Regional Variation in Spanish - Spanish Linguistic Vocabulary in English
What is regional variation?
Spanish, like most languages, varies greatly amongst the different Spanish-speaking regions. In order to describe this variance, linguists have come up with a variety of explanatory terms that can be difficult to understand for newcomers to the field of Spanish linguistics. The aim of this hub is to provide definitions of these terms and their Spanish translations. There are going to be a lot of terms referenced in this hub, so please use the Ctrl+F find feature of your browser to find specific definitions.
Some important terminology that you might encounter when studying variation in Spanish linguistics is listed below:
- Español americano
- Español canario
- Español meridional
- Español norteño
- Habla híbrida (habla mixta)
- Lengua intracomunitaria
- Pidgin Language
Africanism, or africanismo, refers to the incorporation of words of African origin into the Spanish language. This occurs frequently in the Caribbean and in South American countries that have used slave labor in the past.
Amerindio (American Indian)
Linguistically, the term amerindio refers to any American Indian influence on the Spanish languages or the native Americans themselves. In Central and South America it is very common for the language to have been influenced by native languages such as the Mayan language of Quiche or the Incan language Quechua.
Andaluz (Andalusian Spanish)
Andaluz is a prominent dialect of Spanish that is spoken in the southern peninsula of Spain. These regions include Andalusia, Ceuta, Melilla and Gibraltar. Due to the fact that many of the conquistadors and Spaniards who immigrated to South America were from this region, many of the variants of Spanish spoken in the Americas have been influenced by Andaluz in some way.
Yeísmo is the norm. The distinction between the phonemes /ʎ/ and /ʝ/ is lost and only the phoneme /ʝ/ (spelled with a y) is maintained.
Seseo occurs as well. This means that the distinction between the phomenes /s/ and /θ/ is lost and only the /s/ is maintained.
Aspiración of the phomenemes /x/ and the first /f/ in a word occurs, giving them the sound of the fricative consonant allophone [h]. Also, the /s/ phoneme, if it occurs at the end of a word or syllable, is aspirated.
Elisión of intervocalic consonants occurs frequently with the /d/ phoneme and sometimes with the /g/, /b/, and /r/ phonemes. For example, in the word sabado the b or d could be dropped during pronunciation. This also occurs sometimes with consonants at the end of words.
The phoneme /n/ can be velarized, nasalized, or dropped altogether.
The vosotros form is not used, however sometimes the os pronoun can be added after verbs that are conjugated in the ustedes form.
Aspiración is when a strong burst of air accompanies the release of one of the obstruent consonants. This occurs frequently with the phonemes, /x/, /f/, and /s/.
Castellano, or Castillian is the dominant, "mainstream" form of Spanish that is spoken. It was mandated into prominence by the ruling Kingdom of Castille during Spain's history. Some prominent linguistics features of castellano are:
"S Castellana" - Uses the [ś] allophone of the phoneme /s/ to an effect which is similar to the sound of the allophone [ʃ].
Lleísmo occurs, meaning that the lateral palatial phoneme /ʎ/ (usually spelled "ll") is used instead of /ʝ/.
Additionally, the distinction between /s/ and /θ/ is maintained. The /d/ phoneme at the ends of words often takes on the interdental fricative allophone [θ] resulting in a lisp-like effect.
The /x/ phoneme sounds like a j in English.
Ceceo, as mentioned before, is the usage of the phoneme /θ/ instead of /s/.
Chabacano (Chavacano Language)
Chabacano is a Spanish creole language that is spoken in the Philippines, hence it is occasionally referred to as Philippine Creole Spanish. There are some 1.2 million people in the Philippines that speaks one of this language's six dialects. Chabacano is the only Spanish-based creole found in Asia and uses native languages for the majority of its substrates. For more information, check out this Wikipedia article.
Criollo (Creole Language)
For most Americans, the word creole conjures images of the French creole that is spoken in Louisiana. However, that is but one example of a creole language, or criollo. A criollo is a new fully-featured language that develops from a mixture of a main language and a number of lesser, substrate language. Some prominent examples in Spanish are the Chabacano creole of the Philippines and the creoles Palenquero (Colombia) and Papiamento (Caribbean ABC islands).
A particular variety of Spanish that is spoken in a specific geographic region or social class.
The study of linguistic variation amongst different geographical regions and social classes. Basically, dialectología is the study of dialects.
In linguistics, distinción refers to the distinction between different phonemes. In Spanish, this term is frequently used in regards to the phenomena of seseo, ceceo, lleísmo, yeísmo, etc.
Español Americano (Spanish in the Americas)
Español americano is an overarching term that refers to all of the different dialects of Spanish that are spoken in the Americas. There is a large degree of variation between the different forms of Spanish that are spoken in these regions, including significant variation in phonetics, morphology, syntax, and the lexicon. Though a lot of this information is beyond the scope of this hub, here is a quick guide to some of the phonetic variation that is present.
- Zheísmo and Sheísmo - The /ʎ/ and /ʝ/ phonemes are merged into the phoneme /ʒ/ in Uruguay and Argentina. The allophones of this /ʒ/ phoneme are either the voiced [ʒ] which is known as zheísmo (Uruguay) or the voiceless [ʃ] which is known as sheísmo (Argentina).
- Yeísmo - The distinction between the phonemes /ʎ/ and /ʝ/ is lost and only the phoneme /ʝ/ (spelled with a y) is maintained. This occurs in most of Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
- Lleísmo - The phoneme /ʎ/ is maintained. This phoneme occurs along with /ʝ/ in Ecuador, Peru, and Paraguay, however in Colombia and Bolivia the distinction between the phonemes /ʎ/ and /ʝ/ is lost and only the phoneme /ʎ/ (spelled with a "ll) is maintained.
- Yeísmo and Zheísmo - Both are used in the tierras altas in the northern part of Ecuador.
Morphologically it is important to note that, like in Andalucia, the vosotros and os pronouns are not present in most portions of Central and South America.
There are many lexical influences among the different regions due to the sheer amount of native indigenous languages and influence from the United States and Brazil.
Español Canario (Spanish in the Canary Islands)
Inhabitants of the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain and a small Isleño population in Louisiana, USA speak the Canarian dialect of Spanish. Some important linguistic aspects of the Canaries are:
Generalized seseo occurs (for example, the words casa and caza are pronounced the same).
Voseo (use of the pronoun vos instead of tu)) does not occur.
The distinction between the phonemes /ʎ/ and /ʝ/ is maintained, but yeísmo occurs frequently.
Español Meridional (Meridinal Spanish)
Refers to Andaluz (Andalusian Spanish) as mentioned above.
Español Norteno (Spanish in Northern Spain)
Habla Híbrida (Mixed Language)
A mixed language, sometimes known as a hybrid language, is a language that results from the mixture of two or more languages. It differs from a pidgin language because the speakers are often bilingual and proficient with both languages. Hybrid languages also differ from creole languages due to the fact that both parent languages are identifiable, whereas in a creole there is only one identifiable mother language and a number of substrate contributor languages.
"Languages" such as Spanglish and Franglais are not considered mixed languages.
Indigenismo is a political movement in Central and South America that seeks for indigenous peoples to have a greater social and political role.
Ladino, or Judeoespañol, is a dialect of Spanish that is spoken amongst populations of hispanic Jews. When the Jewish peoples of Spain were expulsed in 1492, many of them moved to Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. These ladinos, as they are sometimes referred to, speak an archaic form of Spanish that has changed little since the 15th century. Some interesting characteristics of Judeoespañol are:
The letter ñ does not exist. Instead it is a combination of n and y (ie. Espanyol).
The letter c is replaced with a k.
The word y is spelled i.
The letter g is frequently replaced with a j, same with c and s (ie. jenerasiones instead of generaciones).
Laísmo is the use of the personal pronouns "la" and "las" in place of the standard "le" and "les" in the indirect object. Laísmo is typically used in the castellano that is spoken in Madrid.
Lambdacismo occurs when a consonant, usually /r/, is converted into an /l/. This occurs in Castellano, Andaluz, and in some Caribbean dialects.
Example: Puelta instead of puerta.
Leísmo is the use of the indirect object pronouns "le" and "les" in place of the standard "lo" and "los" in the direct object. Leísmo is typically used in Spain for male objects.
Lengua Intracomunitaria (Intracommunity Language)
Lengua Intracomunitaria is a term that refers to the language and variation that occurs in specific communities.
Loísmo is the usage of the direct object pronouns "lo" and "los" in place of the indirect object pronouns "le" and "les".
In lleísmo the lateral palatial phoneme /ʎ/ (usually spelled "ll") is used instead of /ʝ/ (spelled "y").
Palenquero is a creole language that is spoken in Colombia. The roughly 3,000 speakers of this language are descended from escaped African slaves and thus incorporated various African languages into this Spanish-based creole.
Papiamento is the most widely spoken language in the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, and the Caribbean Netherlands. It is a Spanish-based creole that is influenced by Dutch, Portuguese, African languages, and local indigenous languages.
A pidgin language is a simplified language that is used for communication between two or more groups of people that do not speak a common language. Pidgin languages are not the native languages of the communities in which they are spoken and are not often robust enough to feature grammatical rules. Pidgin languages can develop into fully-fledged creole languages over time.
Rotacismo is the conversion of a consonant (usually /z/, /d/, /l/, or /n/) to an /r/.
Seseo is the merger of the phoneme /θ/ into /s/ so only /s/ is used.
Sheísmo occurs when the /ʎ/ and /ʝ/ phonemes are merged into the phoneme /ʒ/ in Uruguay and Argentina. The allophone of this /ʒ/ phoneme is the voiceless [ʃ].
Voseo is the use of the second person singular pronoun vos instead of or alongside tu. It is used throughout South and Central America (with the exception of Mexico and Peru).
Yeísmo is the distinction between the phonemes /ʎ/ and /ʝ/ is lost and only the phoneme /ʝ/ (spelled with a y) is maintained. This occurs in most of Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Zheísmo occurs when the /ʎ/ and /ʝ/ phonemes are merged into the phoneme /ʒ/ in Uruguay and Argentina. The allophone of this /ʒ/ phoneme in Zheísmo is the voiced [ʒ].