Chicano English, or Mexican-American English, is a dialect of American English spoken primarily by Mexican Americans (sometimes known as Chicanos), particularly in the Southwestern United States ranging from Texas to California, as well as in Chicago. Chicano English is sometimes mistakenly conflated with Spanglish, which is a grammatically simplified mixing of Spanish and English; however, Chicano English is a fully formed and native dialect of English, not a "learner English" or interlanguage. It is even the native dialect of some speakers who know little to no Spanish.
Communities of Spanish-speaking Tejanos, Nuevomexicanos, Californios, and Mission Indians have existed in the American Southwest since the area was part of New Spain's Provincias Internas. Most of the historically Hispanophone populations eventually adopted English as their first language, as part of their overall Americanization.
A high level of Mexican immigration began in the 20th century, with the exodus of refugees from the Mexican Revolution (1910) and the linkage of Mexican railroads to the US (Santa Ana, 1991). The Hispanic population is one of the largest and fastest-growing ethnic groups in the United States. In the Los Angeles metropolitan area alone, they form 45% of the population (roughly 6 million out of 13.3 million in 2014). The result of the migration and the segregated social conditions of the immigrants in California made an ethnic community that is only partly assimilated to the matrix Anglo (European American) community. It retains symbolic links with Hispanic culture (as well as real links from continuing immigration), but linguistically, it is mostly an English-speaking, not a Spanish-speaking, community. However, its members have a distinctive accent.
The phonological inventory appears to be identical to that of the local Anglo community. For example, long and short vowels are clearly distinguished, as is the relatively rare English vowel /æ/. Speculatively, it seems that the main differences between the Chicano accent and the local Anglo accent are that the Chicanos are not participating in the ongoing phonetic changes in the Anglo communities (such as the raising of /æ/).
As Spanish-speaking people migrated from other parts of the Hispanophone world to the Southwest, Chicano English is now the customary dialect of many Hispanic Americans of diverse national heritages in the Southwest. As Hispanics are of diverse racial origins, Chicano English serves as the distinction from non-Hispanic and non-Latino Americans in the Southwest.
A common stereotype about Chicano English speakers, similar to stereotypes about other racial/ethnic minorities in the United States, is that Chicano English speakers are not proficient in English and are generally uneducated. This language ideology is linked to negative perceptions about Chicano Americans and Hispanics in general. Some of these stereotypes can be seen in popular films that depict the life of a Chicano as well as the Chicano dialect. Most of these films take place in Southern California. Some of the more popular films, where this can be noted, are Mi Familia, American Me and Blood In Blood Out. These films are an example of the Southern California Chicano dialect and also of some of the stereotypes that are thought of when one thinks of Chicanos.
Chicano English has many phonological features that are influenced by Spanish.
The rhythm of Chicano English tends to have an intermediate prosody between a Spanish-like syllable timing, with syllables taking up roughly the same amount of time with roughly the same amount of stress, and General American English's stress timing, with only stressed syllables being evenly timed.
Chicano English also has a complex set of nonstandard English intonation patterns, such as pitch rises on significant words in the middle and at the end of sentences as well as initial-sentence high pitches, which are often accompanied by the lengthening of the affected syllables.
When needing extra emphasis to certain words, there is the use of rising glides. Rising glides can be used multiple times in one sentence. On compound nouns and verbs, major stress is on the second word. Rising glides can occur at any time and at either monosyllabic or polysyllabic words.
Consonants are often pronounced as in Spanish.
Pronunciation patterns can resemble those of African American English (AAE). For example, the "th" sound may be replaced by a "d" sound, as in "dese" and "dem" instead of "these" and "them".
t/d deletion occurs at the end of a word. For example, "missed" becomes "miss".
The /z/ undergoes devoicing in all environments: [ˈisi] for easy and [wʌs] for was.
The /v/ is devoiced after the last vowel of a word: [lʌf] for love, [hæf] for have, and [waɪfs] for wives.
Dental fricatives change pronunciation so think may be pronounced [ˈtiŋk], or more rarely [ˈfiŋk] or [ˈsiŋk]. Most Latin American Spanish dialects, such as Mexican Spanish, exhibit seseo, a lack of distinction between /θ/ and /s/ that is a part of Standard European Spanish.
/tʃ/ merges with /ʃ/ so sheep and cheap are pronounced alike. The outcome of the merger varies and can be either a fricative [ʃ] (both cheap and sheep sound like sheep) or an affricate [tʃ] (both cheap and sheep sound like cheap).
English [lˠ] is develarized and so it is pronounced similarly to a Spanish alveolar lateral approximant.
/ɪŋ/ is pronounced as [in], making showing sound like show-een. That is also sometimes a feature of general California English.
Some realizations of /i/, /eɪ/, /oʊ/, and other long vowels are pronounced as monophthongs. That may be an effect of Spanish, but other American English dialects (Minnesota, and Wisconsin, for example) also show monophthongization of such vowels, which are more commonly diphthongs in English.
Also, such vowels are underlyingly long monophthongs so the general effect thus is to simplify the system of phonetic implementation, compared to the /ɪi, eɪ, oʊ, ʊu/ of many other English dialects.
A fair to strong degree of variation exists in the phonology of Chicano English. Its precise boundaries are difficult to delineate, perhaps because of its separate origins of the dialect in the Southwest and the Midwest.
One subvariety, referenced as Tejano English, is used mainly in southern Texas. California subvarieties are also widely studied, especially that of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, such as East Los Angeles Chicano English, which includes elements of African American Vernacular English and California English.
One Chicano English sub-variety is native to north-central New Mexico. A recent study found that native English–Spanish bilingual Chicanos in New Mexico have a lower/shorter/weaker voice-onset time than that typical of native monolingual English speakers. Northern New Mexico Chicano English, transcending age, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, has been reported as having its own vowel shift as follows: /i/ is [ɪ] before a final /l/ (so feel merges to the sound of fill), /u/ is [ʊ] before any consonant (so suit merges to the sound of soot), /ɛ/ is [æ] before a final /l/ (so shell merges to the sound of shall), and /ʌ/ is [ɑ̈] before any consonant (so cup merges to the sound of something like cop).