pp. 423–424.
  15. ^ Sanz (2009), p. 219.
  16. ^ Sanz (2009), pp. 376–381.
  17. ^ Great Cotton, Eleanor and John M. Sharp. Spanish in the Americas. Georgetown University Press, p. 278.
  18. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "New Mexico" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 19 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  19. ^ Gubitosi, Patricia; Lifszyc, Irina (September 2020). "El uso de vosotros como símbolo de identidad en La Bandera Americana, Nuevo México" (PDF). Glosas (in Spanish). 9. ISSN 2327-7181.
  20. ^ a b c Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 145.
  21. ^ a b c Gubitosi, Patricia (2010). "El español de Nuevo México y su uso como lengua pública: 1850-1950" (PDF). Camino Real. Estudios de las Hispanidades Norteamericanas. (in Spanish).
  22. ^ a b Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 241–260, Ch.13 "The Long Goodbye"
  23. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 258–260, 343
  24. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 5.
  25. ^ Vergara Wilson (2015), p. 2.
  26. ^ Sanz & Villa (2011), p. 418.
  27. ^ Lipski (2008), p. 209.
  28. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 1, 5.
  29. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 320.
  30. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 5–7.
  31. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 321, 337.
  32. ^ a b Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 337.
  33. ^ Lipski (2008), p. 203.
  34. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 321.
  35. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 325.
  36. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 323.
  37. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 330.
  38. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 333.
  39. ^ a b Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 148.
  40. ^ Bills & Vigil 2008, pp. 180–182.
  41. ^ Kravitz (1985), p. vii, 97, 143.
  42. ^ a b c Sanz & Villa (2011), p. 424.
  43. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 261–282, Ch.14 "Expanding Horizons"
  44. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 217–218.
  45. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 66, 227, 272, 282.
  46. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 68.
  47. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 68–69.
  48. ^ Hills (1906), pp. 733, 738.
  49. ^ Espinosa (1909), pp. 34, 37.
  50. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 146–148.
  51. ^ a b c Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 160.
  52. ^ a b Vigil (2008), p. 236.
  53. ^ Lozano (1994), p. 124.
  54. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 74.
  55. ^ Sanz (2009), p. 252.
  56. ^ Hills (1906), p. 730.
  57. ^ a b Hills (1906), p. 729–730.
  58. ^ a b Espinosa (1909), p. 91.
  59. ^ Sanz (2009), p. 399.
  60. ^ a b Sanz (2009), p. 400.
  61. ^ Vigil (2008), p. 52.
  62. ^ Waltermire, Mark (21 July 2014). "The social conditioning of mood variation in the Spanish of Albuquerque, New Mexico". Sociolinguistic Studies. 8 (1): 111–137. doi:10.1558/sols.v8i1.111. Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  63. ^ Sanz & Villa (2011), p. 423.
  64. ^ Vigil (2008), p. 232.
  65. ^ a b c Vigil, Donny (2018). "Word-initial h Aspiration and the Presence of the Post-velar Fricative [χ] in New Mexico Spanish" (PDF). Estudios de Fonética Experimental.
  66. ^ Mackenzie, Ian. "Spanish in the USA". The Linguistics of Spanish. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  67. ^ a b c d e f Lipski (2008), pp. 204–206
  68. ^ Ross (1980).
  69. ^ Sanz (2009), pp. 196–203.
  70. ^ Bills (1997), p. 168.
  71. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 151.
  72. ^ Vigil (2008), pp. 221–222.
  73. ^ a b Bills (1997), p. 167.
  74. ^ Espinosa (1909), p. 45.
  75. ^ Espinosa (1909), p. 86.
  76. ^ Espinosa (1909), p. 83.
  77. ^ a b c Zepeda Torres, Miguel Ángel (2018). Debuccalization of /s/ and Historic /f/ Variation in Traditional New Mexican Spanish: an Optimality Theory Approach (PhD). University of California, Davis. Retrieved February 4, 2022.
  78. ^ Espinosa (1909), p. 60.
  79. ^ Brown, Esther L. (1 December 2005). "New Mexican Spanish: Insight into the Variable Reduction of "La ehe inihial" (/s-/)". Hispania. 88 (4): 813–824. doi:10.2307/20063211. JSTOR 20063211.
  80. ^ Waltermire & Valtierrez (2017).
  81. ^ Vigil (2008).
  82. ^ Kravitz (1985), p. 37.
  83. ^ Sanz (2009), pp. 175–178.
  84. ^ Torres Cacoullos, Rena; Ferreira, Fernanda (2000). "Lexical frequency and voiced labiodental-bilabial variation in New Mexican Spanish" (PDF). Southwest Journal of Linguistics. 19 (2): 1–17. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  85. ^ Vigil (2008), pp. 11–12, 14–15.
  86. ^ Espinosa (1909), p. 12.
  87. ^ Vigil (2008), p. 191.
  88. ^ Jenkins, David L. (1999). Hiatus resolution in Spanish: phonetic aspects and phonological implications from Northern New Mexican data (PhD). University of New Mexico. p. 26.
  89. ^ a b Lipski (2008), p. 205.
  90. ^ a b Lipski, John M. (1993). "Syllabic consonants in New Mexico Spanish: the geometry of syllabification" (PDF). Southwest Journal of Linguistics. 12: 109–127. OCLC 9368210.
  91. ^ Lipski (2016), p. 253.
  92. ^ Hills (1906), pp. 740–753.
  93. ^ Vergara Wilson (2015), p. 6.
  94. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 15
  95. ^ Aaron, Jessi Elana (September 2009). "Coming back to life: From indicator to stereotype and a strange story of frequency 1" (PDF). Journal of Sociolinguistics. 13 (4): 472–498. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9841.2009.00421.x.
  96. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 58–59.
  97. ^ a b Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 140.
  98. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 143.
  99. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 133.
  100. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 279.
  101. ^ Kravitz (1985), p. 101.
  102. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 137.
  103. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), pp. 273–275.
  104. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 124.
  105. ^ Cobos (2003), cited in Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 154
  106. ^ Young & Morgan (1987), p. 7 cited in Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 154
  107. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 154
  108. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 155
  109. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 162.
  110. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 164.
  111. ^ New Mexico Code 1-16-7 (1981).
  112. ^ New Mexico Code 14-11-13 (2011).
  113. ^ a b Cobarrubias, Juan; Fishman, Joshua A. (1983). Progress in Language Planning: International Perspectives. Walter de Gruyter. p. 195. ISBN 90-279-3358-8. Retrieved 2011-12-27.
  114. ^ Garcia, Ofelia (2011). Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective. John Wiley & Sons. p. 167. ISBN 978-1-4443-5978-7. Retrieved 2011-12-27.
  115. ^ The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. "Language Rights and New Mexico Statehood". New Mexico Public Education Department. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  116. ^ "NMTCE New Mexico Teachers of English". New Mexico Council of Teachers of English. Retrieved July 12, 2011.[not specific enough to verify]
  117. ^ Bills & Vigil (2008), p. 17.