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Colombian Spanish (Spanish: Español colombiano) is a grouping of the varieties of Spanish spoken in Colombia. The term is of more geographical than linguistic relevance, since the dialects spoken in the various regions of Colombia are quite diverse. The speech of coastal areas tends to exhibit phonological innovations typical of Caribbean Spanish, while highland varieties have been historically more conservative. The Caro y Cuervo Institute in Bogotá is the main institution in Colombia promoting the scholarly study of the language and literature of both Colombia and Spanish America generally. The educated speech of Bogotá, a generally conservative variety of Spanish, holds high popular prestige among Spanish-speakers throughout the Americas.
- 1 Phonology
- 2 Personal pronouns
- 3 Diminutives
- 4 Common expressions
- 5 Colombian Spanish dialects
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 External links
- The phoneme /x/ is realized as glottal [h] "in all regions [of Colombia]", in common with the pronunciation of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Caribbean coast of Venezuela, Spanish Caribbean islands, Canary Islands, and southern Spain. The speech of Colombia is widely held to be a prestige standard of "prestigious" language, perhaps due to its historically conservative nature.
- As in most American dialects, also, Colombian Spanish has yeísmo (a merger of /ʎ/ and /ʝ/). The exception to yeísmo is the traditional speech of Santander and around Popayán (inland Nariño), where [ʎ] can still be heard. Until the twentieth century, most Andean Colombian dialects maintained /ʎ/, including Bogotá (nowadays only some older speakers retain the traditional distinction).
- Common to all of Hispanic America, the Canary Islands and most of Andalusia, Colombia has seseo (traditional /θ/ merges with /s/), making cocer/coser or abrazar/abrasar homophonous. Though seseo is general in Colombia, an apico-alveolar, Castilian-style /s/, [s̺], made with the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge, is current in many Andean regions, especially in Antioquia (Medellín). This phonetic trait (unique in the Americas) is to be associated with a large number of northern Spanish settlers in Andean Colombia.
- The voiced consonants /b/, /d/, and /ɡ/ are pronounced as plosives after and sometimes before any consonant (rather than the fricative or approximant that is characteristic of most other dialects). Thus pardo [ˈpaɹdo], barba [ˈbarba], algo [ˈalɡo], peligro [peˈliɡɾo], desde [ˈdezde/ˈdehde]—rather than the [ˈparðo], [ˈbarβa], [ˈalɣo], [peˈliɣɾo], [ˈdezðe/ˈdehðe] of Spain and the rest of Spanish America. A notable exception is the region of Nariño and most Costeño speech (Atlantic coastal dialects) which feature the soft, fricative realizations common to all other Hispanic American and European dialects.
- The Spanish of Colombia, and especially that of Bogotá, is known for the use of "usted" (the second-person singular pronoun considered "formal" in most varieties of Spanish) between friends, family members, and others whose relationship would indicate the use of "tú" or "vos" in most other dialects. Currently, though, younger speakers, especially in urban areas, tend to use "tú". This could reflect the influence of the pan-Hispanic rule which is also dominant in most Colombian Atlantic dialects (Cartagena, Barranquilla).
- Characteristic regional usages of pronouns include voseo (use of vos for the familiar singular "you", rather than the tú of other dialects) in the Paisa region and the Valle del Cauca, and the use of "su merced" (literally "your mercy") in Cundinamarca and Boyacá.
- The second person plural pronoun "vosotros" and its corresponding verb forms (-áis/-éis), which are common in Spain, are, in Colombia—as in all other Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America—considered archaic, and are restricted to ecclesiastical language.
- In Colombian Spanish, the diminutive forms -ico, -ica (rather than the more conventional -ito, -ita) are often used in words whose stem ends with "t": gato ("cat") → gatico ("kitty"). This is often seen in Cuban, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, and Costa Rican Spanish as well.
- The diminutive form can be applied not only to nouns, as above, but also to adjectives, to verbs—in their gerundive form, for example corriendo ("running") → corriendito ("scurrying"); to adverbs—e.g. ahora ("now") → ahorita ("right now"); and even to prepositions: junto a ("next to") → juntico a ("right next to").
- Redundant diminutives: The diminutive ending can be applied to both the noun and the adjective in the same phrase: el chocolate caliente ("the hot cocoa") → el chocolatico calientico ("the nice little cup of hot chocolate").
- The emphatic diminutives: When two diminutive endings are applied to the same word, it gives more emphasis to the sentence. For example, with ahora ("now"): Váyase ahora mismo ("Get out right now") → Váyase ahoritica mismo ("Get the heck out right now!"). For another example, with bueno ("good"): El carro está bueno ("The car is in good condition") → El carro está buenecitico ("The car is in tip-top condition").
- Paradoxically, in intra-family speech, it is common for husband and wife to address each other as mijo and mija (from mi hijo "my son" and mi hija "my daughter"). And sons and daughters are lovingly called papito ("daddy") and mamita ("mommy"). The latter expressions are especially frequent among lower- and lower-middle-class speakers.
- Sentences are often begun with what seems to be an out-of-place conjunction que ("that"), which makes the sentence sound as if the speaker is delivering a message from a third party. Thus "Que vienen pronto" ("[They say] that they are coming soon") for standard "Vienen pronto" ("They are coming soon"), or "Que gracias" ("[He/she says] that [I am to give you] thanks") when returning a borrowed item, instead of simply saying "Gracias" ("Thank you"). The use of this added conjunction is also associated with lower- and lower-middle-class speakers. Colombian sources speculate that this usage came from the customary practice of children to run family errands and deliver messages to others in the community—neighbors, butchers, cobblers, etc. Eventually, it is thought, some people started using this form out of habit even when there was no third party involved.
Slang speech is frequent in popular culture, especially in the barrios of big cities. In the Paisa region and Medellín, the local slang is named "Parlache". Many slang expressions have spread outside of their original areas to become commonly understood throughout the country. While some words eventually lose their status as slang, others continue to be considered as such by most speakers, and many of these words are considered vulgar and rude by some people, especially in Bogotá. The process of slang expressions expanding beyond their original group of speakers often leads the original users to replace the words with other, less-recognized terms to maintain group identity. Although prescriptive grammarians often describe this kind of language as crass or distasteful, it is a continuing linguistic phenomenon with clear sociological importance.
Many of these words have been popularized by the Colombian media, such as Alonso Salazar's book, No nacimos pa' semilla, Victor Gaviria´s movie Rodrigo D. no futuro, or Andrés López's monologue "La pelota de letras" ("The Lettered Ball"), as well as many other cultural expressions, including telenovelas, magazines, news coverage, jokes, etc..
Some slang terms with literal translation and meaning are:
- abrirse ("to split up"): to leave.
- aporrear: to accidentally fall.
- bacán, bacano, bacana: someone or something cool, kind, friendly.
- barra ("[gold] bar"): one thousand Colombian pesos.
- brutal: extremely cool, really awesome (only for things). ¡Esa película fue brutal!—That movie was so cool!
- caliente ("hot"): dangerous.
- catorce ("fourteen"): a favor.
- charlar: to chat, sometimes to gossip.
- chévere: cool, admirable, .
- chino: (from the Chibcha for child"): child..
- cojo ("lame, wobbly"): weak or lacking sense.
- comerse a alguien ("to eat somebody"): to have sex.
- Farra: Party
- filo ("sharp"): hunger.
- fresco ("fresh"): "Be cool!"
- golfa: a promiscuous woman.
- guayabo: a hangover (resaca in other parts of Latin America). Ay, estoy enguayabado. Dame un cafecito, porfa. - "Oh, I'm hungover. Give me some coffee please."
- grilla: ("cricket") A prostitute or escort, so called for the way the call out to men on the street.
- levantar: (1) to pick up a woman or a man (example: Me levanté una vieja anoche — "I picked up a girl last night"); (2) to beat someone up.
- ligar ("to tie"): to give money, to bribe.
- llave ("key"): friend.
- mamar: to suck off. Also, to annoy, irritate. Estoy mamado de esto. "I'm tired of this situation."
- mariconadas: joking around (Deje las mariconadas - "Stop joking around").
- marica ("faggot"): a term of endearment used among friends. Depending on the tone of voice, it can be understood as an insult. Maricón is a harsher, less-friendly variant.
- mierda ("shit"): a really mean person.
- paquete ("package"): one million Colombian pesos.
- parce or parcero: comrade (derived from parcelo, slang for owner of a plot of land (parcela)). Originally used as "cell mate" (sharing the same plot of land); its usage devolved into "partner in crime". Used only in criminal circles from late the 1970s, it is now used openly in almost every urban center. Colombian singer and Medellín-native Juanes named his album P.A.R.C.E. after this local phrase.
- perder el año: (1) to get an F (grade); (2) to die.
- pilas: a word used for warning
- plata ("silver"): money.
- plomo ("lead"): bullets.
- porfa (from por favor): please.
- ratero (from rata "rat"): robber.
- rumbear: to make out; to go clubbing (leading to making out).
- sapo ("toad"): informant, snitch, tattletale.
- sardino, sardina ("sardine"): a young person.
- sereno (also chiflón): a mild disease or indisposition; associated with cold breezes (example: Me entró el sereno — "I think I got sick").
- sisas: yes (considered low-class).
- soroche: fainting (example: Me dió soroche — "I passed out").
- taladro ("drill"): a man who has sex with boys.
- teso: expert, "hardcore" (someone who is very good at doing something).
- tombo: policeman.
- tragado ("swallowed"): having a crush on someone.
- trillar ("to thresh"): to make out; it is also used to indicate that something has been overused (example: Ya esta trillado eso - "That is overused")
- tirar ("to throw, to shoot"): to have sex.
- vaina ("case): a loose term for "things", refers to an object or to a complicated situation.
- video: (1) a lie, (2) an overreaction, (3) a problem.
- vieja ("old woman"): woman, mom.
- "viejo" or "viejito" ("old man"): dude, friend, dad.
The foreigner is advised to exercise extreme caution in the use of these expressions, as many of them are considered vulgar and/or offensive.
Colombian Spanish dialects
Lipski groups Colombian dialects phonologically into four major zones; Canfield refers to five major linguistic regions; Flórez proposes seven dialectal zones, based on phonetic and lexical criteria; and still others recognize eleven dialect areas, as listed below.
(see Paisa region)
The Paisa dialect is spoken in the Colombian coffee production areas, such as Antioquia, Quindío, Risaralda and Caldas. Paisa people speak Spanish with an apicoalveolar [s̺] like that of northern and central Spain. Paisa Spanish is a "voseante" dialect, meaning it uses vos rather than tú for the familiar singular "you" pronoun. The role of this voseo usage in forming the distinct Paisa linguistic identity was reinforced by its use in the works of several Paisa writers, including Tomás Carrasquilla, Fernando González Ochoa, Manuel Mejía Vallejo, Fernando Vallejo, and Gonzalo Arango.
Rolo or Bogotá dialect
"Rolo" (a name for the dialect of Bogotá), is also called cachaco. It is also an area of strong "ustedeo", that is, the use of the pronoun usted. (preservation of syllable-final [s], preservation of /d/ in the -ado ending, preservation of the ll/y contrast, etc.).
The Cundiboyacense dialect is spoken mainly in the departments of Cundinamarca and Boyacá (Cundiboyacense High Plateau). This dialect also makes a strong use of the expression sumercé or su merced (literally "your mercy") as a formal second-person singular pronoun. It is also an area of strong "ustedeo", that is, the use of the pronoun usted (considered formal in most other dialects) in informal speech (as tú and vos are used in other dialects).
The Caribbean or Coastal (costeño) dialect is spoken in the Caribbean Region of Colombia. It shares many of the features typical of Caribbean Spanish generally and other Latin American Spanish dialects, and is phonologically similar to Andalusian Spanish and Canarian Spanish. Word-final /n/ is realized as velar [ŋ]. Syllable-final /s/ is typically pronounced [h]; thus costa ("coast") is pronounced [ˈkohta] and rosales ("roses") becomes [roˈsaleh].
The Valluno dialect is spoken in the valley of the Cauca River between the Western and Central cordilleras. In Cali, the capital of Valle del Cauca, there is strong use of voseo (use of the pronoun vos where other dialects use tú), with its characteristic verb forms.
The Valluno or Vallecaucano dialect has many words and phrases not used outside of the region. People commonly greet one another with the phrase "¿Q'hubo vé, bien o qué?" Also, it is common to be asked "¿Sí o no?" when assessing agreement to even rhetorical statements. Thong sandals are referred to as chanclas, and plastic bags (bolsas elsewhere) are called chuspas. A chocha here is not another crude word for "vagina" or "prostitute", as in other areas, but an opossum. A pachanguero is someone who dances/parties all night long.
The Pastuso or Andean dialect is spoken in the southwest area of the country. Speakers of this dialect typically conserve the "ll"/"y" distinction (i.e. they do not practice yeísmo), and in some areas the double-R phoneme is realized as a voiced apical sibilant. The voiced consonants /b/, /d/, and /ɡ/ are pronounced as fricatives or approximants after and sometimes before any consonant that is characteristic of most other dialects.[clarification needed]
The Opita dialect is spoken mostly in the departments of Tolima and Huila, mostly in the central and southern parts of the Magdalena River Valley. This dialect is said to show strong influence of indigenous languages. It is noted for its slow tempo and unique intonation. The phonology is yeísta and (like all Spanish in the Americas) seseante. The dialect is traditionally characterized by the use of the second-person pronoun usted (or vusted in some rural areas) not only in formal circumstances but also in familiar ones (where most other dialects would use tú)—see "ustedeo" above—although tú is gaining ground among young people. There is little or no voseo in this area.
The dialect spoken mostly in the northeastern part of the country in the departments of Santander and Norte de Santander, bordering Venezuela. As in the neighbouring Cundiboyacense High Plateau, there is a strong use of ustedeo (see above).
Eastern plains or Llanero dialect
The dialect spoken in this region covers a vast area of the country with less population density. It is spoken in the eastern plains of the country from the Cordillera Oriental (eastern mountain range of the Andes) and into Venezuela. It has a characteristic influence of indigenous languages with specific tonalities at each side of the Colombian and Venezuelan borders.
Chocó or Pacific dialect
This dialect extends beyond the Department of Chocó throughout the Pacific coast and is said to reflect African influence in terms of intonation and rhythm. Characteristically, syllable-final /s/ is frequently "debuccalized" (pronounced as [h]) or omitted, as in Colombia's Caribbean dialect (see above). Like Caribbean dialect, word-final /n/ is realized as velar [ŋ]. The /d/ is replaced by /r/ in some words, and syllable-final /l/ and /r/ are often merged or interchanged in a way similar to that of Caribbean Spanish.
Gran Colombia comprises present-day nations of Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela, thus the dialects of Ecuadorian Spanish, Panamanian Spanish, Venezuelan Spanish, and Andean Spanish (including Ecuadorian sub-dialect) were included in the dialects of Colombian Spanish.
- Lipski (1994:205–207)
- Canfield (1981:34)
- Canfield (1981:36)
- Ringer Uber (1985)
- Lipski (1994:213–214)
- Schmidely, Jack (1983). La personne grammaticale et la langue espagnole. Presses Universitares de France. ISBN 2902618476.
- Lipski (1994:214)
- (Spanish) Parlache
- Antioquia University- Communications Portal
- http://www.lopaisa.com/ Paisa website
- Alonso Salazar, No nacimos pa' semilla: La cultura de las bandas juveniles de Medellín (CINEP: 1990)
- Lipski (1994:209)
- Canfield (1981:36)
- Flórez (1964:73)
- Canfield (1981:36)
- Lipski (1994:207)
- Canfield (1981:35)
- Garrido (2007)
- Canfield, D. Lincoln (1981), Spanish Pronunciation in the Americas, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 34–38, "Colombia", ISBN 978-0-226-09262-1
- Flórez, Luis (1964), El español hablado en Colombia y su atlas lingüístico: Presente y futuro de la lengua española 1, Madrid: OFINES, pp. 5–77
- Garrido, Marisol (2007), "Language Attitude in Colombian Spanish: Cachacos vs. Costeños", LLJournal 2 (2)
- Lipski, John M. (1994), Latin American Spanish, Longman, ISBN 978-0-582-08761-3
- Ringer Uber, Diane (1985), "The Dual Function of usted: Forms of Address in Bogotá, Colombia", Hispania 68 (2): 388–392
- Colombia, capital del idioma español 25 de marzo de 2007
- Jergas de habla hispana Spanish dictionary specializing in slang and colloquial expressions, featuring all Spanish-speaking countries, including Colombia
- iGoNative Common Colombian expressions and Slang words
-  A blog about Spanish in Medellin, Colombia.