Dialectal variation by Dominic de NeuvilleDominic de NeuvilleÜbersetzungsbüro , Translation Services, www.transitweb.chSpanish dialects and varietiesThere are important variations—phonological, grammatical, and lexical—in the spoken Spanish of the various regions of Spain and throughout theSpanish-speaking areas of the Americas.The variety with the most speakers is Mexican Spanish. It is spoken bymore than twenty percent of the worlds Spanish speakers (107 million ofthe total 494 million, according to the table above). One of its mainfeatures is the reduction or loss of unstressed vowels, mainly when theyare in contact with the sound /s/.In Spain, northern dialects are popularly thought of as closer to thestandard, although positive attitudes toward southern dialects haveincreased significantly in the last 50 years. Even so, the speech ofMadrid, which has typically southern features such as yeísmo and s-aspiration, is the standard variety for use on radio andtelevision, and is the variety that has most influenced thewritten standard for Spanish.PhonologyThree of the main phonological divisions are based respectively on (1)the phoneme /θ/ ("theta"), (2) the phoneme /ʎ/ ("turned y"), and (3)the "debuccalization" (also frequently called "aspiration") of syllable-final/s/. The phoneme /θ/ (spelled ⟨ z⟩ , or ⟨ c⟩ before ⟨ e⟩ or ⟨ i⟩ )—avoiceless dental fricative as in English thing—is maintained in northernand central Spain, but is merged with the sibilant /s/ in southern Spain,the Canary Islands, and all of American Spanish. This merger iscalled seseo in Spanish. The phoneme /ʎ/ (spelled ⟨ ll⟩ )—a palatallateral consonant sometimes compared in sound to the lli of Englishmillion—tends to be maintained in less-urbanized areas of northernSpain and in highland areas of South America, but in the speech of mostother Spanish-speakers it is merged with /ʝ/ ("curly-tail j")—a non-lateral,
usually-voiced, usually-fricative, palatal consonant—sometimescompared to English /y/ as in yacht, and spelled y in Spanish. Thismerger is called yeísmo in Spanish. And the debuccalization(pronunciation as [h], or loss) of syllable-final /s/ is associated withsouthern Spain, the Caribbean, and coastal areas of South America.GrammarThe main grammatical variations between dialects of Spanish involvediffering uses of pronouns: especially those of the second person and, toa lesser extent, the object pronouns of the third person.VoseoMain article: VoseoAn examination of the dominance and stress of the voseo dialect in LatinAmerica. Data generated as illustrated by the Association of SpanishLanguage Academies. The darker the country, the stronger itsdominance.Virtually all dialects of Spanish make the distinction between a formaland a familiar register in the second-person singular, and thus have twodifferent pronouns meaning "you": usted in the formal, and either tú orvos in the familiar (and each of these three pronouns has its associatedverb forms), with the choice of tú or vos varying from one dialect toanother. The use of vos (and/or its verb forms) is called voseo. In a fewdialects, all three pronouns are used—usted, tú, and vos—denotingrespectively formality, familiarity, and intimacy.In voseo, vos is the subject form (vos decís, "you say") and the form forthe object of a preposition (Voy con vos, "Im going with you"), while thedirect and indirect object forms, and the possessives, are the same asthose associated with tú: Vos sabés que tus amigos te respetan ("Youknow your friends respect you"). Additional examples: "Vos te acostastecon el tuerto" (Gené Ulf [Arg. 1988]); "Lugar que odio [...] como te odio avos" (Rossi María [C. Rica 1985]); "No cerrés tus ojos" (FloresSiguamonta [Guat. 1993]).
The verb forms of voseo are the same as those used with tú except inthe present tense (indicative and subjunctive) of -ar and -er verbs, and inthe present subjunctive of -ir verbs. The forms for vos generally can bederived from those of vosotros (the traditional second-person familiarplural) by deleting the glide /j/ where it appears in the ending: vosotrospensáis > vos pensás; vosotros queréis > vos querés.The use of the pronoun vos with the verb forms of tú (e.g. vos piensas) iscalled "pronominal voseo". And conversely, the use of the verb forms ofvos with the pronoun tú (e.g. tú pensás) is called "verbal voseo".Distribution in Spanish AmericaThe voseo pronoun is used in Central Americas Nicaragua morefrequently than in neighboring countries.Although vos is not used in Spain, in large areas of Spanish America itoccurs as the primary spoken form of the second-person singular familiarpronoun, although with wide differences in social consideration.Generally, it can be said that there are zones of exclusive use of tuteo inthe following areas: almost all of Mexico, the West Indies, Panama, mostof Peru and Venezuela, coastal Ecuador and the Pacific coast ofColombia.Tuteo (the use of tú) as a cultured form alternates with voseo as apopular or rural form in Bolivia, in the north and south of Peru, in AndeanEcuador, in small zones of the Venezuelan Andes (and most notably inthe Venezuelan state of Zulia), and in a large part of Colombia. Someresearchers claim that voseo can be heard in some parts of easternCuba, while others assert that it is absent from the island.Tuteo exists as the second-person usage with an intermediate degree offormality alongside the more familiar voseo in Chile, in the Venezuelanstate of Zulia, on the Pacific coast of Colombia, in the Azuero Peninsulain Panama, in the Mexican state of Chiapas, and in parts of Guatemala.Areas of generalized voseo include Argentina, Costa Rica, easternBolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay,Uruguay and the Colombian departments of Valle del Cauca andAntioquia.
UstedesThe second person plural maintains the formal/familiar distinction withustedes and vosotros respectively in most of Spain, but in areas ofAndalusia, in the Canary Islands, and in all of Spanish America, bothfunctions are merged in the use of ustedes, regardless of familiarity. InSeville, Cadiz, and other parts of western Andalusia, the familiar form isconstructed as ustedes vais, using the traditional second-person pluralform of the verb.UstedUsted is the usual second-person singular pronoun in a formal context,used to portray respect toward someone who is a generation older or isof higher authority ("you, sir"/"you, maam"). It is also used in a familiarcontext by many speakers in Colombia and Costa Rica, and in parts ofEcuador and Panama, to the exclusion of tú or vos. This usage issometimes called ustedeo in Spanish.In Central America, especially in Honduras, usted is often used as aformal pronoun to portray respect between the members of a romanticcouple. Usted is also used in this way, as well as between parents andchildren, in the Andean regions of Colombia and Venezuela.Third-person object pronounsMost speakers use (and the Real Academia Española prefers) thepronouns lo and la for direct objects (masculine and femininerespectively, regardless of animacy, meaning "him", "her", or "it"), and lefor indirect objects (regardless of gender or animacy, meaning "to him","to her", or "to it"). This usage is sometimes called "etymological", asthese direct and indirect object pronouns are a continuation, respectively,of the accusative and dative pronouns of Latin, the ancestor language ofSpanish.Deviations from this norm (more common in Spain than in the Americas)are called "leísmo", "loísmo", or "laísmo", according to which respectivepronoun—le, lo, or la—has expanded beyond the etymological usage(i.e. le as a direct object, or lo or la as an indirect object).
VocabularySome words can be different, even significantly so, in differentHispanophone countries. Most Spanish speakers can recognize otherSpanish forms, even in places where they are not commonly used, butSpaniards generally do not recognize specifically American usages. Forexample, Spanish mantequilla, aguacate and albaricoque (respectively,butter, avocado, apricot) correspond to manteca, palta, and damasco,respectively, in Argentina, Chile (except manteca), Paraguay, Peru(except manteca and damasco), and Uruguay. The everyday Spanishwords coger (to take), pisar (to step on) and concha (seashell) areconsidered extremely rude in parts of Latin America, where the meaningof coger and pisar is also to have sex and concha means vulva. ThePuerto Rican word for bobby pin (pinche) is an obscenity in Mexico, butin Nicaragua it simply means stingy, and in Spain refers to a chefshelper. Other examples include taco, which means swearword (amongother meanings) in Spain, traffic jam in Chile and heels (shoe) in Perubut is known to the rest of the world as a Mexican dish. Pija in manycountries of Latin America and Spain itself is an obscene slang word forpenis, while in Spain the word also signifies posh girl or snobby.Coche, which means car in Spain, central Mexico and Argentina, for thevast majority of Spanish-speakers actually means baby-stroller orpushchair, while carro means car in some Latin American countriesand cart in others, as well as in Spain. Papaya is the slang term forvagina in parts of Cuba and Venezuela, where the fruit is instead calledfruta bomba and lechosa, respectively.Relation to other languagesFurther information: Differences between Spanish and PortugueseSpanish is closely related to the other Iberian Romance languages:Asturian, Aragonese, Catalan, Galician, Ladino, Leonese, Mirandese andPortuguese.It should be noted that although Portuguese and Spanish are veryclosely related, particularly in vocabulary (89% lexically similar accordingto the Ethnologue of Languages), syntax and grammar, there are alsosome differences that dont exist between Catalan and Portuguese.Although Spanish and Portuguese are widely considered to be mutuallyintelligible, it has been noted that while most Portuguese speakers canunderstand spoken Spanish with little difficulty, Spanish speakers facemore difficulty in understanding spoken Portuguese. The writtenforms are considered to be equally intelligible, however.
Vocabulary comparisonSpanish and Italian share a similar phonological system. At present, thelexical similarity with Italian is estimated at 82%. The lexical similaritywith Portuguese is greater at 89%. Mutual intelligibility between Spanishand French or Romanian is lower (lexical similarity being respectively75% and 71%): comprehension of Spanish by French speakers whohave not studied the language is low at an estimated 45%—the same asEnglish. The common features of the writing systems of the Romancelanguages allow for a greater amount of interlingual readingcomprehension than oral communication would.Dominic de NeuvilleÜbersetzungsbüro , Translation Services, www.transitweb.ch