Belizean Spanish

Belizean Spanish
Español beliceño
Native speakers
170,000 all dialects of Spanish (2011)[citation needed]
Early forms
Latin (Spanish alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
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Belizean Spanish (Spanish: español beliceño) is the dialect of Spanish spoken in Belize. It is similar to Caribbean Spanish, Andalusian Spanish, and Canarian Spanish. While English is the only official language of Belize, Spanish is the common language of majority (62.8%), wherein 174,000 (43% of Belizeans) speak some variety of Spanish as a native language. Belizeans of Guatemalan, Honduran, Mexican (including Mexican Mennonites), Nicaraguan, and Salvadoran (including Salvadoran Mennonites) descent may speak different dialects of Spanish, but since they all grow up in Belize, they all adopt the local accent.


Spanish language came to Belize when the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed in 1494, claiming the entire western New World for Spain, including what is now Belize. Then in the mid-16th century Spanish conquistadors explored this territory, declaring it a Spanish colony [1] incorporated into the Captaincy General of Guatemala on December 27, 1527, when it was founded. [2] In the second half of that century it was integrated into the government of Yucatan in Viceroyalty of New Spain. [3]

However, few Spanish settled in the area because of the lack of the gold they'd come seeking and the strong resistance of the Maya people. [1] The Spanish colonists living in Belize often fought against the Maya, who were affected by slavery and disease carried by the Spanish.[4]

On 20 January 1783, shortly after the Treaty of Versailles, Britain and Spain signed a peace treaty in which Spain ceded to Britain a small part of Belize, about 1.482 km square[5] located between the Hondo and Belize rivers. [2] British settlers obtained a further concession. By the London Convention of 1786 Spain ceded Belize another 1.883 km square (reaching the Sibun River or Manate Laguna, south of the Belize River). The British banned teaching of Spanish in schools.

But after thousands of Maya people and mestizos were driven from the area of Bacalar during the Caste War (1847–1901),[6] about 7000 Mexican mestizos immigrated during these years.,[7] the Kekchi emigrated from Verapaz, Guatemala, where their lands had been seized for coffee plantations and many of them enslaved in the 1870s–1880s, Mopan returned to Belize around 1886, fleeing enslavement and taxation in Petén, Mennonite Mexicans settled in the north and west of Belize after 1958 (Mexican Mennonites may have intermarried with native-born mestizos and Mexican mestizos),[8] and thousands of undocumented migrants moved to the central and western parts of the country, including approximately 40,000 Salvadorans (including Salvadoran Mennonites), Guatemalans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans immigrated to Belize in this decade of strife in neighboring countries between 1980 and 1990,[9] this, along with a high fertility rate, dramatically increased the number of Hispanics in Belize, causing concern over the rapid growth of the Spanish language in a country where the official language is English.[10]


  • As in all of the Americas and parts of Spain, there is no distinction of /s/ and /θ/, they are pronounced as [s].
  • As in most American lowland varieties of Spanish and in southern Spain, /s/ at the end of a syllable or before a consonant is realized typically as a glottal [h].
  • /x/ is realized as glottal [h], as in several American lowland varieties and in parts of Spain.
  • Intervocalic /b, d/ and /ɡ/ show no sign of lenition to approximants, which is very unusual among Spanish dialects.[citation needed]
  • There is no confusion between /l/ and /r/, unlike in Caribbean Spanish.
  • As Belize is bordered by Mexico and was inhabited by Mayan and Nahuatl peoples, Belizean Spanish adopted the voiceless alveolar affricate [t͡s] and the cluster [tl] (originally /tɬ/) represented by the respective digraphs <tz> and <tl> in loanwords of Nahuatl origin, quetzal and tlapalería [t͡ɬapaleˈɾia] ('hardware store'). Even words of Greek and Latin origin with <tl>, such as Atlántico and atleta, are pronounced with the affricate: [aˈtlãn̪t̪iko̞], [aˈtle̞t̪a] (compare [aðˈlãn̪t̪iko̞], [aðˈle̞t̪a] in Spain and other dialects in Hispanic America[11]).
  • Aside from [ɾ], [r], and [l], syllable-final /r/ can be realized as [ɹ], an influence of British English: "verso" (verse) becomes [ˈbeɹso], aside from [ˈbeɾso], [ˈberso], or [ˈbelso], "invierno" (winter) becomes [imˈbjeɹno], aside from [imˈbjeɾno], [imˈbjerno], or [imˈbjelno], and "parlamento" (parliament) becomes [paɹlaˈmento], aside from [paɾlaˈmento], [parlaˈmento], or [palaˈmento]. In word-final position, /r/ will usually be;
    • either a trill, a tap, approximant, [l], or elided when followed by a consonant or a pause, as in amo[r ~ ɾ ~ ɹ ~ l] paterno 'paternal love', amor [aˈmo]) (elided word-final /r/ is almost similar to British English),
    • a tap, approximant, or [l] when the followed by a vowel-initial word, as in amo[ɾ~ ɹ ~ l] eterno 'eternal love').


  1. ^ a b Johnson, Melissa A. (October 2003). "The Making of Race and Place in Nineteenth-Century British Honduras". Environmental History 8 (4): 598–617.
  2. ^ a b III. Belice, otra cuña británica en iberoamérica (in Spanish: BELIZE, another british wedge Iberian America Archived 2013-06-11 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ BELICE – Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores y de Cooperación
  4. ^ Historia de Belice (in spanish: Belize´s history). Consultado el 28 de noviembre de 2012.
  5. ^ Battle of Saint George's Caye: English Settlers and Spanish Invasion in Belizean Foil. Retrieved on December 1, 2012, at 18:22 pm
  6. ^ My Belize adventure: People of Belize. Accessed February 14, 2008.
  7. ^ belice – Prolades.com
  8. ^ Belice – Icex www.icex.es/staticFiles/Belice_6779_.pdf
  9. ^ BELIZE Archived 2012-06-24 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved April 03, 2013, to 2:56 pm.
  10. ^ El Español en Belice (in Spanish: The Spanish in Belize). Writing by Christina Mudarra Sánchez.
  11. ^ Navarro Tomás (2004)

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