In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Spanglish

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Edited Collections and Proceedings of Symposia
  • Dictionaries
  • Latino Identity
  • Studies on Chicanos/Mexicans in the United States
  • Studies on Puerto Ricans in the United States
  • Studies on Cubans in the United States
  • Studies in Bilingualism and Second-Language Learning

Latino Studies Spanglish
Silvia Betti
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 March 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 March 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0048


The Spanish language has been part of the history of what is now the United States of America since the 16th century, when Juan Ponce de León sighted “La Florida” on 27 March 1513. Between this period and the 19th century, some of the territories of North America belonged to Spain. The Spanish were actually the first explorers of what became the union of North America. Throughout this process, the Spanish language was a secular presence in every southern state of today’s United States and, more precisely, in the southwestern states. In any case, the assignment of these southwestern territories to what became the United States began the creation of a linguistic profile. The so-called Spanglish (“Span-” from “Spanish” and “-glish” from “English”), which was the result of the contact between the Spanish and English languages and cultures, is not a new phenomenon, considering that some authors assume that its antecedents go back to the era of La Conquista Española (1527–1687). Others believe the date should be 1848, the year of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo through which Mexico sold what is now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah, Nevada, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming to the US territories. The new border was an arbitrary line, causing the Spanish-speaking inhabitants in these areas to experience a strange situation—being treated like foreigners in their homeland. These people were forced to use English as their official language and were prevented from using Spanish. Many wanted to become part of this new system, but at the same time they wanted to retain their identity. The evolution of Spanglish thus depended on the geographical area. The signing of the treaty intensified the bilingual shift in the Spanish-speaking people who were forced to use English as a business and education language. This resulted in the first phase of code-switching, a linguistic phenomenon that is now widespread. As a result, the next generations of Mexican Americans (Chicanos) started using some English words while applying the Spanish pronunciation rules, which led to the so-called Spanglish or Espanglish phenomenon. Some researchers believe that Spanglish does not exist because a way of speaking cannot be named; others consider it a variety often used as a register and not always as a sign of insufficient knowledge of Spanish and English. It is also worth remembering that not everyone in the scientific community considers Spanglish a positive phenomenon, which creates endless controversy. Either way, in the world of the many Latinos living in the United States, English and Spanish coexist, and Spanglish, which was created by the contact (or clash) between these two civilizations, could become an effective communicative means for some contexts—a sign, for some, of a new “in-between” identity, in addition to a specific way of life. This bibliography was compiled with support and translation from Giulia Bassi and Christine Hinde.

General Overviews

Spanglish in the United States currently lacks official recognition, which explains the absence of general and coauthored works on its history. However, some general studies introducing this linguistic and cultural phenomenon tackle contact between English and Spanish in the United States at large and in specific areas or states. One of the products of a language contact situation is “code-switching,” which, as some researchers argue, is popularly referred to as Spanglish. Lipski 2008 (see also Studies on Cubans in the United States), a comprehensive work, touches on history, demography, sociolinguistics, and linguistics and delves into the peculiar features of the main existing varieties of Spanish in the United States, including a chapter on the state of the art of research on Spanglish. López Morales 2009 (see also Edited Collections and Proceedings of Symposia and US Spanish, Sociolinguistic Aspects) is a pioneering work containing articles written by Spanish, American, and Hispanic scholars, some of which also deal with Spanglish. Stavans 2008 (see also Edited Collections and Proceedings of Symposia) is an anthology collecting a number of studies for and against this phenomenon. Morales 2002 (see also Reference Works) uses the term “Spanglish” to go beyond language and explore multiracial and multicultural identity issues. Spanglish represents cultural mestizaje, the world of Anglo and Latino cultural references in the United States, an increasingly hybrid society. Betti 2009–2010 (written in Spanish) provides a comprehensive and far-reaching overview of Spanglish aimed at students as well as scholars. The essay thoroughly discusses the usage of the so-called Spanglish language in the United States. Montes-Alcalá, in an exhaustive article (Montes-Alcalá 2009), describes the situation of US Latinos and Spanglish from a linguistic perspective and discusses the stances adopted by different scholars. Otheguy and Stern 2011 argues that “Spanglish” is a useless term and proposes to replace it with “Spanish in the USA.” Torres Torres 2004, an extensive article on Spanglish, adopts a general perspective, providing evidence of its specific features and the elements that Spanglish shares with other contact situations. Also see the publications cited under Reference Works and Spanglish.

  • Betti, Silvia. “La vida entre dos lenguas y culturas: Reflexiones sobre el fenómeno del spanglish.” Boletín de la Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española 12–13 (2009–2010): 130–180.

    An essay written in Spanish covering a wide range of historical, cultural, and linguistic issues on Spanglish, with a specific focus on its function as an identity marker in the communities in which it develops.

  • Lipski, John M. Varieties of Spanish in the United States. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2008.

    A thirteen-chapter volume with the opening chapter titled “The Importance of Spanish in the United States” (pp. 1–13). The book sketches the history of the linguistic varieties of Spanish and describes them from a sociolinguistic, phonetic, morphological, syntactic, and lexical perspective. Chapter 3, titled “Spanish, English, or . . . Spanglish?,” discusses the state of the art of research on Spanglish (pp. 38–74).

  • López Morales, Humberto, ed. Enciclopedia del español en los Estados Unidos. Madrid: Instituto Cervantes, 2009.

    A pioneering work of 1,198 pages published by Instituto Cervantes and collecting ninety academic articles written by forty-nine Spanish, American, and Hispanic scholars under the supervision of López Morales tackles historical, demographic, political, educational, sociolinguistic, media, artistic, and business issues regarding the US Hispanic community. The book also contains a well-documented article by Ricardo Otheguy on Spanglish (pp. 222–243).

  • Montes-Alcalá, Cecilia. “Hispanics in the United States: More Than Spanglish.” Camino Real 1 (2009): 97–115.

    An overview article providing data on the Hispanic population in the United States and describing the different approaches toward Spanglish. The article also provides a detailed linguistic analysis of the phenomenon.

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

    As the title of the book eloquently suggests, Morales analyzes Spanglish not only from a linguistic point of view, but also from a cultural and mestizaje-oriented perspective, defining it as a familiar and social practice that serves as an act of resistance in an Anglo-Saxon milieu.

  • Otheguy, Ricardo, and Nancy Stern. “On So-Called Spanglish.” International Journal of Bilingualism 15.1 (2011): 85–100.

    DOI: 10.1177/1367006910379298

    This article is intended as a technical discussion of the empirical foundations for the position that there is no justification for the use of the term “Spanglish” and that it should be substituted with the more precise expression “Spanish in the United States.” Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Stavans, Ilan, ed. Spanglish. Ilan Stavans Library of Latino Civilization. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2008.

    Divided into three parts: “Considerations” (pp. 1–109), “The Media” (pp. 111–119), and “Testimonios” (pp. 121–134). Aimed at students, scholars, and the general public, this collection of eleven articles published in journals and books (with a preface written by Stavans and a selected bibliography) provides an overview of the different issues around Spanglish, including opinions for and against it.

  • Torres Torres, Antonio. “El Spanglish, un proceso especial de contacto de lenguas.” Paper presented at the First International Conference on Spanglish, Amherst College, Amherst, MA, 2–4 April 2004.

    Comparing other situations of language contact, Torres accurately describes Spanglish as a variety, a register, the use of which is not necessarily the product of poor language proficiency. The comprehensive article describes bilingualism, the Spanglish phenomenon, and the controversies regarding its legitimacy and the Latino communities in-between the two cultures.

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