Caribbean Spanish

In the Caribbean and coastal areas of Latin America, and in some cases in southern Spain, Spanish is used differently. The Caribbean dialect zone covers island territories of Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, as well as the coastal areas of Venezuela, northern Colombia and eastern Panama.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the accent in Seville and other cities in Andalusia, in Southern Spain, began to change. Speakers began to drop the final "s" on words. The settlers and traders of southern Spain and from Canary Islands took this dialect with them to the Caribbean and other coastal areas.

The differences with Castilian in Middle and Northern Spain manifest in the tendency to nasalize vowels, particularly when these are adjacent to a nasal consonant and in extreme consonantal weakening, provided by the realization of /s/ in syllable-final position. Thus modification to [h], elision and assimilation to a following consonant are common. Elision and assimilation carry a social stigma in some circles, but the phenomenon is common except in the most educated speech styles. Confusion of [l] and [r] is also common. For example, pronunciation of verdad like veldad; and intervocalic [d] is often modified to [r], like in cuidado.

Syntax differences are exemplified in placing subject pronouns before an infinitive, as in para yo comerlo ‘for me to eat it’, antes de yo llegar a mi pueblo ‘before I arrive to my town’. This construction is common also in the Canary Islands in Spain. Secondly, non-inversion is normal in qu-questions when the subject NP is a pronoun: ¿Qué tú necesitas? ‘What do you need?’ ¿Cómo usted se llama? ‘What is your name?’.

Words associated with Caribbean areas include: amarrado ‘stingy’, bacilar ‘to party’, bituta ‘food’, cambur ‘banana’, chiva ‘small bus’, chombo ‘Afro-Caribbean’, chucho ‘light switch’, cocoro ‘black person’, fulo ‘blond’, furuminga ‘crowd’, guajiro ‘peasant’, hico ‘hammock string’, jagüey (type of tree), maraca ‘rattle’, regalía ‘cinch’, túbano ‘cigar’.<

Today Caribbean Spanish is characterized by its relative informality, rapid pace, and dropping of "s" sounds, allowing people to talk more quickly.