“So-called Spanglish”

“So-called Spanglish”

Thursday November 29th, 2012

6:00pm – 8:00pm

Ricardo Otheguy, Ph.D.

Professor of Linguistics

City University of NY, Graduate Center

Nancy Stern, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Chair

Dept of Childhood Education

City College of New York

Columbia University- International Affairs Building

Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room (1219 IAB)

420 West 118th Street, New York, NY 10027


Co-Hosted by The Columbia Linguistics Society and The Workshop on Meaning: Language and Socio-cultural Processes.


The word ‘Spanglish’, used most often to describe the casual oral registers of the speech of Hispanics in the USA, is an unfortunate and misleading term. Speakers of popular varieties of Spanish in the USA would be better served by recognizing that they are already speakers of Spanish. The present article is intended as a technical discussion of the empirical foundations for our position that there is no justification for the use of the term Spanglish. We demonstrate that features that characterize popular varieties of Spanish in the USA are, for the most part, parallel to those of popular forms of the language in Latin America and Spain. Further, we show that Spanish in the USA is not of a hybrid character, that is, not centrally characterized by structural mixing with English. We reject the use of the term Spanglish because there is no objective justification for the term, and because it expresses an ideology of exceptionalism and scorn that actually deprives the North American Latino community of a major resource in this globalized world: mastery of a world language. Thus on strictly objective technical grounds, as well as for reasons of personal and political development, the term Spanglish is to be discarded and replaced by the term Spanish or, if greater specificity is required, Spanish in the United States.