The influence of the Canary Islands on Caribbean Spanish

Marianopolita

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This article was posted a few days ago in BBC Mundo. It is about the influence of the Canary Islands on Caribbean Spanish- Cuba, DR, PR and Venezuela. These four countries have the strongest similarities stemming from different waves of migration and the longest presence of Canary Islanders was in Cuba because of the sugar and tobacco industry.

Anyone familiar with Cuban Spanish may have known or noted this on their own, I certainly did but it is interesting to read about it and understand how their presence left an impact on the spoken language in Cuba. All Caribbean Spanish-speaking countries share many similarities whether it’s pronunciation, intonation, grammatical patterns or vocabulary but each one still has a unique accent or accents which make them identifiable.

However, as people continue to move around and live in different areas of the Caribbean the accents are becoming more similar and less dissimilar. Sometimes it is really hard to differentiate (not Venezuela their accent is very Caribbean but I can recognize it) between them. I have heard Puerto Ricans sound like Cubans and then I use vocabulary to distinguish the accent or the R to L change which is most prevalent in Puerto Rican speech and is usually a give away (although it is heard in DR speech as well but not like PR).

If you can read Spanish this one is a gem.



-MP.
 

Marianopolita

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Here are some good language observations by a blogger- Cuban Spanish. Very good actually 👍

 
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Marianopolita

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Depending on your level and knowledge of Spanish you may or may recognize words that are typical of Caribbean Spanish meaning the ones of African origin brought to the Caribbean Antilles and basin during colonization. Foreign words in a language always reveal the history of a country and Cuba, DR and PR are no different.

I recognize many of them mainly because they they don’t sound Latin and as well the ending of the word or accentuation is not typical of Spanish. A lot of the words have the stress on the last syllable. It is relatively easy to pick out these words in the names of fruit, vegetables, food in general, music etc.

Here are some random examples that come to mind:

  1. Malanga
  2. Quimbamba
  3. Mofongo
  4. Mondongo
  5. Guateque
  6. Rumba
  7. Conga
  8. Guineo
  9. El Fufú- a Cuban dish basically mashed plantain 🇨🇺
  10. Fula- has several meanings but in Cuba it’s money 🇨🇺

Words tell a lot about the history of any land. Spanish is certainly rich in this area. The same can be noticed in Spanish history. There are many words of Arabic origin in Spanish due to seven hundred years and more of the occupation of the Moors. You can’t erase history.

Words that start with al in Spanish tend (because not all) to be of Arabic origin.


-MP.

 
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Marianopolita

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If you are interested in words of African origin in Caribbean Spanish you will enjoy this compilation. This dictionary has words of African origin that are common in Puerto Rico but after looking through it many are common across the Antilles. What I found most interesting is how prevalent they are in music and food.

 

Marianopolita

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Here is a great article that list 50 must know words in Caribbean Spanish- Cuba, PR and DR specifically. All words and expressions have examples of usage. I knew all except three and they are in the PR section. The article is in English so you should have fun reading through this one.

See how many you know. Test your Caribbean Spanish vocabulary 🇨🇺🇩🇴🇵🇷

 
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Marianopolita

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There are many unique aspects about Caribbean Spanish that have been noted and documented by linguists, philologists, academies of language and everyday speakers. What makes Caribbean Spanish unique but difficult for many to understand including native Spanish speakers are these same unique speech patterns.


In this post, I will point out the suppression of the intervocalic /d/. What does this mean? It means the /d/ between two vowels is suppressed or omitted. This speech pattern is common in the Caribbean Antilles and basin regions. This means you will hear speakers omit the intervocalic /d/ in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama and coastal areas of Costa Rica. Looking at the list of countries and their population one can say the speech pattern is noted, heard and many speakers speak this way.

This should not surprise you if you are in the DR or familiar with Caribbean Spanish.

Examples in the spoken language:

Acostado becomes acostao
Hablado becomes hablao
Ningún lado becomes ningún lao
Pegado becomes pegao
Enamorado becomes enamorao


In the spoken language, the intervocalic /d/ is suppressed in nouns and the past participle of verbs (enamorado to enamorao) Of course, you will not find these forms in the dictionary but they are part of the spoken language in the Caribbean. From day one people learn these forms aka vernacular speech.


Keeping on the topic of the thread in addition to your interaction with speakers listen to songs, tropical music- salsa, merengue, bachata etc. the Caribbean element is noted not only in the vocabulary but in the pronunciation of the same. The African influence in salsa from Puerto Rico, Cuba and Colombia compliments everything I have said in this thread. I will continue with this later on.


-MP.
 
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Marianopolita

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The African influence during colonization in the 16th century is noted in several countries in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. African slaves were brought to several countries when the native population in this case Taíno was decimated due mostly to disease. The impact of both populations was significant but in this post the focus is on the African influence. Mostly Yoruba and Bantu tribes populated the Antilles and the vestiges of these groups can be evidenced in food, music, language and other cultural factors. Several aspects about Puerto Rico show that their history has African influence and nothing larger than the music.

I have been listening to salsa for decades and at a relatively young age I always noticed the African sound (meaning instruments and rhythm) in Puerto Rican salsa. The old school traditional salsa is true to its roots and that is what makes it so unique. Bomba and Plena is a traditional Puerto Rican rhythm that has African roots and their salsa is also a reflection of their history.

While there are many renowned salsa artists from PR, a few singers and groups stand out that exemplify the African element in their music. Willie Colón , who in my opinion one of the pillars of the genre exemplify the Africanidad in Puerto Rican salsa. The rhythm and instruments are one aspect but the words are another. Many a time I would listen to his songs and think- what is he saying but I knew they where africanismos in the lyrics.

One song in particular (although he has many) that is an example of this is Ché ché colé (look at the title) What does that mean? In the song he uses words like: (Cofisa langa) Ahí viene la malanga, in one part of the lyrics he says, pareces venezolano….todos somos hermanos, (Adendé) Adendé, que bueno e'. Also in the lyrics he says, ven aquí a bailar, este ritmo es africano y dondequiera va a acabar.

This is just a brief commentary on how music reflects history. The rhythm and lyrics tell you a lot before you even pick up a book or a reference. A lot went on in the Caribbean during the colonial period. What we see today as evidence are in these aspects- the music, food, language etc. the people of land are what allow the traditions to continue.



Source: https://guides.loc.gov/language-in-puerto-rico/african-language



First Verse- Ché ché colé

Vamos todos a bailar al estilo africano
Si no lo sabes bailar, yo te enseñaré, mi hermano
A ti te gusta la bomba y te gusta el baquiné
Para que goces ahora, africano es el bembé




Commentary written by Marianopolita
 

NanSanPedro

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The African influence during colonization in the 16th century is noted in several countries in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. African slaves were brought to several countries when the native population in this case Taíno was decimated due mostly to disease. The impact of both populations was significant but in this post the focus is on the African influence. Mostly Yoruba and Bantu tribes populated the Antilles and the vestiges of these groups can be evidenced in food, music, language and other cultural factors. Several aspects about Puerto Rico show that their history has African influence and nothing larger than the music.

I have been listening to salsa for decades and at a relatively young age I always noticed the African sound (meaning instruments and rhythm) in Puerto Rican salsa. The old school traditional salsa is true to its roots and that is what makes it so unique. Bomba and Plena is a traditional Puerto Rican rhythm that has African roots and their salsa is also a reflection of their history.

While there are many renowned salsa artists from PR, a few singers and groups stand out that exemplify the African element in their music. Willie Colón , who in my opinion one of the pillars of the genre exemplify the Africanidad in Puerto Rican salsa. The rhythm and instruments are one aspect but the words are another. Many a time I would listen to his songs and think- what is he saying but I knew they where africanismos in the lyrics.

One song in particular (although he has many) that is an example of this is Ché ché colé (look at the title) What does that mean? In the song he uses words like: (Cofisa langa) Ahí viene la malanga, in one part of the lyrics he says, pareces venezolano….todos somos hermanos, (Adendé) Adendé, que bueno e'. Also in the lyrics he says, ven aquí a bailar, este ritmo es africano y dondequiera va a acabar.

This is just a brief commentary on how music reflects history. The rhythm and lyrics tell you a lot before you even pick up a book or a reference. A lot went on in the Caribbean during the colonial period. What we see today as evidence are in these aspects- the music, food, language etc. the people of land are what allow the traditions to continue.



Source: https://guides.loc.gov/language-in-puerto-rico/african-language



First Verse- Ché ché colé

Vamos todos a bailar al estilo africano
Si no lo sabes bailar, yo te enseñaré, mi hermano
A ti te gusta la bomba y te gusta el baquiné
Para que goces ahora, africano es el bembé




Commentary written by Marianopolita

Thanks Marianopolita. Very interesting stuff.
 
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Marianopolita

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Thanks Nan for reading my posts 🙂

I too find it very interesting and Spanish in the Caribbean specifically the history, evolution and what it is today is fascinating and definitely not to be overlooked. In my experience, the majority of people native and foreigners alike have no clue why Spanish in the Caribbean is quite different from what is considered the standard. While Spanish spoken in the Caribbean was influenced by the Canary Islands and Andalusía that was a long time ago. To say speakers today sound exactly the same is crazy especially since the African influence is so strong. One can hear similarities but to say they are exactly the same is a stretch.

Caribbean Spanish takes a hard it from Spanish speakers from other countries. In my experience, it is a negative view of the spoken language. However, I just tell them cada país tiene su forma de hablar (every country has its own way of speaking). There are aspects about it I find very peculiar and I see the impact it has especially when people write. That is where I feel the biggest impact lies and I realize education is a factor. For ex, you can drop the /s/ all you want when you speak but when you write you need it where it is needed. I am tired of seeing do persona, tre día etc. That is the difference maker for me.


-MP.
 
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Marianopolita

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What about the /S/ in Caribbean Spanish? The usage (or non-usage) of it comes under a lot of scrutiny by linguists and philologists. However, one aspect remains clear. The /S/ is not pronounced in the spoken language in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. This is nothing new. It goes back to colonization when the spoken language was influenced by its colonizers from the Canary Islands and the South of Spain as well as African slaves brought to these islands.


The /S/ in the spoken language in most scenarios is dropped and ironically added where it does not belong (hyper correction) This is one of the first aspects about the spoken language that native Spanish speakers and foreigners notice when they hear Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Panamanians, Colombians, and Venezuelans speak. In my opinion, if you are not used to it you will get used to it and it should not throw you off if you understand the flow of the language. What may be the actual challenge is the speed of speakers. Spanish spoken in the Antilles is notoriously fast. Add this to other aspects of the spoken language and you may feel defeated. However, your command is what is going help you. The stronger it is the less of a factor the dropping of the /S/will be. It is just the way Spanish is spoken in the Caribbean.


Does it have an impact?

Yes, verbs forms can be the same- Tú and Usted. For ex tú dice (informal) and usted dice (formal). When the /s/ in the informal Tú is dropped it has the same form as the formal Usted. Linguists believe that this is the reason why the subject pronoun is used so often because it becomes a clarifier as to the subject of the sentence. Whereas, in standard Spanish the subject pronoun is not required.


Spelling

The way people spell is impacted by the way they speak. Once again education is a prime factor as to how well people write. Even if the /s/ is dropped when you speak it must be written where needed- i.e., plurality, verb conjugations, and words that have an /s/ in between a vowel and consonant.


Examples:


Lo muchacho- should be los muchachos

Tre carro- should be tres carros

Mucha mujere- should be muchas mujeres

Lo ladrone- should be los ladrones. I hear many foreigners repeat this not realizing they are incorrect too. The singular form is el ladrón and the plural is los ladrones. Foreigners who don’t speak Spanish think the singular is ladrone. I often hear- there was a ladrone…..That is incorrect.

This link is the very helpful and well-researched that breaks down Spanish spoken in several regions with good examples to support the explanations. I looked at the information on Spain- Spanish accents in Spain and Caribbean Spanish.



Recomiendo que leas este enlace que da mucha información sobre los acentos en español y otros temas. Así que agarra tu cafecito y ponte a leer :coffee:



Commentary written by Marianopolita
 
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Marianopolita

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So let’s listen and take note of how many examples of Caribbean Spanish speech patterns you hear in this video from this Dominican.

Accent- Dominican 🇩🇴
Spanish- Caribbean

 
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Marianopolita

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What are your thoughts? What examples of Caribbean Spanish did you hear in the video?
 

Marianopolita

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To compare let’s listen to the Puerto Rican accent. This video gives a good explanation of it with examples by a Puerto Rican. Many people may not have exposure to this accent unless you are in Puerto Rico, NYC, Miami or Orlando. Outside of the island NYC has a very large PR population although it has changed in recent years but the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s in NYC and surrounding areas = Boricua.

The video is in Spanish but check to see if you can get English subtitles. It is definitely worth listening to. Think about the topic of the thread and what has been mentioned in my posts. Listen to his accent and the Caribbean elements of his Spanish. What he said about the pronunciation of carro by Puerto Ricans is right on. I just recently was made aware of this so I found it interesting.

I don’t get much exposure to the PR accent at all but I recognize when a Puerto Rican speaks to me. I hear the accent more on TV than in person. At the end of the day, it’s Caribbean and that’s what I hear when all is said and done.

Accent- Puerto Rican (Boricua)🇵🇷
Spanish- Caribbean


 
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Marianopolita

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What about Cuba? Geographically, it is the largest island of the Antilles and of the Spanish-speaking Antilles. It has a lot in common with its sister Spanish-speaking islands- Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

There are three distinct linguistic regions in Cuba. The west, central and the east or the orient. Cubans recognize each other by the way they speak. Whether a person is from the capital, Havana, or Camagüey or go to the extreme Eastern part of the island Guantanamo speakers recognize the differences. Just like in the DR with distinct accents. For ex, el Cibao vs the capital.

The Cuban accent is similar to the other islands mentioned above but distinct in its intonation, pronunciation of words and speech patterns. One noted aspect is the suppression the /r/ before a consonant. The /r/ is not pronounced and the consonant is doubled meaning that is the way it sounds. Examples of this are fuerte is pronounced fue-tte, barco is pronounced ba-cco, porque is pronounced po-qque. Another common suppression is the /l/ and the sound of the consonant that follows is doubled. For example, algo is pronounced a-ggo, alguien is pronounced a-gguien or even arguien (which is a different linguistic change).

It is worthy to note as well the suppression of certain consonants at the end of a word. For example, the /d/. Verdad is verda’ or even more Cuban vedda’, ciudad is cuida’, juventud is juventu’. This is common in the Caribbean but really noted in Cuban speech.

The R to L change happens in Cuba but it is not as widespread as Puerto Rico. You will hear some Cubans say calol, calne, polque etc. If you have not heard this from a Cuban just listen to a Cuban baseball player. The majority change the R to L.

The /s/ as well is dropped in Cuban Spanish. As they inherited their Spanish from the Canary Islands and Andalucía too this should not be a surprise. However, not only at the end of words but it is suppressed in between consonants and sounds more like an aspirated /h/. For example, ehcuela instead of escuela, ehcuchar instead is escuchar, ehconder instead of esconder.

This is just a brief commentary but there is a lot to discuss about Cuban Spanish. My post is just an intro. For more information search on the web and there is written material available. As well, if you have not been to Cuba nor plan to visit all you need to do is spend time in Miami. The Cuban population there will provide enough exposure to the spoken language. It is very diverse and distinguishable. The Cuban accent is notorious in Miami.

I will post a video about Cuban Spanish just like I did for DR and Puerto Rico. Listen well to how the Cuban in the video speaks. It is an authentic Western Cuba accent.



Commentary written by Marianopolita
 
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Marianopolita

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What are your thoughts? What examples of Caribbean Spanish did you hear in the video?

I am reposting this question for visibility. Any thoughts so far on Caribbean Spanish especially those of you living in the DR? What have you noticed? How does it compare to Spanish from other Spanish-speaking countries?
 

NanSanPedro

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I am reposting this question for visibility. Any thoughts so far on Caribbean Spanish especially those of you living in the DR? What have you noticed? How does it compare to Spanish from other Spanish-speaking countries?

I am not the voice of experience here, which is why I didn't respond initially.

The only thing I can say is about dropping the s on dos and tres. I asked my kid about that and he just tells me that's how people talk. I learned to count to 20 in Spanish over 50 years ago in grade school, so I knew the correct pronunciation and spelling. But that's the only thing that I am aware of. I'm just not well versed enough in Spanish to tell the differences.
 
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Marianopolita

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I am not the voice of experience here, which is why I didn't respond initially.

The only thing I can say is about dropping the s on dos and tres. I asked my kid about that and he just tells me that's how people talk. I learned to count to 20 in Spanish over 50 years ago in grade school, so I knew the correct pronunciation and spelling. But that's the only thing that I am aware of. I'm just not well versed enough in Spanish to tell the differences.

I hear you and this thread can easily be classified under a discussion about dialectology which would require having some degree of knowledge about the language beyond just speaking. However, just being a Spanish speaker without the grammar and linguistic background one can make observations about the language and that is what I am referring to. This is just a thread about Caribbean Spanish and the Antilles only. I have not said anything about Colombia, Venezuela and Panama which are part of the mosaic.

The dropping of the /s/ is just one aspect but is almost always the first that gets mentioned. However, from my posts hopefully you realize there are many more speech patterns that identify Caribbean Spanish. It is definitely one of most complex variations of the language but probably one the most interesting to analyze. Caribbean Spanish is what is most common in the US meaning heard in music, in sports, on the news etc. Although Mexicans make up the largest Spanish-speaking group their Spanish is not what has pull. It is Caribbean Spanish that is prevalent especially on the East coast.
 
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Marianopolita

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This video is an example of the Cuban accent. The You Tuber did a fantastic job using excellent examples. I think even sounds Venezuelan at times. His intonation sounds like Venezuelans from Caracas. It’s in Spanish. Check if you can get English subtitles.


Accent- Cuban 🇨🇺
Spanish- Caribbean

 
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