Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Linguistic and Cultural Characteristics of the Caribbean Spanish

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Linguistic and Cultural Characteristics of the Caribbean Spanish

Article excerpt


The Spanish language that the conquerors brought up to Latin America evolved in different ways, depending on the region and the influence of native languages. Moreover, much depended on the level of cultural development of each particular region. For example, it is impossible to compare the area of the river La Plata with areas of Central America - home of a highly developed culture of the Maya and Aztec, or the Inca culture in the Andes.

Despite the fact that each Spanish-speaking country in Latin America has its own national variant of the Spanish language, scholars have identified several major dialect areas, including the Caribbean region. The Caribbean Sea washes the shores of eleven countries: Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Puerto Rico. Apart from geographic neighborhood and partly due to it, these countries are characterized by similar linguistic phenomena that allow classifying eleven different variants of the Spanish language into a single group.

Here, it is important to mention that the Caribbean Spanish belongs to the group of coastal Spanish, which is opposed to the mainland Spanish. One of the implications of this fact is that the Caribbean Spanish is only typical for the coastal territory of the Republic of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, and the southeastern part of the Yucatan Peninsula, where Mexico is located.

Phenomenon of the Caribbean Spanish

Specialists differ on the question of whether native speakers of these countries perceive the similarities among the variants spoken in them. According to some experts, they do while others argue that natives of each Caribbean country consider their own variant as unique and different from others.

The existence of opposite opinions is due to the fact that the same situation can be viewed from different positions: from the outside, as researchers do when they focus on similarities in the search for common patterns, and from the inside, as native speakers do hence obtaining a better vision of differences among the language variants.

Another important issue is that until recently specialists in Latin dialectology worked in silos, making it impossible to conduct comparative studies between the variants of the Spanish language due to the lack of reliable, homogeneous and balanced basis for comparison. The 1970s saw the emergence of research works in this field based on a similar methodology that allowed conducting quantitative studies in order to obtain objective data and compare language variants, including in the Caribbean region.

Some scientists doubt on the existence of the Caribbean Spanish arguing that there are significant differences in vocabulary between the variants. According to H. Lope Blanch, only Mexico can be divided into 17 regional dialects in terms of differences in lexis. Other comparative studies of vocabulary come to opposite conclusions; for instance, a research on the "human body" vocabulary held in the Antilles showed that more than 90% of lexemes were common to the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico.

The authors of this article share the idea that the Caribbean Spanish is not a single variant, but a number of national variants that can be grouped together on the basis of systemic similarities at all language levels. Their existence is due to a number of linguistic and extralinguistic factors.

Factors That Have Influenced the Formation of the Caribbean Spanish

There are several explanations for the phenomenon of the Caribbean Spanish. The study of linguistic situation, ethnic composition and history of the Caribbean countries has proved the determining role of such factors as the origin of the first colonists, language contacts and political situation.

Presence of many indigenisms in the lexis of the Caribbean Spanish is due to the fact that before the arrival of colonizers this territory was inhabited by indigenous tribes of Arawak Indians. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.