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Cocoliche is an Italian-Spanish macaronic language that was spoken by Italian immigrants in Argentina (especially in Greater Buenos Aires) between 1880-1950.


Between 1880 and 1900, Argentina and Uruguay received a large number of Italian immigrants, mostly poor country folk who arrived with little or no schooling in the Spanish language. As those immigrants strove to communicate with the local criollos, they produced a variable mixture of Spanish with Italian and Italian dialects, which was given the derogatory name cocoliche by the locals.

Italian proper never took hold in Argentina, especially because most immigrants used their local dialects, and were not proficient in the standard language. This prevented the development of an Italian-language culture. Since the children of the immigrants grew up speaking Spanish at school, work, and military service, Cocoliche remained confined mostly to the first generation immigrants, and slowly fell out of use. The pidgin was depicted humorously in literary works and in the Argentine sainete theater, e.g. by Dario Vittori.


Some Cocoliche words were transferred to lunfardo. For example:

  • manyar (to eat) from mangiare -> in Lunfardo: to eat.
  • lonyipietro (fool)
  • fungi (mushroom) -> in Lunfardo: hat
  • vento (wind) -> in Lunfardo: money
  • matina (morning)

Some of these words show a characterisc codialect evolution, for example in the case of manyar, the word manyar does exist with the same meaning in Spanish even though it is considered jargon and not proper Spanish, being the root from the occitane manjer and reinforced by the Italian mangiare

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