MEXICAN IMMIGRATION AND NORTHERN NEW MEXICAN SPANISH 149
Mexican iMMigration and the changing face of
northern new Mexican SpaniSh
New Mexico State University
abStract. There are two main dialects of New Mexican
Spanish. According to Bills & Vigil (2008), the Spanish spoken
in the northern part of the state (what they refer to as ‘Traditional
Spanish’) is characterized by the use of archaisms and Anglicisms
whereas the Spanish spoken in the southern part of the state (what
they refer to as ‘Border Spanish’) is characterized by the use of
Mexicanisms. As a result of increased Mexican immigration to the
north of the state in the past several decades, however, the use of
Mexicanisms has become quite common in the Traditional Spanish
of northern New Mexico, which may be leading to the leveling of
differences between the two dialects.
The current research focuses on the growing use of Mexican-
isms in the Spanish of northern New Mexico over the past three
decades. The use of Mexicanisms, archaisms, and Anglicisms is
compared using two small corpora of informal Spanish as it is spo-
ken in various cities and towns throughout northern New Mexico.
The rst corpus is comprised of 18 interviews from the New Mex-
ico-Colorado Spanish Survey (NMCOSS) while the second con-
sists of 18 interviews recorded as part of another project from 2001
to 2010 in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Mora.
Results indicate that the Spanish of northern New Mexico in-
cludes a much greater number of Mexicanisms than either Angli-
cisms or archaisms and, for this reason, is much more similar to
Border Spanish than once thought. Moreover, the introduction of
Mexicanisms in the region seems to be driven by younger speak-
ers, perhaps due to peer interaction with the children of Mexican
immigrants. Given these ndings, a new characterization of North-
ern New Mexican Spanish should be considered in future studies.
150 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LASSO, VOLUME 34, NUMBER 1-2 (2015)
Keywords: New Mexico, Spanish in the U.S., Mexican immigra-
tion, dialect leveling
1. new Mexican SpaniSh. Spanish has long been spoken in what is now New
Mexico, long before the arrival of the rst Anglophones in the mid-1800s. The use of
this language dates back to the initial Spanish expeditions heading north from New
Spain (now Mexico) in the late 1500s. In 1598, Spanish explorers established the rst
permanent European settlement in this region near present-day Ohkay Owingeh (for-
merly known as San Juan Pueblo), located about 30 miles northwest of Santa Fe and a
little over ve miles due north of Española. Figure 1 shows these respective locations.
Due to intense contact with the native populations they encountered in mod-
ern-day Mexico and the long periods of time required to make expeditions, many
native-born Spaniards had already become somewhat Americanized by the time they
had reached the northern area of modern-day New Mexico (Bills & Vigil 1999). In this
sense, the Spanish that they spoke was not exactly like the different varieties spoken
in Spain during the same time period. This variety of New World Spanish followed
a unique trajectory unlike any other in the Americas, as demonstrated in Sanz and
Villa (2011). During its long history, New Mexican Spanish has been impacted by
geographic isolation, Anglo settlement, and Mexican immigration, all of which have
resulted in the extensive use of archaisms, Anglicisms, and Mexicanisms in this vari-
ety of Spanish.
1.1. archaiSMS. Due to the early colonization of New Mexico (as compared to
that of the other states of the Southwest, such as Arizona or California) and its geo-
graphic isolation from the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, many archaic forms
have survived among New Mexican Spanish speakers (Bills & Vigil 2008). Archaisms
used by participants for the current study include the highly frequent forms a(n)sina
(así ‘like that’) and muncho/a(s) (mucho/a(s) ‘many’), which make up 67.4% of all
archaic forms (N=151/224), as well as less frequent forms such as naiden (nadie ‘no
one’) and enaguas (falda ‘skirt’). A list of archaic types produced by participants for
the current study is found in the appendix, which also includes the Anglicisms and
Mexicanisms produced by participants. Archaic features remain prevalent in Northern
New Mexican Spanish due to hundreds of years of isolation from the rest of the Span-
ish-speaking world. The use of archaisms is more common among older speakers in
general (Bills & Vigil 2008), given that many younger speakers do not speak Spanish
on a daily basis and may have only partially acquired speaking and writing skills in
this language (Bills 1997, Bills & Vigil 1999, Bills & Vigil 2008, Hernández-Chávez
et al. 1996, Hudson et al. 1995).1 There was little external contact with New Mexican
Spanish until 1848, which ofcially marked the end of the Mexican-American War
and Mexico’s cession of the vast majority of what is now the U.S. Southwest to the
1.2. angliciSMS. Contact with English has affected the lexicon of New Mexican
Spanish more than any other area (Bills & Vigil 2008), though morphosyntactic inu-
MEXICAN IMMIGRATION AND NORTHERN NEW MEXICAN SPANISH 151
ences from English do exist (Waltermire 2014). The use of English-origin loanwords
(e.g. marqueta ‘market’, lonche ‘lunch’, checar ‘to check’, etc.) in New Mexican
Spanish is extremely common as is code-switching between the two languages.2 The
use of Anglicisms has become more common over time since English has become
the de facto dominant language of the state’s population, especially among younger
2 Though there are many more spontaneous (unadapted) loanwords used by bilinguals, since
these do not exist for all speakers and have consequently not historically formed part of the lexical
repertoire of New Mexican Spanish speakers, they will not be examined in the current study. Their
inclusion here would not be truly representative of the well-established Anglicisms that exist for this
variety. These were likely not included in Bills & Vigil (2008) for similar reasons.
1 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LASSO, VOLUME 34, NUMBER 1-2 (2015)
FIGURE 1. Map of New Mexico (http://d-maps.com/).
Due to intense contact with the native populations they encountered in modern-day Mexico
and the long periods of time required to make expeditions, many native-born Spaniards had already
become somewhat Americanized by the time they had reached the northern area of modern-day
New Mexico (Bills & Vigil 1999). In this sense, the Spanish that they spoke was not exactly like
the different varieties spoken in Spain during the same time period. This variety of New World
Spanish followed a unique trajectory unlike any other in the Americas, as demonstrated in Sanz
and Villa (2011). During its long history, New Mexican Spanish has been impacted by geographic
isolation, Anglo settlement, and Mexican immigration, all of which have resulted in the extensive
use of archaisms, Anglicisms, and Mexicanisms in this variety of Spanish.
1.1. ARCHAISMS. Due to the early colonization of New Mexico (as compared to that of the
other states of the Southwest, such as Arizona or California) and its geographic isolation from the
figure 1. Map of New Mexico (http://d-maps.com/).
152 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LASSO, VOLUME 34, NUMBER 1-2 (2015)
speakers. This can partly be attributed to the widespread repression of Spanish in
New Mexico for more than a century, which was sustained by propaganda aimed at
making this language seem inferior to English (see MacGregor-Mendoza 2000, and
Villa 2002). This was due mainly to schooling for all but the very oldest speakers.
According to one participant for the current study,
(1) Querían mostrarle a uno que más bien en la clase se hablara no más en
inglés. Si empezaba uno a hablar español, le decía, ‘No. Aquí comunícate
‘They [the teachers] wanted to show you that really in class you should
only speak English. If you started to speak Spanish, they would tell you,
“No. Communicate in English here.”’ (24/A:236-238)
If these instructions were not obeyed, there were often punishments, sometimes
physical, for speaking Spanish. According to another participant:
(2) Me fue, uh, fue el asunto de un enseño forzado, debajo de amenaza de
castigo. ‘You live in the United States. You speak English,’ decían las
maestras. ‘To me it was, uh, it was a matter of forced learning, under the
threat of punishment. “You live in the United States. You speak English,”
the teachers would say.’ (06/A:101-103)
In spite of these policies and the negative attitudes toward Spanish, its use per-
sists to this day. However, the contact between English and Spanish that motivated
the linguistic repression noted above has resulted in English lexical types in Spanish
becoming a dening characteristic of the Spanish spoken not only in New Mexico but
in the entire U.S. Southwest.
1.3. MexicaniSMS. The steady ow of immigration from Mexico has also affected
the lexicon of New Mexican Spanish. The use of Mexicanisms, or ‘words, phrases, ex-
pressions, and meanings characteristic of the speech of Mexico, which distinguish the
Mexican variety from Peninsular Spanish’ is common throughout the state (Company
Company 2010:xvi; translation mine). Many of these words are of Nahuatl origin
(such as tecolote ‘owl’ and milpa ‘eld’) and have existed in Mexican Spanish since
initial contact with Spanish colonizers, though many words (such as loquera ‘delin-
quency’ and chido ‘cool’) are recent.3 Mexicanisms are also forms that exist in other
varieties of Spanish but that have different meanings in Mexico (such as padre ‘cool’
and pinta ‘prison’). The use of Mexicanisms in New Mexican Spanish has grown with
the ever-increasing inux of Mexican immigrants into the state over the past several
3 Mexicanisms encountered in the data for the current research that do not appear in Cobos
(1983) (N=31) should be considered recent since they have entered New Mexican Spanish within the
past 30 years. It does not appear to be purely coincidental that these words have been introduced into
New Mexican Spanish precisely during the decades of greatest immigration from Mexico.
MEXICAN IMMIGRATION AND NORTHERN NEW MEXICAN SPANISH 153
decades. According to U.S. Census estimates from the American Community Survey
(ACS) (census.gov), Mexican immigration to Albuquerque (non-citizens) more than
doubled from 1980 to 2010. A total 6,805 immigrants of Mexican origin migrated
to Albuquerque during the 1980s. This number increased to 8,287 during the 1990s
and, during the following decade, that number grew even more, with 13,426 Mexican
immigrants settling in Albuquerque at the start of the new millennium. A similar trend
is found for Santa Fe during the same years (but to an even greater degree), which
saw the quadrupling of Mexican-born immigrants (non-citizens) migrating to the city
(from 576 during the 1980s to 1,189 during the 1990s to 2,317 during the 2000s).
1.4. dialectS of new Mexican SpaniSh. There are two main dialects of New Mex-
ican Spanish. Bills and Vigil (2008:7) have labeled these ‘Traditional Spanish’ (spo-
ken in the northern part of the state) and ‘Border Spanish’ (spoken in the southern part
of the state). Traditional New Mexican Spanish and Border New Mexican Spanish
present the greatest differences with respect to their lexical inventories. Though the
lexicon of Border Spanish has not received much attention from linguists, the lexicon
of Traditional New Mexican Spanish has been documented extensively (Bills & Vigil
2008, Cobos 1983, Espinosa 1909, Hills 1906, Ornstein 1975). In fact, the use of Mex-
icanisms, Anglicisms, and archaisms forms the basis for dialect classication in Bills
and Vigil (2008). In general, archaisms and Anglicisms are more characteristic of the
northern two-thirds of the state (Bills & Vigil 2008:51-64, 173) whereas Mexicanisms
are more characteristic of the southern third (Bills & Vigil 2008:39). According to
Bills and Vigil (2008:39),
certain features characteristic of the popular speech of modern Mexico
prevail mostly in the southern part of New Mexico … and in other areas
where immigrants have been most likely to nd employment. The spatial
constraints on this most recent Mexican inuence are the basis for our dis-
tinguishing the two major dialects we label Border Spanish and Traditional
The main objective of the current study is to determine the extent to which the
Spanish of northern New Mexico has assimilated Mexicanisms as a result of immi-
gration within the past three decades. This will be accomplished by examining the use
of archaisms, Anglicisms, and Mexicanisms in Northern New Mexican Spanish using
transcriptions of recordings from the New Mexico-Colorado Spanish Survey (hereaf-
ter NMCOSS) carried out by Garland Bills, Neddy Vigil, and colleagues throughout
the 1990s as well as recordings made by the author from 2001 to 2010 in Albuquerque,
Santa Fe, and Mora. By examining the patterns of usage of these lexical types among
native Northern New Mexicans, the extent of permeation of Mexicanisms in the Span-
ish of northern New Mexico in the samples described below will be determined. Based
on these results, an argument will be advanced as to whether or not Traditional New
154 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LASSO, VOLUME 34, NUMBER 1-2 (2015)
Mexican Spanish should be recharacterized due to its assimilation of Mexicanisms.
2. data and Meth odolog y. The classication of these two main dialects of New
Mexican Spanish in Bills & Vigil (2008) is based on the geographical distribution of
solicited lexical types from 357 Spanish speakers who identied series of images sup-
plied by interviewers. The dialect maps shown in Bills & Vigil (2008) reveal a fairly
clear general isogloss between Northern and Southern New Mexican Spanish. Unso-
licited lexical variants, as they are used in spontaneous conversation, were not used
in the determination of these two dialects. Fortunately, for the purposes of the current
research, NMCOSS also consists of spoken interviews during which consultants were
‘encouraged to expound on topics of their greatest interest and knowledge…The kinds
of topics pursued were personal history, childhood games, leisure activities of youth,
adult work activities, dangerous and humorous moments in the consultant’s life, foods
and food preparation, and prospects for the maintenance of New Mexican Spanish’
(Bills & Vigil 2008:26).
The essentially unguided, spontaneous nature of these conversations is very sim-
ilar to the interviews carried out by the author from 2001 to 2010 in Albuquerque,
Santa Fe, and Mora, which will be utilized to supplement numbers for these commu-
nities, which are underrepresented in readily available NMCOSS transcriptions. Like
the NMCOSS conversational data, the objective of these personal interviews was to
obtain informal samples of spoken Spanish. The use of unguided interview data aims
to ensures authenticity and informality of speech as used in everyday life, allowing for
the analysis of rich, unsolicited uses of different lexical forms. Moreover, the use of
colloquial speech data, which is unsolicited and better represents actual language use,
will ensure a more accurate determination of the extent to which Mexicanisms have
permeated the everyday Spanish of northern New Mexico.
2.1. data collection. Data for the current study come from sociolinguistic in-
terviews with 36 uid bilinguals of Spanish and English. Half of these interviews were
carried out as part of NMCOSS while the other half were conducted by the author
a decade later in the communities referenced above. All participants were born and
raised in northern New Mexico. Several important protocols were followed in order
to capture the vernacular, which is representative of unmonitored, colloquial speech
(Labov 1972, 1984). These include: 1) contacting participants based on recommen-
dations from other participants; 2) encouraging participants to choose the location
and time of interviews; 3) asking questions that enabled them to speak about topics
of great personal interest; 4) following up on these topics as much as possible; and 5)
not discouraging code-switching or the occasional use of English. For the more recent
interviews, pre-written questions were not used, allowing for more spontaneous in-
teraction, which was very important given that, in most cases, the interviewer did not
know participants very well before the interviews. There was some use of questions
for the NMCOSS interviews, but only the unscripted portions of interviews are used
MEXICAN IMMIGRATION AND NORTHERN NEW MEXICAN SPANISH 155
in the current study. Each speaker was recorded in Spanish for about half an hour to
an hour. NMCOSS interviews were recorded to cassette while more recent recordings
by the author were recorded as WAV les using a digital recorder. All interviews were
then transcribed and marked up according to lexical type (archaism, Anglicism, or
2.2. deScription o f pa rticipantS. Participants’ places of birth, sex, and age are
included as demographic variables in NMCOSS. This information was also collected
for participants of more recent interviews. Though there are many more variables that
would be useful to explore in the current study, the demographic variables includ-
ed in NMCOSS will serve as a very general indication of who is instigating lexical
changes in different communities of northern New Mexico. Participants for the cur-
rent study come from all over northern New Mexico: Abiquiu, Albuquerque, Arroyo
Seco, Aztec, Chamita, Cordova, Dixon, Ensenada, La Ceja, La Puente, Las Tablas,
Mora, Mountainair, Ojo Feliz, San Mateo, Santa Fe, Sapello, Tomé, and Tucumcari.
The participant group consists of 18 women and 18 men. Participants were se-
lected based on two generational groupings that correspond roughly with life stages.
The rst group (ages 25 to 55) generally have dependents and are at the beginning or
peaks of their respective careers whereas the second group (ages 56 and older) tend
to be retired and have children who have already entered adulthood. So as to achieve
an equal representation of participants by age, each group consists of approximately
the same number of speakers, with 17 participants belonging to Group 1 and 19 par-
ticipants belonging to Group 2. A fairly equal representation for sex and generation
among participants was achieved, with 8 younger females, 9 younger males, 10 older
females, and 9 older males.
3.1. lexical typeS. All archaisms, Anglicisms, and Mexicanisms were extracted
from marked-up transcriptions of the northern New Mexico interviews. These exam-
ples appear by type in the appendix. Raw numbers for each of these types are shown
in Figure 2.
The number of forms of Mexicanisms (N=71) in Northern New Mexican Span-
ish is much greater than that of archaisms (N=15), which is surprising given that
archaisms (along with Anglicisms) have long characterized Traditional New Mexican
Spanish (Bills & Vigil 2008:51-64, 173). It is equally surprising, then, that the number
of forms of Anglicisms (N=35) produced by participants for the current study is less
than half that of Mexicanisms. The frequent use of Mexicanisms has been described
previously as a characteristic of Border Spanish alone, not Traditional Spanish (Bills
& Vigil 2008:39), but these results clearly show that this is not the case.
Even if we only consider recent Mexicanisms (those that have been introduced
into the Spanish of New Mexico within the past 30 years; N=31), their use is almost
156 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LASSO, VOLUME 34, NUMBER 1-2 (2015)
MEXICAN IMMIGRATION AND NORTHERN NEW MEXICAN SPANISH
FIGURE 2. Raw numbers of lexical types in Northern New Mexican Spanish.
The number of forms of Mexicanisms (N=71) in Northern New Mexican Spanish is much
greater than that of archaisms (N=15), which is surprising given that archaisms (along with
Anglicisms) have long characterized Traditional New Mexican Spanish (Bills & Vigil 2008:51-
64, 173). It is equally surprising, then, that the number of forms of Anglicisms (N=35) produced
by participants for the current study is less than half that of Mexicanisms. The frequent use of
Mexicanisms has been described previously as a characteristic of Border Spanish alone, not
Traditional Spanish (Bills & Vigil 2008:39), but these results clearly show that this is not the case.
Even if we only consider recent Mexicanisms (those that have been introduced into the Spanish
of New Mexico within the past 30 years; N=31), their use is almost equal to that of Anglicisms. If
we were to further consider that five Anglicisms from the current data (checar, lonche, rentar,
reporte, and troca) are frequently used in Mexican Spanish and could be considered Mexicanisms
(as does the Mexican Academy of Language), the number of recent Mexicanisms would surpass
that of Anglicisms (N=35) and would still be over twice that of archaisms (N=15). The greater
number of Mexicanisms used by participants for the current research suggests that the
classification of Northern New Mexican Spanish as Traditional Spanish is in need of reassessment.
The highly frequent use of Mexicanisms in the Spanish of northern New Mexico is most likely the
result of increased Mexican immigration to northern New Mexico over the past several decades,
primarily to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, for economic reasons. If we look at smaller towns and
cities apart from these two bigger cities, is this still the case? It is possible that Mexicanisms have
been introduced into northern communities first by immigrant parents and later by their children.
Unfortunately, there is no way to assess this possibility given that the birthplace of participants’
parents was not included as a variable in NMCOSS.
3.2. SOCIAL VARIABLES. Using the social characteristics of participants that are available (sex,
generation, and birthplace), we will be able to better assess who leads the way for lexical change
010 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
figure 2. Raw numbers of lexical types in Northern New Mexican Spanish.
equal to that of Anglicisms. If we were to further consider that ve Anglicisms from
the current data (checar, lonche, rentar, reporte, and troca) are frequently used in
Mexican Spanish and could be considered Mexicanisms (as does the Mexican Acad-
emy of Language), the number of recent Mexicanisms would surpass that of Angli-
cisms (N=35) and would still be over twice that of archaisms (N=15). The greater
number of Mexicanisms used by participants for the current research suggests that the
classication of Northern New Mexican Spanish as Traditional Spanish is in need of
reassessment. The highly frequent use of Mexicanisms in the Spanish of northern New
Mexico is most likely the result of increased Mexican immigration to northern New
Mexico over the past several decades, primarily to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, for
economic reasons. If we look at smaller towns and cities apart from these two bigger
cities, is this still the case? It is possible that Mexicanisms have been introduced into
northern communities rst by immigrant parents and later by their children. Unfor-
tunately, there is no way to assess this possibility given that the birthplace of partici-
pants’ parents was not included as a variable in NMCOSS.
3.2. Social VariableS. Using the social characteristics of participants that are
available (sex, generation, and birthplace), we will be able to better assess who leads
the way for lexical change in northern communities. The rates of use of Mexicanisms
according to these social characteristics are shown in Table 1.
MEXICAN IMMIGRATION AND NORTHERN NEW MEXICAN SPANISH 157
Factor group Factor N %
Female 94/216 43.5
Male 220/440 50.0
First (25-55) 138/225 61.3
Second (> 56) 176/431 40.8
ABQ/Santa Fe 146/257 56.8
Other 168/399 42.1
Sex: χ² = 2.44; df = 1; p = 0.118; Generation: χ² = 24.9; df = 1; p = 0.000; Birthplace:
χ² = 13.5; df = 1; p = 0.000
table 1. Use of Mexicanisms according to participants’ social characteristics.
Not only is there a greater number of forms of Mexicanisms in the Spanish of
northern New Mexico (N=71; see Figure 2), there is also a greater number of tokens of
Mexicanisms (314/656, or 47.9%) than either archaisms (224/656, or 34.1%) or An-
glicisms (118/656, or 18.0%). Given these results, it is clear that Northern New Mexi-
can Spanish is actually characterized more by the use of Mexicanisms than by the use
of either archaisms or Anglicisms. With respect to social variables, both generation
and birthplace are statistically signicant in the use of Mexicanisms with p-values of
zero. The younger generation, unsurprisingly, uses Mexicanisms to a greater degree
(at a rate of 61.3%) than does the older generation (at a rate of 40.8%). This is most
likely due to the fact that younger speakers have had greater contact with Mexican
Spanish as a result of greater interaction with the children of Mexican immigrants.
This exposure was limited in previous generations, which did not see the same inux
of Mexican immigrants that younger speakers have seen. Also, as shown in Table 1,
the use of Mexicanisms is greater among participants born in Albuquerque and Santa
Fe, which provide the greatest economic opportunities in the northern part of the state.
The rate of use of Mexicanisms among these participants is 56.8% (as opposed to
42.1% among participants from small towns in northern New Mexico). Unlike gen-
eration and birthplace, sex is not a statistically signicant variable (p=0.118). Men
use Mexicanisms only slightly more often than women, at a rate of 50% compared to
3.3. Social conditioning. The conditioning role of factors related to generation
and birthplace in the use of Mexicanisms in the Spanish of northern New Mexico can
be assessed via multivariate analysis using GoldVarb X (Lawrence et al. 2001). This
type of analysis is ideal for the current study since GoldVarb can only determine the
158 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LASSO, VOLUME 34, NUMBER 1-2 (2015)
conditioning effect of non-continuous dependent variables on two variants or groups
of variants (in this case, Mexicanisms as opposed to archaisms and Anglicisms). This
type of multivariate analysis will reveal statistically relevant probabilities for all social
factors that condition the use of Mexicanisms in Northern New Mexican Spanish.
Probabilities of .50 and greater indicate that the use of Mexicanisms is statistically
favored for any given social factor whereas probabilities of less than .50 indicate that
the use of Mexicanisms is statistically disfavored for a given factor. The range of prob-
abilities for factors of a variable will indicate which of the two variables is more pow-
erful with respect to this conditioning. The results of this analysis appear in Table 2.
Factor group Factor N % Factor Weight
First (25-55) 138 61.3 .63
Second (> 56) 176 40.8 .43
ABQ/Santa Fe 146 56.8 .58
Other 168 42.1 .45
p<.05, N = 656, Input = 0.479, Log likelihood = -436.653. Other factor group includ-
ed in this analysis: sex.
table 2. Multivariate analysis of the probabilities of co-occurrence of the use of
Mexicanisms and participants’ social characteristics.
Of the two statistically signicant variables (generation and birthplace), genera-
tion is more powerful with respect to the conditioning of use of Mexicanisms, with a
range of 20. The use of Mexicanisms is statistically favored for speakers of the rst
generation (with a probability of .63) whereas the use of these forms is statistically
disfavored for speakers of the second generation (with a probability of .43). This is
likely due to the fact that younger speakers have had greater exposure to Mexican
Spanish than have older speakers. For example, younger speakers have been exposed
to varieties of Mexican Spanish in northern New Mexico schools, many of which have
bilingual education programs. Moreover, younger speakers have consistent interac-
tions with other younger speakers who were raised in households with at least one
Mexican-born parent. This is not the case for older speakers, who most likely grew up
in households with U.S.-born parents. The use of Mexicanisms in northern communi-
ties most likely began with the children of Mexican immigrants, who started settling
in northern New Mexico, particularly in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, in great numbers
starting in the 1980s (as noted at the end of Section 1.3). As immigration from Mexico
MEXICAN IMMIGRATION AND NORTHERN NEW MEXICAN SPANISH 159
continues to grow, the use of and exposure to Mexicanisms will also grow, which
makes the possibility of a future dialect leveling all the more likely.
There is no indication that this change will stall given that the use of Mexicanisms
is already fairly robust (at a rate of 42.1%) even in small towns throughout northern
New Mexico and will likely increase as a greater number of Mexican immigrants set-
tle in different parts of the state. It is clear from Table 2 that the more frequent use of
Mexicanisms in Albuquerque and Santa Fe is due to the greater contact with Mexican
immigrants and their children in these cities. In fact, the use of Mexicanisms is statis-
tically favored among participants born in either of these cities (with a probability of
.58). The reverse is true for participants born in other areas of northern New Mexico.
The use of Mexicanisms is statistically disfavored for these speakers (with a probabil-
ity of .45). Their use seems to be greater in Albuquerque and Santa Fe precisely for the
same reason that they are used more frequently by younger speakers.
That is, there is greater exposure to Mexicanisms in these cities than there is in
smaller towns. This is not a coincidence and seems to be driven by economic factors,
with greater numbers of Mexican immigrants settling in Albuquerque and Santa Fe
than in small towns where there are fewer opportunities for employment. That said,
perhaps there is a greater use of Mexicanisms in small towns by young speakers. Since
they represent the future of New Mexican Spanish in small towns throughout the
north, if they are using more Mexicanisms than older speakers, then the move toward
a greater use of Mexicanisms would point to the spreading and greater integration of
Mexicanisms in the north in general (and not just in bigger cities), something that had
not happened in previous generations.
3.4. factor interaction. In order to assess the effect of interaction between fac-
tors related to generation and birthplace with regards to the use of Mexicanisms in
Northern New Mexican Spanish, a cross-tabulation was conducted using GoldVarb.
Following Paolillo (2002:76), ‘cross-tabulations (crosstabs) are a type of summary
table that takes two independent factor groups into account.’ Since groups are more
narrowly dened as a result of combining factors, crosstabs will help us to identify n-
er distinctions among speakers with regards to their use of Mexicanisms. The rates of
use of this lexical type (as opposed to the use of Anglicisms and archaisms) according
to generation and birthplace are displayed in Table 3.
Clearly, the group driving the greater use of Mexicanisms is younger speakers
from Albuquerque and Santa Fe, who use Mexicanisms at an incredible rate of 73.8%.
Equally clear is the fact that younger speakers in small towns now use as many Mex-
icanisms as archaisms and Anglicisms combined, meaning that even in these small
towns the use of Mexicanisms is quickly becoming the norm. The older generation,
regardless of birthplace, uses a minority of Mexicanisms (at rates of 44.7% and 38.8%
for those born in either Albuquerque or Santa Fe and those born in small towns, re-
spectively). Although not very surprising, this nding is important since it provides
160 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LASSO, VOLUME 34, NUMBER 1-2 (2015)
First (25-55) Second (> 56)
Mexicanisms 79/107 67/150 146/257
(73.8%) (44.7%) (56.8%)
Angl./Arch. 28/107 83/150 111/257
(26.2%) (55.3%) (43.2%)
Mexicanisms 59/118 109/281 168/399
(50.0%) (38.8%) (42.1%)
Angl./Arch. 59/118 172/281 231/399
(50.0%) (61.2%) (57.9%)
Mexicanisms 138/225 176/431 314/656
(61.3%) (40.8%) (47.9%)
Angl./Arch. 87/225 255/431 342/656
(38.7%) (59.2%) (52.1%)
χ² = 37.4; df = 3; p = 0.000
table 3. Cross-tabulation of rates of use of Mexicanisms (as opposed to
the use of Anglicisms and archaisms) according to generation and birthplace.
concrete evidence that the small towns of the north are becoming less characterized by
archaisms and Anglicisms with the passing of each generation. There is every reason
to suspect that the coming generation will produce even more Mexicanisms as Mexi-
can immigration to the north continues, accompanied by greater exposure to Mexican
Spanish in the various bilingual programs throughout the region as well as through
Mexican media outlets that continue to grow and expand.
4. concluSion. Since the use of Mexicanisms in Northern New Mexican Spanish
far outnumbers that of archaisms and Anglicisms (by both type and token frequency),
it clearly cannot be labeled ‘Traditional Spanish’. Furthermore, it cannot be labeled
‘Border Spanish’ since it is not spoken along the border. Given the preponderance of
Mexicanisms in this variety despite its lack of proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border,
the characterization of Northern New Mexican Spanish should be reconsidered. As
shown in the current research, the use of Mexicanisms in Northern New Mexican
Spanish starts with younger speakers, likely those who were raised with at least one
MEXICAN IMMIGRATION AND NORTHERN NEW MEXICAN SPANISH 161
Mexican-born parent. The majority of these speakers were raised in northern New
Mexico during decades of increasing immigration from Mexico, which has inevita-
bly resulted in the greater use of Mexicanisms in the region. Given that economic
concerns have been the major impetus for Mexican immigration to the United States
(Lipski 2008:77-83), Mexican immigrants have largely settled in Albuquerque and
Santa Fe, where economic opportunities have been more readily available than in
other parts of the state. The greater use of Mexicanisms, consequently, has led to
the lesser use of archaisms over time, thereby changing the lexical repertoire that
previously dened Northern New Mexican Spanish. It is very likely that the reduced
use of archaisms, particularly among younger speakers, is also driven by their lack of
prestige, especially when compared to that of Mexican Spanish, which has become the
de facto model of Spanish for younger speakers.
The lexical repertoire has changed even in small towns. As shown in the current
research, young speakers from small towns use Mexicanisms just as often as they do
Anglicisms and archaisms combined. Though this is not true for older speakers from
these towns, the younger generation represents the future of Northern New Mexican
Spanish and will likely transmit a greater number of Mexicanisms to their children.
That said, we still do not know whether Traditional New Mexican Spanish will die
out due to the increased use of Mexicanisms in the north of the state. Results from
the current study suggest that this has already started to happen and that there is little
likelihood of this change reversing. What is likely is that the differences between the
Spanish spoken in the south and north of New Mexico will neutralize to a great degree
and will perhaps even coalesce into a single variety, thereby bearing greater similarity
to other varieties of Spanish spoken in the U.S. Southwest. Though there may be a di-
alect leveling of New Mexican Spanish in the future, the growing use of Mexicanisms
in the northern part of the state will bolster the chances of survival of Spanish among
young speakers, which will ensure the continued use of this language among future
generations of New Mexicans.
appendix. Examples of lexical types in Northern New Mexican Spanish
caiba (caía) semos
162 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LASSO, VOLUME 34, NUMBER 1-2 (2015)
apenar (pagar, from ‘peni’) queque
atender (asisitir) raide
biles realizar (darse cuenta)
levantar (limpiar/organizar) tenso (tiempo verbal)
presente(s) yarda (jardín)
atarantar loquera (delincuencia)
atole mande (¿cómo?)
burriñates mero (mismo, justamente)
carnal (hermano) mochar
cerecillos nomás (sin razón ni nalidad)
chamaco/a onda (ambiente)
chavalo padre (excelente)
chico (zapote) paisa
chido pinta (prisión)
chota (policía) rajar (sacudir)
chuparrosa (colibrí) ruco/a
cirqueros simón (sí)
MEXICAN IMMIGRATION AND NORTHERN NEW MEXICAN SPANISH 163
cuadrar (gustar) tecolote
guajolote zafado/a (chiado/a)
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Department of Languages and Linguistics
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces NM 88003