Puerto Rican Spanish Explained

Puerto Rican Spanish (español puertorriqueño) is the Spanish language as characteristically spoken in Puerto Rico and by millions of people of Puerto Rican descent living in the United States and elsewhere.[1] It belongs to the group of Caribbean Spanish variants.

Taino influence

When the Spanish settlers colonized Puerto Rico in the early 16th century, many thousands of Taíno people lived on the island. Taíno words like hamaca (meaning “hammock”) and hurakán (meaning "hurricane") and tobacco came into general Spanish as the two cultures blended. Puerto Ricans still use many Taíno words that are not part of the international Spanish lexicon. The Taino influence in Puerto Rican Spanish is most evident in geographical names, such as Mayagüez, Guaynabo, Humacao or Jayuya.

African influence

The first African slaves were brought to the island in the 16th century. Although 31 different African tribes have been recorded in Puerto Rico, it is the Kongo from Central Africa that is considered to have had the most impact on Puerto Rican Spanish.

Spanish and European influences

Since most of the original settlers of Puerto Rico between the 15th and 18th centuries came from Andalusia, the basis for most of Puerto Rican Spanish is Andalusian Spanish (particularly that of Seville). For example the endings -ado, -ido, -edo often drop intervocalic /d/ in both Seville and San Juan: hablado > hablao, vendido > vendío, dedo > deo (intervocalic /d/ dropping is quite widespread in coastal American dialects). Seville Spanish is also the source of the merger of phonemes /s/ (coSer) and /θ/ (coCer) that are both pronounced /s/ in much of Andalusia and generally in all Latin America dialects. This merger is called 'seseo' and makes pairs like cocer/coser, abrazar/abrasar, has/haz, vez/ves homophonous. Another Andalusian trait is the tendency to weaken postvocalic consonants, particularly /-s/: 'los dos > lo do, 'buscar' > buhcá(l). Pronouncing "l" instead of "r" is also a trait of Puerto Rican Spanish that has its origin in southern Spain.

Canarian Spanish (from the Canary Islands off the coast of Western Sahara in Africa) also made a contribution to Puerto Rican Spanish as many Canarios came in hopes of establishing a better life in the Americas. Most Puerto Rican immigration in the early 19th century involved Canary Islands' natives, who, like Puerto Ricans, had inherited most of their linguistic traits from Andalusia. Canarian influence is most present in the language of those Puerto Ricans who live in the central mountain region, who blended it with the remnant vocabulary of the Taíno. Canarian and Caribbean dialects share a similar intonation which, in general terms, means that stressed vowels are usually quite long. Puerto Rican and Canarian Spanish are strikingly similar. When visiting Tenerife or Las Palmas, Puerto Ricans are usually taken at first hearing for fellow-Canarians from a distant part of the Canary archipelago.

Later in the 19th century other Spanish immigrants from Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Asturias and Galicia plus other European settlers -- mostly from France (including Corsica), Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and even some overseas Chinese -- settled in Puerto Rico. Words from these regions and countries joined the linguistic stew.

United States Influences and Puerto Rican Anglicisms

In 1898, during the armed conflicts of the Puerto Rican Campaign, Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States as part of a peace treaty that brought the Spanish-American War to a sudden conclusion. The United States Army and the early colonial administration tried to impose the English language on island residents. Between 1902 and 1948, the main language of instruction in public schools (used for all subjects except Spanish-language courses) was English. Consequently, many American English words are now found in Puerto Rican vocabularies. Although English has had a fluctuating status as a second official language of the Island, depending on the political mood of the time, from La Fortaleza (the governor's palace). The majority of Puerto Ricans today do not speak English at home. Spanish "remains" the mother tongue of Puerto Ricans, regardless of their political views.

Many third and fourth generation Puerto Ricans who live in the United States borrow English words or phrases in mid-sentence in a phenomenon called code-switching, pejoratively characterized as Spanglish. Puerto Rican writer Giannina Braschi published the first Spanglish novel, Yo-Yo Boing!, in 1998, a book that represents the code-switching linguistic style of some Latino immigrants in the United States. However, this mixture of Spanish and English is simply an informal blending of languages, not a separate language or dialect, and is not a fundamental characteristic of Spanish or Puerto Rican culture. It is merely an occasional convenience used by speakers who are very fluent in two languages.

Puerto Rico has representation in the Royal Spanish Academy (Real Academia Española) and has its own national academy along with all the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America.

See also

Sources for further studies

Book: Navarro Tomás, Tomás. El español en Puerto Rico: Contribución a la geografía lingüística de Hispanoamérica. Universidad de Puerto Rico. Río Piedras. 1948.

Phonology and Phonetics:

Book: Alemán, Iris. Tesis de maestría.. Desdoblamiento fonológico en el español de Puerto Rico.. Universidad de Puerto Rico. Río Piedras. 1977.

Book: Figueroa, Neysa L.. Héctor Campos, Elena Herburger, Alfonso Morales-Front y Thomas J. Walsh. An acoustic and perceptual study of vowels preceding deleted post-nuclear /s/ in Puerto Rican Spanish.. Cascadilla Press. Somerville. Papers from the 3rd Hispanic Linguistics Symposium, ed.. Hispanic Linguistics at the Turn of the Millennium. 66–79. 2000.

Book: López Morales, Humberto. Estratificación social del español de San Juan de Puerto Rico.. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. 1983.

Book: Medina-Rivera, Antonio. Variación Fonológica y Estilística en el Español de Puerto Rico.. Tesis doctoral. University of Southern California. 1997.

Book: Valentín-Márquez, Wilfredo. Doing being boricua: Nacional identities and the sociolinguistic distribution of liquid variables in Puerto Rican Spanish.. University of Michigan.. Ann Arbor. 2006.

External links

Notes and References

  1. http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hispanic/ASEC2004/2004CPS_tab1.2a.html U.S. Census, The Hispanic Population in the United States: 2004 Detailed Tables, Section I, Table 1.2