"Chicano English" and "Türkendeutsch": A comparison of two ethnic dialects

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2012

13 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 Chicano English
2.1 The history of Chicano English
2.2 Structural features of Chicano English
2.2.1 Prosody and intonation
2.2.2 Phonology
2.2.3 Syntax and semantics
2.3 Sociolinguistic aspects of Chicano English

3 Türkendeutsch
3.1The emergence of Türkendeutsch
3.2 Structural properties of Türkendeutsch
3.2.1 Phonology
3.2.2 Syntax and semantics
3.2.3 Features of stylized Türkendeutsch
3.3 Sociolinguistic aspects of Türkendeutsch

4 Similarities and differences

5 Conclusion


1. Introduction

In every living language, processes of change are as inevitable as rain .[1]

New dialects develop out of isolation as well as out of contact with other varieties. Thereby they are influenced by ongoing socio-cultural changes and, in turn, affect culture and way of speaking. This paper will summarize results of latest linguistic research on two ethnic dialects – Chicano English , a Hispanic variety of American English and Türkendeutsch[2], a relatively new variety of German. First, both varieties will be presented with regard to their history, their structural features and sociolinguistic aspects, starting with Chicano English. After outlining characteristics of both individually, major similarities and differences will be highlighted. Finally, difficulties in the context of this paper will be discussed and future prospects will be given.

2. Chicano English

As Carmen Fought points out in her treatise Chicano English in context there are still some persistent myths and misconceptions about what Chicano English actually is and who it speaks. In this chapter, Chicano English (CE) will be defined as regards its historical background, its structural properties as well as sociolinguistic aspects.

Chicano English is a very wide-spread Hispanic variety of American English spoken in California and other south-western states of the USA. It is a non-standard ethnic dialect with low prestige and is often mistaken for English with a Spanish accent or an erroneous English of speakers whose mother tongue is Spanish. In fact, it is the vernacular of millions of native Californian English speakers many of whom cannot even speak Spanish. Although CE might sound Hispanic to a certain extent, due to its Mexican roots, it is still an independent local dialect with typical patterns and rules and people of all ages, social classes and occupational backgrounds speak it.

2.1 The History of Chicano English

Just as other dialects, Chicano English grew out of language contact. California, especially Los Angeles, has always been a multilingual and multicultural melting pot with today’s largest Hispanic community.

The predecessor of CE evolved out of bilingualism. English and Spanish speakers came into contact with each other not least because of trade between Mexico and the US. Until the Mexican – American war in 1848 California was a part of Mexico. More and more Anglos settled in Mexican territory trying to dominate the region. During the Mexican – American war in 1848 US forces occupied major Mexican cities. With the defeat of the Mexican army the US gained one third of Mexican territory. Even though English became the primary language of government, education and economy as well as the second language for many Mexicans, Spanish-influenced varieties of English have existed since in the southwest. Succeeding generations of early Mexican immigrants grew up bilingual and shaped the dialect of those regions.

2.2 Structural features of Chicano English

CE is an independent dialect with its own structural features. In the following, typical characteristics of Chicano English will be presented.

2.2.1 Prosody and Intonation

Undoubtedly the Mexican Spanish influx is still present in today’s Chicano English. The most salient hints are to be found in the intonation and the prosody. Other than in standard American English with a rise – fall (2-3-1) intonation pattern for declarative sentences, CE speakers start utterances with a higher pitch and don’t end as abrupt as in (3-2…-) 4-3 (Fought 2003: 73). This “circumflex”[3] intonation has its origin in Mexican Spanish. Within this pattern statements sound like questions. Even though this is also true for the local Californian uptalk CE still differs from it as it features even higher pitches. Older CE speakers use the “circumflex” intonation pattern more often than younger ones who also use uptalk occasionally. In addition, high pitched talk is often heard in the media where Mexican and Chicano speech patterns are ridiculed.

The rhythm and melody of CE speakers’ utterances are also distinct from those of other English varieties. While English is a stress timed language, Spanish is syllable timed. In terms of stress CE holds an intermediate position between English and Spanish. Stresses in CE are often placed within a word as in the compound morning sickness where stresses are on {mor} and {sick} (Fought 2003: 71). So there are two strong stresses rather than one main stress within one word. In combinations of verb plus particle as in to sit up (Fought 2003: 71) the stress is more likely to be on the verb sit unlike in other English dialects where the particle up would be stressed.

Finally, there are two characteristic suprasegmental features of Chicano English. One is the phenomenon of creaky voice , which CE incorporated from the local Anglo dialect, where it is very popular especially among women. Some of them end almost every sentence with a creak in their voice. The other concerns clicks .[4] Those are mainly articulated by male gang members and serve as discourse markers that mostly express disapproval.

2.2.2 Phonology

Other salient characteristics of CE are to be found in its phonology. In unstressed syllables CE speakers reduce vowels, especially high vowels like /i/ or /u/, less frequently than speakers of the local Anglo dialect. Hence, a CE speaker would pronounce together like [thugɛðɚ] (Fought 2003: 64) in contrast to [thə’geðər] of Anglo speakers. Furthermore there is a frequent lack of glides in CE pronunciation as for example in ago [əgo] vs. Standard American English [ə’goʊ]. In CE the phoneme /ɪ/ occurs as tense /i:/ in words like embarrassing [ɪmbɛrəsin] (Fought 2003: 65). Generally speaking, vowels in CE are articulated slightly higher. Not only are there differences in the articulation of vowels, in CE consonants are also replaced or reduced. The alveolar plosives /t/ and /d/ substitute the dental fricatives /ð/ and /θ/, a feature which is known to occur in African American English as well. There is consonant cluster reduction in the form of /t/ or /d/ deletion at the end of words as in least [lis], night [naj] or even within words as in hardware [hɑwɚ] (Fought 2003: 68-9). CE speakers tend to glottalise final voiceless stops or aspirate them.

2.2.3 Syntax and Semantics of Chicano English

Chicano English shares many syntactical features with other non – standard varieties. Those include the use of negative concord, an alteration of was/ were and a lack of agreement in 3rd person singular forms. There is regularization of past tense and irregular verb forms as well as the usage of ain’t . Features that derive from contact with African American Vernacular English (AAVE) such as invariant be , existential it and perfective had can also be found in Chicano English. But what is typical for CE only is on the one hand the use of the modal would in if – clauses for example in If he’d be here right now, he’d make me laugh (Fought 2003: 99) and on the other hand preposition substitution as in We all make mistakes along life (Fought 2003: 101). In both cases Spanish constructions might have reinforced the CE usage. Bilinguals or early speakers of CE might have simply drawn an analogy between the Spanish and the English patterns, as the syntax of both languages is fairly similar. The modal could in the meaning of “can/ to have the competence to do sth.” as in Nobody believes that you could fix anything (Fought 2003: 100) is frequently used by CE speakers but is not to be found in any other non – standard variety or rather among Anglo speakers.


[1] (Field 2011: 109)

[2] Turkish – German

[3] Fought (2003: 73) refers to Matluck who was the first to describe this kind of intonation as “circumflex”

[4] An alveolar or palato-alveolar sound, its IPA symbol is /ǂ/

Excerpt out of 13 pages


"Chicano English" and "Türkendeutsch": A comparison of two ethnic dialects
University of Würzburg  (Neuphilologisches Institut)
American English: History, Variation, and Change
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Chicano English, Türkendeutsch, dialects, linguistics, sociolinguistics
Quote paper
Melanie Anders (Author), 2012, "Chicano English" and "Türkendeutsch": A comparison of two ethnic dialects, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/208515


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