Spanglish and Llanito: threat to the purity of the language?

The contact between two worlds and the coexistence of different cultures and traditions always generate some kind of exchange and also accelerate the emergence of new ideas artistic, philosophical or ideological movements. The language is a set of expression and communication systems subject to the experience of reality, situations, goals and groups of speakers, it is also affected by this phenomenon. Good examples of the cultural interference between languages are Spanglish and Llanito, result of the contact between English and Spanish.

The first one, also called ingañol, espanglish, espanglés, espangleis or espanglis, is typical of the Castilian-speaking communities in some states of the USA, like Florida, Georgia, Texas, California or New York. This phenomen can be observed as well in Mexico and several Central American countries, due to the population movements and the influence of the media. The second one, which has adopted the name of Llanito (demonym synonymous with Gibraltarian) is habitually used by the inhabitants of Gibraltar and their descendants in other parts of the United Kingdom.

“Spanglish” and “Llanito” are a mixture of English and Spanish. They are forms of jargon that resemble pidgin, type of speech characterized by combining syntactic, phonetic and morphological features of one language with lexical units of another. Its main characteristics are: incorporation of English terms transformed in accordance with the rules of Spanish (e.g.: nailon, performans), creation of words out of the English terms (parquear – from Eng. park; atachar – from Eng. attach), code-mixing and code-switching, i.e., usage of sentences that are combination of two languages (e.g.: I’m sorry I cannot attend this meeting porque tengo otro compromiso en Nueva York) and confusion of the false friends (e.g.: vacumear la carpeta – from Eng. vacuum the carpet; carpeta in traditional Spanish means folder).

These hybrid languages are not in official use, they are in the colloquial use. However, there are generations that use Spanglish or Llanito as thier day-to-day speach, abandoning the Spanish language in its traditional form. There are also authors who write in pure Spanglish, among its most famous exponents are Puerto Ricans Giannina Braschi and Ana Lydia Vega.

The Royal Spanish Academy still does not treat them as languages. University professors are opposed to their development and they stress the need to separate English and Spanish at the time of speaking. Fearing the disintegration of Spanish, they reject Spanglish and Llanito as inconsistent even among its practitioners. They indicate that the two phenomenons correspond to an immediate thought which sometimes affects the clarity of the message, makes the statement opaque, betrays haste and ignorance. Finally, they say that these are evidences of degradation of the language.

Nevertheless, the emergence of such forms of communication is involuntary. They appear because it’s easier to express something in one language than in another or because the speakers do not know some Spanish words and replace them with English words. After all, every language serves to communicate, that’s why always the most effective form wins and not necessarily the most correct one. The linguistic change is a permanent and inevitable phenomenon of all languages at all times. No language is pure and consolidated, nor has reached its final form. The only law that governs all the world’s languages is a change (gradual but inexorable and permanent.). None of the languages can avoid this rule. Actually, Castilian was born of the mixture of Vulgar Latin and of the other Iberian languages. Castilian language (during the centuries of the evolution) was under the influence of Arabic contributions, European contributions, American contributions and even some Asian contributions. Like it or not, the language will continue to evolve and we cannot do anything to stop this process.

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