New York Latino English
An ethno-cultural dialect of the English language, primarily spoken by Hispanic Americans on the East Coast of the United States, demonstrates considerable influence from New York City English and African American Vernacular English, with certain additional features borrowed from the Spanish language. The academic literature has recently labelled the language variety New York Latino English, referring to its city of nineteenth-century origin, or, more inclusively, East Coast Latino English. In the 1970s scholarship, the variety was more narrowly called (New York City) Puerto Rican English or Nuyorican English. Other terms have also occasionally been employed, such as Latin American Vernacular English. The dialect originated with the Puerto Rican immigration to New York City after World War II and particularly the subsequent generations born in the New York dialect region who were native speakers of both English and Spanish. However, it is now the customary dialect of many Hispanic Americans of diverse national heritages, not simply Puerto Ricans, in the New York metropolitan area and beyond on the East Coast.
According to linguist William Labov, "A thorough and accurate study of geographic differences in the English of Latinos from the Caribbean and various countries of Central and South America is beyond the scope of the current work," largely because "consistent dialect patterns are still in the process of formation." Importantly, this East Coast Latino ethnolect is a native variety of English and not a form of Spanglish, broken English, or interlanguage; it is not spoken by all Latinos in this region nor necessarily spoken only by Latinos. It is sometimes spoken by people who know little or no Spanish.
Slomanson & Nemwan (2004) found that differences in subcultural (or peer group) participation and identification amongst young Hispanic Americans in New York City has an effect on their speech patterns. The study differentiated between the influential NYC youth groups/subcultures of hip hop (involving rap music, turntablism, graffiti art, etc.), skater/BMX (involving bicycling and skateboarding tricks), and geek (involving video game culture, computers, and other technological interests). The findings located young Latinos mostly in the first two categories (with hip hop culture being influenced significantly by African American Vernacular English and NYC skater/BMX culture by NYC European-American Vernacular English and General American English). Latinos also largely fell into a third, non-peer-based grouping: family-oriented, whose members show the strongest pride and self-identification with their ethno-cultural heritage. Slomanson & Nemwan admittedly did not examine gang (or "thug") culture, which minimally affected their population sample.
The study found that the gliding vowel // (About this sound listen) becomes a "glideless" [aː] (About this sound listen), so that, for example, the word ride approaches the sound of rod, in Latino members of hip hop culture; a middling degree of this was found with the family-oriented group and the least degree of it with the skater/BMX group. Just over 50% of all speakers showed // (About this sound listen) to be backed (About this sound listen) before coronal consonants (e.g. in words like dude, lose, soon, etc.) with little variation based on peer groups. For the gliding vowel // (About this sound listen), just over 50% of speakers show no gliding (About this sound listen), except in the skater/BMX group, where this drops to just over 30% of speakers. For the gliding vowel // (About this sound listen), just over 70% of speakers show no gliding (About this sound listen), except in the skater/BMX group, where this drops to less than 50% of speakers. These instances of glide deletion are indicators of the dialect's contact with Spanish.
- The rhythm tends to be syllable-timed, meaning syllables take up roughly the same amount of time with roughly the same amount of stress. Standard American English is stress-timed, meaning that only stressed syllables are evenly timed. Most Romance languages (of which Spanish is a member) are syllable-timed.
- /t/ and /d/ is realized as dental stops [t̪] and [d̪] rather than the standard American and AAVE alveolars [t] and [d] (also found in many Romance languages, including Spanish). Dentalization is also common in New York City English, generally.
- Devoicing of voiced obstruent codas (e.g., characterize may be realized with a final [s])
- Consonant cluster simplifications such as the loss of dental stops after nasals (e.g., bent) and fricatives, (e.g., left, test). This leads to a characteristic plural, in which words like tests are pronounced [t̪ɛst̪ɪs], sometimes written as testes.
- Listeni// in syllable onsets (meaning at the beginning of syllables, such as in light, last, lose, line, uplink, etc.) are typically "clear" or "light". This differs from the usually "dark" /l/ used by most other New Yorkers, of both European and African American heritage (About this sound listen). In syllable codas (at the end of syllables), however, /l/ is often vocalized (turned into a back vowel) so that, for instance, soul may approach the sound of so, and tool may approach the sound of too.
- Lack of inversion or do support particularly in first- and second-person questions (I can go to the bathroom? rather than Can I go to the bathroom?)
- Calques and direct translations of Spanish expressions and words (e.g., owned by the devil, instead of possessed by the devil, closed meaning locked)
- In just over 50% of a studied sample of speakers, /u/ before coronals is not fronted as in typical New York City English.
- Predominantly, pronunciation is semi-rhotic or variably rhotic (in other words, pronouncing the R sound only between and before vowels, but not always after vowels), in the same vein as current-day New York City English. African American Vernacular English, and Caribbean Spanish (wherein word-final /r/ is silent). Cultivated forms may be fully rhotic, particularly among many professional-class Hispanic New Yorkers from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. The R sound, when pronounced, is the typical English postalveolar approximant [ɹ̠].
It is possible to differentiate this variety from an interlanguage spoken by second language speakers in that this ethnolect does not generally display the following features:
- There are no confusions of tense and lax vowels, outside contexts where other native speakers often vary usage.
- There is no addition of /ɛ/ before initial consonant clusters with /s/.
- Speakers do not confuse of /dʒ/ with /j/, (e.g., Yale with jail).
- Speakers do not use the alveolar tap [ɾ] or alveolar trill [r] of Spanish.
Notable lifelong native speakers
- Marc Anthony (variably rhotic; no /aɪ/ glide deletion)
- Fat Joe (non-rhotic; /aɪ/ glide deletion)
- Shaggy Flores (non-rhotic; no /aɪ/ glide deletion)
- Immortal Technique (variably rhotic; /aɪ/ glide deletion)
- Joell Ortiz (variably rhotic; /aɪ/ glide deletion)
- Pitbull (variably rhotic; /aɪ/ glide deletion)
- Victor Rasuk (variably rhotic; no /aɪ/ glide deletion)
- Prince Royce (rhotic; no /aɪ/ glide deletion)
- Glen Tapia (variably rhotic; /aɪ/ glide deletion)
- Lauren Vélez (rhotic; no /aɪ/ glide deletion)
- David Zayas (non-rhotic; no /aɪ/ glide deletion)
- Newman, Michael. "The New York Latino English Project Page." Queens College. Accessed 2015.
- Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006). The Atlas of North American English, Berlin: Mouton-de Gruyter, p. 24.
- Slomanson, Newman & 2004 (214)
- Wolfram, Walt (1974) Sociolinguistic Aspects of Assimilation: Puerto Rican English in New York City Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics ISBN 0-87281-034-8
- Zacarian, Debbie (2012). Mastering Academic Language: A Framework for Supporting Student Achievement. Corwin Press p. 16.
- Slomanson, Newman & 2004 (202)
- Slomanson, Newman & 2004 (205)
- Slomanson, Newman & 2004 (211)
- Slomanson, Newman & 2004 (211)
- Slomanson, Newman & 2004 (211)
- Slomanson, Newman & 2004 (213)
- Slomanson, Peter; Newman, Michael (2004), Peer Group Identification and Variation in New York Latino English Laterals (PDF), English World-Wide, 25, pp. 199–216
- Wolfram, Walt & Natalie Schilling Estes (2005) American English 2nd edition Blackwell ISBN 1-4051-1265-4
- Wolfram, Walt & Ben Ward (2005) American Voices: How Dialects Differ from Coast to Coast Blackwell ISBN 1-4051-2109-2
- The New York Latino English Project The site of the New York Latino English project, which studies the native English spoken by New York Latinos.