Research article
Issue: № 1 (1), 2015


The article presents an analysis of U.S hybrid place names of English-Spanish origin. The author explains the history of certain geographical names, describes the historical events that preceded the appearance of place names given. Particular attention is paid to the principles of formation of such hybrids, and some hypotheses are given about the causes of existence of Anglo-Spanish place names on the U.S. map. Original research was previously published in the scientific journal “Bulletin of Peoples' Friendship University of Russia. Series: Theory of language. Semiotics. Semantics”, No. 2, 2014.

The territory of the United States is an exclusive material for toponymic research, firstly, because its toponymic system on a large scale began to be formed rather recently, in the XVIII century, and all stages of its development can be clearly seen and documented. Secondly, it is revealing that the United States has been settled by immigrants from various countries, they are speakers of different languages. The peculiarity of the American toponymy is that the migration flows went to the United States from different areas, and "toponymic models and toponymic tastes were mixed" [1].

The subject of our research reflected in this article are so-called hybrid toponyms, i.e. place names composed of lexical and /or grammatical means of two languages, ​​in this case – Spanish and English.

Historical preconditions for the formation of the Anglo-Spanish hybrid toponyms

Historical conditions of the United States led to the ethnic diversity of the population and the heterogeneity of its toponymy. The huge territory of the United States, despite the large number of works devoted to its place names, to this day can not be considered as heavily studied. The origin of today's American toponymy as a whole is most directly linked with the development of the US by Europeans. Active colonization of North America began in the XVI century, and it was carried out mainly by Spain, England and France. During the War of Independence (1775 -1783) the ideas of expansionism were developed and maintained, and the original territory was extended with inclusion of Canada and Florida. In early XIX century the USA annexed Florida, the final assignment which was formalized in 1819 and became known as the transcontinental Treaty.

Demographic factors also play an important role in the quest for new lands. In 1820-1850 about 4 million settlers rushed to the new lands. During this period, the US population increased from 5 to 23 million. Rapid population growth contributed to a steady flow of immigrants. The development of transport and communication opened up new opportunities for the settlement of the western lands.

The US developed their expansionist aspirations on western lands, conquering and capturing them from various Indian tribes, which, despite the stubborn resistance, could not resist the military and technical level of civilization. Another area of ​​expansion was the Southwest, where the United States was a neighbor of Mexico, relatively weak state that had just achieved independence from Spain.

The war with Mexico spawned first wave of mass national enthusiasm, but later it became clear that Mexicans had a fierce resistance and led a real guerrilla war, which delayed the achievement of peace, so profitable for the Americans. This forced to intensify military operations, and at the same time the search for peace. On February 2, 1848 in Guadalupe Hidalgo, north of Mexico City, there was signed a peace treaty in which Mexico recognized the annexation of Texas and the establishment of the southern border on the Rio Grande, and the move to the United States of New Mexico and Upper California, including San Diego.

Even a cursory glance at the map of the United States is enough to see that Hispanic place names are prevalent in the west, southwest and Florida State. By its nature southwest differs from other regions with the deserts. Rain and wind are typical for this area only in spring. Partly due to the fact that this area is drier, it is much less populated. Thus relative abundance of hybrid place names in California, New Mexico and Texas is partly explained, in our opinion, by natural conditions. These lands in some cases changed hands many times, from the Spaniards to the English speaking new generations of Americans. For example, the village that today is known as Bosque Farms (New Mexico), used to be a part of a land grant dating from 1716, this land was originally called Bosque del Pino (Span. – "Pine Forest"), or Los Pinos (Span. – "Pines").  The land changed hands numerous times before being purchased during the Great Depression by the New Mexico Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, which in turn sold it to the federal Resettlement Administration in 1935. The RA renamed the land Bosque Farms and turned it into an agricultural resettlement project for Dust Bowl refugees. Traditional farming failed due to poor soil conditions, and the families that stayed turned to dairy farming, which became the community's main agricultural industry through the 1960s.

To this day, the area of ​​Spanish place names in the United States tends to the southwest and Florida. Here they constitute a significant percentage of all place names. Spanish toponymy recalls here the European toponymy of Mexico: Florida, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, San Diego, San Antonio, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, Sangre de Cristo, Santa Fe, Colorado, Rio Grande, El Paso, Salinas, and so on.  The reason is that Southwest once belonged to Mexico. The United States received the land as a result of the war with its southern neighbor, which lasted from 1846 to 1848. The importance of the war with Mexico for the development of the US is conditioned primarily due to the territorial acquisitions made on its results and its influence on the formation of the North American subsystem of international relations. [3]

The issuance of land grants as a factor attracting the population

Trying to strengthen its position in North America, since 1775 the Spaniards start the distribution of large land grants to individuals, mostly retired military officers - a method justified in Mexico. After California was ceded to Mexico in 1882, the number of the grant allotments grew steadily and by the time of the acquisition of the territory of current California it has reached 717 [2]. The majority of land holdings were used by Spanish and Mexican settlers for livestock farms, ranches. Hence we have the hybrid components Farms (English) and Ranch /Rancho (Spanish): Bosque Farms, Las Vegas Ranch, Rancho Mirage. Most of them, being exposed repeatedly to different conversions, collapsed and ceased to exist. However, the information on them is preserved in the archives, including many modern toponymic dictionaries, and the names of the period, partly created on the basis of earlier Spanish titles have made the bulk of the Spanish place names layer, which were later borrowed and adapted by the English-speaking population. These complex toponyms with the Grant component form hybrids of our interest: Alexander Valle Grant, Baca Grant, Baltazar Baca Grant, Pueblo Quemado Grant, Juan de Dios Peña Grant, Juan de Mestas Grant, Manzano Grant, Pablo Montoya Grant, Pacheco Grant, Quijosa Grant, Refugio Colony Grant, Talaya Grant. As can be seen, most of these place names contain names of their successors.

The peculiarities of the Anglo-Spanish place names hybrids

A significant part of the Anglo-Spanish hybrid place names in the United States are formed with the participation of English components Creek, Canyon, Mountain, Park, Beach, Peak, Valley, Springs, River. Spanish components reflect both the wealth of nature, and the names of historically significant people at the time of formation of a toponym, as well as some unexpected, at the first glance, realia. Here are some examples: El Cerro-Monterey Park, San Carlos Park, Buena Park, Villa Park, Moreno Valley, Amargosa Valley, Pismo Beach, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Solana Beach, Oro Valley, Allegros Mountains, Big Burro Mountains, Little Burro Mountains , Orejas Mountain, Pelado Mountain, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Coyote Canyon, Animas Peak, Burro Peak, Cebolleta Peak, Alamo Peak, Gallinas Peak, Manzano Peak, Tres Orejas Peaks, Blanca Peak, Andrecito Creek, Manzanito Creek, Mangas Creek, Maquina Creek, Quien Sabe Creek, Sabado Creek, Macho Creek, Bonita Springs, Santa Fe Springs, Pagosa Springs, Poncha Springs, Lisboa Springs, Moreno River, Alamosa River, Ruidoso River, Hondo River, Jemez River, Puerco River (River Puerco), Seco River etc. The word "canyon" on early maps and archival documents is pointed in Spanish (Cañon). However, modern place names contain this component in the English version (Canyon), e.g.: Tuscococillo Canyon, Coyote Canyon, El Paso Canyon.

Special attention is required to the City component. Along with the uses of the City as part of stress that we are talking about the city (New- York City, Colorado City, California City, Kansas City), we see the special role of this component in English - Spanish hybrid place names, as Colorado City is not only in Colorado, but also in Texas, and Nevada City is located in the state of California. Rio Grande City is curious with the fact that City  here "beats" not a city, but the Rio Grande river (Span. – "big river"). Initially, the area around Rio-Grande City was first settled in 1846, when it served as a transit point for supplies and soldiers who supported the invasion of General Zachary Taylor to Mexico.

We can not say that in hybrid toponyms being considered the first component is always Spanish, and the second is always English. It’s sufficient to look at the place names with component Mesa (Span. – "plateau") or Lake to understand that this is not the case: Bartlett Mesa, Cat Mesa, Quintana Mesa, Black Mesa and many others are characterized with the reverse order (first Eng., then - Span.). The same can be said about hybrids like Lake Arroyo, Lake Baldes, Lake La Tule, Lake Isabel, Lake Lucero. But here it is worth noting that Lake may be the second component: Ambrosia Lake, El Poso Lake, Escalante Lake, Progreso Lakes, Juan's Lake, La Casa Lakes, Santa Cruz Lake. On the principle of English.+Span.  are also constructed Barker Arroyo, Fort Tularosa, New Domingo, Old Laguna, New Laguna, Old Albuquerque, Old Mesilla, Old San Jose.

Also on the map one can see the sufficient amount of place names which are not specific to the above groups, where Spanish and English components are presented in a random order, without reference to any principle: Rio Communities, Del Rey Oaks, La Cañada Flintridge, Los Altos Hills, Mission Viejo, Marco Island, Florida Bay, Key Largo, Santa Fe National Forest, Coronado National Forest, Santa Fe Baldy, Las Flores Marsh, Loma Alta Marsh, La Habra Heights, Laguna Hills, Laguna Woods, Morro Bay, Brazos Bend, Port Isabel, Port Lavaca , Rio Grande National Forest, Mesa Verde National Park, San Isabel National Forest, Grand Mesa National Forest.

A separate layer of hybrid place names form name transfers from other states and areas of the country, e.g. West Sacramento, South San-Francisco, East Palo Alto, South Pasadena, North Las Vegas (Nevada), South Padre Island, South El Monte. These place names derived from other previously existing place names, by adding words like new, west, north/northern, etc.

Among American hybrid place names of this type one can often observe the toponimical metonymy – the phenomenon of contact transfer of a place name from one to another, adjacent object. As in Russia Kamchatka river gave a number of derivative names (Kamchatka Peninsula, Kamchatka Ridge, Kamchatka Mount, Kamchatka Volcano Peak, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Kamchatka region), as the United States stand this kind of group. For example, from the name of Pajarito (Span. – "bird") derive as much as 6 hybrid toponyms: Pajarito Creek, Pajarito Plateau, Pajarito Canyon, Pajarito Mountain, Pajarito Park. Manzano (Span. –  "apple tree") combines Manzano Grant, Manzano Mountains, Manzano Peak, Manzanito Creek.  Moreno (Span. – "Dark") applies to Moreno Creek, Moreno River, MorenoValley. Pacheco last name in California has also created a whole galaxy of hybrids. It all started with Pacheco Grant – land issued in 1769 with the permission of King of Spain by the governor Mendinueta to Jose Pacheco and El Salvador Pacheco, and then arose Pacheco Pass, Pacheco Creek, Pacheco State Park, Pacheco Union School District.

In conclusion we would like to note that, in general the toponymics as a science differs with its extraordinary stability. As soon as the word or phrase has become the name of a village, countryside, river, etc. it immediately becomes a proper noun with a firmly fixed feature. Peoples and their languages may disappear from the earth, but toponyms are easily absorbed by other nations, and thus can be preserved for thousands of years.