US-1 'Spanish Influence on American English'
Spanish Influence on American English: Past and Present
FAST-US-1 Introduction to American English (Hopkins)
Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere


Spanish Historical Influence, Early Loan Words & Historical/Regional Stereotyping

  1. Pre-colonial Spanish exploration of current U.S. Southwest, California, and Mexico
    • Juan Poncé de Leon discovers Florida in 1513; Spanish colony built in St. Augustine in 1565; Florida becomes part of U.S. in 1821
    • Hernán de Cortés explores Mexico in 1519; Francisco Vázquez de Coronado and his Conquistadores explore Arizona, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico in 1540-41; San Juan Pueblo (Chamita, NM; near Espanola & Santa Fe) established as oldest continuous Spanish settlement in the Southwest
    • Father Junípero Serra founds 21 missions between 1769-1823 along present El Camino Real from San Diego to San Francisco, California. Mexico cedes territory to U.S. via the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo in 1848. Spanish speakers the majority population until the 1849 California Gold Rush
    • The Spanish language predated English in Florida, Louisiana (together with French), Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona

  2. Puerto Rico, conversely, has been a U.S. territory since 1898 as a result of the Spanish-American War; Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by virtue of the Jones Act in 1917. Many Puerto Ricans have immigrated to New York City (cf. West Side Story [Trailer, YouTube], etc.)

  3. (Especially on the West Coast, immigration from the Philippines also has increased the use of Spanish)

  4. Many loan words from the early Spanish exploration, and also the proximity to Mexico, have been adapted into English (some directly, others in 'anglicized' forms) for plants and animals, geographical features, place names, constructions, foods, 'Western' lore, etc.
    • armadillo, bronco, burro, coyote, chihuahua (dog), iguana, etc.
    • arroyo, canyon, mesa, sierra, butte, etc.
    • Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Rio Grande, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc.
    • New Mexico, California, Colorado, Florida
    • adobe, pueblo, plaza, patio, hacienda, etc.
    • vaquero, ranch, corral, larriat/lasso, rodeo, chaps, sombrero
    • amigo, bandido, siesta, senor/senorita, 'vamoose', loco
    • chile con carne, enchiladas, tamales, tacos (cf. Taco Bell), refritos, oregano, cilantro (cf. 'coriander'), fiesta

  5. These original Spanish loan words are mostly region-specific to the American Southwest, though there are also terms specific to Florida (including the state's name), such as the place names Key Largo, Key West, and San Augustine, as well as wildlife like the alligator.

  6. With the exception of some of the food terms, these loan words are mostly marked as rural, outdoors, and 'historical' (as the Southwest itself has been), but as such are not marked as 'positive' or 'negative'

Current Status of 'Hispanic'/'Latino' Population and Spanish Influence

  1. The U.S. is the 2nd-largest Latin or Spanish-speaking country in the world, after Mexico. The number and influence of Latinos in the U.S. is rapidly increasing (cf. Pew Hispanic Center's population maps projections).

  2. As the number and influence of U.S. Latinos increases, so does the public 'status' perception of Latinos and the language forms they use (cf. Walt Wolfram in 'American Tongues' on how the status of a dialect is related to the current status of those who are identified with that dialect).

  3. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, by 2020 the second-generation Latino labor force will have a growth rate of 209% (by 5.4 million workers), compared with a growth rate of 9% (11.5 million workers) for the entire non-Hispanic work force. Nearly one-fourth of the U.S. labor force growth between now and 2020 is expected to be from the children of Latino immigrants

  4. Likewise, the Pew Center reports that ca. 1 in 7 new students enrolling in U.S. schools between now and 2020 will be second-generation (G-2) Latino. The number of G-2 Latinos aged 5 to 19 is expected to double, growing from ca 4.4 to 9.0 million by 2020

  5. Los Angeles may be thought of as the 3rd-largest 'Mexican' city, and California the 2nd-largest 'Mexican' state

  6. Spanish has "official status" in California and in the State of New Mexico, (although it is not an 'official language' in either state).

  7. 10% (28.1 million people) of U.S. population is Spanish-speaking (2000 Census, via MLA Language Maps — compared with 82% English speakers (215.4 million) and 18% (46.9 million) for all languages other than English combined.

  8. Strong regional identity, esp. in Southwest, resembling early historical settlement. Otherwise marked as hard-working (cf. 'historical' stereotype), family-oriented, and religious (Roman Catholic).

  9. Economic, social and language distinctions between former Cubans in Florida, Mexicans in Southwest, Puerto Ricans & Dominicans in New York. U.S. 'Spanish' also has many variants, including Cuban (mainly Florida), Puerto Rican (mainly New York City), Mexican (Texas, California), Dominican, and other Central and South American.

    Some of the variants, such as the Mexican Chicano English, themselves have local 'dialects,' such as Tex-Mex, Tejano, etc., and even separate dictionaries (cf. Chicano Spanish-English vs. Mexican Spanish-English)

  10. U.S. 'Hispanics' are now the largest minority group, although 'Hispanic' is not a coherent identity. The number of U.S. Hispanics is expected to surge rapidly during the 21st century.

  11. The growing Hispanic influence is already challenging certain popular language references, as is the Hispanic expansion into other U.S. regions from their traditional places of residence (cf. 'Americano Gothic' by the cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz)

  12. With the recent rapid growth of Hispanic influence, there has been occasional social and political tension, as when a local Spanish-speaking population wished to change the official language of their city to Spanish, or when a Spanish version of the Star-Spangled Banner circulated in Spring 2006, or simply as the new Latino immigration is felt by the indigenous population as being 'overwhelming' (see for example Nuevo South in the American Radioworks series on How Latino Immigration is Changing America).

  13. In response, voters in many states have approved 'English Only' initiatives for the conduct of official business within their state (see the U.S. English website as well as the Wikipedia background article). While these may not be favored by linguists (see for example 'Only English . . . The Yiddish Version), they represent a gut reaction by the 'man on the street' who feels threatened.

Changes in the Images & Status of Hispanics in Recent Decades

  1. Change in the 'status desirability' of the Latino community in U.S. popular culture can easily be seen in recent years — cf. Walt Wolfram in American Tongues: "It's easy to figure out which dialects are more desirable and which dialects are less desirable, just look at which groups are more desirable and which groups are less desirable."

  2. Former Latino stereotypical images, especially those of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, are rapidly changing into new images of success and prosperity.

  3. With new confidence, Latinos are humorously looking at other ways in which they have been stereotypically portrayed (in Hollywood movies, as in this cartoon by Lala Alcaraz)

  4. The usage of past 'Spanish' references in American English is also being scrutinized, for example in the linguistic anthropologist Jane Hill's 1995 paper on 'Mock Spanish', which examines what phrases like 'El Cheapo,' 'El Jerko' and hasta la vista, baby! may reflect

  5. The growing social and economic significance of Hispanic Americans has resulted in an increase in Spanish-language TV programming (see also the Wikipedia entry on 'Univision' and the Univision portal), as Univision becomes the 5th-largest U.S. TV network (following Fox, ABC, NBC & CBS) and the rival Telemundo also expands (see Telemundo 51 in Miami, Telemundo 47 in New York, and Telemundo 33 in San Diego/Tijuana, among other local affiliates). Programming on these channels is primarily in Spanish, originating domestically from the U.S., or from Mexico and South America.

  6. While the use of Spanish in the early 21st century is approaching a neutralized, 'mainstream' status, continuing publicity over illegal immigration from Mexico raises both protectionist and xenophobic concerns for many non-Latino Americans, especially in the Southwest. The 'border issue' may color the status of any Spanish-speaker in the eyes of some.

'Spanglish' as an Aspect of Hispanic Bicultural Identity?

  1. The term 'Spanglish' originated in the late 1960s: it refers mainly to Spanish which employs loan words from English, especially as substitutes for Spanish words, though in a broader sense it is a form of code-switching. Essentially, 'Spanglish' represents a form of "acculturation" of the new Spanish-speaking community within the larger English-speaking American population, rather than "assimilation" into the host culture.

  2. Within the Latino community in the early 21st century, Spanglish is generally positively regarded as a 'bicultural' means of communication that reflects the bicultural identity of Latino-Americans.

  3. However, there is ambivalence about the 'identity' of Spanglish (cf. cartoon and Viva Spanglish! vs. A Spanish-English Hybrid is Spoken With No Apologies)

  4. Spanglish is distinct from notions of Black English being intentionally incomprehensible by other [white] Americans, even if non-Latinos may need help in deciphering it (cf. 'Official Spanglish Dictionary'). Conversely, it may be similar to Jewish Americans who employ Yiddish terms and phrases as markers of their ethnic history and identity.

  5. Spanglish is studied by scholars and taught in universities (cf. Spanglish: An Example of Bilingualism) [PPT])

  6. There have also been translations into 'Spanglish', such as this one of Don Quixote de La Mancha by Amherst College (Massachusetts) professor Ilan Stavans.

Examples of U.S. Latino/Hispanic Literature and Background




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Last Updated 27 March 2014