Spanish Dialects of South America
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Spanish is the official language in twenty countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela. Spanish dialects differ between countries and specific areas, and these differences include aspects such as pronunciation, vocabulary, accent, grammar, and speech speed.
In this blog, we will talk about some of the Spanish dialects in South America. Note that we discuss regions that contain dialects, and that these regions sometimes contain more than one country.
Colombia has a large variety of Spanish dialects which each have their own unique features. We explore the features of some of these dialects below.
This dialect features both "yeísmo", where "ll" and "y" are pronounced the same, and "seseo", where there is no phonetic distinction between /θ/ and /s/. Additionally, Antioquean Spanish has a fast speech speed, and is said to be "soft". "Voseo", or the use of the second person singular pronoun "vos", is heard in speaking, but not used in writing.
Opita Spanish features both "seseo" and "yeísmo". Additionally, when words feature two vowels in a row, such as /ea/, they are often pronounced as diphthongs (Example: pelear is pronounced like pelyar). The speech speed is slow, and it is often said to have a unique intonation. "Voseo" is rarely used, and instead, "usted" and "vusted" are common second person singular pronouns.
A unique feature about this dialect is that /r/ is pronounced similar to a hissing sound. Additionally, /b/, /d/, and /r/ sounds are tensed and emphasized. Pastuso Spanish also has influence from Quechua vocabulary.
Llanero Spanish features "yeísmo" and rhotacism, where /r/ is often pronounced as /l/. Additionally, the final /s/ of plural nouns is often suppressed or weakened. Lastly, the final /r/ of infinitives is sometimes dropped.
In this dialect, "su merced" is often used as a second person singular pronoun, "Usted" is used informally, and "tu" is used when people of similar ages speak.
Dialects of the Highlands
The geographic region of the highlands, or "Tierras Altas" consists of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Northernmost Argentina.
Peruvian Equatorial Spanish
This dialect puts an emphasis of vowels over consonants, features the elision of /s/ at the end of the word or before a consonant, and features the elision of /r/ before any word that begins with a vowel or at the end of a word.
Peruvian Coastal Spanish
In Peruvian Coastal Spanish, vowels are pronounced clearly and are of equal duration. Additionally, the sounds /rr/ and /r/ are pronounced without producing a fricative sound, the final “d” becomes a “t” or is omitted, and there is a tendency to create a diphthong in words that feature the vowels "e" and "a" next to each other. This dialect also features both yeismo and seseo.
Andean Spanish is spoken in the central Andes, from Colombia to Bolivia and northern Chile. It has a fast speech speed and a varied intonation. In this dialect, many diminutives and augmentatives are used, as well as the conjunctions "pues", "pe", and "pue". Additionally, there is an excessive use of "lo", also known as "loísmo". New words are often coined, and there is influence from Quechua vocabulary.
Bolivian and Amazonic Spanish
This dialect features a lack of "yeísmo", where /ʎ/ and /ʝ/ do not merge. Additionally, the syllable final /s/ in words is mostly aspirated. "Voseo" and "loísmo" are also commonly used.
This dialect is spoken in the Amazon, especially in the Peruvian provinces of Loreto, San Martín and Ucayali. A unique aspect about Amazonic Spanish is that /x/ and /xw/ are frequently pronounced as /f/ (Juana is pronounced like [ˈfana]). Additioanlly, Amazonic Spanish also features words and expressions borrowed from local indigenous languages.
Dialects of the Southern Cone
The Southern Cone region of South America includes the countries of Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile.
River Plate Spanish
River Plate Spanish, or Rioplatense Spanish, is spoken in Uruguay and Argentina. It features "voseo" and zheísmo" where /ll/ is pronounced like /zh/. Additionally, the preterite form of verbs is used more commonly than the perfect form.
Cuyo Spanish is spoken in the Northwest of Argentina, and it is said to be a mix of Rioplatense and Chilean Spanish.
This dialect is spoken in Argentina and is thought to be derived from the indigenous Comechingones languages. It features an elongation of several sounds, including the last syllable in the word and vowels that precede a stressed syllable.
Paraguayan Spanish draws influence from the Guaraní language and River Plate Spanish. This dialect employs "voseo" and utilizes "leísmo", where the pronoun "le" is used in the context of a direct object pronoun instead of the personal pronouns "lo" and "la". Lastly, Paraguayan does not use "yeísmo" (/ʎ/ and /ʝ/ are not pronounced the same)
In Chilean Spanish, both "yeísmo" and "seseo" are used. Both "voseo" and "tuteo" (where the second person singular pronoun "tú is employed) are used, depending on situation and levels of formality. It is also common in Chilean Spanish to use "que" instead of "de que", and "de nosotros" instead of "nuestro". Lastly, the final /s/ in many words is aspirated.
Venezuelan Spanish sometimes shortens words, such as "para" to "pa". Another common feature is the debuccalization of syllable-final /s/(Example: adiós becomes [aˈðjoh] and estebecomes [ˈehte]). The diminutives -ica and -ico are frequently used.
Despite these dialectical differences, Spanish speakers everywhere can understand and communicate with each other.