Cuban Spanish
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Cuban Spanish

Cuban Spanish
español cubano  (Spanish)
Native speakers
11 million (2011)[1]
Early forms
Latin (Spanish alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
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Cuban Spanish is the variety of the Spanish language as it is spoken in Cuba. As a Caribbean language variety, Cuban Spanish shares a number of features with nearby varieties, including coda deletion, seseo, and /s/ debuccalization ("aspiration").


Characteristic of Cuban Spanish is the weak pronunciation of consonants, especially at the end of a syllable. Syllable-final /s/ weakens to [h] or disappears entirely; word-final /n/ becomes [?];[2] syllable-final /r/ may become [l] or [j], or even become entirely silent. The fricative variants of /d/, /b/, /?/ (i.e. [ð], [?], [?]) are also significantly weakened when occurring after a vowel: [ð] tends to disappear entirely, while [?] and [?] become weak approximants (/?/ and /?/), with no friction at all and often barely audible as consonants. All of these characteristics occur to one degree or another in other Caribbean varieties, as well as in many dialects in Andalusia (in southern Spain)—the place of historical origin of these characteristics.

One of the most prominent features of Cuban Spanish is the debuccalization of /s/ in syllable coda i.e. /s/ becomes /h/ or disappeared. This trait is shared with most American varieties of Spanish spoken in coastal and low areas (Lowland Spanish), as well as with Canarian Spanish and the Spanish spoken in the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula.

Take for example, the following sentence:

Esos perros no tienen dueños (Eso' perro' no tienen dueño')
['esoh 'peroh no 'tjene? 'dwe?oh]
('Those dogs do not have owners')

Also, because /s/ may also be deleted in the syllable coda and because this feature has variable realizations,[3] any or all instances of [h] in the above example may be dropped, potentially rendering ['eso 'pero no 'tjene? 'dwe?o]. Other examples: disfrutar ("to enjoy") is pronounced [dihfru'tar], and fresco ("fresh") becomes ['frehko]. In Havana, después ("after[ward]") is typically pronounced [deh'pwe] (de'pué'/despué').

Another instance of consonant weakening ("lenition") in Cuban Spanish (as in many other dialects) is the deletion of intervocalic /d/ in the participle ending -ado (-ao/-a'o), as in cansado (cansao/cansa'o) [kan'sa.o] "tired"). More typical of Cuba and the Caribbean is the dissimilation of final /r/ in some verb infinitives (lambdacism i.e. r becomes l); e.g. parar, to stop, can be realized as [pa'ral] (paral/pará).

Voiceless velar fricative [x] (spelled as ⟨g⟩ before ⟨e⟩ or ⟨i⟩ and ⟨j⟩) is usually aspirated or pronounced [h], common in Andalusian and Canarian dialects and most Latin American dialects.

In some areas of Cuba, the voiceless affricate [t?] (spelled as ch) is deaffricated (lenited) to [?].

The Spanish of the eastern provinces (the five provinces comprising what was formerly Oriente Province) is closer to that of the Dominican Republic than to the Spanish spoken in the western part of the island.[4]

In western Cuba there are geminated consonants when /l/ and /?/ in syllabic coda are assimilated to the following consonant.[5] Examples of Cuban Spanish:

/l/ or /r/ + /f/ > /d/ + /f/: [ff] a[ff]iler, hue[ff]ano (Sp. 'alfiler', 'huérfano')
/l/ or /r/ + /s/ > /d/ + /s/: [ds] fa[ds]a), du[ds]e (Sp. 'falsa or farsa', 'dulce')
/l/ or /r/ + /h/ > /d/ + /h/: [?h] ana[?h]ésico, vi[?h]en (Sp. 'analgésico', 'virgen')
/l/ or /r/ + /b/ > /d/ + /b/: [b?b] si[b?b]a, cu[b?b]a (Sp. 'silba or sirva', 'curva')
/l/ or /r/ + /d/ > /d/ + /d/: [d?d] ce[d?d]a, acue[d?d]o (Sp. 'celda or cerda', 'acuerdo')
/l/ or /r/ + /g/ > /d/ + /g/: [g?g] pu[g?g]a, la[g?g]a (Sp. 'pulga or purga', 'larga')
/l/ or /r/ + /p/ > /d/ + /p/: [b?p] cu[b?p]a, cue[b?p]o (Sp. 'culpa', 'cuerpo')
/l/ or /r/ + /t/ > /d/ + /t/: [d?t] sue[d?t]e, co[d?t]a (Sp. 'suelte o suerte', 'corta')
/l/ or /r/ + /?/ > /d/ + /?/: [d] co[d]a, ma[d]arse (Sp. 'colcha o corcha', 'marcharse')
/l/ or /r/ + /k/ > /d/ + /k/: [g?k] vo[g?k]ar, ba[g?k]o (Sp. 'volcar', 'barco')
/l/ or /r/ + /m/ > /d/ + /m/: [mm] ca[mm]a, a[mm]a (Sp. 'calma', 'alma o arma')
/l/ or /r/ + /n/ > /d/ + /n/: [nn] pie[nn]a, ba[nn]eario (Sp. 'pierna', 'balneario')
/l/ or /r/ + /l/ > /d/ + /l/: [ll] bu[ll]a, cha[ll]a (Sp. 'burla', 'charla')
/l/ or /r/ + /r/ > /d/ + /r/: [r] a[r]ededor (Sp. 'alrededor')
_____________ _____ __________ _________ ______________________ ___________________________

Morphology and syntax

Cuban Spanish typically uses the diminutive endings -ico and -ica (instead of the standard -ito and -ita) with stems that end in /t/. For example, plato ("plate") > platico (instead of platito), and momentico instead of momentito; but cara ("face") becomes carita.[6] This form is common to the Venezuelan, Cuban, Costa Rican, Dominican, and Colombian dialects.

The suffix -ero is often used with a place name to refer to a person from that place; thus habanero, guantanamera, etc.[7] A person from Santiago de Cuba is santiaguero (compare santiagués "from Santiago de Compostela (Galicia, Spain)", santiaguino "from Santiago de Chile").

Wh-questions, when the subject is a pronoun, are usually not inverted. Where speakers of most other varieties of Spanish would ask "¿Qué quieres?" or "¿Qué quieres tú?", Cuban speakers would more often ask "¿Qué tú quieres?"[8] (This form is also characteristic of Dominican, Isleño, and Puerto Rican Spanish.[9][10])

In keeping with the socialist polity of the country, the term compañero/compañera ("comrade" or "friend") is often used instead of the traditional señor/señora.[11][12] (For a contrary view, see Corbett (2007: 137).[13]) Similarly, Cuban Spanish uses the familiar second-person pronoun in many contexts where other varieties of Spanish would use the formal usted. Voseo is practically non-existent in Cuba.[14]


Cuban Spanish is most similar to, and originates largely from, the Spanish that is spoken in the Canary Islands and Andalusia. Cuba owes much of its speech patterns to the heavy Canarian migrations of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The accent of La Palma is the closest of the Canary Island accents to the Cuban accent. Many Cubans and returning Canarians settled in the Canary Islands after the revolution of 1959. Migration of other Spanish settlers (Asturians, Catalans, Galicians and Castilians) also occurred, but left less influence on the accent.

Much of the typical Cuban replacements for standard Spanish vocabulary stems from Canarian lexicon. For example, guagua ('bus') differs from standard Spanish autobús. An example of Canarian usage for a Spanish word is the verb fajarse ('to fight').[15] In Spain, the verb would be pelearse, and fajar exists as a non-reflexive verb related to the hemming of a skirt.

Much of the vocabulary that is peculiar to Cuban Spanish comes from the different historic influences on the island. Many words come from the Canary Islands, but some words are of West African, French, or indigenous Taino origin, as well as peninsular Spanish influence from outside the Canary Islands, such as Andalusian or Galician. American English has lent several words, including some for clothing, such as pulóver [sic] (which is used to mean "T-shirt") and chor ("shorts", with the typical Spanish change from English sh to ch, like mentioned above, <ch> may be pronounced [?], the pronunciation of English "sh".).


To speak to the elderly or to strangers, Cubans sometimes speak more formally as a sign of respect. They shake hands both on greeting and on leaving someone. Men often exchange friendly hugs (abrazos), and both men and women often greet friends and family with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

However Cubans tend to speak informally, such as by addressing a stranger with mi corazón ("my heart"), mi vida ("my life"), or cariño ("dear", "darling") are common. Mi amor ("my love") is used, even between strangers, when at least one of them is a woman (for example, in being served in a shop). Cubans are less likely to use the formal second-person singular pronoun usted to speak to a stranger, elder or superior. is considered acceptable in all but very formal situations; regular use of the usted form can be seen by some Cubans as an affectation or a mark of coldness.

See also


  1. ^ Spanish (Cuba) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Canfield (1981:42)
  3. ^ Guitart (1997)
  4. ^ Lipski (1994:227)
  5. ^ Arias, Álvaro (2019). "Fonética y fonología de las consonantes geminadas en el español de Cuba". Moenia. 25, 465-497
  6. ^ Lipski (1994:233)
  7. ^ Lipski (1994:233)
  8. ^ Lipski (1994:233)
  9. ^ Lipski (1994:233)
  10. ^ Lipski (1994:335)
  11. ^ "Social Life in Cuba"
  12. ^ José Sánchez-Boudy, Diccionario de cubanismos más usuales (Cómo habla el cubano), Miami: Ediciones Universal, 1978. "En Cuba, hoy en día, se llama a todo el mundo «compañero»."
  13. ^ Ben Corbett, This is Cuba: An Outlaw Culture Survives (Westview Press: 2002).
  14. ^ Lipski (1994:233)
  15. ^ fajar at Diccionario de la Real Academia Española.


  • Arias, Álvaro (2019). "Fonética y fonología de las consonantes geminadas en el español de Cuba". Moenia. 25, 465-497.
  • Canfield, D. Lincoln (1981), Spanish Pronunciation in the Americas, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-09263-1
  • Guitart, Jorge M. (1997), "Variability, Multilectalism, and the Organization of Phonology in Caribbean Spanish Dialects", in Martínez-Gil, Fernando; Morales-Front, Alfonso (eds.), Issues in the Phonology and Morphology of the Major Iberian Languages, Georgetown University Press, pp. 515-536
  • Lipski, John M. (1994), Latin American Spanish, Longman, ISBN 978-0-582-08761-3

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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