What is a Barbarism?

What Does Barbarism Mean

We explain what a barbarism is in language and various examples. Also, what types exist and the characteristics of each one.

Barbarisms are usually very common in colloquial speech.

What is a barbarism?

We call barbarisms to those errors or inaccuracies when pronouncing or writing a word or phrase , or when using certain foreign words ( foreign words ) not yet incorporated into the language itself . It is a type of linguistic error that is very common in colloquial and popular speech , but which from the point of view of the language norm is considered a sign of a lack of culture or education.



The term barbarism comes from the word barbarian, coined in Ancient Greece to refer to the Persians , their eternal rivals, whose language was incomprehensible to the Greeks.

The Greeks scoffed at the onomatopoeia " bar , bar ", as that was how the entire Persian language sounded to them. Over time they created " barbaro " ( barbaroi ) as a derogatory way of referring not only to them, but to all foreigners who they considered politically and socially inferior, that is, to "people who speak badly."

The term was inherited into the language of the Romans ( barbarus ) and used in a similar way during their imperial times, to refer to neighboring peoples who did not speak Latin.

That is why the term barbarism can also be used as a synonym for barbarism or barbarism: a violent , brutal, uncivilized act or saying . Perhaps remembering that the Roman Empire, precisely, ended up falling to the invasions of those peoples who were branded as barbarians.

Today, however, we understand barbarisms as a phenomenon of speech and writing of the same language, when they contradict its syntactic or grammatical order, that is, its ideal norms.

However, it is not always possible to easily distinguish barbarisms from neologisms (new contributions to the language) or from foreign words (borrowings from other languages). For this reason, many barbarisms end up being accepted and incorporated into the language .

It can serve you: Dialect

Types of barbarism

There are three different types of barbarism, depending on the aspect of the language in which the error occurs: prosodic (sound), morphological (form) or syntactic (order). Let's see each one separately:

Prosodic barbarisms

They occur when there are alterations or inaccuracies in the way of pronouncing or articulating the sounds of the language . Bad pronunciation often responds to criteria of the economy of the language, that is, to the least possible effort in pronunciation; other times, to simple vice.

That is why they must be differentiated from dialect variants of the same language, since a language is not always pronounced the same in all its speaking communities .

Examples of prosodic barbarisms in Spanish are:

  • Pronounce the "g " as if it were "y " , imitating the loudness of other languages: yirar instead of rotate.
  • Not utter certain intermediate consonants fuite by left, delicuente by offender.
  • Pronounce an "s " at the end of verbs in the second person: you comistes por comiste , you arrived instead of you arrived.
  • Pronounce syndrome instead of syndrome.
  • Pronounce tasi instead of taxi.
  • Pronounce aigre instead of air.
  • Pronounce captus instead of cactus.
  • Pronounce bisted instead of steak.
  • Pronounce insepto instead of insect.
  • Pronounce you came instead came.
  • Pronounce gummy instead of vomiting.

Morphological barbarisms

They take place when the alteration occurs in the very construction of a word , both at the level of its spelling and its pronunciation. This is also why they are often considered as misspellings, often leading to the erroneous creation of non-existent words.

Examples of morphological barbarisms in Spanish are:

  • The use of opening instead of opening.
  • Using downloadear instead of downloading.
  • The use of American instead of American.
  • The use of cabo instead of quepo, of the verb caber.
  • The use of andé instead of anduve , of the verb to walk.
  • Using drove instead of drove from driving verb.
  • Using estuata instead of statue.
  • Using extricto rather strict.
  • The use of haiga instead of beech.
  • The use of dead instead of dead.
  • The use of sofales instead of sofas.
  • The use of sabo or sepo instead of I know.

Syntactic barbarisms

They take place when the alteration occurs in the order of the terms of a sentence, or in their agreement (in terms of gender, number, etc.).

Examples of syntactic barbarisms in Spanish are:

  • The use of the phrase " roughly ", when it would have to be " roughly ".
  • The use of "the first" instead of "the first".
  • The use of "more better" or "more worse" instead of "better" and "worse".
  • The use of “that” where it corresponds “that” (dequeísmo), as in: she told me about what … or I think about that
  • The use of “that” where it corresponds “of that” (queísmo), as in: we realize that… or What were you two talking about?
  • The use of "in relation to" instead of "in relation to" or "in relation to".
  • The personalization of the verb have, as in: we have people who ... or there were thousands of homicides .

Continue with: Arcaísmos

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