What happens when one language spoken by millions meets up with another language spoken by millions?
In the case of Spanish and English, the answer is “Spanglish.”
Spanglish – a term invented in the middle of the last century by Puerto Rican linguist Salvador Tió, (who called it “Espanglish”) – describes both the mixture of Spanish with a heavy usage of English words, or of English with a heavy usage of Spanish words (Tió originally called this latter “Inglañol”).
Spanglish is a geographical or migration-linked phenomenon; in the US, the vast majority of speakers are located in areas bordering a Spanish-speaking country, such as southern California, Texas and Arizona, or in areas with a high percentage of Spanish-speaking immigrants, such as New York City and Miami. The phenomenon can also be found outside the US due to political and/or historical reasons – such as the US government’s policy of educating in English in Puerto Rico until the mid 1940s, and the US control of the Panama Canal Zone until 1999. On the other side of the world, Andalusian Spanish has mixed with British English to form “Llanito”, the “Spanglish” of the British colony of Gibraltar.
Because of the diversity of the Spanish and English variants that end up forming Spanglish in different locations, Spanglish itself lacks uniformity in the ways it varies from standard Spanish. So, it is correct to say that there are different Spanglishes, or variants of Spanglish, and some of them even have their own names: Tex-Mex (Chicano), Cubonics (spoken in Florida and derived from Cuban Spanish), Nuyorican (spoken in New York and derived from Puerto Rican Spanish) and the previously mentioned Llanito.
Despite these differences, the following semantic, phonological and morphological phenomenon can be found in all versions.
Probably the most obvious phenomenon of all, code-switching (alternating between two or more languages in a single conversation in a way that is consistent with each language’s syntax and phonology) in Spanglish gives us sentences like:
No, I can’t go to the fiesta porque mañana tengo que trabajar.
Te llamaré pa´tras.
Está p’arriba de ti.
Va a correr para presidente.
¿Cuando puedes deliberar las groserías?
Voy a vacunar la carpeta.
The first is an example of “intersentential” code-switching. Only the language changes; otherwise, the sentence is grammatically and semantically correct.
The second, third and fourth are examples of a “calque”, a literal translation that disregards context.
The fifth and sixth are examples of “semantic extension”, where speakers extend an original meaning or assign a new meaning to a word in their own language due to its similarity to a word in the other language. This is often the result of false cognates.
Loans words occur as new items or ideas arise for which the original language does not have a specific term, or when the original language of the term has more linguistic prestige than the borrowing language. The original word is often adapted to fit the second language’s phonetic or morphological rules. Examples are rife; below are a few.
rufo – roof
troca – truck
likear – to like (Facebook)
likear – to leak
dale play – turn on (video, music, etc.)
lonche – lunch
mopear – to mop
dropear – to drop
marqueta – market
chores – shorts
Finally, Spanglish can be fun. Fromlostiano is a kind of artificial play on words that only Spanish/English bilinguals can enjoy. It consists of translating Spanish idioms literally into English resulting in an expression that is grammatically correct but entirely nonsensical.
Here are a few that we hope will make you smile. We encourage you to play around and come up with your own.
1. No es moco de pavo – It’s not turkey snot!
2. Estar al loro – To be at the parrot.
3. Estar a dos velas – To be at two candles.
4. Manda huevos – Send eggs.
5. Estoy sin blanca – I’m without white.