The Canarian Spanish Dialect


The Canarian Spanish dialect, spoken in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, has developed along the lines of Andalusian Spanish rather than those of Castilian Spanish. The Canarian Spanish dialect is also spoken in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Louisiana by Isleno communities that immigrated to the United States as early as the eighteenth century. This has sprung from the fact that the Andalusians played a prominent role in both the subjugation of the Islands and the establishment of the new rule or administration.

Modification and Classification

As in much of Andalusia, seseo, or the phoneme reduction that consists of pronouncing the sounds of “S” and “Z/soft C” alike, is the norm, although isolated pockets of ceceo may continue in use around the rural areas. The Canarian Spanish dialect coincides with Andalusian Spanish, which is clear from its strong inclination towards consonantal waning. Thus [x] -> [h] modification is in common. The pronunciation of “CH” in the Canarian Spanish dialect is often faintly diverse from the pronunciation in the rest of the Spanish dialect. Standard Spanish speakers recognize it as a “Y”. The word “Muchacho” in the Canarian Spanish dialect is identified as “Muyayo” in Castilian, Catalan, Murcian, etc.


The “S” is pronounced like an “H” if it is a word ending or prior to a consonant. For example, “Lah mohcah” is the Canarian pronunciation of “Las moscas,” which means, “the flies”. As is the case with most varieties of Spanish outside of mainland Spain, the indefinite past is generally used instead of the composed present perfect. It is common for subject pronouns to be placed before an infinitive, instead of after, as in Standard Spanish. In the Canarian Spanish dialect, as in Andalusian Spanish, ustedes is used in place of Castilian vosotros/-as.

Only a handful of Guanche (native Canary Islanders wiped out by the Andalusians) terms continue to exist in the lexicon of the Canarian Spanish dialect. Some relevant examples include “gofío” for toasted maize, “ganigo” for the English word bowl and “baifo” for goat. More common are the words of western Iberian origin, known as “Lusisms” and words from Galician: “fechar,” which means “to close” in English, “andorina” (swallow), “garuja” (fog/drizzle), and “empatar” (to lengthen).

Other Examples

Because Canary Island migrants to the Caribbean often return to their homeland, it is certain that a number of Latin American words have been included in the Canarian Spanish dialect. As a result of this, we find the words “guagua” for “bus,” “atrorrarse“for “to loaf,” “machango” for “joker” and “rasca” for “drunkenness.” Ultimately, it is important to remember that a number of originally nautical or maritime words have developed as common words with a new meaning in the Canarian Spanish dialect. This is evident from words like “jalar” which does not just mean “to pull (a rope, an oar etc.),” as its predecessor “halar” did in medieval Spanish, but also “to eat” (from the notion of raising a spoon to one´s mouth).

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