New York Latino English

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The English language as 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.[1][2] Though not currently confirmed to be a single stabilized dialect, this variety has received some attention in the academic literature, being recently labelled New York Latino English, referring to its city of nineteenth-century origin, or, more inclusively, East Coast Latino English.[3] In the 1970s scholarship, the variety was more narrowly called (New York City) Puerto Rican English[4] or Nuyorican English. The variety originated with the Puerto Ricans moving to New York City after World War I,[5] though particularly in the subsequent generations born in the New York dialect region who were native speakers of both English and Spanish. Today, it covers the English of many Hispanic Americans of diverse national heritages, not simply Puerto Ricans, in the New York metropolitan area and beyond along the northeastern coast of the United States.

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".[2] Importantly, this East Coast Latino ethnolect is a native variety of American English and not a form of Spanglish, broken English, or interlanguage, and other ethnic American English dialects are similarly documented.[6] It is not spoken by all Latinos in this region, and it is not spoken only by Latinos.[1] It is sometimes spoken by people who know little or no Spanish.


General phonology[edit]

  • Some New York Latino English speakers, the best documented being East Harlem Puerto Rican males with many African American contacts, may be indistinguishable by sound from African American Vernacular English (AAVE) speakers.[7]
  • New York Latino English rhythm tends to be syllable-timed, so syllables take up roughly the same amount of time with roughly the same amount of stress and particularly among men.[8] Standard American English is stress-timed, so only stressed syllables are evenly timed, though Spanish is also syllable-timed.
  • /t/ and /d/ are realized as dental stops [] and [] 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 accents, 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 (bent) and fricatives, (left, test). That leads to a characteristic plural, in which words like tests are pronounced [t̪ɛst̪ɪs], sometimes written as testes.[citation needed]
  • /l/ (About this soundlisten) in syllable onsets (meaning at the beginning of syllables, such as in light, last, lose, line, uplink, etc.) are typically "clear" or "light". 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.[9]
  • In just over 50% of a studied sample of speakers, /u/ after coronals is not fronted as in typical New York City English [10]
  • 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].

Subcultural variations[edit]

As the unity of the dialect is still in transition, in order to enhance their study, Slomanson & Newman grouped their participants based off differences in subcultural (or peer group) participation and identification. The study differentiated between the influential 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. They admittedly did not examine gang (or "thug") culture, which minimally affected their population sample.[11]

The study found that the gliding vowel // (About this soundlisten) becomes a glideless [aː] (About this soundlisten), so, for example, the word ride approaches the sound of rod, in Latino members of hip hop culture; a middling degree of that was found with the family-oriented group and the least degree of it with the skater/BMX group.[12] Just over 50% of all speakers showed // (About this soundlisten) to be backed (About this soundlisten) before coronal consonants (in dude, lose, soon, etc.), with little variation based on peer groups.[13] For the gliding vowel // (About this soundlisten), just over 50% of speakers show no gliding (About this soundlisten), except in the skater/BMX group, where this drops to just over 30% of speakers. For the gliding vowel // (About this soundlisten), just over 70% of speakers show no gliding (About this soundlisten), except in the skater/BMX group, where this drops to less than 50% of speakers.[13] Such instances of glide deletion are indicators of the dialect's contact with Spanish.[13]

Grammar and vocabulary[edit]

  • Similarity of grammatical structures between New York Latino English and African American Vernacular English is clearly evident.[8]
  • 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 (owned by the devil, instead of possessed by the devil, closed meaning locked).

Notable native speakers[edit]



  1. ^ a b Newman, Michael. "The New York Latino English Project Page." Queens College. Accessed 2015.
  2. ^ a b Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006). The Atlas of North American English, Berlin: Mouton-de Gruyter, p. 24.
  3. ^ Slomanson & Newman (2004:214)
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ Newman, Michael (2010). "Focusing, implicational scaling, and the dialect status of New York Latino English". Journal of Sociolinguistics, 14: 207–239.
  6. ^ Zacarian, Debbie (2012). Mastering Academic Language: A Framework for Supporting Student Achievement. Corwin Press p. 16.
  7. ^ Lanehart, Sonja (2015). The Oxford Handbook of African American Language. Oxford University Press. p. 284-285
  8. ^ a b Shousterman, Cara (2014) "Speaking English in Spanish Harlem: The Role of Rhythm," University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics: Vol. 20 : Iss. 2, Article 18. Available at:
  9. ^ Slomanson & Newman (2004:213)
  10. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg, p. 233
  11. ^ Slomanson & Newman (2004:202)
  12. ^ Slomanson & Newman (2004:205)
  13. ^ a b c Slomanson & Newman (2004:211)
  14. ^ Shamsian, Jacob (September 27, 2017). "Meet Cardi B, the rapper who dethroned Taylor Swift from the top of the charts". Business Insider. Archived from the original on October 19, 2017. Retrieved October 19, 2017. Her distinctive New Yawk accent makes her an important part of the city's constellation of hip-hop artists.
  15. ^ Breihan, Tom (July 19, 2017). "Cardi B Is A Great Rapper, And You Need To Start Taking Her Seriously". Stereogum. Archived from the original on October 19, 2017. Retrieved October 19, 2017. Her voice is a full-bodied New Yawk nasal bleat...
  16. ^ Cepeda, Eddie (September 2017). "Cardi B Won't Change To Make White Fans Comfortable — And That's Why She's Number One". Bustle. Archived from the original on October 19, 2017. Retrieved October 19, 2017. She’s an Afro-Latina with a thick Bronx accent...


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