Chicano English

Chicano English

Chicano English is a dialect of American English used by Chicanos. One major variation of Chicano English is Tejano English, used mainly in south Texas. It is mistakenly referred to as Spanglish, which is not a recognized dialect of English but rather a mixing of the Spanish and English languages.


Origins and history

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 U.S. (Santa Ana, 1991). The Hispanic population is one of the largest and fastest-growing ethnic groups in America. 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 this migration, and the segregated social conditions the immigrants found in California, is an ethnic community that is only partly assimilated to the matrix Anglo (that is, European American) community. It retains symbolic links with Hispanic culture (as well as real links through continuing immigration), but linguistically is mostly an English-speaking rather than a Spanish-speaking community, though 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 are the relatively rare English vowel classes /æ/. Speculatively, it seems that the main differences between the Chicano accent and the local Anglo accent are first, that the Chicanos are not participating in the ongoing phonetic changes in the Anglo communities (the raising of /æ/).

The contact of Chicanos with Anglos, who are somewhat influenced by the speech of (immigrating) Southerners (as are many Californians) who have a fronted, monophthongized /y/,[clarification needed] might be responsible for the acquisition of a fronting rule for this phoneme, but this is mere speculation. Still, a phonetic fronting rule is necessary to reconcile the basic hypothesis that the nucleus of /y/ is phonologically identical with the nuclei of the other vowels.[1]

Phonological features

Chicano English has many features, especially in the phonology, that show the influence of Spanish. Vocabulary includes words like simon meaning "yes", firme meaning "good", flika meaning "picture", vato meaning "guy", and feria meaning "money".

Consonants variations

  • The devoicing of [z] in all environments: Examples: [isi] for easy and [wʌs] for was.
  • The devoicing of [v] in word-final position: Examples: [lʌf] for love, [hɛf] for have, and [waɪfs] for wives.
  • Chicano speakers may pronounce /b/ instead of /v/: Examples: very [ˈbɛɹi], invite [imˈbaɪt].
  • Absence of dental fricatives so that think may be pronounced [ˈtiŋk], [ˈfiŋk] or [ˈsiŋk].
  • Poor distinction between /j/ and /dʒ/ so that job may sound like yob and yes may sound like jes.
  • Poor distinction of nasals in the syllable coda so that seen and seem are pronounced alike.
  • /tʃ/ merges with /ʃ/ so sheep and cheap are pronounced alike. A inversion may also happen, causing sheep to sound like /tʃip/ and cheap to sound like /ʃip/.

Vowels variations

  • Chicano English speakers may merge [æ] and [ɛ], or invert those, causing bed to sound like bad and bad to sound like bed, or causing both to sound the same.
  • /ɪŋ/ sounds like /iŋ/: sink sounds like seenk and also sing sounds like seeng.
  • The distinction between /ɪ/ and /iː/ before liquid consonants is frequently reduced, making feel and fill homophones.

Final consonant deletion

Only certain consonants occur at the end of words. All other single consonants in English would thus be unfamiliar to Chicano English speakers in this environment.

Most becomes [moʊs]; Felt becomes [fɛl], Start becomes [stɑr].

Vowel Structure

Most American dialects do not distinguish the word classes NORTH and FORCE (though Southern dialects like that of Anniston, Alabama, do keep them separate). Like other American Englishes, the Chicano accent is a flat-BATH dialect. That is, it classes the BATH set with the TRAP set rather than with the PALM set.

Because of phonetic similarity and complementary distribution, stressed and unstressed /e/ (NURSE, LETTER) are the same phonological class. Similarly, stressed and unstressed high-front-peripheral vowels (FLEECE, HAPPY) are classified together as /iː/ (unlike in older RP (cultivated Southern British), where HAPPY ends with the vowel in KIT).[2]

The non-high front vowels before intervocalic /r/ are presumably merged in this dialect (as in the local Anglo dialect and in Chicago, but not in Philadelphia, and various Eastern dialects). That is, Mary, merry, marry are pronounced identically. This phonological collapse has two simplifying effects. First, it eliminates a rather tenuous distinction based on syllable structure rather than segmental features: Mary and merry are elsewhere distinguished phonologically as /meː.ri/ and /mer.i/.

Since /æ/ does not exist in Spanish, the fall of /l/ cannot be attributed to Spanish influence. On the contrary, the fall of /l/ seems to be a purely English sound change that happens to occur in this particular ethnic group. /uː/ is somewhat front, as in most American and many British dialects. Anglo speech in Southern California shows even greater fronting of /uː/, to such an extent that /uː/ and /ʊ/ overlap with /iː/ and /ɪ/ in formant space.

Some realizations of /iː/, /eː/, /oː/ and other long vowels were transcribed as monophthongs. This may be an effect of Spanish, though other American dialects (Minnesota, and Wisconsin, for example) also show monophthongization of these vowels, which are most commonly diphthongs in English. Also, these 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.[3]

Well-known speakers of Chicano English

See also

Portal icon Latino and Hispanic American portal
Portal icon Languages portal




  • Bayley, Robert; & Santa Ana, Otto. (2004). Chicano English grammar. In B. Kortmann, E. W. Schneider, K. Burridge, R. Mesthrie, & C. Upton (Eds.), A handbook of varieties of English: Morphology and syntax (Vol. 2, pp. 167–183). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Briggs, Charles L. Competence in Performance: The Creativity of Tradition in Mexicano Verbal Art. University of Pennsylvania Press conduct and communication series. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, (1988).
  • Castaneda, L. V. and Ulanoff, S. H. (2007). Examining Chicano English at school. In C. Gitsaki (Ed.). Language and Languages: Global and Local Tensions, (pp. 328–345). Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Fought, Carmen. (2003). Chicano English in context. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Galindo, Letticia D. (1987). Linguistic influence and variation of the English of Chicano adolescents in Austin, Texas. (PhD dissertation, University of Texas at Austin).
  • Liu, Jennifer Anchor dissects American English Stanford Daily, February 23, 2005
  • Ornstein-Galicia, J. (1988). Form and Function in Chicano English. Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House Publishers.
  • Penfield, Joyce. Chicano English: An Ethnic Contact Dialect. Varieties of English around the world, General series; v. 7. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: J. Benjamins Pub. Co., (1985).
  • Sanchez, Rosaura. Chicano Discourse: Sociohistoric Perspectives. Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House Publishers, (1983).
  • Santa Ana, Otto. (1993). Chicano English and the Chicano language setting. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 15 (1), 1-35.
  • Santa Ana, Otto; & Bayley, Robert. (2004). Chicano English phonology. In E. W. Schneider, B. Kortmann, K. Burridge, R. Mesthrie, & C. Upton (Eds.), A handbook of varieties of English: Phonology (Vol. 1, pp. 407–424). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Veatch, Thomas Los Angeles Chicano English (2005)
  • Wolfram, Walt. (1974). Sociolinguistic aspects of assimilation: Puerto Rican English in New York City. Washington, D.C.: Center for Applied Linguistics.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Chicano (disambiguation) — Chicano is an ethnic, political, and cultural term used to refer to some Mexican Americans. It may also refer to: El Chicano, a 1970s and 1980s funky music group Carlos Trillo and Eduardo Risso El Chicano, ring name of Puerto Rican professional… …   Wikipedia

  • Chicano nationalism — This article is part of the series Chicanos and Mexican Americans Chicano · La Raza · Latino Mexican American · Hispanic Pre Chicano Movement …   Wikipedia

  • Chicano films — This article is part of the series Chicanos and Mexican Americans Chicano · La Raza · Latino Mexican American · Hispanic Pre Chicano Movement …   Wikipedia

  • Chicano rock — is rock music performed by Mexican American (Chicano) groups or music with themes derived from Chicano culture. Chicano Rock, to a great extent, does not refer to any single style or approach. Some of these groups do not sing in Spanish at all,… …   Wikipedia

  • Chicano literature — is the literature written by Mexican Americans in the United States. Although its origins can be traced back to the sixteenth century, the bulk of Chicano literature dates from after 1848, when the USA annexed large parts of what had been Mexico… …   Wikipedia

  • Chicano studies — is an academic discipline. Like most branches of Ethnic studies, it incorporates aspects of various other disciplines, including history, sociology, psychology, and literary and textual analyses from the academic studies of the English and… …   Wikipedia

  • Chicano poetry — is a branch of American literature written by and primarily about Mexican Americans and the Mexican American way of life in society. The term Chicano is a political and cultural term of identity specifically identifying people of Mexican descent… …   Wikipedia

  • Chicano Park — logo, originally by Rico Bueno. La Tierra Mía means My Land . Location Logan Heights, San Diego, California Area 32,000 square meter Created …   Wikipedia

  • English-only movement — English only movement, also known as Official English movement, refers to a political movement for the use only of the English language in official government operations through the establishing of English as the only official language in the… …   Wikipedia

  • Chicano — Chicana redirects here. For the wrestler, see Sangre Chicana. For other uses, see Chicano (disambiguation). Part of a series of articles on Hispanic and Latino Americans National origin groups Argentine Americans Bolivian Americans Chilean… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.