Chicano English

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Chicano English or Mexican-American English, is a dialect of American English spoken primarily by Mexican Americans (sometimes known as Chicanos), particularly in the Southwestern United States, ranging from Texas to California [1] [2] but also apparent in Chicago. [3] Chicano English is sometimes mistakenly conflated with Spanglish, which is a grammatically simplified mixing of Spanish and English; however, Chicano English is a fully formed and native dialect of English, not a "learner English" or interlanguage. It is even the native dialect of some speakers who know little to no Spanish.

American English Set of dialects of the English language spoken in the United States

American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. It is considered one of the most influential dialects of English globally, including on other varieties of English.

Mexican Americans Americans of Mexican heritage

Mexican Americans are Americans of full or partial Mexican descent. As of July 2016, Mexican Americans made up 11.2% of the United States' population, as 36.3 million U.S. residents identified as being of full or partial Mexican ancestry. As of July 2016, Mexican Americans comprised 63.2% of all Latinos in Americans in the United States. Many Mexican Americans reside in the American Southwest; over 60% of all Mexican Americans reside in the states of California and Texas. As of 2016, Mexicans make up 53% of total percent population of Latin foreign-born. Mexicans are also the largest foreign-born population, accounting for 25% of the total foreign-born population, as of 2017.

Chicano or Chicana is a chosen identity of some Mexican Americans in the United States. The term Chicano is sometimes used interchangeably with Mexican-American. Both names are chosen identities within the Mexican-American community in the United States; however, these terms have a wide range of meanings in various parts of the Southwest. The term became widely used during the Chicano Movement by Mexican Americans to express pride in a shared cultural, ethnic and community identity.



Communities of Spanish-speaking Tejanos, Nuevomexicanos, Californios, and Mission Indians have existed in the American Southwest since the area was part of New Spain's Provincias Internas . Most of the historically Hispanophone populations eventually adopted English as their first language, as part of their overall Americanization.

Mission Indians Indigenous peoples who were forcibly relocated to missions in Southern California

Mission Indians are the indigenous peoples of California who lived in Southern California and were forcibly relocated from their traditional dwellings, villages, and homelands to live and work at 15 Franciscan missions in Southern California and the Asistencias and Estancias established between 1796 and 1823 in the Las Californias Province of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

New Spain viceroyalty of the Spanish Empire (1535-1821)

The Viceroyalty of New Spain was an integral territorial entity of the Spanish Empire, established by Habsburg Spain during the Spanish colonization of the Americas. It covered a huge area that included territories in North America, South America, Asia and Oceania. It originated in 1521 after the fall of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the main event of the Spanish conquest, which did not properly end until much later, as its territory continued to grow to the north. It was officially created on 8 March 1535 as a viceroyalty, the first of four viceroyalties Spain created in the Americas. Its first viceroy was Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco, and the capital of the viceroyalty was Mexico City, established on the ancient Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

Provincias Internas

The Provincias Internas, also known as the Comandancia y Capitanía General de las Provincias Internas, was an administrative district of the Spanish Empire created in 1776 to provide more autonomy for the frontier provinces of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, present-day northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States. The goal of its creation was to establish a unified government in political, military and fiscal affairs. Nevertheless, the Commandancy General experienced significant changes in its administration because of experimentation to find the best government for the frontier region as well as bureaucratic in-fighting. Its creation was part of the Bourbon Reforms and was part of an effort to invigorate economic and population growth in the region to stave off encroachment on the region by foreign powers. During its existence, the Commandancy General encompassed the Provinces of Sonora y Sinaloa, Nueva Vizcaya, Las Californias, Nuevo México, Nuevo Santander, Nuevo Reyno de León, Coahuila and Texas.

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 US (Santa Ana, 1991). The Hispanic population is one of the largest and fastest-growing ethnic groups in the United States. In the Los Angeles metropolitan area alone, they form 45% of the population (roughly 6 million out of 13.3 million in 2014). The result of the migration and the segregated social conditions of the immigrants in California made an ethnic community that is only partly assimilated to the matrix Anglo (European American) community. It retains symbolic links with Hispanic culture (as well as real links from continuing immigration), but linguistically, it is mostly an English-speaking, not a Spanish-speaking, community. However, its members have a distinctive accent.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the tenth most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Immigration Movement of people into another country or region to which they are not native

Immigration is the international movement of people into a destination country of which they are not natives or where they do not possess citizenship in order to settle or reside there, especially as permanent residents or naturalized citizens, or to take up employment as a migrant worker or temporarily as a foreign worker.

Emigration is the act of leaving a resident country or place of residence with the intent to settle elsewhere. Conversely, immigration describes the movement of persons into one country from another. Both are acts of migration across national or other geographical boundaries.

The phonological inventory appears to be identical to that of the local Anglo community. For example, long and short vowels are clearly distinguished, as is the relatively rare English vowel /æ/. Speculatively, it seems that the main differences between the Chicano accent and the local Anglo accent are that the Chicanos are not participating in the ongoing phonetic changes in the Anglo communities (such as the raising of /æ/).

The near-open front unrounded vowel, or near-low front unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. Acoustically it is simply an open or low front unrounded vowel. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨æ⟩, a lowercase of the ⟨Æ⟩ ligature. Both the symbol and the sound are commonly referred to as "ash".

As Spanish-speaking people migrated from other parts of the Hispanophone world to the Southwest, Chicano English is now the customary dialect of many Hispanic Americans of diverse national heritages in the Southwest. As Hispanics are of diverse racial origins, Chicano English serves as the distinction from non-Hispanic and non-Latino Americans in the Southwest.

A common stereotype about Chicano English speakers, similar to stereotypes about other racial/ethnic minorities in the United States, is that Chicano English speakers are not proficient in English and are generally uneducated. This language ideology is linked to negative perceptions about Chicano Americans and Hispanics in general. [4] Some of these stereotypes can be seen in popular films that depict the life of a Chicano as well as the Chicano dialect. Most of these films take place in Southern California. Some of the more popular films, where this can be noted, are Mi Familia, American Me and Blood In Blood Out. These films are an example of the Southern California Chicano dialect and also of some of the stereotypes that are thought of when one thinks of Chicanos.

Language ideology is a concept used primarily within the fields of anthropology, sociolinguistics, and cross-cultural studies to characterize any set of beliefs or feelings about languages as used in their social worlds. When recognized and explored, language ideologies expose connections between the beliefs speakers have about language and the larger social and cultural systems they are a part of, illustrating how these beliefs are informed by and rooted in such systems. By doing so, language ideologies link the implicit as well as explicit assumptions people have about a language or language in general to their social experience and political as well as economic interests. Language ideologies are conceptualizations about languages, speakers, and discursive practices. Like other kinds of ideologies, language ideologies are influenced by political and moral interests and are shaped in a cultural setting.


Chicano English has many phonological features that are influenced by Spanish.


The rhythm of Chicano English tends to have an intermediate prosody between a Spanish-like syllable timing, with syllables taking up roughly the same amount of time with roughly the same amount of stress, and General American English's stress timing, with only stressed syllables being evenly timed. [5]

In linguistics, prosody is concerned with those elements of speech that are not individual phonetic segments but are properties of syllables and larger units of speech, including linguistic functions such as intonation, tone, stress, and rhythm.

Most Romance languages, such as Spanish, are syllable-timed.[ citation needed ]

Chicano English also has a complex set of nonstandard English intonation patterns, such as pitch rises on significant words in the middle and at the end of sentences as well as initial-sentence high pitches, which are often accompanied by the lengthening of the affected syllables. [6]

When needing extra emphasis to certain words, there is the use of rising glides. Rising glides can be used multiple times in one sentence. On compound nouns and verbs, major stress is on the second word. Rising glides can occur at any time and at either monosyllabic or polysyllabic words. [7]


Consonants are often pronounced as in Spanish.

Pronunciation patterns can resemble those of African American English (AAE). For example, the "th" sound may be replaced by a "d" sound, as in "dese" and "dem" instead of "these" and "them". [8]

Alveolar stops /t, d/ are realized as laminal denti-alveolar [, ].

t/d deletion occurs at the end of a word. For example, "missed" becomes "miss".

The /z/ undergoes devoicing in all environments: [ˈisi] for easy and [wʌs] for was.

The /v/ is devoiced after the last vowel of a word: [lʌf] for love, [hæf] for have, and [waɪfs] for wives.[ citation needed ]

Chicano speakers may realize /v/ bilabially, as a stop [ b ] or a fricative/approximant [ β ], with very being pronounced [ˈbɛɹi] or [ˈβɛɹi].

Dental fricatives change pronunciation so think may be pronounced [ˈtiŋk], or more rarely [ˈfiŋk] or [ˈsiŋk]. Most Latin American Spanish dialects, such as Mexican Spanish, exhibit seseo, a lack of distinction between /θ/ and /s/ that is a part of Standard European Spanish.

/j/ and /dʒ/ may merge into [ ]; job may sound like yob and yes may sound like jes. [ citation needed ]

In the syllable coda, the nasals /m, n, ŋ/ merge into one sound. Phonetically, its realization varies between alveolar [ n ] and velar [ ŋ ].[ citation needed ]

/tʃ/ merges with /ʃ/ so sheep and cheap are pronounced alike. The outcome of the merger varies and can be either a fricative [ʃ] (both cheap and sheep sound like sheep) or an affricate [tʃ] (both cheap and sheep sound like cheap).[ citation needed ]

English [lˠ] is develarized and so it is pronounced similarly to a Spanish alveolar lateral approximant.


The cot–caught merger is complete, approximately to [ä]. [9] [10] For younger speakers, however, the vowel is retracted to [ ɑ ] by the Californian Vowel Shift.

The salary–celery merger occurs, with /æ/ and /ɛ/ merging before /l/. [11]

/ɪŋ/ is pronounced as [in], making showing sound like show-een. That is also sometimes a feature of general California English.

The distinction between /ɪ/ and /i/ before liquid consonants is frequently reduced, making fill and feel homophones. That is also a feature of general California English.[ citation needed ]

// is slightly fronted, as in most American and many British dialects, but they are less fronted than in mainstream California English. [12]

Some realizations of /i/, /eɪ/, /oʊ/, and other long vowels are pronounced as monophthongs. That may be an effect of Spanish, but other American English dialects (Minnesota, and Wisconsin, for example) also show monophthongization of such vowels, which are more commonly diphthongs in English.

Also, such vowels are underlyingly long monophthongs so the general effect thus is to simplify the system of phonetic implementation, compared to the /ɪi, eɪ, oʊ, ʊu/ of many other English dialects. [13]


A fair to strong degree of variation exists in the phonology of Chicano English. Its precise boundaries are difficult to delineate, perhaps because of its separate origins of the dialect in the Southwest and the Midwest. [14]

One subvariety, referenced as Tejano English, [15] is used mainly in southern Texas. California subvarieties are also widely studied, especially that of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, [14] such as East Los Angeles Chicano English, which includes elements of African American Vernacular English and California English. [11]

New Mexico

One Chicano English sub-variety is native to north-central New Mexico. A recent study found that native English–Spanish bilingual Chicanos in New Mexico have a lower/shorter/weaker voice-onset time than that typical of native monolingual English speakers. [16] Northern New Mexico Chicano English, transcending age, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, has been reported as having its own vowel shift as follows: /i/ is [ɪ] before a final /l/ (so feel merges to the sound of fill), /u/ is [ʊ] before any consonant (so suit merges to the sound of soot), /ɛ/ is [æ] before a final /l/ (so shell merges to the sound of shall), and /ʌ/ is [ä] before any consonant (so cup merges to the sound of something like cop). [17]

East Los Angeles

This form of Chicano English is predominantly spoken in East Los Angeles and has been influenced by the California English of coastal European-Americans and African-American Vernacular English.

Notable native speakers

See also


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