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The majority of Gibraltar's population speaks Llanito.
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Llanito or Yanito (Spanish pronunciation: [ʝaˈnito]) is a form of Andalusian Spanish heavily laced with words from English and other languages, such as Ligurian; it is spoken in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. It is commonly marked by a great deal of code switching between Andalusian Spanish and British English and by the use of Anglicisms and loanwords from other Mediterranean languages and dialects.
The English language is becoming increasingly dominant in Gibraltar, with the younger generation speaking little or no Llanito despite learning Spanish in school.
The etymology of the term Llanito is uncertain. In Spanish, llanito means "little flatland" and has been interpreted as "people of the flatlands". It is thought that the inhabitants of La Línea with important social and economic ties with Gibraltar, were actually the first to be referred to as Llanitos since La Línea lies in the plain and marsh land surrounding The Rock.
Another theory for the origin of the word is that it is a diminutive of the name Gianni: "gianito", pronounced in Genoese slang with the "g" as "j". During the late 18th century 34% of the male civilian population of Gibraltar came from Genoa and Gianni was a common Italian forename. To this day, nearly 20% of Gibraltarian surnames are Italian in origin.
The most influential periods for the formation of Llanito are:
- 1713. The Treaty of Utrecht yields Gibraltar to the United Kingdom.
- After the Spanish War of Independence and the Peninsular War, British authorities form an education system of British inspiration.
- During the evacuation of Gibraltar within the Second World War, the authorities realise that most of the Gibraltarians lack a sufficient command of English. Subsequently, Spanish is relegated to a foreign language subject in the education system.
- 1969–1982. Spanish governments close "the fence" (the land border) and Spanish workers cannot cross the border into Gibraltar. This reduced the need for Spanish in the workplace and the input of Spanish nannies.
Andalusian Spanish from the surrounding Campo de Gibraltar is the main constituent of Llanito, but it is also heavily influenced by British English. However, it borrows words and expressions of many other languages, with over 500 words of Genoese (Ligurian) medieval dialect (with additionally some of Hebrew origin via Judaeo-Spanish). Its other main language constituents are Maltese and Portuguese. It often also involves code-switching (using different languages for different sentences) and code mixing (using different languages for different words in the same sentence) from Spanish to English. Caló borrowings have been lost. Some Llanito words are also widely used in the neighbouring Spanish town of La Línea de la Concepción (due to the influx of people from La Línea working in Gibraltar over many years).
To some outsiders who speak either only English or only Spanish, Llanito may sound incomprehensible, as speakers appear to switch languages in mid-sentence, but to people who are bilingual in both languages, it can sound interesting and unique. One feature of the language is the pronunciation of Anglicisms with an Andalusian flavour. For example, "bacon" is pronounced beki; "cake", keki (although these particular words are not prevalent today); and porridge is called quecaró (a hispanicisation of the brand Quaker Oats). Most Gibraltarians, especially those with higher education, also speak standard Spanish with Andalusian pronunciations and standard English of a British English variety. For example, "Gibraltar" may be pronounced in English within an English sentence and in Spanish within a Spanish sentence.
Like other Andalusian varieties, Llanito is marked by high rates of final /n/ velarisation, neutralisation and elision of pre-consonantal and word-final /l/ and /r/, and reduction of final /s/. One difference from surrounding dialects is that Gibraltarians tend to maintain this high rate of reduction of final consonants even in very elevated registers, whereas Andalusians would try to adopt a more neutral pronunciation. Llanito has undergone some degree of lexical restructuring as a result of its reduction of final consonants and the unofficial status of Spanish. For example, túnel 'tunnel' is often pronounced [ˈtune], and its plural form may be pronounced as [ˈtune(h)] instead of [ˈtunele(h)].
According to the Italian scholar Giulio Vignoli, Llanito originally, in the first decades of the 19th century, was full of Genoese words, later substituted mainly by Spanish words and by some English words.
Llanito has significant Jewish influence, because of a long standing Jewish population in Gibraltar. They introduced words and expressions from Haketia, a largely extinct Judeo-Spanish language spoken by the Sephardic communities of Northern Morocco, such as Tetuan and Tangiers and the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa.
Even though Llanito is seldom written, a Llanito dictionary, Diccionario Yanito, was published in 1978 by Manuel Cavilla, and in 2001 Tito Vallejo published The Yanito Dictionary. Including Place Names and Yanito Anecdotes.
Core elements of Llanito vocabulary
Although Llanito is largely based on the colloquial Spanish spoken in the Campo de Gibraltar, there are numerous elements beyond code-switching to English which make it unique. These are as follows.
They may be false friends or involve an informal playfulness.
- Echegarai: "watchman" or "guard". From English "Check Gate" influenced by the Basque surname Echegaray.
- Focona: Gibraltar border with Spain. From English "Four Corners".
- darle una apología: "to give him an apology" instead of pedirle perdón. In standard Spanish, apología is a "defence speech".
Calques from English to Spanish
Llanito frequently uses verbal expressions with para atrás, or p'atrás, mirroring use of English phrasal verbs ending in "back".
- Te llamo p'atrás: Literal translation into Spanish of English phrase "I'll call you back". In standard Spanish, one would normally say "I'll return your call" (Te devuelvo la llamada, Te devolveré la llamada).
- dar p'atrás: "To give back".
- venir p'atrás: "To come back".
- hablar p'atrás: "To talk back".
- pagar p'atrás: "To pay back".
- mover(se) p'atrás: "To move back".
Usage of p'atrás expressions is also widespread in US Spanish, including in Isleño Spanish. P'atrás expressions are unique as a calque of an English verbal particle since other phrasal verbs are almost never calqued into Spanish. Because of this, and because p'atrás expressions are both consistent with Spanish structure and distinctly structured to their English equivalents, they are likely a result of a conceptual, not linguistic loan.
The word liqueribá in Llanito means regaliz ("liquorice") in Spanish, stemming from the English "liquorice bar".
Calques from Spanish to English
- Don't give me the tin: Literal translation of Spanish expression No me des la lata, meaning "stop annoying me".
- What a cachonfinger!: This is a humorous expression based on the Spanish word cachondeo which means "piss-take" in British English. The end of the word deo is how the word dedo (finger) is pronounced in colloquial Andalusian Spanish, thus cachonfinger.
- ¿Tú quién te crees que eres? ¿El hijo del Melbil? Literally, "Who do you think you are? The son of the Melbil?", as used when someone is acting with excessive self-importance. Melbil is a Spanish approximation of the pronunciation of the British name Melville, and the expression is an allusion to Lord Melville, a British statesman prominent in the early 19-century, and his son. The elder Lord Melville was Secretary at War (1794–1801), and First Lord of the Admiralty (1804–1805); the younger Melville was also First Lord of the Admiralty from 1812 to 1827.
Llanito words introduced into Spain
Many Llanito terms have been introduced into the Andalusian Spanish dialect of the bordering city La Línea de la Concepción, where the resulting dialect is known as Linense. However, according to Gibraltarian linguist Tito Vallejo, a few words common throughout Spain may be of Llanito origin, notably chachi meaning "cool" or "brilliant" (from Winston Churchill) and napia meaning "big nose" from the Governor Robert Napier, 1st Baron Napier of Magdala. Churchill was associated with foreign imports from the United Kingdom which were highly sought in Gibraltar and, according to Vallejo, Lord Napier had a particularly big nose.
However, linguists also propose chachi to be a contraction of the Caló term chachipén meaning "truth", since this language is the source of a significant proportion of Spanish slang.
The Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation has also aired some programmes in Llanito including Talk About Town – a discussion series in which three presenters discuss local affairs, from the need to replace a street sign to important political affairs.
Pepe's Pot was a cookery programme/program which also used Llanito.
A documentary film, People of the Rock: The Llanitos of Gibraltar (2011) discusses Llanito speech characteristics, history and culture. Notable interviews include Pepe Palmero (of GBC's Pepe's Pot), Kaiane Aldorino (Miss World 2009), and Tito Vallejo (author of The Llanito Dictionary).
The official demonym of Gibraltar is Gibraltarians. However, the people of Gibraltar may also be referred to as Llanitos (female: Llanitas). This term is commonly used in the neighbouring towns of La Línea, San Roque, Algeciras and the rest of the Campo de Gibraltar, as well as in Gibraltar itself. When speaking in English, the people of Gibraltar tend to use the word Gibraltarians to refer to themselves but when speaking in Spanish they prefer to use the word llanitos rather than the Spanish name for their official demonym, gibraltareños.
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- Llanito alphabet and pronunciation at Omniglot
- A searchable database of Gibraltarian sayings and street signs
- A weekly comical editorial in exaggerated code-switching Llanito by the daily Panorama (newspaper) Archived 31 October 2020 at the Wayback Machine
- ‘Andalunglish’: the English words Spaniards have borrowed from Gibraltar, 31 October 2016, Nick Lyne, El País. Article about a collection of Anglicisms used in Campo de Gibraltar.
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- Manuel Cavilla, OBE (1978), Diccionario Yanito (in Spanish), MedSUN (Mediterranean SUN Publishing Co Ltd) - Gibraltar