Silvia Betti

in Latino Studies

ISBN: 9780199913701
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:

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  • History of the Americas
  • US Cultural History



The Spanish language has been part of the history of what is now the United States of America since the 16th century, when Juan Ponce de León sighted “La Florida” on 27 March 1513. Between this period and the 19th century, some of the territories of North America belonged to Spain. The Spanish were actually the first explorers of what became the union of North America. Throughout this process, the Spanish language was a secular presence in every southern state of today’s United States and, more precisely, in the southwestern states. In any case, the assignment of these southwestern territories to what became the United States began the creation of a linguistic profile. The so-called Spanglish (“Span-” from “Spanish” and “-glish” from “English”), which was the result of the contact between the Spanish and English languages and cultures, is not a new phenomenon, considering that some authors assume that its antecedents go back to the era of La Conquista Española (1527–1687). Others believe the date should be 1848, the year of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo through which Mexico sold what is now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah, Nevada, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming to the US territories. The new border was an arbitrary line, causing the Spanish-speaking inhabitants in these areas to experience a strange situation—being treated like foreigners in their homeland. These people were forced to use English as their official language and were prevented from using Spanish. Many wanted to become part of this new system, but at the same time they wanted to retain their identity. The evolution of Spanglish thus depended on the geographical area. The signing of the treaty intensified the bilingual shift in the Spanish-speaking people who were forced to use English as a business and education language. This resulted in the first phase of code-switching, a linguistic phenomenon that is now widespread. As a result, the next generations of Mexican Americans (Chicanos) started using some English words while applying the Spanish pronunciation rules, which led to the so-called Spanglish or Espanglish phenomenon. Some researchers believe that Spanglish does not exist because a way of speaking cannot be named; others consider it a variety often used as a register and not always as a sign of insufficient knowledge of Spanish and English. It is also worth remembering that not everyone in the scientific community considers Spanglish a positive phenomenon, which creates endless controversy. Either way, in the world of the many Latinos living in the United States, English and Spanish coexist, and Spanglish, which was created by the contact (or clash) between these two civilizations, could become an effective communicative means for some contexts—a sign, for some, of a new “in-between” identity, in addition to a specific way of life. This bibliography was compiled with support and translation from Giulia Bassi and Christine Hinde.

Article.  11694 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; US Cultural History

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