If your first thought when you hear “get out of the car” is that someone is on your hood, you’re probably not from South Florida.
Researchers have identified new speech patterns and expressions in the greater Miami area that they believe may be a new dialect of English developed over time through repeated direct translations between Spanish and English speakers.
The linguists compared local and national responses to more than 50 phrases that were becoming more common in Miami, such as “get out of the car” instead of “get out of the car.”
Those choices in words are because the standard Spanish expression is ‘bajar del carro’ and ‘bajar’ means ‘to go down’.
Locals were far more likely to rate these phrases as “okay” or even “perfect” compared to the majority of national subjects surveyed, who found phrases like “queuing” for “waiting in line” as “uncomfortable.”
Linguists have identified a new dialect of English in the greater Miami area, which they believe evolved over time from repeated direct translations between Spanish and English speakers
“Words come from somewhere,” wrote the study’s lead author, Phillip Carter, a sociolinguist at Florida International University. The conversation.
Every word has a history. That goes for all the words spoken in Miami.”
Carter and his co-author, SUNY Buffalo linguist Kristen D’Allessandro Merii, identified three categories of borrowed phrases, or “claques,” that are widely used in Miami for direct human-to-human Spanish-to-English translation.
First, they found “literal lexical calques,” or direct, word-for-word translations of common Spanish phrases, routinely used in South Florida.
For example, the researchers found that residents said “throw a photo” of “tirar una foto” as a variation of “take a photo.”
Given this history, native Spanish speakers are much more likely to think they are “getting off” from the car to the curb than they are “getting out” of the car.
The second category the linguists found was “semantic calques” based on unique dual or plural meanings for words in Spanish. For example, the word “carne” can be translated as all kinds of “meat” or specifically “beef”, depending on the context.
“We found that local speakers said ‘meat’ to refer specifically to ‘beef,'” Carter wrote a recent essay for The Conversationas in, “I’ll have one meat empanada and two chicken empanadas.”
Researchers from Florida International University and SUNY Buffalo compared local and national responses to more than 50 phrases that are new to Miami. Locals were much more likely to rate these expressions as “okay” or even “perfect” compared to national subjects
Their final category, “phonetic calques,” included new expressions where aspects of the Spanish equivalent of a word are adopted into the speaker’s English usage.
According to Carter and Merii, many in Miami hold “thanks” and “gracias” so closely in their minds that they consider the last “s” to be similar.
So you’re more likely to hear someone say “Thanks God,” inspired by “gracias a Dios,” than in most other parts of the United States.
The linguistic researchers gathered their data by examining the responses of both first- and second-generation Cuban Americans in Miami and getting their response to various formulations unique to their region.
They brought in a national perspective by conducting the same research through Amazon’s crowdsourcing marketplace Mechanical Turk.
While their results, published in April in the academic journal English worldwidefound that some claques faded between the first and second generations of Cuban immigrants – some expressions stuck.
Phrases like “get out of the car,” “super hungry,” and “meat empanada” were still commonly used by second-generation Cuban Americans. Even very specific formulations, such as ‘give me a chance’ meaning ‘let me cross the road’, were used by both generations.
Many of these were phrases that the national audience previously rated as “uncomfortable” via Mechanical Turk.
The national audience was particularly baffled by the use of “standing in line” instead of “waiting in line” and “eating shit” as a euphemism for “doing nothing.”
“That’s how dialects are created,” Carter said in a press statement from the university. “Little things add up.”
“This shows that Miamians judge certain sentences differently and don’t see some examples as ‘ungrammatical,'” he explained. “So those are the ones that get passed.”
Carter is quick to point out how fluid and patchwork all human languages are.
He said what is happening in Miami is not an entirely unique state of amalgamation or breakdown of English decorum, but the natural state of human speech over millennia.
Everyone might recognize the French origin of a word like “croissant” or a phrase like “Déjà vu,” but the English language is peppered with more borrowed loanwords than most would recognize.
‘Pyjama’ from Hindi; ‘gazelle’ from Arabic, via French; and ‘tsunami’ from Japanese,” Carter noted.
Every new introduction of foreign words into a new language carries with it the history that brought it there, in his view, albeit through war, colonialism, immigration or other factors.
“Doing research like this reminds us that there are no ‘real’ or ‘sham’ words,” Carter said. “There are only words.”