Chicano English (CE)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Michelle D. Devereaux, Teaching About Dialect Variations and Language in Secondary English Classrooms (Routledge. 2015).


Chicano English is an imprecise term for a nonstandard variety of the English language influenced by the Spanish language and spoken as a native dialect by both bilingual and monolingual speakers. Also known as Hispanic Vernacular English.

Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck emphasize that Chicano English (CE) "is not 'learner English,' and though it does exhibit many influences of Spanish, it is a fully developed variety of English, the native English of many of its speakers" (Linguistics for Everyone, 2012).

Like other nonstandard languages, Chicano English is not an official "language" with institutional support and recognition, but it does have a fully formed and distinctive vocabulary, syntax, and consistent grammar, as well as a variety of possible accents. In many instances, the nonstandard dialects develop as a result of cultural or regional distinctions. Other well-known nonstandard English dialects include Creole, African American Vernacular English, and Cockney.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

Examples and Observations

  • "Chicano English . . . is alive and well in Los Angeles, among other places. It is a dialect in its own right, separate both from Spanish and from other local varieties of English such as California Anglo English (CAE) or African-American English (AAE). It is changing, as all dialects do, but shows no signs of being abandoned by the community as a whole in favor of more standard varieties of English. . . . Chicano English can vary on a continuum from less to more standard, and from less to more influenced by other dialects, and it encompasses a wide range of stylistic options."
    (Carmen Fought, Chicano English in Context. Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)
  • Chicano English Grammar
    "Spanish . . . uses the double negative, which is reflected in the grammar of CE [Chicano English]. Students regularly produce students such as I didn't do nothing and She don't want no advice.
    "Spanish signifies the third person possession through prepositional phrases rather than possessive nouns, as in the following sentence:
    Vivo en la casa de mi madre. (literal translation: I live in the house of my mother.)
    We therefore frequently find students producing sentences of the following type in CE:
    • The car of my brother is red.
    • The ring of my fiancée was expensive.
    Because Spanish has a single preposition (en) that corresponds to both in and on in English, speakers of CE commonly use in where Standard English requires on, as in the following:
    • Macarena got in the bus before she realized that she didn't have no change.
    • We got in our bikes and rode down the hill."
    (James Dale Williams, The Teacher's Grammar Book. Routledge, 2005)
  • The Sounds of Chicano English
    - "Chicano English is distinctive because of its vowels (based on Spanish pronunciation), particularly the merger of [i] and [I]. So beet and bit are both pronounced beet, sheep and ship are pronounced sheep, and the -ing suffix is pronounced with [i] as well (talking is pronounced something like /tɔkin/, for example). Sounds usually described as interdentals (this, then) are made with the tongue touching the back of the teeth, rather than between the teeth. Chicano English is also syllable timed, like Spanish, rather than stress timed."
    (Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck, Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction, 2nd ed. Wadsworth, 2013)
    - "Another major characteristic of the phonological system of Chicano English is the devoicing of /z/, especially in word-final position. Because of the widespread occurrence of /z/ in the inflectional morphology of English (in plural nouns, possessive nouns, and third-person-singular present-tense verbs such as goes), this salient characteristic is also stereotypical."
    (Edward Finegan, Language: Its Structure and Use, 5th ed. Wadsworth, 2008).
  • The Southern California Dance
    "[T]hink of Southern California as a ballroom where English and Spanish are two dancers with their arms wrapped around each other's waists. The Spanish dancer has a lot of flair, and she's trying to do a tango. But it's the English dancer who has the lead, and in the end, you realize what they're doing is a square dance."
    (Hector Tobar, "Spanish Versus English in Southern California." Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2009)
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Chicano English (CE)." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). Chicano English (CE). Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Chicano English (CE)." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 1, 2023).