English in New Mexico

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English in New Mexico
Region New Mexico
Latin script
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None

English in New Mexico is the collective set of local varieties of Western American English spoken in the U.S. state of New Mexico.[1] Neighboring languages in the region include New Mexican Spanish, Navajo, and numerous other Native American languages and dialects.

Regional history[edit]

After the Mexican–American War, New Mexico and all its inhabitants came under the governance of the English-speaking United States, and for the next hundred years, English speakers increased in number,[2] the numbers increased especially thanks to the trade-routes of the Old Spanish Trail and the Santa Fe Trail. New Mexico was culturally isolated after the New Mexico Campaign during the American Civil War. Aside from the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, the isolation was similar to when New Mexico was culturally isolated from the rest of Spanish America. In 1910, English became the more widely spoken language in New Mexico,[3] however New Mexican Spanish is popular and still spoken throughout the state and, as such, is given a special status of recognition,[4] after statehood, the Spanish dialect continued to evolve, alongside newcomers, thanks to increases in travel, for example, along U.S. Route 66.[5] Some words, such as coyote, have become loanwords into American English after becoming so prevalent in Spanish-influenced New Mexican English.[6]


Several varieties of English in New Mexico have been identified, with varying degrees of documentation. A variety of Chicano English,[7] known as Northern New Mexico Chicano English, is primarily spoken by people of Hispanic descent and is a subset in this region,[8] this is related to a Spanish contact variety of English known as Northern New Mexican English.[9][10] In addition, linguist Damián Wilson has described an Albuquerque ("Burqueño") variety of English,[11] such a Burqueño speech variety has gained wider attention by being parodied in two viral YouTube videos, "Shit Burqueños (New Mexicans) Say," produced in 2012 by the New Mexican entertainment group Blackoutdigital.[12]

Phonological overview[edit]

The phonetics of English in New Mexico are similar to General American English. One distinctive New Mexican feature is a "sing-song" intonation pattern, which tends to have a higher voice-onset time with multilingual individuals, making the pattern more audible, though it is still present in native English speakers and not dependent on multilingualism.[10] Also, as in most other Western American English, the vowels in words like cot and caught have fully merged; therefore, the words cot, nod, and stock, for instance, are perfect homophones of caught, gnawed, and stalk, respectively.[13] The merged vowel sound is in the area of /ɒ/ and /ɑ/. Furthermore, in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas, instances of the full–fool merger (or near-merger), in which pool for example merges towards the sound of pull, have been reported among native English speakers.[14]

Lexical overview[edit]

The vocabulary of the Spanish and Native American languages has intermixed with English in the state of New Mexico, leading to unique loanwords and interjections.[1] Multiple places across New Mexico also have names originating from various language other than English, including New Mexican Spanish, Navajo, and Tiwa. Due to this, some places even have multiple names.[15]

Words and phrases[edit]

  • A la maquina [ä lä ˈmäːkinä] (literally "to the machine" in Spanish): usually used as a startled expression, sometimes shortened to a la.[11]
  • Acequia: the word for ditch in Spanish, and common within the entire Rio Grande Valley.[16][1]
  • Canales: Spanish for rain and street gutters, heard in the northern parts of the state.[1]
  • Coke: any generic carbonated soft drink, as also commonly used in Southern American English.[17]
  • Corazón: the word for heart in Spanish, can be connotative of sweetheart, dear, courage, and spirit.[18]
  • Howdy: used as a greeting in Texan English, and throughout rural regions of New Mexico. Usually used as it is in Western American English in conjunction with partner, for howdy, partner.[19]
  • Hui [ˈu:ˈi:]: a fear-based or startled interjection, similar to eek.
  • Kachina: spirits from Pueblo religion[20][clarification needed]
  • O sí (seguro): [11] literally "Oh yeah (sure)" in Spanish, is used as an ironic reaction or as a sincere questioning of a statement.
  • Ombers [ˈɒmbɚːz]: an interjection commonly used to express playful disapproval or shaming of another, similar to tsk tsk.[11]
  • Sick to the stomach: from Northern American English, a term to describe feeling very upset, worried, or angry.[1]
  • Vigas: the Spanish word for rafters, especially common in the northern part of the state.[1]

Miscellaneous features[edit]

  • Or what and Or no are added to end of sentences to exemplify the needed confirmation in a prior statement.[11] Examples, "Can you see, or no?" or "Are we late, or what?"
  • New Mexico chile has had a large impact on New Mexico's cultural heritage, so large in fact, that it was entered into the congressional record as being spelled 'chile', and not chili.[21][22] In New Mexico there is a differentiation for chili, which most New Mexicans equate to chili con carne.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Encyclopedia.com 2010.
  2. ^ Julyan & Till 1999, p. 12.
  3. ^ Valle 2003, p. 15.
  4. ^ Domenici 2004, p. 10664.
  5. ^ Hinckley 2012, p. 9.
  6. ^ University of New Mexico 1948.
  7. ^ Busby, M. (2004). The Southwest. The Greenwood encyclopedia of American regional cultures. Greenwood Press. pp. 270–271. ISBN 978-0-313-32805-3. Retrieved August 29, 2014. 
  8. ^ Hernández, Pilar (1993). "Vowel shift in Northern New Mexico Chicano English. Mester 22: 227-234.
  9. ^ High Desert Linguistics 2014, p. 21.
  10. ^ a b Balukas & Koops 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d e Wilson 2015.
  12. ^ "¡Colores! September 20th, 2013". PBS. Retrieved August 29, 2014. .
  13. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:122)
  14. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:67, 70)
  15. ^ Valdez 2011.
  16. ^ Wozniak 1998.
  17. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:289)
  18. ^ Madrid 2011, p. 304.
  19. ^ Skandera 2007, p. 355.
  20. ^ Weigle, Levine & Stiver 2009, p. 632.
  21. ^ King 2009.
  22. ^ Smith & Kraig 2013.
  23. ^ Montaño 2001.