If you found our episode on Chicano English interesting, we have more information below. If you haven’t listened yet, find it here.
What are some of the features of Chicano English? As Dr. Carmen Fought mentioned, many of the features of region- and age-dependent. We briefly discussed vocal fry (but we discuss it more in depth in our first episode and in our first Addendum, if you are interested in learning more about it). Dr. Fought mentioned using d for “th”, as in “dem” for “them”. This is very common, as the two “th” sounds (/ð/“them” and /θ/ “thin”) are pretty rare in the world’s languages. She also talked about the merger of the vowels /i/ and /ɪ/ (“peat” vs. “pit”) in words like “speaking”, which is usually pronounced as /spikɪŋ/ in standard varieties of English. In Chicano English, it’s often pronounced as /spikiŋ/. This merger is sometimes found in other places as well: for example, some Chicano English speakers pronounce “pit” like “peat”. We also discussed double negatives (discussed in more detail in episode 3 and also in our third Addendum). She also talked about the use of ‘barely’ in Chicano English. For most speakers of English, “barely” means something like “almost didn’t”. “I barely made it to school in time.” But in Chicano English it can also mean “recently”. “Did you barely call me?” = “Did you just call me?” This may come from influence from Spanish: apenas can be used to mean “almost didn’t” (like English “barely”) and also “recently”.
There are many other features that we didn’t have a chance to discuss, including:
- English usually has a stress-based timing (stressed vowels are longer than unstressed vowels); Spanish has equally-timed syllables. Chicano English has a system somewhere in between.
- /t/ and /d/ are pronounced further forward in the mouth, with the tongue touching the teeth. (This is called a dental sound; Spanish has dental t’s and d’s. Most varieties of English don’t.)
- /z/ is often pronounced like /s/ – so dizzy sounds like dissy.
There are too many to list, but you can read more about Chicano English here.
Are there any other myths about Chicano English I should be aware of? Dr. Fought addressed many myths. But there’s one myth from her book we didn’t get to:
Myth: Chicano English is a dialect spoken mostly by gang members and not used by middle-class Latinos and Latinas.
This myth tells us more about the prejudice against Latinos (especially Chicanos) than it does anything about language. Chicano English is used by a wide range of individuals from all kinds of socioeconomic backgrounds, despite what Hollywood might have us believe.
Can you tell me more about that law against “teaching with an accent”? Sure. I was wrong, it wasn’t an actual law, it was policy. Arizona started testing its teachers for accents in 2010, but stopped in 2011 because the testing was found to be too subjective.
What debate was Dr. Fought talking about? It’s here.
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