Chilean Spanish

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Chilean Spanish
Español chileno
Pronunciation [espaˈɲol tʃiˈleno]
Native to Chile
Native speakers
17.4 million (2015)[1]
Latin (Spanish alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None
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Chilean Spanish (Spanish: español chileno, español de Chile or castellano de Chile) is any of several varieties of Spanish spoken in most of Chile. Chilean Spanish dialects have distinctive pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and slang usage that differ from those of standard Spanish.[2]

Variation and accents[edit]

In Chile, there are not many differences between the Spanish spoken in the northern, central and southern areas of the country,[3] although there are notable differences in zones of the far south—such as Aysén, Magallanes (mainly along the border with Argentina), and Chiloé—and in Arica in the extreme north. There is, however, much variation in the Spanish spoken by different social classes.[4] In rural areas from Santiago to Valdivia, Chilean Spanish shows the historical influence of the Castúo dialects of Extremadura (Spain),[5][6] but some authors point to the Spanish province of Andalusia and more specifically to the city of Seville as an even greater influence on the historical development of Chilean Spanish.

Phonetics and phonology[edit]

There are a number of phonetic features common to most Chilean accents, though none of them individually are unique to Chilean Spanish.[7] Rather, it is the particular combination of features that sets Chilean Spanish apart from other regional Spanish dialects.[8] These features include:[9][10]

  • Yeísmo, the historical merger of the phoneme /ʎ/ (spelled ⟨ll⟩) with /ʝ/ (spelled ⟨y⟩). For speakers with yeísmo, the verbs cayó 's/he fell' and calló 's/he fell silent' are homophones, both pronounced [kaˈʝo]. (In dialects that lack yeísmo, maintaining the historical distinction, the two words are pronounced respectively [kaˈʝo] and [kaˈʎo].) Yeísmo characterizes the speech of most Spanish-speakers both in Spain and in the Americas. In Chile, there are some speakers who are not yeístas and maintain the distinction, mainly in a dwindling few Andean areas south of Santiago.[3][11]
  • Like all American dialects of Spanish, Chilean Spanish has seseo: the traditional phoneme /θ/ merges with /s/. In much of the Andean region, the merged phoneme is pronounced as apicoalveolar [], a sound transitional between laminodental [s] and palatal [ʃ]. This phonetic trait (unique in the Americas) is associated with a large number of northern Spanish settlers in Andean Chile.
  • Word- and syllable-final /s/ is often aspirated to [h] or lost entirely, another feature common to many varieties of Spanish in the Americas, as well as to the Canary Islands and the southern half of Spain. Whether final /s/ aspirates or is elided depends on a number of social, regional, and phonological factors, but in general, aspiration is most frequent when preceding a consonant. Complete elision is most commonly found word-finally, and it carries a sociolinguistic stigma.[12] Thus, los chilenos '(the) Chileans' can be [lɔh t͡ʃiˈleːnɔ].
  • The velar consonants /k/, /ɡ/, and /x/ are fronted or palatalized before front vowels. Thus, queso 'cheese', guía 'guide', and jinete 'rider/horseman' are pronounced respectively [ˈceːso], [ˈɟi.a], and [çiˈn̪eːt̪e]. For /x/, it is pronounced either [h] or [x] in other phonological environments; thus caja 'box' and rojo 'red' are pronounced [ˈkaxa] ~ [ˈkaha] and [ˈroxo] ~ [ˈroho] respectively.
  • Between vowels and word-finally, /d/ commonly elides or lenites (a process common throughout the Spanish-speaking world), so that contado 'told' and ciudad 'city' are [kon̪ˈt̪aːo] and [sjuˈð̞aː] respectively. Elision is less common in formal or upper-class speech.
  • The voiceless postalveolar affricate /t͡ʃ/ is pronounced as a fricative [ʃ] by many lower-class speakers (thus, Chile is pronounced [ˈʃiːle]). This type of pronunciation is viewed as very undesirable. Other variants are more fronted, and include an alveolar affricate, [t͡s], and an even more fronted dental affricate, [t̪͡s̪], mostly used by the upper class.
  • Unstressed word-final vowels are often devoiced.[13]

Syntax and grammar[edit]

  • Doubling the object clitics me, te, se, lo(s), la(s) and le(s) before and after the verb is common in less-educated or lower-class speech. For example, 'I'm going to go' becomes me voy a irme (standard Spanish accepts me voy a ir and voy a irme). 'I'm going to give them to you' becomes te las voy a dártelas.
  • The queísmo (when que is used instead of de que) is socially accepted and used in the media, while the dequeísmo (using de que instead of just que) is somewhat stigmatized.
  • In common speech, the conjugations of the Imperative mood of a small number of verbs tend to be replaced with the indicative singular third person. For example, the 2nd person singular imperative of poner 'to put', pon, becomes pone; the one of hacer 'to do', haz, becomes hace; and the one of salir 'to exit', sal, becomes sale. Ex: hace lo que te pedí 'do what I asked'. However, that is not allowed in formal speaking. Chilean Spanish speakers also replace the etymological 2nd person singular imperative of the verb ir 'to go', ve, with the 2nd person singular imperative of andar 'to walk', anda, while ve is reserved for the verb ver 'to see'. Ex: ve la hora 'look at the time'.
  • Another feature to note is the lack of use of the possessive nuestro 'our', which is usually replaced by de nosotros 'of us'. Ex: ándate a la casa de nosotros lit. 'go to the house of us', instead of ándate a nuestra casa 'go to our house'.
  • It is very common in Chile, as in many other Latin American countries, to use the diminutive suffixes -ito and -ita. They do not only mean 'little', as in perrito 'little dog' or casita 'little house', but also have the additional functions of expressing affection, as with mamita 'mummy, mommy'), or of diminishing the urgency, directness or importance of something, to make something annoying seem more pleasant.[14] So, if someone says espérese un momentito lit. 'wait a little moment', it does not mean that the moment will be short, but that the speaker wants to make waiting more palatable while possibly hinting that the moment may turn out to be quite long.

Pronouns and verbs[edit]

Chileans use the voseo and tuteo forms for the intimate second person singular. Voseo is common in Chile, with both pronominal and verbal voseo being widely used in the spoken language.

In Chile there are at least four grades of formality:

1. Pronominal and verbal voseo, that is, the use of the pronoun vos (with the corresponding voseo verbs).
For example: vos sabís, vos venís, vos hablái, etc.
This combination occurs only in very informal situations and should be approached and used with caution by foreigners. It is always considered rude and insulting but is tolerated and enjoyed as part of friendly bonding and banter. However, with even a slight change in intonation it can change from a tone of friendly banter to a form of insult in a heated argument, even among friends. Non-natives should refrain from using vos until sufficient understanding of its use is gained.

2. Verbal voseo, using the pronoun .
For example: tú sabís, tú venís, tú hablái, etc.
This kind of voseo is the predominant form used in the spoken language.[15] It should never be used in formal situations or with people one is not very familiar with.

3. Standard tuteo.
For example: tú sabes, tú vienes, tú hablas, etc.
This is the only acceptable way of writing the intimate second person singular. Its use in spoken language is reserved for slightly more formal situations such as (some) child-to-parent, teacher-to-student or peer-to-peer relations among people who are not familiar with each other.

4. The use of the pronoun usted.
For example: usted sabe, usted viene, usted habla, etc.
Used for all business and other formal interactions (e.g. student-to-teacher, but not always teacher-to-student), as well as "upwards" in situations where one person is considered to be well respected, older or of an obviously higher social standing. Stricter parents will demand this kind of speech from their children as well.

The Chilean voseo conjugation has only three irregular verbs in the present indicative: ser 'to be', ir 'to go', and haber 'to have' (auxiliary).


In Chile there are various ways to say 'you are' to one person.

  • Vo(s) soi
  • Vo(s) erí(s)
  • Tú soi
  • Tú erí(s)
  • Tú eres
  • Usted es

The usage depends on politeness, formality, social relationships, and education. The ending (s) in these forms is omitted or aspirated. Only the last two are formally correct.


A comparison of the conjugation of the Chilean voseo, the general voseo used in Latin American countries except Chile, and the tuteo.

Form Indicative Subjunctive
Present Past Conditional Present Past
Voseo (Chile) caminái
Voseo (general) caminás
Tuteo caminas

* Rioplatense Spanish prefers the tuteo verb forms.


Chilean Spanish has a great deal of distinctive slang and vocabulary. Some examples of distinctive Chilean slang include al tiro (right away), gallo/a (guy/gal), fome (boring), pololear (to go out as girlfriend/boyfriend),[16] pelambre (gossip), pito (marijuana cigarette i.e. joint) poto (buttocks),[17] quiltro (mutt) and chomba (knitted sweater)[16] wea (thing; can be used for an object or situation). In addition, several words in Chilean Spanish are borrowed from neighboring Amerindian languages.

Argentine and Rioplatense influence[edit]

In Chilean Spanish there is lexical influence from Argentine dialects, which suggests a covert prestige, since Chilean attitudes toward Argentine cultural traits are often negative.[18] Lexical influences cut across the different social strata of Chile. Argentine summer tourism in Chile and Chilean tourism in Argentina provide a channel for influence on the speech of the upper class.[18] The middle classes receive Argentine influence by watching football on cable television and Argentine programs on broadcast television.[18] La Cuarta, a popular Chilean newspaper, regularly employs words and expressions from the lunfardo slang of the Buenos Aires region. Usually Chileans do not recognize the Argentine borrowings as such, claiming they are Chilean terms and expressions.[18] The relation between Argentine dialects and Chilean Spanish is one of asymmetric permeability, with Chilean Spanish adopting sayings from Argentine variants but usually not the reverse.[18]

Coa and Lunfardo expressions

Lunfardo is an argot of the Spanish language that originated in the late 19th century among the lower classes of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Coa is an argot common among criminals in Chile. It has been heavily influenced by Lunfardo. Examples of Lunfardo and Coa words and phrases in Chilean Spanish are:[19]

  • abacanado - presumptuous
  • agarrados - being in a fight, mad
  • amarrete - stingy, mean
  • arrastre - influential
  • avivarse - to realise
  • bacán - awesome
  • cana - jail
  • chanchada - disloyal act
  • echar la foca (lit. throw the seal/breath) - to severely address someone or express disapproval or disappointment
  • emputecer - getting mad
  • engrupir - to fool someone
  • fiaca - laziness
  • garúa - drizzle
  • gil - fool
  • hacer perro muerto (lit. do a dead dog) - to dine and dash or do something similar
  • mina - woman
  • vagoneta - loafer
  • tira - undercover police
  • yeta - originally 'bad luck' in Lunfardo, in Chile now means 'jinx' or someone who brings bad luck

Mapudungun loanwords[edit]

The Mapudungun language has left a relatively small number of words in Chilean Spanish, given its large geographic expanse. Many Mapudungun loans are names for plants and animals and places for example:[20][21][22]

  • cahuín[23] - a rowdy, gathering, also malicious or slanderous gossip
  • copihue - Chile's national flower
  • culpeo - a fox species.
  • luma - a native tree species known for its extremely hard wood, also a police baton (historically made from luma wood in Chile)
  • chape: braid.
  • guarén: big rat.
  • laucha: mouse.
  • cuncuna: caterpillar
  • pichintún: pinch, or very small portion.
  • pilucho: naked.
  • piñén: dirt of the body.
  • guata: belly.
  • machi: female mapuche shaman.
  • Colo colo: pampas cat.
  • Curi: black, dark.
  • Curiche: dark skinned person.
  • Charquicán: stew dish.
  • Malón: military susprise attack. Party.
  • Paila: bowl
  • Ulpo:non-alchoholic drink made of toasted flour and water or milk.
  • yapa: something extra or for free.
  • pilcha: set of poorly dressed clothing.
  • huila: shred, ragged.
  • merkén: smoked chili pepper.
  • funa: a demonstration of public denunciation and repudiation against a person or group that committed a bad action. Also to be bored or demotivated, demoralized.
  • huifa: wiggle with elegance, sensuality and grace. Interjection to express joy.
  • pichiruchi: tiny, despicable, or insignificant.
  • pololo: a coleoptera, orange and black-striped beetle. Also boyfriend.
  • quiltro:mongrel, or stray dog.

Quechua loanwords[edit]

The Quechua language is probably the Amerindian language that has given Chilean Spanish the largest number of loan words. For example, the names of many American vegetables in Chilean Spanish are derived from Quechuan names, rather than from Nahuatl or Taíno as in Standard Spanish. Some of the words of Quechuan origin include:[20]

  • callampa - "mushroom" (Quechua k'allampa,[24] seta in Castilian Spanish) or penis
  • cancha - field, pitch, slope (ski), runway (aviation), running track, court (tennis, basketball)[23] (Quechua kancha)[24]
  • chacra - a small farm[23] (Quechua chakra)[24]
  • chala - "sandal"[23] (sandalia in Standard Spanish)
  • chasca - "tassle" can also be diminutized to "chasquilla" which means bangs (of hair)
  • china - a female servant in a hacienda or fundo[23]
  • choclo - "maize/corn" (Quechua chuqllu,[24] maíz in Standard Spanish)
  • chúcaro - "spirited/wild" used traditionally by huasos to refer to a horse
  • chupalla - a type of hat[23]
  • chupe - "soup/chowder" (Quechua chupi)[24]
  • cocaví - "snack/lunch" or "picnic" (from coca)
  • cochayuyo - a type of seaweed[23] (Quechua qucha yuyu)[24]
  • guagua - "child, baby" (Quechua wawa,[24] niño, bebé in Standard Spanish)
  • guanaco - a native camelid animal (Quechua wanaku)[24]
  • guasca - whip (Quechua waskha)
  • huacho - an orphan or illegitimate children. also used as an adjective meaning 'lone' or 'without a pair', as in a matchless sock
  • huaso - a country bumpkin or horseman[23]
  • huincha - a strip of wool or cotton or a tape measure, also used for adhesive tape (Quechua wincha)[24]
  • humita - an Andean dish similar to the Mexican Tamale (Quechua humint'a, jumint'a).[24][25] Also a bow tie.
  • mate - an infusion made of yerba mate
  • mote - a type of dried wheat (Quechua mut'i)[24]
  • palta - "avocado" (aguacate in varieties of Spanish that derive the name from Nahuatl)
  • poroto - "bean" (judía/alubia/habichuela in Castilian Spanish and frijol in Mexico and Central America, Quechua purutu)[24]
  • yapa or llapa - lagniappe
  • zapallo - "squash/pumpkin" (calabaza in Castilian Spanish, Quechua sapallu)[24]

French, German and English loanwords[edit]

There are some expressions of non-Hispanic European origin such as British, German or French. They came with the arrival of the European immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries. There is also a certain influence from the mass media.

  • bifé - piece of furniture, from French buffet.
  • bistec or bisté - meat, from English 'beefsteak'.
  • budín - pudding, from the English 'pudding'.
  • chutear - to shoot, from English 'shoot'.
  • clóset - closet, from English 'closet'.
  • confort - toilet paper, from French confort; a brand name for toilet paper.[26]
  • guachimán - ship watchman, from English 'watchman'.
  • hacer zaping - to change channel whilst watching TV, from English 'to zap'.
  • jaibón - upper class, from English 'high born'.
  • kuchen or cujen - A kind of fruit cake, from German Kuchen.
  • lobear - to lobby, from English 'to lobby'.
  • livin or living- living room, from English 'living room'.
  • lumpen - lower class people, from German Lumpenproletariat.
  • luquear - to look, from English 'to look'.
  • marraqueta - a kind of bread, from French Marraquette, surname of the Frenchmen who invented it.
  • panqueque - pancake, from English 'pancake'.
  • overol - overall, from English 'overall'.
  • short - short trousers, from English 'short trousers'.
  • strudel or estrudel - dessert, from German Strudel, a typical German and Austrian dessert.
  • vestón - jacket, from French veston.


An example of a text in normal, carefully spoken Latin American Spanish and the same text with very relaxed pronunciation in informal Chilean Spanish of lower-class people:[27]

Text ¡Cómo corrieron los chilenos Salas y Zamorano! Pelearon como leones. Chocaron una y otra vez contra la defensa azul. ¡Qué gentío llenaba el estadio! En verdad fue una jornada inolvidable. Ajustado cabezazo de Salas y ¡gol! Al celebrar [Salas] resbaló y se rasgó la camiseta.
("Standard" Latin American Spanish)
[ˈkomo koˈrjeɾon los tʃiˈlenos ˈsalas i samoˈɾano | peleˈaɾoŋ ˈkomo ˈle‿ones | tʃoˈkaɾon ˈuna j‿ˈot̪ɾa ˈβ̞es ˈkon̪t̪ɾa la ð̞eˈfens aˈsul | ˈke xen̪ˈt̪io ʝeˈnaβ̞a‿el esˈt̪að̞jo | em beɾˈð̞að̞ ˈfwe‿una xoɾˈnað̞a‿inolβ̞iˈð̞aβ̞le | axusˈt̪að̞o kaβ̞eˈsaso ð̞e ˈsalas i ˈɣ̞ol | al seleˈβ̞ɾaɾ rezβ̞aˈlo‿i se razˈɣ̞o la kamiˈset̪a]
(Chilean Spanish)
[ˈkoːmo kɔˈɾjeːɾon lɔh ʃiˈleːno ˈsaːla‿i samoˈɾaːno | peˈljaːɾoŋ komo ˈljoːnɛh | ʃoˈkaːɾon ˈuːna j‿ot͡ɹ̝̝̥a ˈʋeːh kont͡ɹ̝̥a la‿eˈfeːns aˈsuːl | ˈceː çenˈt̪iːo jeˈnaː‿el ehˈt̪aːð̞jo | ʔeɱ vɛɹˈð̞aː ˈfweː‿una xonˈnaː‿inolˈʋiaːu̯le | ʔaxuhˈt̪aːo kaʋeˈsaːso‿e ˈsaːla‿i ˈɣ̞oːl | ʔal seleˈvɾaː ɹ̝ɛfaˈloː‿i se ɹ̝aˈxoː la kamiˈseːt̪a]
Translation "How those Chileans Salas and Zamorano ran! They fought like lions. They beat again and again against the blues' defense. What a crowd filled the stadium! In truth it was an unforgettable day. A tight header from Salas and... goal! Celebrating, Salas slid and ripped his shirt."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ethnologue - Spanish in Chile
  2. ^ Miguel Ángel Bastenier, "Neologismos y barbarismos en el español de dos océanos", El País, 19 July 2014, retrieved 20 July 2014. "...el chileno es un producto genuino e inimitable por el resto del universo lingüístico del español."
  3. ^ a b Canfield (1981:31)
  4. ^ CLASES SOCIALES, LENGUAJE Y SOCIALIZACION Basil Bernstein, retrieved June 25, 2013
  5. ^ "CHILE - Vozdemitierra" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2013-02-09. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  6. ^ "Extremadura en América - Diez mil extremeños - Biblioteca Virtual Extremeña". Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  7. ^ EL ESPAÑOL EN AMÉRICA cvc.cervantes.e - JESÚS SÁNCHEZ LOBATO - page 553-570
  8. ^ Language of Chile: Chileanismos, Castellano and indigenous roots - February 22, 2011, retrieved August 08,2013
  9. ^ Lipski (1994: 199-201)
  10. ^ Sáez Godoy, Leopoldo. "El dialecto más austral del español: fonética del español de Chile". Unidad y divesidad del español, Congreso de Valladolid. Centro Virtual Cervantes. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  11. ^ Oroz (1966:119)
  12. ^ Lipski (1994:199)
  13. ^ Lipski (1994:201)
  14. ^ Chilean Spanish & Chileanisms Archived 2006-01-12 at the Wayback Machine. retrieved June 27, 2013
  15. ^ Lipski (1994: 201-2)
  16. ^ a b "Real Academia Española". Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  17. ^ Lipski (1994: 203)
  18. ^ a b c d e Salamanca, Gastón; Ramírez, Ariella (2014). "Argentinismos en el léxico del español de Chile: Nuevas evidencias". Atenea. 509: 97–121. Retrieved 16 January 2016. 
  19. ^ Joelson, Daniel. Chilenismos : a dictionary and phrasebook for Chilean Spanish. 
  20. ^ a b Zúñiga, Fernando (2006-06-11). "Tras la huella del Mapudungun". El Mercurio (in Spanish). Centro de Estudios Publicos. Archived from the original on 2007-10-29. Retrieved 2007-11-12. 
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h Correa Mujica, Miguel (2001). "Influencias de las lenguas indígenas en el español de Chile". Espéculo. Revista de estudios literarios. (in Spanish). Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Retrieved 2009-05-31. 
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Teofilo Laime Ajacopa, Diccionario Bilingüe Iskay simipi yuyayk'ancha, La Paz, 2007 (Quechua-Spanish dictionary)
  25. ^ Diccionario Quechua - Español - Quechua, Academía Mayor de la Lengua Quechua, Gobierno Regional Cusco, Cusco 2005 (Quechua-Spanish dictionary)
  26. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ Marcela Rivadeneira Valenzuela. "El Voseo En Medios de Comunicacion de Chile" (PDF) (in Spanish). Retrieved 2010-12-10.  Pages 82-83.


  • Canfield, D. Lincoln (1981), Spanish Pronunciation in the Americas], Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-09262-3 
  • Lipski, John M. (1994), Latin American Spanish, Essex, U.K.: Longman Group Limited 
  • Oroz, Rodolfo (1966), La lengua castellana en Chile, Santiago: Universidad de Chile 

External links[edit]