The Spanish Spoken in Puerto Rico - Part 1

December 6th, 2015

‘Spanglish’ is a result of the interaction between Spanish (which is a Romance language) and English (a Germanic language) – Spanglish is used by people who either speak parts of both languages or are fluent in both.

The Spanish Spoken in Puerto Rico - Part 1 | One Hour Translation

The type of Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico certainly has its own characteristics, but it does share linguistic features with the continental Caribbean and other West Indian islands. Puerto Rican Spanish has undoubtedly been determined by Porto Rico’s history, where the influence of the indigenous language spoken in Borinquen on the language by the Spanish is still quite evident. (Borinquen is what Puerto Ricans call their nation).

Many words have been inherited, like macana, hamaca, maraca, canoe and güiro. In addition, many towns and rivers have Taino names, like Humacao, Utuado, Vieques and Bayamón. Many of these words are not part of the international Spanish lexicon but are exclusive to Puerto Rico.

Some Puerto Rican words that are not in the Royal Academy dictionary include envejeciente, mofongo, candungo, enfogonarse, guille and pichear. The African languages that arrived in America with the slaves in the 16th century are another influencing factor on the language. Some of the Africanisms which have been incorporated into Puerto Rican Spanish include: malanga (a tuber), gandúl (a loafer), mondongo (tripe soup), and fufú (a spell).

Spain Has Had the Biggest Influence on the Puerto Rican Language

Of course it’s from Spain that we see the biggest influence on both the culture and the Puerto Rican language. In the 15th and 18th centuries the colonists that came to Porto Rico came from Andalucía, and it’s for this reason that Puerto Rican Spanish has many characteristics of Andalusian Spanish.

One example is that the endings often omit the intervocalic ‘d’ (as in ido, ado, edo). In both Porto Rico and Seville people say vendío instead of vendido; hablao instead of hablado, and deo instead of dedo.

And from Seville there’s also the habit of aspirating post-vocalic consonants, in particular the ‘s’ - as in lo do instead of los dos.  Then, from the south of Spain we have the trait of pronouncing ’l’ instead of ‘r’. Of course all these factors are very important to translators because they all affect quality and accuracy of their work. As you can see, it’s vitally important that translators are made aware of the intended market for their translation projects.

New Arrivals from the Canary Islands

Then, in the 19th century there was a new wave of colonists who arrived from the Canary Islands. This resulted in another very strong contribution to the Puerto Rican Spanish. Because of this, Porto Rico and the Canary Islands share very similar syntax and intonation.

For the Spanish, the 1898 Spanish-American War resulted in the loss of their colonies in both Asia and America, which were ceded to the United States. Between 1902 and 1948 there was a push to impose English on the island, with English being the main language taught in public schools; however, Spanish still remains the mother tongue of Porto Ricans. English is their second official language.

Today, many Puerto Ricans live in the United States, and the influence of the culture and US language in Puerto Rico is undeniable. In fact, today there are as many as 4 million Puerto Ricans living in the United States, with the biggest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the United States living in New York. A report released in the year 2003 indicated that, for the first time, this number exceeded the number of people in Puerto Rico.

*** Next ***

You might also like: