Honduran Spanish

December 8th, 2015

The history of Honduras is heavily influenced by both the Aztec and Mayan cultures, because these were the people who lived there prior to the Spanish conquest.

Honduran Spanish | One Hour Translation

The history of Honduras is heavily influenced by both the Aztec and Mayan cultures, because these were the people who lived there prior to the Spanish conquest. Due to migration (and similar to other Central American countries) various subgroups were formed. Then, with the arrival of the Spanish, Honduras became populated by many different ethnic groups, due to the convergence of groups arriving from Central America.

Both the Caribbean and Atlantic coasts were settled by a wide variety of people. English speakers who arrived in the north of the country in the mid-18th century were known as the Garifuna. The Garifuna are descendants of the Central and West African, Arawak and Ireland Carib people. The presence of slaves from Africa in the area can be explained by the high demand for labor. This made Honduras rich in terms of diversity, because it’s a multicultural, multi ethnic, and multilingual country.

Spanish is the official language of Honduras; however, English Garifuna and several other indigenous languages are also spoken. A mere 3% of the people of Honduras have a maternal language that’s not Spanish, and of these people, 90% of them speak Spanish as their second language.

The following are the ethnic groups and languages spoken in Honduras –

  • Spanish: This is the official language of the country;
  • Garifunas: This is the mix of Amerindians (Caribbean Indians) and African slaves who speak Garifuna and Caribbean languages;
  • Islanders (Isleños): These are the (Islas de la Bahía) island inhabitants, who speak Creole English. This is the language that derived from Irish and English pirates who inhabited these islands following the arrival of Christopher Columbus, and also from the slaves brought to the country the following century by banana companies in the English colonies of the Grand Cayman Islands and Jamaica. Their native language is English.
  • Chortís: The people who spoke Chol.  Those that still exist adapted to speaking Spanish.
  • Lencas: Today, this language is considered extinct.
  • Tawahkas and Sumos: The Tawahka language, which is very similar to the Miskito language.
  • Miskitos: Miskito language.
  • Jicaques or Xicaques: The few people who are still settled in the north of Honduras;
  • Pech or Payas: Those people who settled in the north and central region of Honduras.

The Influence of Regional Words and Terms

There’s definitely an influence of regional words and terms, particularly with the conservation of certain sounds and letters from indigenous languages - like the predominance of the letter ‘x’ which is derived from the Aztec and Mayan cultures and is repeated in all of the languages. It can be used at either the beginning or end of a word and is pronounced as ‘j’ or ‘sh’, depending on the region and the words they use.

A major influence in the development of different dialects in Honduras was the amount of access the inhabitants had to various provinces between the years 1500 and 1800, plus the linguistic changes that this subsequently produced. It’s believed that this was a big influence on the chronology of settlement, including the relationship with phonetic phenomenon of contemporary speech. From these changes, the following are analyzed –

  • Delay of articulation of a, s, and x,
  • Development of sibilants between the teeth,
  • Devoicing of sibilants,
  • Weakening of the s at the end of the syllable,
  • Neutralization of the r and l at the end of syllables, and
  • Valorization of n at the end of the word.

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