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Isleño Spanish

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Isleño Spanish
español isleño
Pronunciation[ehpaˈɲol ihleˈɲo]
Native toUnited States
RegionLouisiana (St. Bernard Parish, Plaquemines Parish)
EthnicityIsleño (Louisiana)
Native speakers
About 50 in St. Bernard Parish (2020)[1]
Early forms
Latin alphabet (Spanish alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Isleño Spanish (Spanish: español isleño) is a dialect of the Spanish language spoken by the descendants of Canary Islanders who settled in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana during the late eighteenth century.[2][3][4][5][6] This dialect was greatly influenced by adjacent language communities as well as immigration from peninsular Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries.[2][3][4] The dialect spoken by the Isleños who settled along Bayou Lafourche is differentiated as Brule/Bruli Spanish.[7][8]

In the present day, Isleño Spanish is approaching complete extinction.[1][9][10] Through the twentieth century, modernization and urbanization came to greatly disrupt the transmission of Spanish along coupled by the hardships of natural disasters.[2][10][11] The remaining Spanish speakers of the community tend to be elderly individuals from fishing communities of eastern St. Bernard Parish.[2][1]


The Isleños are descendants of colonists from the Canary Islands who arrived in Spanish Louisiana between 1778 and 1783.[10][11] It estimated that about 2,000 Canary Islanders were settled into a series of communities, one of those coming to be known as San Bernardo (Saint Bernard).[2][11]

Early in the establishment of this community, a minority of Acadians were present along with Filipinos from the nearby community of Saint Malo which intermarried with the Canary Islanders.[12] In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the community was reinforced by immigration from rural, peninsular Spanish regions such as Andalusia, Santander, Galicia, and Catalonia.[3] A survey conducted in 1850 found at least 63 natives of Spain, 7 Canary Islanders, 7 Cubans, and 7 Mexicans in the community.[2]


The 1915 New Orleans hurricane destroyed much of the Isleño fishing communities situated in eastern St. Bernard Parish.[13] Only a couple years later, the Spanish flu pandemic left over one thousand people dead in St. Bernard Parish.[14] With the adoption of the Louisiana Constitution of 1921, public schooling was conducted in English.[15]

After World War II, urbanization and modernization played a greater effect on the community the retention of Spanish.[2][11][10][16] This was compounded by Hurricane Betsy in 1965 which severely damaged much of Isleño community and presence in St. Bernard Parish.[17] In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the community and only a fraction of Isleño families have returned to their original communities.[1][18]

Currently, the transmission of the Spanish language has halted completely along with the preservation of many traditions.[2][1][11] Those who know Isleño Spanish or speak the dialect as a first language are often elderly community members.[2][1][16]


In many respects Isleño Spanish shares an array of similarities with the other Spanish dialects generally of the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, and rural Spain.[2][3][5]

Similar to much of Latin America, the Canary Islands, and southern Spain, Isleño Spanish merges the phonemes /θ/ and /s/ into the single phoneme /s/, a phenomenon known as seseo.[2][5] Additionally, Isleño Spanish lacks /ʎ/, with /j/ being weak and beginning to approach [ʒ] in the word-initial position.[2][3][4][5]

  • /d/ experiences deletion in word-finally and is elided in words such as usted [uhté] 'you' and nada [ˈna] 'nothing'.[2][4][5]
  • /g/, just as /b/ and /d/, experiences elision in words like seguro [seúro] 'sure, certain'.[2][4][5]
  • /n/ is highly variable, with word-final /n/ being realized more often as [n] and occasionally [ŋ].[2][5]
  • /r/ is realized differently in its preconsonantal forms resulting in [l], [ɾ] [ɸ], and [h], with its word-final form being habitually deleted.[2][4][5][19]
  • /s/ is possesses variable behavior where it is aspirated to [h] in preconsonantal and word-final positions, but is preserved in some instances.[2][3][4][5]
  • /x/ is pronounced [h], which is common in Caribbean Spanish dialects, southern Spain, and the Canary Islands.[2][4]

Morphology & syntax

  • The verb ir meaning 'to go' in the majority of Spanish dialects, has become dir in Isleño Spanish.[2][5][8][16] This is not uncommon among rural dialects of Spanish which has been attributed to the pattern acaba de ir.[2][16]
  • Pronouns are used redundantly in Isleño Spanish, just as in the Caribbean dialects, for phonological reasons and to maintain distinction between subjects.[2][4][5][16] Moreover, ustedes is used exclusively with vosotros remaining unknown.[2][4][5]
  • Non-inverted questions such as ¿Cómo usted se llama? rather than ¿Cómo se llama usted? are common in Isleño Spanish, which is a characteristic shared by various Caribbean Spanish varieties.[2]


Contact with other groups and substantial immigration into the St. Bernard community has shaped their vocabulary to some extent. Some of the largest contributions have been made by English, Louisiana French, Louisiana Creole, regional dialects of Spanish, and the various Castilian languages.[3][4][5] Additionally, due in large measure to the isolation of the Isleños, several archaic terms deriving from Old Spanish have been preserved.[2]

Isleño Spanish Canarian Spanish Caribbean Spanish Standard Spanish Louisiana French Louisiana Creole English
candí (m.) dulce (m.) dulce (m.) caramelo (m.)

dulce (m.)

candi (m.) dou, doudous



colorado (m.) rojo (m.) rojo (m.) rojo (m.) rouge (m.) rouj red
grocería (f.) supermercado (m.)

tienda de comestibles (f.)

bodega (f.)

colmado (m.)

supermercado (m.)

supermercado (m.) boutique (f.)

grosserie, grocerie (f.)

grosri, lagrosri grocery store
jaiba (f.) cangrejo azul (m.)

cangrejo (m.)

jaiba (f.)

cangrejo (m.)

cangrejo azul (m.)

cangrejo (m.)

crabe (m.) krab blue crab


lacre (m.) lago (m.) lago (m.) lago (m.) lac (m.) lak lake
liña (f.) liña (f.) sedal (m.) sedal (m.) fil de pêche (m.)

ligne de pêche (f.)

ling, liñ

lalign a pèche

fishing line
mancar extrañar










to miss

to fail

miquá, micuena (f.) pato cuchara (m.) pato cuchareta (m.) cuchara común (m.) micoine (m.) kana mikwonn northern shoveler
peje (m.) peje (m.)

pez (m.)

pez (m.)

peje (m.)

pez (m.) poisson (m.) pwason fish
seña (f.)

letrero (m.)

seña (f.)

letrero (m.)

letrero (m.)

cartel (m.)

letrero (m.)

cartel (m.)

signe (f.) sign, siñ

signal, siñal

titi, tite (m.)

tío (m.)

titi, tití (m.)

tío (m.)

tío (m.) tío (m.) oncle (m.)

nonc (m.)

nonk uncle

Brule Spanish

The Isleños who settled in the community of Valenzuela along Bayou Lafourche were greatly influenced by the immigration of Acadian refugees and further isolation.[3][7][8] The dialect has been considered an "offshoot" of Isleño Spanish and is referred to as Brule or Bruli Spanish.[3][8] The dialect is highly endangered if not already extinct as only a few dozen octogenarian speakers were known to exist in the early 1990s.[3]

The dialect possesses a large number of loanwords from Louisiana French which is seen as the main distinction between it and Isleño Spanish.[3][7] Even so, an amount of similarities in vocabulary between Brule and Isleño Spanish exist:

Brule Spanish Isleño Spanish Canarian Spanish Standard Spanish Louisiana French Louisiana Creole English
ajena, ansí asina así


así donc donk so


cambar cambar cambar doblar






to bend

to twist

coquilla (f.) coquilla (f.) concha (f.) concha (f.) coquille (f.) kokiy, lékay, ekay shell
costumbre (m.) costumbre (m.) costumbre (f.) costumbre (f.) coutume (f.) labitud, labichud




dir dir ir


ir aller ale, alé to go
grocería (f.) grocería (f.) supermercado (m.)

tienda de comestibles (f.)

supermercado (m.) boutique (f.)

grosserie, grocerie (f.)

grosri, lagrosri grocery store
mesmo, mehmo mesmo, mehmo mismo


mismo même mème


pandil (m.) pandil (m.) reloj (m.) reloj (m.) pandule (f.) lapandil, lapendil



Notable Isleño Spanish-speaking people

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Miloshoff, Andrew (2020-05-26). "The Last Echoes of Spanish Louisiana: Observations of the Isleño Spanish Dialect of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana". 2020 JHU Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Lipski, John M. (July 1, 1990). The Language of the Isleños: Vestigial Spanish in Louisiana. Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press. pp. i, 1, 3, 4–6, 8–9, 17, 35. ISBN 0807115347.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Armistead, Samuel G. (1992). The Spanish Tradition in Louisiana. Katz, Israel J. Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta. pp. ix, 3–4, 5, 7, 28. ISBN 9780936388489.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k MacCurdy, Raymond R. (1950). The Spanish Dialect in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press. pp. 19–20, 29–30, 35, 36–38, 39, 39–40, 43, 45–47.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Coles, Felice (1999). Isleño Spanish. Languages of the World. Materials 278. München; Newcastle: LINCOM EUROPA. pp. 3, 8–9, 11–12, 12–13, 13–15, 15, 24, 34. ISBN 3-89586-593-1.
  6. ^ Alvar, Manuel (1989). El dialecto canario de Luisiana (in Spanish). Las Palmas: Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. pp. 11–13. ISBN 84-89728-58-5.
  7. ^ a b c Raymond R., MacCurdy (December 1959). "A Spanish Word-List of the "Brulis" Dwellers". Hispania. 42 (4): 547–554. doi:10.2307/335051. JSTOR 335051.
  8. ^ a b c d Holloway, Charles Edward (1993). The Death of a Dialect: Brule Spanish in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. pp. viii–ix, 43–45, 143.
  9. ^ Perez, Samantha. (2011). The Isleños of Louisiana : on the water's edge. Charleston, SC: History Press. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-60949-024-9. OCLC 696100223.
  10. ^ a b c d Hyland, William de Marigny. "Los Isleños – A Historic Overview". Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society of St. Bernard. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  11. ^ a b c d e Din, Gilbert C. (1 August 1999). The Canary Islanders of Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. pp. 25, 75, 196, 197. ISBN 978-0-8071-2437-6.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  12. ^ Hinton, Matthew (2019-10-23). "From Manila to the Marigny: How Philippine pioneers left a mark at the 'end of world' in New Orleans". Very Local New Orleans.
  13. ^ Roy, William F., ed. (1915-10-02). "Severe storm destroys life and property". The St. Bernard Voice. XXVI (39).
  14. ^ Hyland, William de Marigny (2020-04-23). "Louis Alfred Ducros M.D.: Biographical Sketch". Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society of St. Bernard Newsletter: 3.
  15. ^ "French's Legal Status in Louisiana". CODOFIL. Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  16. ^ a b c d e Lestrade, Patricia Manning (1999). Trajectories in Isleño Spanish with special emphasis on the lexicon. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama. pp. 5-6, 13, 45, 52-53.
  17. ^ Harris, Sara-Ann. "The Evolution of the Isleño Identity". Folklife in Louisiana. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  18. ^ Marshal, Bob. Jacobs, Brian. Shaw, Al. The Lens, Propublica (August 28, 2014). "This is what Louisiana stands to lose in the next 50 years". ProPublica. Retrieved 2019-12-30.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Fortier, Alcée (1894). Louisiana Studies: Literature, Customs and Dialects, History and Education. New Orleans: F.F. Hansell & Bro. p. 203.
This page was last edited on 31 August 2020, at 01:26
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