Spanish dialects and varieties: Wikis


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Spanish language
Don Quixote

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Map of dialects and regional languages in Spain.

Spanish dialects and varieties are the regional variants of the Spanish language, some of which are quite divergent from each other, especially in pronunciation and vocabulary, less so in grammar. While all Spanish dialects use the same written standard, all spoken varieties differ from the written variety, in different degrees. Some people falsely believe that there is a "gap" between European Spanish (also called Peninsular Spanish) and the Spanish of the Americas (American Spanish). This belief is based on ignorance. [See my note "There is no such thing as Latin American Spanish", on the discussion page of headword "American Spanish"]]. There are many different dialect areas both within Spain and within Latin America. The term "dialect" does not apply to other regional languages in Spain such as Catalan, Galician, and Basque.

Prominent differences between dialects of Spanish include the distinction or lack thereof between /θ/ or /s/. The maintenance of the distinction, known in Spanish as distinción or by the neologism ceseo,[1] is characteristic of the Spanish spoken in northern and central Spain. Most dialects of Latin America and Southern Spain lack this distinction, and have merged the two sounds into /s/, a feature called seseo in Spanish dialectology. Dialects with seseo will pronounce the words casa ("house") and caza ("hunt") as homophones, whereas dialects with distinción will pronounce them differently (as [kasa] and [kaθa], respectively). In some parts of Andalusia, the two sounds have merged, but into sounds [θ]; these dialects are said to have ceceo.

Another widespread dialectal difference concerns the existence, or lack thereof, of a distinction between the palatal lateral (spelled ll) and the Voiced palatal fricative (spelled y). In most dialects, the two sounds have merged together (a process known as yeísmo), though the realization of the resulting merged sound varies from dialect to dialect. This merger results in the words calló ("silenced") and cayó ("fell") being pronounced the same, whereas they remain distinct in dialects that have not undergone this merger.

Another feature associated with many varieties, like those in the southern half of Spain, the Caribbean and most of South America, is the weakening (to [h]) or loss of the consonant /s/ when syllable-final (/s/ debuccalization). This feature, called aspiración de las eses in Spanish, is associated in certain regions with other phonetic changes, like the opening of the previous vowel or the modification of the following consonant.

One particular feature of Mexican Spanish is the reduction or loss of the unstressed vowels, mainly when they are in contact with the sound /s/.[2][3] It can be the case that the words: pesos, pesas, and peces are pronounced the same ['pesə̥s].

A prominent grammatical feature that varies between dialects is the use of the 2nd person forms. In most of Spain, the informal second person plural pronoun is vosotros, which is not used in Latin America, where the only second person plural pronoun is ustedes, which takes third person plural verb agreement. For the second person singular familiar pronoun, some dialects use , while others use vos (a phenomenon known as voseo), or use both and vos.

There are significant differences in vocabulary between regional varieties of Spanish, particularly within the domains food products, everyday objects, and clothes, and many Latin American varieties show considerable influence from Native American languages.



Distinción vs. seseo/ceceo

Within Spain, in sociolinguistic terms, one can roughly distinguish between the northern (Castilian) dialect and the Andalusian dialects of Castilian Spanish, though in purely linguistic terms one should also consider at least one 3rd dialect, for the s-debuccalization area between Madrid and Andalusia. The first Spaniards to settle in the Americas, mostly Andalusians, brought some of their regionalisms with them. Today distinct accents are found in the different nations of the Americas. Typical of American Spanish is seseo. The Peninsular Spanish phoneme /θ/ as in ciento ("hundred"), caza ("hunt") (interdental voiceless fricative, like English th in thin) does not exist in American Spanish (except in some Andean portions of Peru where /θ/ exists in words like doce, trece); instead the phoneme has merged with /s/ and these example words are, in American Spanish, homophones of siento ("I feel"), and casa ("house"). Since some words would become homophones in Latin America with the confusion of the pronunciation of z or c before e or i and that of s, it is preferred to use instead synonyms or slightly different words. E.g., caza ("hunting") and casa ("house") become homophones, as do cocer ("to boil") and coser ("to sew"). So, in Latin America they use instead mostly cacería ("hunting expedition") and cocinar (which means "to cook" in other dialects).

Additional Information

  • González-Bueno, Manuela: Variaciones en el tratamiento de las sibilantes. Inconsistencia en el seseo sevillano: Un enfoque sociolingüístico. (in Cervantes Virtual)

Variants of /s/ and coda /s/ debuccalization

The most distinctive feature of the Spanish variants is the pronunciation of s. In northern and central Spain, and in Antioquia, Colombia together with some other isolated dialects (e. g. some inland Peruvian, Bolivian), it is apico-alveolar; in Southern Spain and most of Latin America it is lamino-alveolar or dental.

In most of Latin America (except for Mexico, highland Guatemala, Costa Rica, Andean Venezuela, Quito and most of highland Ecuador, highland Bolivia, and Bogotá) and in the southern half of Spain, syllable-final s is pronounced as an aspiration (a voiceless glottal fricative, /h/), or even not pronounced at all in some variants in rapid speech. For instance, Todos los cisnes son blancos ("All the swans are white"), can be pronounced [todɔh lɔh sihnɛh sɔm blankɔh], or even [todɔ lɔ sinɛ sɔm blankɔ]. In eastern Andalusia and the Region of Murcia, the distinction between syllables with a now-silent s and those originally without s is preserved by pronouncing the syllables ending in s with open vowels (that is, the open/closed syllable contrast has been turned into a lax/tense vowel contrast); this typically affects the vowels 'a', 'e' and 'o', but in some areas even 'i' and 'u' have a double set of phonemes.

Pronunciation of 'j'

'J' (and 'g' before 'e' and 'i') used to be a voiced fricative palatal consonant /ʒ/, and eventually merged with "x" /ʃ/, until the 15th century. When the first Spanish settlers arrived in the New World, this consonant had started to change its place of articulation from post-alveolar to palatal [ç] to velar [x], like German 'ch' in Bach. In southern Spanish dialects, though, and in those American dialects strongly influenced by southern settlers (Caribbean Spanish), /ʃ/ did not evolve into a velar fricative [x] but into a softer glottal sound [h], like English 'h' in hope. Glottal [h] is nowadays the standard pronunciation for 'j' in Caribbean dialects (Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican) as well as in mainland Venezuela. Both coastal and inland dialects of Colombian Spanish show [h] for 'j', as does Mexican Spanish. In the rest of the Americas, the velar fricative [x] is prevalent. In most of Argentina (Rioplatense) and Chile, [x] becomes the more frontal [ç] (like German 'ch' in ich) when it precedes palatal vowels [i, e]: gente, jinete ['çente], [çi'nete]. In Spain, glottal [h] is common in the Canary Islands and Western Andalusian; in the rest of the country, [x] alternates with a hardened uvular sound [χ] sometimes accompanied by uvular vibration.

Word final '-n'

In standard European Spanish and many Latin American dialects (standard Argentine or Rioplatense, Colombian, and Mexican), word final -n is alveolar like English /n/ in pen. In many other Spanish dialects, -n is a nasal velar sound ŋ, like English '-ng' in long. In these dialects, -n makes words like pan or bien sound like pang and bieng to English speakers. Velar -n is common in many parts of Spain (Galicia, León, Asturias, Murcia, Extremadura, and Andalusia). In the Americas, velar -n is prevalent in all Caribbean dialects, Central American dialects, the coastal areas of Colombia, Venezuela, much of Ecuador and Peru and northern Chile. Loss of final -n followed by a strong nasalization of the preceding vowel is not infrequent in all those dialects where velar -n exists. In much of Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela (except for the Andean region) and Dominican Spanish, any pre-consonantal /n/ or /m/ is realized [ŋ]; thus, a word like ambientación is pronounced [aŋbjeŋta'sjoŋ].

'R' sounds

Spanish single /ɾ/, like American English 'tt' in better, corresponding to intervocalic 'r' (para) and preconsonantal 'r' (verdad) usually undergo no significant changes in standard dialects of Spanish. Contrary to single /r/, the so-called erre vibrante múltiple (strongly trilled r), corresponding to intervocalic 'rr' (perro) or initial 'r-' (rata), shows different articulations along the Spanish-speaking countries. Generally, all national standards consider that a trill for rr is the prestigious or correct sound for this consonant. This said, in many Spanish dialects 'rr' is not rolled and usually takes on a fricative articulation, this variant sounds a bit similar to English prevocalic 'r-' in rain. Fricative 'rr' sounds are extremely frequent in most Central America (including some rural southern Mexican, but not in Honduras speech), inland Ecuador (including the standard of Quito), inland Peru and the highlands of Bolivia (but not in the plains of the Camba region). Many linguists have explained fricative or postalveolar 'rr' sounds in these countries as a result of the influence of native American languages. The fact that all those Andean regions previously cited have a very important bilingual Spanish-native American population agrees with the theory stated before. Nonetheless, other researchers have pointed out that fricative 'rr' in the Americas may not be an autonomous innovation but a pronunciation originated in some Spanish northern dialects and then exported to the Americas. As a matter of fact, Spanish dialects spoken in the Basque Country, Navarra, la Rioja and northern Aragón (regions that largely contributed to Spanish-American colonization) show the fricative or postalveolar variant for 'rr' (especially for the initial 'rr' sound, like in Roma or rey). Another significant variant for 'rr' is that found with many Puerto Rican speakers and to a lesser extent in some Dominican and Cuban regions. For these Caribbean speakers the alveolar trill becomes totally or partially back or velar; this means 'rr' can be either glottalized becoming [hrr] (a soft [h] followed by a voiceless trill) or, in advanced speakers, especially Puerto Ricans, the alveolar trill becomes a voiceless uvular trill [χ] or velar [x]. This [χ] realization for rr may give the wrong impression that Puerto Ricans pronounce 'rr' like 'j', something that never happens since Puerto Rican 'j' is a soft glottal [h] whereas 'rr' is always a strong uvular or velar sound.

Pronunciation of 'x'

The pronunciation of the letter x in casual speech in Spain lenites and can drop the initial k component ending up just like their apico-alveolar s (/s̺/), especially before a consonant sound. In Latin America it is pronounced as ks, with a regular lamino-alveolar or dental s, but when an s sound (spelled s or c) follows, it is assimilated resulting in kss > ks. This merging of two adjacent s sounds also occurs in the cluster spelled sc, that in Latin America is pronounced merely s; while in Spain this cluster doesn't merge because for them there aren't two adjacent s, but the apico-alveolar /s̺/ followed by the interdental /θ/. For example, excelente is pronounced in Northern Spain and sometimes in South-Central Spain as [ɛs̺θeˈlɛnte], but as [ɛkseˈlɛnte] by the rest. "Ascensión" is pronounced in parts of Spain as [as̺θɛnˈs̺jɔn], in some other parts as [aθɛnˈs̺jɔn], while in Latin America is pronounced just [asɛnˈsjɔn].

Several variants of Spanish are also characterized by a highly relaxed pronunciation, which tends to aspiration or elision of many implosive consonants, not just final s. This is not related to the elision of k in the pronunciation of x, which is general in most dialects of Spanish, except in formal speech. However, s is reinforced because of its dental, stressed realization, in some kind of assimilating phenomenon. Something similar occurs with other sibilant groups, like -sc-, -sz- or -xc- in seseo areas. Thus words like examen ("exam") or próximo ("nearby", "next") are pronounced [esˈsamen] and [ˈprossimo], respectively, and words like descenso or excelencia in seseo areas become [desˈsenso] or [ɛsseˈlɛnsja]. Due to this tendency, it is not unusual to find similar cases of s assimilation and reinforcement even in cases where two s letters are added through prefixation into a single word, producing only a single s in Standard Spanish, and Northern or Latin American Speech: for example in digámoselo ("let's tell it to them"), formed from the verbal form digamos and clitic pronouns se and lo, a typically Andalusian pronunciation would be [diˈɡamosselo], or in desaborido ("untasteful" or "boring", "pessimistic"), from the prefix des ("un-") plus adjective saborido ("tasteful"), an Andalusian pronunciation would be [(d)essaboˈrido].

An exception is the pronunciation of the x in words like México, which originally used the phonetic value of the x in Medieval Spanish, represented by the voiceless postalveolar fricative /ʃ/. This evolved into a voiceless velar fricative /x/ during the sixteenth century.[4] Although the name is still spelled México, the x sounds like /x/. This is also true for other toponyms, like Texas and Oaxaca and proper and last names like Xavier and Ximénez.

A small number of words in Mexican Spanish retain the historical /ʃ/ pronunciation, e.g. Mexica.

Further information: Phonetic evolution of the name of Mexico


Judaeo-Spanish, popularly known as Ladino, is a special case, since due to the fact that its speakers were expelled from Spain in the 15th century, they have preserved the old sibilants, where /z/ and /s/ are respectively distributed for simple, voiced intervocalic s and voiceless, initial, implosive, or doubled intervocalic s, e.g.: rosa ("rose") becoming [ˈroza] and assentarse ("to sit down") becoming [asenˈtarse]. Due to an archaic seseo phenomenon in Ladino, the two kinds of old Spanish zetas, the voiced z [dz] and the voiceless ç [ts], have also been treated in a similar way. Fazer ("to make") becoming [faˈzer] instead of the medieval [faˈdzer] and plaza ("square") becoming [plasa] instead of medieval [platsa].


Traditionally Spanish had the phoneme /ʎ/, a palatal lateral approximant, written ll. This phoneme has been merged with the phoneme /ʝ/, a voiced palatal fricative, written y, in most of the Americas, with the exception of bilingual areas where Quechua, Guaraní and other indigenous languages that have this sound in their inventories are spoken (this is the case of inland Peru, Bolivia and, especially, Paraguay). It is also being lost in Spain (also with the exception of bilingual areas of Catalan and Basque). It was preserved in Ladino, as well as in Tagalog (Filipino) words of Spanish origin such as kordilyera (Tagalog /koɾdiʎeɾa/). This phenomenon is called yeísmo.

The phoneme /ʝ/ can also be pronounced in a variety of ways. In most of the area where yeísmo is present, the merged phoneme /ʎ ~ ʝ/ is pronounced just as /ʝ/, or even /j/. In the area around the Río de la Plata (Argentina, Uruguay), this phoneme is pronounced as a postalveolar fricative, voiceless or weakly voiced (similar to /ʃ/ or /ʒ/). In Mexico, the phoneme is commonly, but far from universally, pronounced /ɟʝ/.

Adoption of the africates 'tz' and 'tl'

Mexican Spanish adopted from the native languages the voiceless alveolar affricate [t͡s] and a voiceless alveolar lateral affricate [t͡ɬ] represented by the respective digraphs <tz> and <tl>, like in the names Atzcapotzalco and Atlantico [a't͡ɬantiko]. Classical Spanish does not have these affricates.

Sets of variants

In a broad sense, American Spanish pronunciation can be grouped in five sets of variants. The first group, the Caribbean, is spoken in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panamá, the Colombian Caribbean, much of Venezuela, and the Caribbean parts of Nicaragua and Mexico. The second one is the South American Pacific, which comprises Perú, Chile and Guayaquil, Ecuador. The third is the Central American, spoken in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. The fourth is the Argentine-Uruguayan-Paraguayan variant, which probably includes Eastern Bolivia (Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando). The fifth, which probably is not a group but a cluster of places that resisted changes in the pronunciation of the s sound at the end of a syllable, has been called the Highland American Spanish, and is spoken in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Andean Colombia, Andean Venezuela, Quito, the Peruvian Sierra and Bolivia (except in Santa Cruz, Beni, and Pando).[5]


Second person singular

Most Spanish dialects have two second person singular pronouns, one for informal use and one for more formal treatment. In most dialects the informal pronoun is , which comes directly from Latin, and the formal pronoun is usted, which is usually considered to originate from "vuestra merced", meaning "Your (singular) grace" or literally "Your mercy". In a number of regions is replaced by another pronoun, vos, and the verb conjugation changes accordingly (see details below). "Vos" comes from Latin vos, which was simply the second person plural informal pronoun.

In any case, there is wide variation as to when each pronoun (formal or informal) is to be used. In Spain, is informal (for example, used with friends), and usted is formal (for example, used with older people). There has been a noticeable tendency to extend the use of even in situations previously reserved for usted. In several countries, however, the formal usted is also used to denote a closer personal relationship (parts of Central America and, especially, in Colombia). Many Colombians and some Chileans, for instance, employ usted not only for a child to address a parent, but also for a parent to address a child. Some countries, like Cuba and the Dominican Republic, prefer the use of even in very formal circumstances, and usted thus is seldom used. Meanwhile, in other countries, the use of formal rather than informal second-person pronouns denotes authority. In Peru, for example, senior military officers will use to speak to their subordinates, while junior officers will use only usted to address their superior officers.

Using informally, especially in contexts where usted was to be expected, is called tuteo. The corresponding verb is tutear (a transitive verb, the direct object being the person addressed with the pronoun). Tutear is used even in those dialects where the informal pronoun is vos.

The use of vos instead of is called voseo. Voseo is informal in most countries. In Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay it is the standard form of the informal second person singular, and is used by all to address others in all kinds of contexts, often regardless of social status or age, including by cultured/educated speakers and writers, in television, advertisements, and even in translations from other languages. In Uruguay vos and are used concurrently, though vos is much more commonplace. In both cases the verb is conjugated as vos ("Vos querés / Tú querés", rather than "Vos querés / Tú quieres").

The name Rioplatense is applied to the particular dialect, spoken around the mouth of the Río de la Plata and the lower course of the Paraná River, where vos is always used, with verb conjugations that resemble those of the Castilian second person plural. This area comprises the most populated part of Argentina (the provinces of Buenos Aires and Santa Fe) as well as an important part of Uruguay including Montevideo, the capital.

In Ecuador, vos is the most prominent form throughout the Sierra region of the country, though it does coexist with usted and the lesser used . In this region, Vos is regarded as the unofficial standard, but it is not used in public discourse, the media or television. To complicate things more, the choice of pronoun to be used depends on the participants' likeness in age and/or social status. Based on these factors, the addresser can assess himself as being an equal, superior or inferior to the addressee, and the appropriate choice of pronoun to be employed can then be made. Ecuadorians of the highlands thus generally use vos among familiarized equals, or by superiors [in both social status and age] to inferiors; among unfamiliarized equals, or by a superior in age but inferior in social status; and usted by both familiarized and unfamiliarized inferiors, or by a superior in social status but inferior in age. On the more-populated coastal region, the form is used in most situations, usted being only used for unfamiliar and/or superior subjects.

Vos can be heard throughout most of Chile, Bolivia, and a small part of Peru as well, but in these places it is reproached as substandard and the speech of the uneducated and ignorant. It is also used as the unofficial standard in the Paisa Region (Colombia), in Zulia (Venezuela), in Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and the State of Chiapas in Mexico.

In Chile, is the preferred pronoun in all normal and educated speech. Vos is used, pronounced with an aspiration at the end instead of s. When so pronounced, it is always derisive to some extent, with the magnitude of this disdain depending on the inflection of speech. In this form, it is used in informal speech between very close friends as playful banter (usually among men), but even then a change in inflection can change the meaning of a statement, which can result in an offensive comment. The use of verbal voseo ( + vos conjugation of the verb, e.g. "tú podís") is quite widespread, though. This has been something that typically distinguishes Chileans.

A usage similar to voseo is vos with the verb in the grammatically plural form (as if it were vosotros). It appears as a formal or disrespectfully familiar use in the works of the Spanish Golden Century/Golden Age and period works placed in that era. In Colombia, the choice of second person singular varies with location. In most of inland Colombia (chiefly the Andean region), usted is the pronoun of choice for all situations, even in speaking between friends or family, but in large cities (Bogotá mainly), the use of is becoming more accepted in informal situations, especially between young interlocutors of the opposite sex and among young women. In Valle del Cauca (Cali), Antioquia (Medellín) and the Pacific coast, the pronouns used are vos/usted. On the Caribbean coast (mainly Barranquilla and Cartagena), is used for practically all informal situations and many formal situations, usted being reserved for the most formal environments. A peculiarity occurs in Boyacá and among older speakers in Bogotá: usted is replaced by sumercé for formal situations (it is relatively easy to spot a Boyacense by his/her use of this pronoun). Sumercé comes from su merced ("your mercy").

In parts of Spain, fifty years ago a child would not use but usted to address a parent. This would be very unusual today. Among the factors for the ongoing substitution are the new social relevance of youth and the reduction of social differences. Being addressed as usted makes one feel older. It has also been attributed to the egalitarianism of the right-wing party Falange. By contrast, Spanish leftists of the early 20th century would address their comrades as usted as a show of respect and worker's dignity.

Joan Corominas explains that vos was a peasant form in classical Castilian, and since most Spanish immigrants to the New World belonged to this class, vos became the unmarked form.

Another explanation is that in Spain, although vos denoted high social status by those who were addressed as such (monarchs, nobility, etc.), these people never actually used the pronoun themselves since there were not any people above them in society. Those who used vos were the inferiors (lower classes and peasants). When the waves of Spanish immigrants arrived to populate the New World, they primarily comprised these lower classes and peasants. They would then want to raise their social status from what it was in Spain and would demand to be addressed as vos. Everyone thus became vos in the Americas, and the pronoun was transformed into an indicator of low status not only for the addresser, but also for the addressee. Conversely, in Spain today "vos" is still considered a highly exalted archaism that is confined to liturgy, and its use by native Spaniards is seen as deliberate archaism.

Speakers of Ladino still use vos as it was originally used, to address people higher on the social ladder. The pronoun usted had not been introduced to this dialect of Spanish when the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, hence vos is still used in Ladino much as usted is used in modern Spanish.

Other less frequent forms analogous to usted are voacé, bosanzé and boxanxé (by Moriscos), vuecencia, v/usía. The latter are short for vuestra excelencia and vuestra señoría. The most common analogous form of usted still used today is vusted, which can be heard in Andean regions of South America.

Second person plural

In Standard European Spanish the plural of is vosotros and the plural of usted is ustedes. In Latin America vosotros is not used, and the plural of both and usted is ustedes. This means that speaking to a group of friends a Spaniard will use vosotros and a Latin American will use ustedes. Although ustedes is semantically a second-person form, it is treated grammatically as a third-person plural form because it originates from the term vuestras mercedes ("Your [pl.] Graces," sing. vuestra merced).

In Argentina, Colombia, Peru, and Chile, school children are taught the conjugation of vosotros. However, it is only a formality, as they rarely if ever use vosotros in real-life situations.

The only vestiges of vosotros in America are boso/bosonan in Papiamento and the use of vuestro/a in place of sus (de ustedes) as second person plural possessive in the Cusco region of Peru.

In very formal contexts, however, the vosotros conjugation can still be found. An example is the Mexican national anthem, which contains such forms as apretad and empapad.

Joan Coromines supposes that the vos forms in the Caribbean were perceived as slave-talk, and disrespectful for whites initially, and later for everybody.

The plural of the Colombian sumercé is sumercés/susmercedes, from Sus Mercedes ("Your Mercies").

In some parts of Andalusia (the lands around the Guadalquivir river and western Andalusia), the usage is what is called ustedes-vosotros: ustedes is combined with the verbal forms for vosotros.

In Ladino vosotros is still the only second person plural pronoun, since usted does not exist.

Conjugation of the second person

Changes in the pronoun also bring along a change in the second person of the verb. Speakers who use vos also replace the corresponding verb forms with other forms related to the plural form used with vosotros, either without the diphthongization of those forms or without the final s. When irregular verbs are observed it is obvious that vos conjugations are related to the vosotros forms. Some examples follow (note that in Ladino -áis is pronounced [aʃ], and the medial s in vosotros is voiced to [z]).

  • "You speak" (second person singular, informal address)
Iberian Spanish - tú hablas (in the southern half of Spain pronounced tú hablah; the second a of hablah can be open)
Argentina, Paraguay and Central America - vos hablás
Uruguay - vos hablás, tú hablás
Chile - tú hablas, tú hablái, vos hablái
Colombia - usted habla, tú hablas, vos hablás
Puerto Rico - tú hablas (pronounced as in southern Spain)
Mexico - tú hablas, vos hablás (Chiapas only)
Venezuela and archaic Spanish formal singular - vos habláis, tú habláis, vos hablás
Ecuador - tú hablas, vos hablás
Ladino formal - vos avláis
Peru (official speech) - tú hablas, usted habla, vos habláis/hablás
  • "You speak" (second person plural, informal address)
Iberian Spanish - vosotros habláis
Western Andalusian Spanish - ustedes habláis, pronounced uhtedeh habláih/uttede' hablái'
Canarian Spanish - ustedes hablan
American Spanish - ustedes hablan
Ladino formal and informal - vosotros avláis pronounced vozotros avlash
  • "That you lose" (subjunctive, singular, informal) - Note that perder is a semi-regular verb, with vowel alternation according to stress position.
Iberian Spanish - que tú pierdas
Central America - que vos perdás
Argentina - que vos perdás, que vos pierdas
Paraguay - que vos pierdas
Ecuador - que tú pierdas, que vos perdás, que vos pierdas
Puerto Rico - que tú pierdas
Uruguay - que vos pierdas, que tú pierdas, que vos perdás, que tú perdás
Chile - que tú pierdas, que tú perdái, que vos perdái
Colombia - que usted pierda, que tú pierdas, que vos perdás
Mexico - que tú pierdas, que vos perdás
Venezuela and archaic Spanish formal singular: que vos perdáis, que tú perdáis
Ladino formal singular - que vos pedráis pronounced pedrásh
  • "That you lose" (subjunctive, plural)
Iberian Spanish - que vosotros perdáis
Western Andalusian Spanish - que vosotros/ustedes perdáis
American Spanish - que ustedes pierdan
Ladino formal and informal - que vosotros pedráis pronounced ke vozotros pedrásh
  • "Come" (imperative mood, singular, informal address)
Iberian Spanish - ven tú
Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Central America - vení vos
Ecuador - ven tú, ven vos
Puerto Rico, Venezuela - ven tú
Ladino formal singular - vení/d vos
Chile - ven tú, ven vos
Colombia - venga usted, ven tú, vení vos
Mexico - ven tú, vení vos
  • "Come" (imperative mood, plural, informal address)
Iberian Spanish - venid vosotros / venir vosotros / vení vosotros
Western Andalusian Spanish - vení ustedes
American Spanish - vengan ustedes
Ladino formal and informal - vení/d vosotros

The term voseo also applies when a pronoun other than vos is used but the verb immediately following is nonetheless conjugated according to the norms of vos: hence "tú subís, tú decís, tú querés" is still considered voseo.

Verb tenses

Spanish has two ways to express an action finished in the past: the simple past called pretérito indefinido (or pretérito perfecto simple), and the compound tense called pasado perfecto (also known as pretérito perfecto compuesto):

  • Yo he viajado a Estados Unidos. "I have travelled to the USA."
  • Cuando llegué, la vi. "When I arrived, I saw her."

In standard Castilian Spanish, the compound tense is preferred in most cases when the action described is close to the present moment:

  • Yo he viajado a Estados Unidos. "I have travelled to the USA."
  • Cuando he llegado, la he visto. "When I have arrived, I have seen her."
  • ¿Qué ha pasado? "What happened?"

However, in parts of Spain (Galicia, León, Asturias, Canary Islands) and Latin America speakers follow the opposite tendency to use the simple past tense in most cases, even if the action takes place at some time close to the present:

  • Yo viajé a Estados Unidos. "I travelled to the USA."
  • Cuando llegué, la vi. "When I arrived, I saw her."
  • ¿Qué pasó? "What happened?"

Indeed, in Latin America, the compound past tense is used rarely, most notably when the action has been finished recently, to stress its immediacy, much like the present perfect in English, but even in those cases the simple past tense is prevalent:

  • ¿Dónde estuviste? "Where were you?"

In this dialect, the first example of the compound past given above (Yo he viajado...) is grammatical, though it sounds affected or foreign. In fact, most Latin Americans would perceive Spaniards as uneducated due to their excessive use of the compound tense. However, this tendency in Spain is regional (mostly in the Castilian dialect, although it is used in standard Spanish in Spain, and thus frequently heard in the media), and is not prevalent in the rest of Spain. Both French and Italian tend to use the compound tense when the simple past would be more suitable in Spanish. The second example (Cuando he llegado), however, would be considered grammatically incorrect due to the presence of the compound tense in the clause started by cuando ("when").

In Latin America one could say He viajado a España varias veces, "I have travelled to Spain several times", to express frequency or tendency like in English. It would be utterly incorrect to say Ayer, he viajado a España or "Yesterday, I have travelled to Spain", since it was a definite past stressed by the word yesterday. In Spain, people use the "haber + verb" to express things done in the past when the period of time considered has not ended, like he comprado un coche este año "I have bought a car this year". A Latin American would correct the individual by saying Compré un coche este año meaning "I bought a car this year".

More examples of the way in which the 2 tenses are used in most of Spain :

  • "Hoy he cantado" / "Esta mañana he cantado" / "Ayer canté" / "Anoche canté"
  • "Este mes he cantado" / "El mes pasado canté"
  • "Este siglo he cantado" / "El siglo pasado canté"


The Swedish Hispanist Bertil Malmberg held[6] that there is a tendency in the evolution of Spanish to prefer syllables that end in vowels. In variants like that of Argentine gauchos, which were less subject to the standard, this leads to a weakening of final consonants like /l/, /r/ or /s/. The realization of syllable-final /s/ as a barely audible [h] or simply nothing is rather noticeable in many dialects, including the Argentine ones. In the Castilian variety, this tendency did not exist in the past but has recently appeared due to the influence of southern dialects (Andalusia, Madrid, La Mancha, etc.).

However, Malmberg and others have pointed out that in Mexican Spanish, it is vowels that lose strength, while consonants are fully pronounced. It has been pointed out that Mexican Spanish is tending towards stress timing and concomitant vowel reduction, and that this is likely to be caused by the influence of geographically close English of the United States and strong economic and social-cultural ties between the two countries. Other theories associate vowel reduction in Mexico with a native American substratum, in fact vowel reduction is not unknown along the Andean area (highland Colombia, Bolivia, Peru) where the influence of native American languages was strong on Spanish.

Mutual comprehension

The different dialects and accents do not severely block cross-understanding among the educated. The basilects have diverged more. As an example, early sound films were dubbed into one version for the entire Spanish-speaking market. Currently, non-Spanish (usually Hollywood) productions are dubbed separately into each of the major accents, but productions from another Spanish-language country are never dubbed. The popularity of telenovelas and Latin American music familiarize the speakers with other varieties of Spanish.

Prescription and a common cultural and literary tradition, among other factors, have contributed to the formation of a loosely-defined register which can be termed Standard Spanish (or "Neutral Spanish"), which is the preferred form in formal settings, and is considered indispensable in academic and literary writing, the media, etc. This standard tends to disregard local grammatical, phonetic and lexical peculiarities, and draws certain extra features from the commonly acknowledged canon, preserving (for example) certain verb tenses considered "bookish" or archaic in most other dialects.

See also

List of dialects and varieties


(Also called Peninsular or European Spanish)


The Americas



Other dialects



  1. ^ Obaid (1973:63)
  2. ^ Eleanor Greet Cotton, John M. Sharp (1988) Spanish in the Americas, Volumen 2, pp.154-155, URL
  3. ^ Lope Blanch, Juan M. (1972) En torno a las vocales caedizas del español mexicano, pp.53 a 73, Estudios sobre el español de México, editorial Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México URL.
  4. ^ "Evolution of the pronunciation of "x"". Real Academia Española. 
  5. ^ Spanish sound library
  6. ^ Bertil Malmberg, Det spanska Amerika i språkets spegel, Stockholm, 1966
  • Canfield, D[elos] Lincoln (1981). Spanish Pronunciation in the Americas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Kany, Charles E. (1945, 1951). American-Spanish Syntax. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

External links

Further reading

  • Alonso Zamora Vicente, Dialectología Española (Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 1960) is highly detailed.

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