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English in New Mexico

English in New Mexico
RegionNew Mexico
Latin script
Language codes
ISO 639-3

English in New Mexico refers to varieties of Western American English and Chicano English native to the U.S. state of New Mexico. Other languages in the region include New Mexican Spanish, Navajo, and numerous other Native American (mostly Puebloan) languages.


After the Mexican–American War, all of New Mexico's inhabitants came under the governance of the English-speaking United States, and for the next 100 years, the number of English speakers increased,[1] especially because of trade routes: Old Spanish Trail and the Santa Fe Trail. New Mexico was culturally isolated after the New Mexico Campaign of the American Civil War. Aside from the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, the isolation was similar to the time that New Mexico was culturally isolated from the rest of Spanish America.

In 1910, English became the most-widely spoken language in New Mexico,[2] but New Mexican Spanish remains throughout the state and so is given a special status of recognition.[3] After statehood, the Spanish dialect continued to evolve, alongside newcomers, because of increases in travel, for example, along U.S. Route 66.[4] Some words, such as coyote, have become loanwords into American English after they had been so prevalent in New Mexican English.[5][better source needed]


According to 2006 dialect research, Albuquerque and Santa Fe natives speak Western American English but with a local development: a full–fool merger (or near-merger) in which pool, for example, merges with pull.[6] In this north-central region of the state, studies have also documented a local type of Chicano English, Northern New Mexico Chicano English, primarily spoken by rural Hispanic New Mexicans and characterized by a unique vowel shift.[7][8] Such studies show that the English of bilingual New Mexican Chicanos has been found to have a lower/shorter/weaker voice-onset time than that of typical monolingual New Mexicans[9] and that the former are more likely to show monophthongization of //.[10]


Scholarship on the English of New Mexico mentions mostly the region's unique vocabulary. The vocabulary of the Spanish and Native American languages has mixed with the English of New Mexico, leading to unique loanwords and interjections.[11] Multiple places across New Mexico also have names originating from various language other than English, including New Mexican Spanish, Navajo, and Tiwa; thus, some places have multiple names.[12]

Words and phrases

Some characteristic usage in English (often borrowed from Spanish):

Spanish arroyo ('gulch', 'creek') is frequently used in the English of New Mexico, as on this sign for a paved Albuquerque drainage ditch that was once a natural ravine.

Miscellaneous features

  • Or what and or no are added to ends of sentences to emphasize or seek confirmation of the prior question,[13][better source needed] as in "Can you see, or no?" or "Are we late, or what?"
  • New Mexico chile has had such a large impact on New Mexico's cultural heritage that it has even been entered into the Congressional Record, spelled chile, not chili.[18][19] In New Mexico, there is a differentiation for chili, which most New Mexicans equate to chili con carne.[20]

See also