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The Spanglish Language

Generally speaking, Spanglish refers to the blend of the Spanish and the English languages. Not a pidgin language (a simplified. middle language that develops as a means of communication between groups that don’t have a language in common), Spanglish is totally informal, with no pre-established linguistic rules of structure. Although Spanglish contains common patterns of word and phrase usage, it is actually a dimension of what linguists term “code switching,” whereby two languages are interwoven in a free-form style that literally allows the two languages to be intertwined at will by the speaker.

Quite different from the bilingual phenomena commonly resulting by close border contact along the United States-Mexico border (as well as California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Atlanta, New York, and Chicago), Spanglish is a new and developing language evolving in most major cities of the US – anywhere Spanish populations interact with other cultures.

In fact, while Spanglish is restricted to the English/Spanish formula by definition, variations intertwine a number of other languages with Spanish. For example, the Hispanic population of the United States and the British population in Argentina use varieties of Spanglish. Sometimes the creole (a pidgin language that has become an institutionalized language) spoken in Spanish holiday resorts which are exposed to both Spanish and English is commonly termed Spanglish. Similarly, the code switching used in Gibraltar is called Llanito.

Spanglish may also be known by a regional name; some people refer to “Tex-Mex,” that blending of terms often heard in Texas, as Spanglish, which is not technically accurate; neither is the case with “Ladino” spoken in New Mexico, because both are language varieties of Mexican Spanish. The primary stigma confounding linguistic analysis and classification is that there is no clear distinction between Spanglish and simple bad Spanish or English. “Parquear” used for “to park” is clear and deliberate Spanglish; “actualmente” for “actually” rather than “at present” is closer to incorrect use and ambiguous as it has a clear, but different, meaning in true Spanish. In many parts of the world, perhaps no place more so than in the US, Spanish and English have mixed on various levels by various methods for centuries. Spanglish phrases often use shorter words from both languages as in: “Me voy a hacer wake up” (rather than, “Me voy a levantar” or “I am going to wake up.”) A common code switch in Puerto Rican Spanglish is using the English word “so,” as in “Tengo clase, so me voy” (“I have a class, so I’m leaving”), rather than the Spanish “porque” with different order (“me voy porque tengo clase”).

What is essential to understand is that Spanglish, by linguistic definition, is an independent language as are its components – English and Spanish. And while all languages evolve over time (or face extinction), Spanglish will most likely evolve into a dominant language in the US and other parts of the world where Spanish-speaking populations reside, becoming interwoven into countless language patterns in decades to come-even where Spanish-speaking populations do not reside.

Just as various “versions” of Latin are in common usage today-the foundation of French, Spanish, and Italian, for example, Spanglish could quite possibly spawn other languages based on its usage and free-form structure. At this time, Spanglish could quite possibly become a very dominant language unparalled by other developing languages.

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2 thoughts on “The Spanglish Language

  1. Oh, yes…It seems that every second person in the above-mentioned US states is a spanish descendant. No wonder, this phenomenon is so widespread. Several days ago I came across such an example in a book by an American author. It goes like this: “Determined to be the winner of this debate, Hank tried to think of an argument that would satisfy both his parents. Nada. Then he made the mistake of glancing at his mother.” Spanish “Nada” stands for english “nothing”. And…by the way, have you ever thought that we ourselves represent an analogous phenomenon? I’m sure almost everyone in our department substitutes russian “спасибо”, “извини”, “хорошо” for “thanks”, “sorry” and “ok” and also their french and german equivalents.

  2. And what is the purpose of using a foreign word instead of one’s own? It’s not as if we (or Latinos in the USA) faced a problem of misunderstanding (like people do when they create a pidgin). A new function is sure to create a new type of language.

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