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|Native to||Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil)|
|Native speakers||29 million (date missing)|
|Writing system||Latin (Spanish alphabet)|
Rioplatense Spanish or River Plate Spanish (Spanish: español rioplatense, although locally known as castellano rioplatense) is a dialectal variant (or simply, a "dialect") of the Spanish language spoken mainly in the areas in and around the Río de la Plata basin (or Silver River region) of Argentina and Uruguay, and also in Rio Grande do Sul, although features of the dialect are shared with the varieties of Spanish spoken in Eastern Bolivia and Chile. The usual word employed to name the Spanish language in this region is castellano (English: Castilian) and seldom español (English: Spanish) (see: Names given to the Spanish language). Note that while this article refers to Rioplatense Spanish as a single dialect, there are distinguishable differences among the varieties spoken in Argentina, Bolivia and in Uruguay, as described below.
Rioplatense is mainly based in the cities of Buenos Aires, and Rosario in Argentina, and Montevideo in Uruguay, the three most populated cities in the dialectal area, along with their respective suburbs and the areas in between. This regional form of Spanish is also found in other areas, not geographically close but culturally influenced by those population centers (e.g., in parts of Paraguay and in all of Patagonia). Rioplatense is the standard in audiovisual media in Argentina and Uruguay. To the north, and northeast exists the hybrid Riverense Portuñol.
Influences on the language
The Spaniards brought their language to the area during the Spanish colonization in the region. Originally part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, the Río de la Plata basin had its status lifted to Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 1776.
Until the massive immigration to the region started in the 1870s, the language of the Río de la Plata had virtually no influence from other languages and varied mainly by localisms. Argentines and Uruguayans often state that their populations, like those of the United States and Canada, comprise people of relatively recent European descent, the largest immigrant groups coming from Italy and Spain.
Several languages, and especially Italian, influenced the criollo Spanish of the time, because of the diversity of settlers and immigrants to Argentina and Uruguay:
- 1870–1890: mainly Spanish, Basque, Galician and Northern Italian speakers and some from France, Germany, and other European countries.
- 1910–1945: again from Spain, Southern Italy and in smaller numbers from across Europe; Jewish immigration—mainly from Russia and Poland from the 1910s until after World War II—was also significant.
- English-speakers—from Britain and Ireland—were not as numerous as the Italians (50% of Argentines have Italian ancestry), but were influential in industry, business, education and agriculture. In the case of the English immigrants, they were certainly influential within the upper middle class.
Influence of indigenous populations in Argentina
European settlement decimated Native American populations before 1810, and also during the expansion into Patagonia (after 1870). However, the interaction between Spanish and several of the native languages has left visible traces. Words from Guarani, Quechua and others were incorporated into the local form of Spanish.
Some words of Amerindian origin commonly used in Rioplatense Spanish are:
- See Influences on the Spanish language for a more comprehensive review of borrowings into all dialects of Spanish.
Differences between dialects of Spanish are numerous; about 9,000 Rioplatense words are not used or, in many cases, even understood elsewhere. These include many terms from the basic vocabulary, such as words for fruits, garments, foodstuffs, car parts, etc., as well as local slang.
Rioplatense vocabularies continue to diverge from Peninsular Spanish: Rioplatense Spanish tends to borrow (or calque) technical words from American English, while Peninsular Spanish tends to borrow or calque them from British English or from French.
Rioplatense Spanish distinguishes itself from other dialects of Spanish by the pronunciation of certain consonants.
- Like many other dialects, Rioplatense features yeísmo: the sounds represented by ll (historically the palatal lateral /ʎ/) and y (historically the palatal approximant /j/) have fused into one. Thus, in Rioplatense, se cayó "he fell down" is homophonous with se calló "he became silent". This merged phoneme is generally pronounced as a postalveolar fricative, either voiced [ʒ] in the central and western parts of the dialect region (this phenomenon is called zheísmo) or voiceless [ʃ] in and around Buenos Aires (called sheísmo). These are the sounds in English measure, or the French j and ch, respectively.
- As in most American dialects, also, Rioplatense Spanish has seseo (traditional /θ/ merges with /s/). That is, casa ("house") is homophonous with caza ("hunt"). Seseo is common to other dialects of Spanish in Latin America, Canarian Spanish, and Andalusian Spanish.
- In popular speech, the fricative /s/ has a tendency to become 'aspirated' before another consonant (the resulting sound depending on what the consonant is, although stating it is a voiceless glottal fricative, [h], would give a clear idea of the mechanism) or simply in all syllable-final positions in less educated speech. This change may be realized only at the word level or it may also cross word boundaries. That is, esto es lo mismo "this is the same" is pronounced something like [ˈe̞ʰto̞ ˈe̞ʰ lo̞ ˈmiʰmo̞], but in las águilas azules "the blue eagles", /s/ in las and águilas might remain [s] as no consonant follows: [las ˈaɣilas aˈsules], or become [h]; the pronunciation is largely an individual choice.
- The phoneme /x/ (written as ⟨g⟩ before ⟨e⟩ or ⟨i⟩, and as ⟨j⟩ elsewhere) is never glottalised to [h] in the Atlantic coast. This phenomenon is common to other coastal dialects in Latin American Spanish, as well as Caribbean, Canarian, and Andalusian dialects, but not in Argentine dialect. Argentine speakers always pronounce IPA /x/, like people in Northern and Central Spain. They never pronounce IPA /h/ instead of /x/, but /h/ is hear instead of /s/, when /s/ is followed by two or more consonants or at the end of a phrase.
- In some areas, speakers tend to drop the final r sound in verb infinitives and the final s in most words. This elision is considered a feature of uneducated speakers in some places, but it is widespread in others, at least in rapid speech.
Aspiration of s, together with loss of final r and some common instances of diphthong simplification, tend to produce a noticeable simplification of the syllable structure, giving Rioplatense informal speech a distinct fluid consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel rhythm:
- Si querés irte, andate. Yo no te voy a parar.
- "If you want to go, then go. I'm not going to stop you."
- [si keˈɾe ˈite ãnˈdate. ʃo no te βoi a paˈɾa] ( listen)
Preliminary research has shown that Rioplatense Spanish, and particularly the speech of the city of Buenos Aires, has intonation patterns that resemble those of Italian dialects. This correlates well with immigration patterns. Argentina has received huge numbers of Italian settlers since the 19th century.
According to a study conducted by National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina, and published in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition (ISSN 1366-7289), Buenos Aires and Rosario residents speak with an intonation most closely resembling Neapolitan. The researchers note this as a relatively recent phenomenon, starting in the beginning of the 20th century with the main wave of Southern Italian immigration. Before that, the porteño accent was more similar to that of Spain, especially Andalusia.
Pronouns and verb conjugation
One of the features of the Argentine and Uruguayan speaking style is the voseo: the usage of the pronoun vos for the second person singular, instead of tú. In other Spanish-speaking regions where voseo is used, it is typically considered a nonstandard lower-class sociolectic or regional variant (Chile, Colombia and Central American Spanish, however, is a notable exception); whereas in Argentina, voseo is standard. Vos is used with forms of the verb that resemble those of the second person plural (vosotros) in traditional (Spain's) Peninsular Spanish.
The second person plural pronoun, which is vosotros in Spain, is replaced with ustedes in Rioplatense, as in most other Latin American dialects. While usted is the formal second person singular pronoun, its plural ustedes has a neutral connotation and can be used to address friends and acquaintances as well as in more formal occasions (see T-V distinction). Ustedes takes a grammatically third- person plural verb.
As an example, see the conjugation table for the verb amar (to love) in the present tense, indicative mode:
Inflection of amar
|baúl (del auto)||maletero||maletero||cajuela||maleta (del auto)/maletero||(car) trunk/boot||baule|
|valija||maleta||maleta||maleta/petaca||maleta||luggage or suitcase||valigia|
|1st sing.||yo amo||yo amo|
|2nd sing.||tú amas||vos amás|
|3rd sing.||él ama||él ama|
|1st plural||nosotros amamos||nosotros amamos|
|2nd plural||vosotros amáis||²ustedes aman|
|3rd plural||ellos aman||ellos aman|
- (¹) Tú amás is only used in some parts of Uruguay, where it coexists with Vos amás. However, tú and vos are not interchangeably used, but rather vos denotes a more intimate relationship between the parties in conversation. In formal speech, usted ama.
- (²) Ustedes is used throughout all of Latin America for both the familiar and formal. In Spain, it is used only in formal speech for the second person plural.
Although apparently there is just a stress shift (from amas to amás), the origin of such a stress is the loss of the diphthong of the ancient vos inflection from vos amáis to vos amás. This can be better seen with the verb "to be": from vos sois to vos sos. In vowel-alternating verbs like perder and morir, the stress shift also triggers a change of the vowel in the root:
|yo pierdo||yo pierdo|
|tú pierdes||vos perdés|
|él pierde||él pierde|
|nosotros perdemos||nosotros perdemos|
|vosotros perdéis||ustedes pierden|
|ellos pierden||ellos pierden|
For the -ir verbs, the Peninsular vosotros forms end in -ís, so there is no diphthong to simplify, and Rioplatense vos employs the same form: instead of tú vives, vos vivís; instead of tú vienes, vos venís (note the alternation).
|Verb||Standard Spanish||Castilian in plural||Rioplatense||Chilean||Maracaibo Voseo||English (US/UK)|
|Cantar||tú cantas||vosotros cantáis||vos cantás||tú cantái||vos cantáis||you sing|
|Correr||tú corres||vosotros corréis||vos corrés||tú corrís||vos corréis||you run|
|Partir||tú partes||vosotros partís||vos partís||tú partís||vos partís||you leave|
|Decir||tú dices||vosotros decís||vos decís||tú decís||vos decís||you say|
The imperative forms for vos are identical to the plural imperative forms in Peninsular minus the final -d (stress remains the same):
- Hablá más fuerte, por favor. "Speak louder, please." (hablad in Peninsular)
- Comé un poco de torta. "Eat some cake." (comed in Peninsular)
- Vení para acá. "Come over here." (venid in Peninsular)
The plural imperative uses the ustedes form (i. e. the third person plural subjunctive, as corresponding to ellos).
As for the subjunctive forms of vos verbs, while they tend to take the tú conjugation, some speakers do use the classical vos conjugation, employing the vosotros form minus the i in the final diphthong. Many consider only the tú subjunctive forms to be correct.
- Espero que veas or Espero que veás "I hope you can see" (Peninsular veáis)
- Lo que quieras or (less used) Lo que querás "Whatever you want" (Peninsular queráis)
In the preterite, an s is often added, for instance (vos) perdistes. This corresponds to the classical vos conjugation found in literature. Compare Iberian Spanish form vosotros perdisteis. However, it is often deemed incorrect.
Other verb forms coincide with tú after the i is omitted (the vos forms are the same as tú).
- Si salieras "If you went out" (Peninsular salierais)
|Standard Spanish||Rioplatense / Argentine||Chilean||Maracaibo Voseo||Castilian in plural||English (US/UK)|
|lo que quieras||lo que quieras/querás||lo que querái||lo que queráis||whatever you want|
|espero que veas||espero que veas/veás||espero que veái||espero que veáis||I hope you can see|
|no lo toques||no lo toques/toqués||no lo toquís||no lo toquéis||don't touch it|
|si salieras||si salierai||si salierais||if you went out|
|si amaras||si amarai||si amarais||if you loved|
In the old times, vos was used as a respectful term. In Rioplatense, as in most other dialects which employ voseo, this pronoun has become informal, supplanting the use of tú (compare you in English, which used to be formal singular but has replaced and obliterated the former informal singular pronoun thou). It is used especially for addressing friends and family members (regardless of age), but may also include most acquaintances, such as co-workers, friends of one's friends, etc.
Usage of tenses
Although literary works use the full spectrum of verb inflections, in Rioplatense (as well as many other Spanish dialects), the future tense tends to use a verbal phrase (periphrasis) in the spoken language.
This verb phrase is formed by the verb ir ("to go") followed by the preposition a ("to") and the main verb in the infinitive. This resembles the English phrase to be going to + infinitive verb. For example:
- Creo que descansaré un poco → Creo que voy a descansar un poco (I think I will rest a little → I think I am going to rest a little)
- Mañana me visitará mi madre → Mañana me va a visitar mi madre (Tomorrow my mother will visit me → Tomorrow my mother is going to visit me)
- La visitaré mañana → La voy a visitar mañana (I will visit her tomorrow → I am going to visit her tomorrow)
The present perfect (Spanish: Pretérito perfecto compuesto), just like pretérito anterior, is rarely used: the simple past replaces it.
- Juan no ha llegado todavía → Juan no llegó todavía (Juan has not arrived yet → Juan did not arrive yet)
- El torneo ha comenzado → El torneo comenzó (The tournament has begun → The tournament began)
- Ellas no han votado → Ellas no votaron (They have not voted → They did not vote)
But, in the subjunctive mood, the present perfect is still widely used:
- No creo que lo hayan visto ya I don't believe they have already seen him
- Espero que lo hayas hecho ayer I hope you did it yesterday
- Diccionario de argentinismos (book)
- Immigration to Argentina
- Lunfardo, Buenos Aires slang argot
- South American Spanish
- Spanish dialects and varieties
- Orlando Alba, Zonificación dialectal del español en América ("Classification of the Spanish Language within Dialectal Zones in America"), in: César Hernández Alonso (ed.), "Historia presente del español de América", Pabecal: Junta de Castilla y León, 1992.
- Jiří Černý, "Algunas observaciones sobre el español hablado en América" ("Some Observations about the Spanish Spoken in America"). Acta Universitatis Palackianae Olomucencis, Facultas Philosophica Philologica 74, pp. 39-48, 2002.
- Alvar, Manuel, "Manual de dialectología hispánica. El español de América", ("Handbook of Hispanic Dialectology. Spanish Language in America."). Barcelona 1996.
- Resnick, Melvyn: Phonological Variants and Dialects Identification in Latin American Spanish. The Hague 1975.
- Charles B. Chang, "Variation in palatal production in Buenos Aires Spanish". Selected Proceedings of the 4th Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics, ed. Maurice Westmoreland and Juan Antonio Thomas, 54-63. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project, 2002.
- (Spanish) Diccionario argentino-español
- Jergas de habla hispana Spanish dictionary specializing in slang and colloquial expressions, featuring all Spanish-speaking countries, including Argentina and Uruguay.