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Caribbean Spanish (Spanish: español caribeño) is the general name of the Spanish dialects spoken in the Caribbean region. It closely resembles the Spanish spoken in the Canary Islands and western Andalusia.
More precisely, the term refers to the Spanish language as spoken in the Caribbean islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic as well as in Panama, Venezuela, and the Caribbean coast of Colombia.
Frequently, word-final /s/ and /d/ are dropped (as in compás [kõmˈpa(h)] 'beat', mitad [miˈta] 'half'). Syllable-final /s/ (as well as /f/ in any context) may also be debuccalized to [h]: los amigos [lo(h‿)aˈmiɣo(h)] ('the friends'), dos [ˈdo(h)] ('two').
Similarly, syllable-final nasals and /ɾ/ (or [l]) in the infinitival morpheme may also be dropped (ven [ˈbẽ(n)] 'come', comer [koˈme(l)] 'to eat'); the dropping of final nasals does not result in further neutralization compared to other dialects since the nasalization of the vowel is maintained.
Several neutralizations also occur in the syllable coda. The liquids /l/ and /ɾ/ may neutralize to [j] (Cibaeño Dominican celda/cerda [ˈsejða] 'cell'/'bristle'), [l] (alma/arma [ˈalma] 'soul'/'weapon', comer [koˈme(l)] 'to eat'), or as complete regressive assimilation (pulga/purga [ˈpuɡːa] 'flea'/'purge').
The deletions and neutralizations show variability in their occurrence, even with the same speaker in the same utterance, which implies that nondeleted forms exist in the underlying structure. That is not to say that these dialects are on the path to eliminating coda consonants since such processes have existed for more than four centuries in these dialects. Guitart (1997) argues that it is the result of speakers acquiring multiple phonological systems with uneven control, like that of second language learners.
There are other features:
- Intervocalic /d/ is often deleted (at times causing diphthongs): cansado [kãnˈsao] ('tired'), nada [ˈna] ('nothing'), and perdido [perˈði.o] ('lost').
- /x/ is retracted to glottal [h]
- /r/ is often pronounced [x] and aspirated, especially in Puerto Rico: e.g. revolución [xʰeβoluˈsjõŋ] ('revolution')
- Word-final /n/ is realized as velar [ŋ], meaning [ŋ] is an allophone of /n/ before velar consonants and word-final position: consideran [kõnsiˈðeɾãŋ] ('they consider') and Teherán [te(e)ˈɾãŋ] ('Tehran'); in Venezuela, syllable-final /n/-velarisation, or /n/-assimilation prevails: ambientación ("atmosphere") becomes either [ãŋbjẽŋtaˈsjõŋ] or [ãbjẽtaˈsjõ].
- The second-person subject pronouns, tú (or vos in Central America) and usted, are used more frequently than in other varieties of Spanish, contrary to the general Spanish tendency to omit them when meaning is clear from the context (see Pro-drop language). Thus, tú estás hablando instead of estás hablando. The tendency is strongest in the island countries and, on the mainland, in Nicaragua, where voseo (rather than the use of tú for the second person singular familiar) is predominant.
- So-called "wh-questions", which in standard Spanish are marked by subject/verb inversion, often appear without the inversion in Caribbean Spanish: "¿Qué tú quieres?" for standard "¿Qué quieres (tú)?" ("What do you want?").
- Boyd-Bowman, Peter (1975), "A sample of Sixteenth Century 'Caribbean' Spanish Phonology.", in Milán, William G.; Staczek, John J.; Zamora, Juan C., 1974 Colloquium on Spanish and Portuguese Linguistics, Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, pp. 1–11
- Guitart, Jorge M. (1997), "Variability, multilectalism, and the organization of phonology in Caribbean Spanish dialects", in Martínez-Gil, Fernando; Morales-Front, Alfonso, Issues in the Phonology and Morphology of the Major Iberian Languages, Georgetown University Press, pp. 515–536
- Gutiérrez-Bravo, Rodrigo (2008), "Topicalization and Preverbal Subjects in Spanish wh-interrogatives", in Bruhn de Garavito, Joyce; Valenzuela, Elena, Selected Proceedings of the 10th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium, Somerville, MA: Cascadilla, pp. 225–236
- Labov, William (1994), Principles of Linguistic Change: Volume I: Internal Factors, Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers
- Lipski, John (1977), "Preposed Subjects in Questions: Some Considerations", Hispania, 60: 61–67, doi:10.2307/340393, JSTOR 340393
- Cedergren, Henrietta (1973), The Interplay of Social and. Linguistic Factors in Panama, Cornell University
- Poplack, Shana (1979), Function and process in a variable phonology, University of Pennsylvania