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Home / Issues / № 2, 2014

Teaching science

Mikheeva N.F.


Humanities researches of interdisciplinary character arouse a great interest in the modern linguistics. New linguistic disciplines found on the junction of sciences have appeared. They embrace issues regarding national culture and language interrelations, ethnocultural community, ethnic consciousness, connection between language and social and cultural context of time, as well as reflection of people's cultural values in the language.

It is well known, that dialectology is one of the difficult and multidimensional sections of linguistics. There are many works in dialectology written both by the Russian (see works of R. I. Avanesov, G. A. Haburgayev, N. I. Tolstoy, K.F. Zakharova, V.G. Orlova, V.M. Zhirmunsky, N.A. Katagoshchina, A.V. Shirokova and others) and foreign linguists (G.I. Ascoli, P. Meyer, G. Paris, G. Schuchardt, A. Samora-Vicente, M. Alvar etc.). However, some dialectology issues (including those of the Spanish language) demand further research.

While much attention to the dialectological researches of the Spanish language is being paid in the foreign studies (see works of P. Henríquez Ureña, A. Rosenblat, L. Canfild, C. Silva-Corvalán, M. Hidalgo etc.), it should be noted that Russian dialectological studies of the Spanish language still remain at its initial stage of development. Certainly, specificity of various Spanish dialects (both within and beyond the framework of national variety) is revealed more clearly by comparison. Since national variety of the Spanish language have dialects inherent to them, it is necessary to raise a question of necessity of development of the new direction in the Spanish dialectology - intervariant dialectology of the Spanish language. For the implementation of this idea it is important to know peculiarities of the language usage means in different Spanish dialects. Wherefore it is required to carry out a large number of concrete researches in the Russian studies of the Spanish language.


The purpose of research is to analyze national and cultural specific features of Mexican territorial dialect of Spanish in the USA.

Comparing dialects of the Spanish language in its various national varieties, we emphasize that distinctions between them aren't as essential as in dialects of different languages (in this case it is a question of interlingual dialectology) since they, as a rule, don't consider the language structure. In our opinion the functioning of Spanish in the southwest of the USA represents one of the cases of intervariant dialectology of the Spanish language, since due to the current historical situation the use of this dialect is traced beyond one of the national varieties of Spanish, namely - its Mexican national variety.

We define a form of existence of Spanish in the territory of southwest states of America as Mexican territorial dialect of the Spanish language outside of Mexico.

Mexican territorial dialect of Spanish in the USA has the following distinctive features: it is widespread outside of Mexico; it isn't native for an absolute number of inhabitants; it is limited by the usage spheres (mainly they are colloquial and religious); distinguishes by determined local specificity: on the one hand, Mexican Spanish performs a base for its existence, on the other hand, influence of American English is obviously observed.

Material and methods

The material we have studied testifies that depending on different factors (geographical, social origin of the Spanish conquistadors and their location residence both in Spain and new lands, influence of Indian and English languages) it is possible to distinguish two varieties in Mexican territorial dialect of the Spanish language outside of Mexico: 1) with bigger degree of similarity with the features of Mexican Spanish and 2) with smaller degree of similarity with the features of Mexican Spanish.

Let us address to the analysis of language peculiarities of Mexican territorial dialect of the Spanish language outside of Mexico and, in particular, its first variety characterized by bigger degree of similarity with the features of Mexican Spanish. Mexican territorial dialect of the Spanish language outside of Mexico is widespread on the North in New-Mexico and on the South in Colorado.

Specificity of Spanish of the Mexican zone is explained, first of all, by influence of the Indian language Nahuatl. Aztecs were the most numerous and powerful among five tribes that spoke Nahuatl. Approximately 80 Indian languages and dialects were spoken in the territory where those tribes lived, including such languages as Otomi, Totonaca, Populuca, Chontal and the Mixtec. According to F. Peñalosa, "in the XV century Nahuatl of ancient Mexico could be compared with Latin in Europe not only by its use as lingua franca, but also in its acceptance as the standard language for science, art and the education" [5].

Nahuatl was declared as the official language of New Spain by Philip II in 1570. The Castilian literary language was used in big cities where mainly wealthy and educated elite resided (lawyers, civil servants, merchants, landowners, priests and others). The Spanish language was undergoing transformations not only by itself, but also under the influence of the Indian language. "As aboriginals adopted various colonialists' dialects, new "varieties" of Spanish developed as well. "Mexican variety of Spanish" took to some extent the prosody of Nahuatl, along with the numerous lexical loans (about 5000) and a tendency to frequent use of nominal sentences (characteristic feature of many Indian languages)" [5].

Let us note the fact that Mexican Spanish was specified by the numerous combinations of sounds unusual for standard Spanish of the Iberian Peninsula which spread along with loan words from Nahuatl:

-uau- (Cuauhtochco → Huatusco);

-tl- (tlapanco → tapanco ‘attic', but Nahuatl maintains tl group, unusual for standard Spanish);

-cm- (Chicmecatitla → Chigmecatitla);

-htz- (Nauhtzontla → Nauzontla);

-ztl- (Tepoztlán → Tepotlán) [6].

Some Spanish words also become "aztecised": almizcle → almistle ‘musk (greasy substance secreted by some birds)'. The consonant / ∫ / (x in written form) preserved in the XVI century and partially - in XVII; then it transforms into /s/, /j/ or /ch/ (because of disappearance of similar consonant, x in written, from the Spanish consonant system):

/∫ochimilco/→ /Sochimilco/;

/tequi∫quite/→ /tequesquite/ ‘nitre';

/Mé∫ico/ (also México in written) → /Méjico/ (also México in written).

Thus [x] in Mexico is pronounced as:

1. [ks]: examen [eksámen] (Sp. ‘examination');

2. [s]: in Spanish words like extraño [estráηо] (‘strange') or in the loan-words from Nahuatl like Xochimilco [sot∫imílko];

3. [∫]: in the loan-words from Nahuatl like axca [á∫ka] ‘now; well; so-so', mixtecos [mi∫tékos] ‘The Mixtec (Indigenous people in Mexico)';

4. [х]: in the loans from Nahuatl like México [méхiko] (and less often in European Xavier [хavjér]) [4].

According to J.M. Lope Blanch, deletion of oppositions between [š] and [ŝ], especially in the words of an Indian origin (for example, in the toponyms Xochicalco or Tzinztuntzan) is nothing else than a consequence of Nahuatl substratum influence. He explains easy pronunciation of the group /tl/ (tlapalería 'little household shop', atlas ‘atlas', náhuatl ‘nahuatl') by the existence of the voiceless alveolar and dental lateral consonants in Indian languages similar in their articulation to /tl/. [4].

Abundance of the words from Nahuatl is a distinctive feature of Spanish in Mexico, and what is more they are widespread around the whole country whereas "indigenous" words in other Latin American countries more often have limited, regional distribution character. Hundreds of borrowings from Indian languages, generally from Nahuatl, were included in the Mexican Spanish vocabulary.

It is necessary to single out some ways of interaction between indigenisms and their Spanish lexical units equivalents:

1) Coincidence of meanings and equivalent functioning of Spanish and borrowings: guajolote (pavo) ‘turkey'; cuate (gemelo) ‘twin'; escuincle у chamaco (niño) ‘child'; tatemar у chichinar (quemar, chamuscar) ‘to burn, to scorch'; mecate (reata, cordel) ‘rope, string, cord';

2) In many cases semantics of indigenisms comprises an additional meaning, differentiating its implication from their Spanish equivalents. Thus, for example, an aztecism molcajete is used to denote a cooking-mortar made of a stone (mortero de cocina, hecho de piedra); the noun tianguis (from Aztec Tianguisti - 'market') has a wide range of implementation for designation various markets located in the open air (el mercado indígena que se celebra al aire libre);

3) In some cases words with an Indian origin replace their Iberian equivalents and sometimes completely displace them: tecolote (instead of buho) ‘owl';chapulín (saltamontes) ‘grasshopper'; atole (papilla) ‘nutritious porridge (usually made of corn)'; zacate (instead of hierbajo or estropajo) ‘fodder grass'; milpa (maizal) ‘mais (corn) field'; ejotes (instead of judías verdes) ‘haricot bean-pod'; jacal (choza) ‘cottage, hovel; papalote (cometa, volantín) ‘kite'.

There is a large number of indigenisms in Mexican Spanish, which are defined as Mexican realias and do not have adequate equivalents in the Iberian national variety of the Spanish language. Foremost it refers to words that indicate:

1) flora: zapote ‘bay-tree', tacalote ‘a kind of American bean', mesquite ‘a kind of acacia', guajilla ‘a kind of acacia', escagüil ‘dragon tree', zalate ‘a kind of ficus', quelite ‘cock comb', jícama ‘a tuber', chayotefruit', ixtle ‘fiber';

2) fauna: chachalaca ‘a kind of duck', cenzontle ‘a mockingbird', cacomistle / cacomixtle ‘a cat raccoon', tuza ‘a sacculated rat', tulix ‘a dragonfly';

3) national dishes, drinks, food products: pozole 'a dish made with corn , pork and pepper ', totopo 'a corn cake ', mole 'a sauce', tamal 'corn pie with meat and spices', tacazota 'tortilla', mezcal 'agave vodka', tejuino 'corn vodka ', pinole 'a drink of roasted corn flour with sugar, cinnamon and vanilla', tlacoyo 'bean omelet';

4) a variety of traditional Indian life attributes and historical realias: cacastle / cacaxtle 'a box, basket; wooden frame for carrying heavy loads on the back', metate 'a grain bruiser', huacal 'a box or basket for fruits' transporting' , comal 'a clay pan', tecomate 'a clay bowl ', ayate 'agave tissue ', huipil 'Indian women's 'shirt', tuncul 'a small Indian drum', yácatas 'the Pyramids in Michoacan. "

G.V. Stepanov points at such word formation features in the Mexican national variety of the Spanish language (they appeared for centuries in the areas of bilingualism as a result of close language contact with the Aztecs) as the hybrid words formation:

1) by the noun in the Iberian national variety of Spanish and by the Nahuatl noun: santoscal (santos + calli) 'chapel' (in standard Spanish - oratorio); tinacal (tina + calli) 'cellar, where a drink pulque is kept' (in Spanish tina means 'vat, tub');

2) by the Nahuatl noun and traditional Spanish noun : talacha (talli + hacha) 'tool '; tecorral (tetl + corral) 'stone wall ';

3) by the Spanish verb and Nahuatl noun: cuentachiles (cuenta from contar ' count' and chili 'pepper') 'meanie';

4) by the Nahuatl noun with the Spanish suffixes: tlapalería (from tlapalcalli: tlapalli 'paint ', calli 'house' and the suffix - ería) 'paint shop'; tamalada ( tamalli and the suffix - ada) ‘loaf of corn flour' [6] .

The influence of Nahuatl is also reflected in the grammar of Mexican territorial dialect of the Spanish language outside of Mexico. For example, the famous Mexican scientist H.I. Gharibi Davila is one of the supporters of the following idea: Nahuatl is a factor of an excessive use of diminutive suffixes in Mexican Spanish. According to his view, their permanent use even in such words as: coñaquito ‘cognac', ¡adiosito! ‘good bye!' apenitas ‘a little bit', ¡Diosito! ‘dear God!' is undoubtedly a result of the influence of "unusually frequent " diminutive forms functioning in Nahuatl (- conetl, - tepito, - tzin, - tzintli, - pil, - ton , - tontli) [1].

Another Mexican philologist V. Jimenez Moreno puts forward a similar hypothesis. He considers a Spanish suffix -ito as an equivalent of diminutive suffix in Nahuatl - tzin (tli). According to the linguist, "Mexican suffix - ito "adopted" the functions of the suffix - tzin (tli), serving not only to convey the idea of diminutiveness, but also serving as means of expressing nuances of the relationship to the interlocutor, particularly, to demonstrate favor or respect" [3].

The archaic traits are the significant ones among the specific features of Mexican Spanish, primarily in the lexicology. As it is commonly known, "archaism" is considered to be one of the most striking features on this linguistic level and it indicates "conservatism" of Mexican Spanish. There are some words and meanings, which are gradually passing out of use in the Iberian national variety of Spanish, but in Mexico as in some other Latin American countries they are still colloquial in use: pararse (in the meaning ponerse de pie) 'stand up', prieto (a) (apretado) ‘compressed; close', bravo (valiente o enojado) 'brave, valiant' ; valorous, angry' demorarse y dilatarse (tardar, retrasarse) 'to be late, fall behind', recibirse (graduarse) 'to graduate', cristianar (bautizar)' (colloquial) to christen, to baptize into Christianit', esculcar (espiar) ‘stalk , trap , spy', apeñuscado (amontonado) ‘heaped'.

There are some cases of the archaic functioning of grammatical forms in Mexico, such as the adverb luego ‘then' inmediatamente ‘now, immediately', which was a basic factor for the new stylistic device: the use of the doubled adverb luego: luego luego - ‘right now' is often fixed in the contemporary Mexican colloquial language. There are expressions used in Mexico, such as: se me hace (me parece) ‘I think', también no (tampoco) ‘not either', ¿qué tanto? (¿Cuánto?) ‘How much?' and some others. The implementation of some prepositions used more in "classical" Spanish is archaic in the analyzed region. For example, donde and de que are used here in conditional clause. Upon that ‘donde' more often acts within the meaning of condition than de que (even in the speech of educated people: «donde se lo digas, te mato» ‘if you tell me this, I'll kill you'). Here is an example of "old-spanish" prepositions de que functioning in the Mexican territorial dialect of the Spanish language outside of Mexico:

«De que a mí se me mete una idea en la cabeza, no hay quien me la pueda sacar» ‘if something occurs to me, nobody will change my mind'. We can point out some LUs, that preserved its significance in Spanish on the south-western states of America from the days of the "classical" Spanish existence: cada que and cada y cuanto: «cada que lo veo, me dice lo mismo» ‘whoever meets me, tells me the same thing.' The phrase cada y cuanto is frequently used in this region as the adverbal modifier of time with the meaning ‘sometimes': "Lo veo en la Universidad cada y cuanto" "Sometimes I see him at the university."


Mexican territorial dialect of Spanish outside of Mexico is widespread on the North of New Mexico, as well as on the South of Colorado, which belong to the most isolated Spanish-speaking regions with a peculiar of "archaic" dialect. This can be attributed to the remoteness of the examined region from the Mexican border: the studied district is separated from the United States and Mexico borders by the mountain ranges of San Juan and Suni and also by the rugged canyons. South Colorado and northern New Mexico are the first areas inhabited by the Hispanic colonialists. Remaining territory of southwestern United States' regions is characterized by the later influx of immigrants. Over the past decade, the number of Hispanics in all states of the south-west has significantly increased. The exceptions are New Mexico and southern Colorado. For example, the number of Hispanic population in California increased by 88% from 1950 to 1960, while in New Mexico it increased only by 8% [5].

Spanish, spoken by the people of New Mexico and southern Colorado, takes a special place in "Chicanos sociolinguistics" not only because it once was defined as a "quaint" for the abundance of "archaisms", but also because it was named "the language of the XVI century's conquistadors". Settlers who live in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado since 1650 and people who live there at present time, speak with certain transformations and different "local" dialects of former metropolis' Spanish. There is a large number of Castilian and Andalusian LU, northern dialects of Asturias and Leon, western Spanish- Portuguese dialect and the Galician language in their speech. [5].


The second variety of the Mexican territorial dialect of Spanish outside of Mexico has fewer similarities with Mexican Spanish: on the one hand, it is characterized by an absence of indigenisms, and by a sharp reduction of "archaisms" implementation. On the other hand, it is characterized by a greater influence of the English language. This kind of the Mexican territorial dialect of the Spanish language outside of Mexico is extended in the following southwestern states of the U.S.A.: California, Arizona and Texas.

Mexican territorial dialect of the Spanish language outside of Mexico represents one of the cases of intervariant dialectology, when the dialect is used beyond any national variety of the Spanish language, in this case, the Mexican one. On the one hand, it is reflected on the similarity with the characteristics of Mexican Spanish and on the other hand, on a significant discrepancy with the characteristics of Mexican Spanish, and on the similarity with the English language.


1) This variety of the Mexican territorial dialect of the Spanish language outside of Mexico is considered in the following work: Михеева Н.Ф. Национально-культурная специфика употребления ЯЕ в испанском языке на территории юго-западных штатов Америки // Вестник РУДН, ser. Лингвистика, 2003, № 4, p. 15-25.

2) For more details on this topic, see: Lope Blanch J.M. Léxico indígena en el español de México. 2-a ed. - México, 1979, p. 43.

3) For more details, see: El habla popular de la ciudad de México: Materiales para su estudio / Dir. Por Lope Blanch J.M. - México, 1976, p. 33-53.

1. Dávila Gáribi J.I. Posible influencia del náuatl en el uso y abuso del diminutive en el español de México / / Estudios de cultura náuatl. México. - 1959 . - P. 91 - 94.

2. Guzmán Betancourt I.Usos y pronunciaciones de la "x" en español // El español hablado en México. - México, 1982. - Р. 53 - 65.

3. Jiménez Moreno W. La transculturación lingüística hispano-indígena. Santander, 1965. - P. 40.

4. Lope Blanch J.M.La influencia del sustrato en la fonética del español mexicano // Elespañol hablado en México. México, 1974, t. IV. - Р. 97 - 111.

5. Peñalosa F. Chicano Sociolinguistics: A Brief Introduction. Rowley, 1980. - P. 23.

6. Stepanov G.V. Ispanskiy yazyk v stranakh Latinskoy Ameriki. - M., 1963. - P. 36.

Bibliographic reference

URL: www.science-sd.com/457-24477 (13.08.2022).