Spanglish: The Hybrid Voice of Latinos in the United States

  • Eugenia Casielles-Suárez Wayne State University


The language practices of Latinos in the US continue to attract attention from politicians, educators, journalists, linguists and the general Hispanic and non-Hispanic public. While monolingual speakers of English in the US expect Hispanics to shift to English like other minority language speakers have done in the past, monolingual speakers of Spanish expect them to speak “pure” Spanish. Even Spanish-English bilingual speakers criticize Latinos for mixing Spanish and English or speaking Spanglish. This term has been rejected by some linguists who claim that it is technically flawed and only applies to casual oral registers. In this paper I consider the linguistic nature, sociolinguistic functions and attitudes towards Spanglish, I show that Latinos are using this hybrid, heteroglossic variety beyond casual oral registers, and I suggest a broader perspective which not only considers the linguistic features of Spanglish but also the political, social and cultural issues involved.Keywords: Spanglish; code-switching; Latinos; US Spanish; code-mixing; mixed language

Author Biography

Eugenia Casielles-Suárez, Wayne State University
Eugenia Casielles-Suárez is Associate Professor of Spanish and Linguistics at Wayne State University. She holds a PhD from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She has published articles about the syntax-information structure interface, Spanish syntax, language acquisition and bilingualism. She is author of The Syntax-Information Structure Interface: Evidence from Spanish and English (Routledge, 2004) and co-editor of The Syntax of Nonsententials (John Benjamins, 2006).


Achugar, Mariana. 2008. “Counter-hegemonic Language Practices and Ideologies.” Spanish in Context 5 (1): 1-19.

Acosta-Belén, Edna. 1975. “‘Spanglish’: A case of Languages in Contact.” In New Directions in Second Language Learning, Teaching, and Bilingual Education, edited by Marina K. Burt and Heidi C. Dulay, 151-158. Washington DC: TESOL.

Álvarez, Lizette. 1998. “It’s the Talk of Nueva York: The Hybrid Called Spanglish.” In Language: Readings in Language and Culture, edited by Virginia Clark, Paul A. Eschholz and Alfred F. Rosa, 483-488. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Anzaldúa, Gloria. (1987) 1999. Borderlands-La Frontera. The New Mestiza. 3rd edition. San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute.

Arteaga, Alfred. 1994. An Other Tongue: Nation and Ethnicity in the Linguistic Borderlands. Durham, NC: Duke UP.

Auer, Peter. 1999. “From Code-Switching via Language Mixing to Fused Lects: Toward a Dynamic Typology of Bilingual Speech.” International Journal of Bilingualism 3 (4): 309-332.

—. ed. 1998. Code-Switching in Conversation. Language, Interaction and Identity. New York: Routledge.

Backus, Ad. 2005. “Code-Switching and Language Change: One Thing Leads to Another? International Journal of Bilingualism 9: 307-340.

Bakhtin, Mikhail M. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Translated by Michael Holquist and edited by Caryl Emerson. Austin, TX: U of Texas P.

Bhabha, Homi K. 1990. “Interview with Homi Bhabha: The Third Space.” In Identity: Community, Culture and Difference, edited by Jonathan Rutherford, 207-221. London: Lawrence and Wishart.

—. 1994. The Location of Culture. London and New York: Routledge.

Blea, Irene Isabel. 1995. Researching Chicano Communities: Social-Historical, Physical, Psychological, and Spiritual Space. Westport and London: Praeger.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.

Braschi, Giannina. 1998. Yo-Yo Boing! Pittsburgh: Latin American Literary Review Press.

Bullock, Barbara E. and Almeida J. Toribio, eds. 2009. The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Code-Switching. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Callahan, Laura. 2004. Spanish/English Codeswitching in a Written Corpus. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Casielles-Suárez, Eugenia. 2013. “Radical Code-Switching in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 90 (4): 475-487.

Cepeda, Maria Elena. 2000. “Mucho loco for Ricky Martin, or: The Politics of Chronology, Crossover and Language within the Latin(o) Music Boom.” Popular Music and Society 24 (3): 55-71.

Chávez-Silverman, Susana. 2004. Killer Crónicas. Madison: University of Wisconsin P.

Cintrón, Zaida. 1997. “Salsa y control. Code-Switching in Nuyorican and Chicano Poetry: Markedness and Stylistics.” PhD diss., Northwestern University.

Crawford, James. 1993. Hold Your Tongue: Bilingualism and the Politics of English Only. Boston: Addison-Wesley.

—. 2000. At War With Diversity: US Language Policy in an Age of Anxiety. Clevedon, Somerset: Multilingual Matters.

Derrick, Roshawnda. 2015. “Radical Bilingualism, Code-Switching and Code-Mixing in US Latino Texts.” PhD diss., Wayne State University.

Díaz, Junot. 2007. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: Riverhead Books.

Dumitrescu, Domnita. 2010. “Spanglish: An Ongoing Controversy.” In Building Communities and Making Connections, edited by Susana V. Rivera-Mills and Juan Antonio Trujillo, 136-167. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.

—. 2013. “Lo que es y lo que no es: una nota sobre el Spanglish.” Revista de la Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española (RANLE) 2 (4): 353-361.

—. 2014. “Dude was figureando Hard: el cambio y la fusión de códigos en la obra de Junot Díaz.” In Perspectives in the Study of Spanish Language Variation. Papers in Honor of Carmen Silva-Corvalán (Verba, anexo 72), edited by Andrés Enrique-Arias, Manuel J. Gutiérrez, Alazne Landa and Francisco Ocampo, 397-432. Santiago: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Santiago de Compostela.

Fairclough, Marta. 2003. “El (denominado) Spanglish en Estados Unidos: polémicas y realidades.” Revista Internacional de Lingüística Iberoamericana 1 (2): 185-204.

García, Ofelia. 2009. Bilingual Education in the 21st Century. A Global Perspective. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Gardner-Chloros, Penelope. 2009. Code-Switching. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Grosjean, Francois. 2001. “The Bilingual’s Language Modes.” In One Mind, Two Languages: Bilingual Language Processing, edited by Janet L. Nicol, 1-22. Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Gumperz, John J. 1982. Discourse Strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Gumperz, John J. and Eduardo Hernández-Chávez. 1971. “Cognitive Aspects of Bilingual Communication.” In Language Use and Social Change, edited by Wilfrid H. Whiteley, 111-125. Oxford: Oxford UP.

Gutiérrez, David G. 1995. Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity. Berkeley and London: U of California P.

Heller, Monica, ed. 1988. Codeswitching: Anthropological and Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Hill, Jane H. 2008. The Everyday Language of White Racism. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Huntington, Samuel. 2004. Who are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Isurin, Ludmila, Donald Winford and Kees de Bot. 2009. Multidisciplinary Approaches to Code Switching. Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Jonsson, Carla. 2005. “Code-Switching in Chicano Theater: Power, Identity and Style in Three Plays by Cherríe Moraga.” PhD diss., Umeå Universitet.

Lipski, John M. 1985. Linguistic Aspects of Spanish-English Language Switching. Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University, Center for Latin American Studies.

—. 2007. “Spanish, English or Spanglish? Truths and Consequences of US Latino Bilingualism.” In Spanish and Empire, edited by Nelsy Echávez-Solano and Kenya C. Dworkin y Mendez, 197-218. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt UP.

—. 2008. Varieties of Spanish in the United States. Washington DC: Georgetown UP.

MacSwan, Jeff. 2000. “The Architecture of the Bilingual Language Faculty: Evidence from Code-Switching.” Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 3 (1): 37-54.

—. 2014. Grammatical Theory and Bilingual Codeswitching. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Mahootian, Shahrzad. 2005. “Linguistic Change and Social Meaning: Codeswitching in the Media.” International Journal of Bilingualism 9: 361-375.

Martínez, Glenn. A. 2006. Mexican Americans and Language. Del dicho al hecho. Tucson, AZ: The U of Arizona P.

Mellow Man Ace. 1992. “Brother with Two Tongues.” In The Brother with Two Tongues, CD. Madrid: Hispavox.

Mendieta-Lombardo, Eva and Zaida A. Cintrón. 1995. “Marked and Unmarked Choices of Code-Switching in Bilingual Poetry.” Hispania 78: 565-572.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (2003) 2017. Online edition, based on Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh edition. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster. [Accessed online on October 26, 2017].

Mignolo, Walter D. 2000. Local Histories/Global Designs. Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP.

Molina Speaks. 2012. “Mi hijo speak no Espanglish.” Bronze Future: Letters for 2045 (Part 5). [Accessed online on October 26, 2017]

Montes-Alcalá, Cecilia. 2000. “Written Code-Switching: Powerful Bilingual Images.” In Codeswitching Worldwide II, edited by Rodolfo Jacobson, 59-74. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

—. 2001. “Two Languages, One Pen: Socio-Pragmatic Functions in Written Spanish-English Code-Switching.” PhD diss., University of California-Santa Barbara.

—. 2007. “Blogging in Two Languages: Code-Switching in Bilingual Blogs.” In Selected Proceedings of the Third Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics, edited by Jonathan Holmquist, Augusto Lorenzino and Lotfi Sayahi, 162-170. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.

—. 2009. “Hispanics in the United States: More than Spanglish.” Camino Real Journal 1 (0): 97-115.

—. 2016. “Socio-Pragmatic Functions of Codeswitching in Nuyorican and Cuban American Literature.” In Spanish-English Codeswitching in the Caribbean and the US, edited by Rosa E. Guzzardo Tamargo, Catherine M. Mazak and M. Carmen Parafita Couto, 191-213. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Moraga, Cherríe. 1994. “Shadow of a Man.” In Heroes and Saints and Other Plays, 37-84. Albuquerque, NM: West End Press.

Morales, Ed. 2002. Living in Spanglish. The Search for Latino Identity in America. New York: San Martin’s Press.

Muysken, Pieter. 1997. “Media Lengua.” In Contact Languages: A Wider Perspective, edited by Sarah G. Thomason, 365-426. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

—. 2000. Bilingual Speech. A Typology of Code-Mixing. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Myers-Scotton, Carol. 1993. Duelling Languages: Grammatical Structure in Codeswitching. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP.

Myers-Scotton, Carol and Janice L. Jake. 2000. “Testing the 4-M Model: An Introduction.” International Journal of Bilingualism 4 (1):1-8.

Ohlson, Linda. 2007. ‘“Baby I’m Sorry, te juro, I’m Sorry’—Subjetivización versus objetivización mediante el cambio de códigos inglés/español en la letra de una canción de bachata actual.” In Spanish in Contact: Policy, Social and Linguistic Inquiries, edited by Kim Potowski and Richard Cameron, 81-98. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

—. 2008. “‘Soy el Brother de dos lenguas...’ El cambio de código en la música popular contemporánea de los hispanos en los Estados Unidos.” PhD diss., Göteborg University.

Otheguy, Ricardo and Nancy Stern. 2011. “On so-called Spanglish.” International Journal of Bilingualism 15 (1): 85-100.

Penfield, Joyce and Jacob Ornstein-Galicia. 1985. Chicano English: An Ethnic Contact Dialect. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Pérez-Firmat, Gustavo. 1995. Bilingual Blues. Tempe, AZ: Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe.

Pew Hispanic Center. 2016. Hispanic Population Growth and Dispersion across US counties, 1980-2014. [Accessed online on May 22, 2017]

Pfaff, Carol W. 1976. “Functional and Syntactic Constraints on Syntactic Variation in Code-Mixing.” In Papers from the Parasession on Diachronic Syntax, edited by Sanford S. Steever, Carol A. Walker and Salikoko S. Mufwene, 248-259. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.

—. 1979. “Constraints on Language Mixing: Intrasentential Code-Switching and Borrowing in Spanish/English.” Language 55: 291-318.

Poplack, Shana. 1980. “Sometimes I’ll Start a Sentence in Spanish y termino en español.” Linguistics 18: 581-618.

—. 1981 “The Syntactic Structure and Social Function of Code-Switching. In Latino Language and Communicative Behavior, edited by Richard P. Durán, 169-184. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Poplack, Shana, David Sankoff and Christopher Miller. 1988. “The Social Correlates and Linguistic Processes of Lexical Borrowing and Assimilation.” Linguistics 26: 47-104.

Prida, Dolores. 1991. Beautiful Señoritas & Other Plays. Houston: Arte Público Press.

Real Academia Española. 2014. Diccionario de la lengua española. 23rd edition. Madrid: Espasa Calpe. [Accessed online on October 26, 2017].

Reyes, Verónica. 2013. Chopper! Chopper! Poetry from Bordered Lives. Pasadena, CA: Arktoi Books, Red Hen Press.

Saldívar, José David. 1997. Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies. Berkeley and London: U of California P.

Sánchez, Rosaura. 1983. Chicano Discourse. Socio-Historic Perspectives. Houston, TX: Arte Público Press.

Sankoff, David and Shana Poplack. 1981. “A Formal Grammar for Code-Switching.” Papers in Linguistics 14 (1): 3-46.

Santa Ana, Otto. 1993. “Chicano English and the Nature of the Chicano Language Setting.” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 15 (1): 3-35.

Santiago, Bill. 2008. Pardon my Spanglish. Philadelphia: Quirk Books.

Stavans, Ilan. 2000. “Spanglish: Tickling the Tongue.” World Literature Today 74: 555-558.

—. 2004. Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language. New York: Harper Collins.

Timm, Lenora A. 1975. “Spanish-English Code-Switching: el por qué y how not to.” Romance Philology 28 (4): 473-482.

—. 2000. “Y se hincha into Armor: The Pragmatics, Metapragmatics, and Aesthetics of Spanish-English Code-Switching Poetry.” Southwest Journal of Linguistics 19: 91-114.

Toribio, Almeida J. 2001. “On the Emergence of Bilingual Code-Switching Competence.” Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 4 (3): 203-231.

—. 2011. “Code-Switching among US Latinos.” In The Handbook of Hispanic Sociolinguistics, edited by Manuel Díaz-Campos, 530-552. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Torres, Lourdes. 2007. “In the Contact Zone: Code-Switching Strategies by Latino/a Writers.” MELUS 32 (1): 75-96.

Valdés, Guadalupe. 1988. “The Language Situation of Mexican-Americans.” In Language Diversity. Problem or Resource? A Social and Educational Perspective on Language Minorities in the United States, edited by Sandra McKay and Sau-ling Cynthia Wong, 111-139. New York: Newbury House.

Varo, Carlos. 1971. Consideraciones antropológicas y políticas en torno a la enseñanza del Spanglish en Nueva York. Puerto Rico: Librería Internacional.

Yerba Buena. 2005. “Bilingual Girl.” In Island Life, CD. New York: Razor & Tie.

Zentella, Ana Celia. 1997. Growing up Bilingual: Puerto Rican Children in New York. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

—. 2016. “Spanglish: Language Politics versus el habla del pueblo.” In Spanish-English Codeswitching in the Caribbean and the US, edited by Rosa E. Guzzardo Tamargo, Catherine M. Mazak and M. Carmen Parafita Couto, 11-35. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.