Dominican Spanish

When Columbus came to America, in 1492, his ships anchored at what is now The Dominican Republic. The island, which he named Hispaniola, became the first European settlement in America, and Santo Domingo, the first Spanish capital in the New World. That is to say that it was also the first place where the Spanish language arrived, tinged with that of Andalucía given that the expeditions to the New World were organized in that part of Spain.

The indigenous people, the Tainos, were completely wiped out within 200 years of the conquest due towars, epidemics and brutal working conditions. Large numbers of African slaves replaced them as laborers and in the process brought their language, which can be found in words, manners of speaking, accents, colloquialisms and intonations. This is a linguistic feature that The Dominican Republic shares with the rest of the Caribbean.

It was from Africa where the Yoruba syntax of Nigeria came from, which can be seen in the inverted order of words in questions: “¿Adónde tú vas?”, “¿Qué tú quieres?”. It is also the source of another phenomenon called “lambdaización”, which is to change the implosion at the end of a syllable with an “l”. Thus, “cartel” becomes “caltel”, “caminar” becomes “caminal”, etc.

Nowadays, the different ways of speaking are marked by social class. The upper class aspirate the letter “s” (“ahpira”, “vamoh”, “ehpecial”) and pronounce the letter “k” in words like “objeto” (okjeto), “observar” (okservar). The lower class tends to shorten and join words (“vamoacer” por “vamos a hacer”, for example).

Perhaps the most curious phenomenon is the linguistic influence that comes from the United States. Borrowed words become new words that can seem almost native: “guachimán” (guardián / guardian), “zafacón” (basurero / trashcan), “chizquéi” (cheesecake), “greifrú” (toronja / grapefruit), “crinchís” (queso crema / cream cheese) or “pariguayo”, which refers to a silly or stupid person and comes from party-watcher, the guardians of parties who spend hours quietly.

Dominican Spanish is partof the so-called Caribbean Spanish, and has specific characteristics such as the lisp (no differencein the pronunciation of the letters s, z, and c, before an e or i), and the“yeísmo” (pronunciation of “ll”as“y”) and the absence of the “vos” form.

In addition to Spanish, The Dominican Republic also has people in its population who speak Haitian Creole (from their immigrant neighbors and descendents), and a small community of English speakers on the peninsula of Samaná, principally made up of descendents of US slaves who arrived on the peninsula in the 19th century.

Taking all of this into account, the Spanish of The Dominican Republic is influenced as much by archaisms as by neologisms, words from Africa and other foreign words. Together, these things make the language old and modern at the same time.