In Spain and Latin America, it is very common to hear Hispanics say that they “speak Spanglish” to joke about their knowledge of the English language. However, in the United States, Spanglish is much more than a joke.
It is a hybrid language that, although it is not official, is of colloquial use and is very widespread in certain areas of the country. Therefore, among scholars of the world’s languages this phenomenon also deserves to be taken seriously.
What is Spanglish?
Technically, Spanglish is the morphological, syntactic and semantic fusion of the Spanish language with English.
Although Spanglish is often confused with the use of Anglicisms in Spanish, they are two very different things. For their part, Anglicisms are “linguistic loans” from the English language to other languages. A clear example of this are the words “selfie” and “spoiler”, so popular in Spanish-speaking countries. Instead, Spanglish is a very common hybrid language in certain areas of the United States with a large Spanish-speaking population.
In the US, then, the use of words of Hispanic origin but morphologically “anglicized” in phrases of the English language is called Spanglish. Likewise, Spanglish also falls within what is known as pidgin. What does this mean? A language created and used by individuals from different communities living in the same territory.
Spanglish is widely used in California, Florida, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, some neighborhoods in New York, and other cities in the United States. Therefore, it is a phenomenon of great relevance in the country, mainly among immigrants and descendants of Hispanic people.
What is the origin of Spanglish?
Although the origin of this hybrid language is imprecise, the name “Spanglish” began to be used in the 1940s by the Puerto Rican writer Salvador Tió. His first article on this subject, “Theory of Spanglish,” was published in the Diario de Puerto Rico on October 28, 1948.
In his note, Tió explained that Spanglish is simply the Spanishization of the English language. Years later, in March 1971, he published in the newspaper El Mundo his theory of Englañol or Engañol, which is to give Spanish words the meaning they have in English. The latter would actually be related to false cognates.
Also, the 1972 edition of the Dictionary of American Regional English included the first examples of this phenomenon. Most of the authors who studied the development of Spanglish consider that it was in the 1960s when the Hispanic neighborhoods of Miami, New York and Los Angeles saw the explosion of “mock Spanish”, the predecessor of Spanglish, and that this then it was expanding through the cities.
Controversies surrounding this hybrid language
Of course, Spanglish does not escape the controversies and detractors that always arise around unofficial languages either.
In the United States, the dominant linguistic ideology guards the hegemony of the English language, which has favored throughout history the abandonment of other native languages spoken in the territory. However, the continuous flow of immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries and the growing economic and political importance of the Hispanic population allowed Spanish to prevail in certain regions of the country.
The hybrid language resulting from this social phenomenon was widely criticized in the most orthodox and cultured linguistic and literary circles. However, today there is a grammatical and lexical evolution of Spanglish that is carefully studied by various linguists.
Another famous example of language fusions is Portuñol (also “portunhol”), which mixes Spanish and Portuguese, and Franglais, which relates French to English. However, none of these are as important in a nation as Spanglish is in the US.