Peninsular Spanish

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Dialects of peninsular Spanish and other languages of Spain

Peninsular Spanish (Spanish: español peninsular) (also known as the Spanish of Spain (Spanish: español de España), European Spanish (Spanish: español europeo), Iberian Spanish (Spanish: español ibérico) or Spanish Spanish (Spanish: español español) is the set of varieties of the Spanish language spoken in peninsular Spain, as opposed to the Americas, the Canary Islands and Equatorial Guinea. The related term Castilian Spanish is often applied to formal varieties of Spanish as spoken in Spain.[1][2] According to folk tradition, the "purest" form of Peninsular Spanish is spoken in Valladolid, although the concept of "pure" languages has been questioned by modern linguists.[3][4]

Phonologically, the most prominent distinguishing element of Peninsular Spanish, except for the southernmost varieties, is the use of a distinction between the phonemes /s/ and /θ/, represented respectively with the letters ⟨s⟩ on the one hand and ⟨z⟩, or ⟨c⟩ before ⟨e / i⟩, on the other. In other varieties, the two phonemes are realized as a single /s/. The distinction is usually simply labelled distinción, while the lack of distinction between the two is called seseo or ceceo, depending on the phonetic outcome ([s] in the former case, [] in the latter).

Morphologically, the most notable distinguishing feature of Peninsular Spanish is the use of the pronoun vosotros (along with its oblique form os) and its corresponding verb forms for the second person plural familiar. In virtually all other varieties of Modern Spanish (with the exception of Equatoguinean Spanish), for the second person plural, the familiar and the formal are merged in ustedes, with its verb forms. Again, the use of vosotros is uncommon in the Canary Islands and only partially introduced in Western Andalusia.


Variation in Peninsular Spanish, especially phonetic, largely follows a north-south axis, often imagined or characterized as Castilian versus Andalusian in the popular imagination. That said, different isoglosses intersect and never exactly coincide with regional borders.[5][6] The Spanish dialects of bilingual regions, such as Castrapo in Galicia or Catalan Spanish, have their own features due to language contact.

A simple, north-south division is:[6]

While a more narrow division includes the following dialect regions:[5]

  • northern Castile, including Salamanca, Valladolid, Burgos, and neighboring provinces;
  • northern Extremadura and Leon, including the province of Cáceres, parts of Leon, western Salamanca province, and Zamora
  • Galicia, referring to the Spanish spoken both monolingually and in contact with Galician
  • Asturias, especially inland areas such as Oviedo
  • the interior Cantabrian region, to the south of Santander
  • the Basque Country, including Spanish as spoken monolingually and incontact with Basque
  • Catalonia, including Spanish spoken in contact with Catalan
  • southeastern Spain, including much of Valencia, Alicante, Murcia, Albacete, and southeastern La Mancha
  • eastern Andalusia, including Granada, Almería, and surrounding areas
  • western Andalusia, including Seville, Huelva, Cádiz, and the Extremaduran province of Badajoz – the Spanish of Gibraltar is also included
  • south-central and southwest Spain, including areas to the south of Madrid such as Toledo and Ciudad Real.


In rural Aragon and Navarre, the cluster /tɾ/ often undergoes a few changes. The /ɾ/ can become devoiced and assibilated, while the /t/ may be retracted. Overall, this gives the cluster a sound similar to that of the English /tr/. Similarly, the trilled /r/ may also be assibilated in this region. The same pronunciations are also found in much of Latin America, especially Mexico, Central America, and the Andes.[7]

In a chunk of northwestern Spain which includes Galicia and Bilbao and excludes Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville, the sequence /tl/ in words such as atleta 'athlete' and Atlántico 'Atlantic' is treated as an onset cluster, with both consonants being part of the same syllable. The same is true in the Canary Islands and most of Latin America, with the exception of Puerto Rico. On the other hand, in most of Peninsular Spanish, each consonant in /tl/ is considered as belonging to a separate syllable, and as a result the /t/ is subject to weakening. Thus, [aðˈlãntiko], [aðˈleta] are the resulting pronunciations.[8][9]

Differences from American Spanish[edit]

The Spanish language is a pluricentric language. Spanish is spoken in numerous countries around the world, each with differing standards. However, the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy), based in Madrid, Spain, is affiliated with the national language academies of 22 other hispanophone nations through the Association of Academies of the Spanish Language, and their coordinated resolutions are typically accepted in other countries, especially those related to spelling. Also, the Instituto Cervantes, an agency of the Government of Spain in charge of promoting the Spanish language abroad, has been adopted by other countries as the authority to officially recognize and certify the Spanish level of non-native Spanish speakers as their second language, as happens in Australia, South Korea or Switzerland.[citation needed]

The variants of Spanish spoken in Spain and its former colonies vary significantly in grammar and pronunciation, as well as in the use of idioms. Courses of Spanish as a second language commonly use Mexican Spanish in the United States and Canada, whereas European Spanish is typically preferred in Europe.

Dialects in central and northern Spain and Latin American Spanish contain several differences, the most apparent being Distinción (distinction), i.e., the pronunciation of the letter z before all vowels, and of c before e and i, as a voiceless dental fricative /θ/, as in English th in thing. Thus, in most varieties of Spanish from Spain, cinco, 'five' is pronounced /ˈθinko/ as opposed to /ˈsinko/ in Latin American Spanish, and similarly for zapato, 'shoe', cerdo, 'pig', zorro, 'fox', Zurbarán. A restricted form of distinción also occurs in the area around Cusco, Peru, where [θ] exists in words such as the numbers doce, 'twelve', and trece, 'thirteen'.[10]

Additionally, all Latin American dialects drop the familiar (that is, informal) vosotros verb forms for the second person plural, using ustedes in all contexts. In most of Spain, ustedes is used only in a formal context.

Some other minor differences are:

  • The widespread use of le instead of lo as the masculine direct object pronoun, especially referring to people. This morphological variation, known as leísmo, is typical of a strip of land in central Spain which includes Madrid, and recently it has spread to other regions.
  • In the past, the sounds for ⟨y⟩ and ⟨ll⟩ were phonologically different in most European Spanish subvarieties, especially in the north, compared with only a few dialects in Latin America, but that difference is now beginning to disappear (yeísmo) in all Peninsular Spanish dialects, including the standard (that is, Castilian Spanish based on the Madrid dialect). A distinct phoneme for ⟨ll⟩ is still heard in the speech of older speakers in rural areas throughout Spain, however, most Spanish-speaking adults and youngsters merge ⟨ll⟩ and ⟨y⟩. In Latin America, ⟨ll⟩ remains different from ⟨y⟩ in traditional dialects along the Andes range, especially in the Peruvian highlands, all of Bolivia and also in Paraguay. In the Philippines, speakers of Spanish and Filipino employ the distinction between ⟨ll⟩ /ʎ/ and ⟨y⟩ /ʝ/.
  • In Spain, use of usted has declined in favor of ;[11] however, in Latin America, this difference is less noticeable among young people, especially in Caribbean dialects.[citation needed]
  • In Castilian Spanish, the letter ⟨j⟩ as well as the letter ⟨g⟩ before the letters ⟨i⟩ and ⟨e⟩ are pronounced as a stronger velar fricative /x/ and very often the friction is uvular [χ], while in Latin America they are generally guttural as well, but not as strong and the uvular realizations of European Spanish are not reported. In the Caribbean, Colombia, Venezuela, other parts of Latin America, the Canary Islands, Extremadura and most of western Andalusia, as well as in the Philippines, it is pronounced as [h].
  • Characteristic of Spanish from Spain (except from Andalusia and the Canary Islands) is the voiceless alveolar retracted sibilant [s̺], also called apico-alveolar or grave, which is often perceived as intermediate between a laminal/dental [s] and [ʃ]. This sound is also prevalent in Colombian Paisa region, and Andean Spanish dialects.
  • Debuccalization of syllable-final /s/ to [x], [h], or dropping it entirely, so that está [esˈta] ("s/he is") sounds like [ehˈta] or [eˈta], occurs in both Spain and the Americas. In Spain, this is most common in southern Spain: Andalusia, Extremadura, Murcia, Community of Madrid, La Mancha, etc., as well as in the Canary Islands; in the Americas it is the general pronunciation in most coastal and lowland regions.
  • Words containing the three letters ⟨atl⟩ together are pronounced in a different way in Castilian Spanish as compared to Mexican Spanish. In Spain, words like Atlántico and atleta are pronounced according to the syllabication At-lán-ti-co and at-le-ta. Instead, in Mexico, the pronunciation follows the syllabication A-tlán-ti-co and a-tle-ta.[dubious ]
  • voseo is the use of the second person singular informal pronoun vos which comes with different verb forms compared to . There are several sub-varieties of voseo within Latin America and many Latin American varieties do not have any form of voseo at all.


The meaning of certain words may differ greatly between all the dialects of the language: carro refers to car in some Latin American dialects but to cart in Spain and some Latin American dialects. There also appear gender differences: el PC ('personal computer') in Castilian Spanish and some Latin American Spanish, la PC in some Hispanic American Spanish, due to the widespread use of the gallicism ordenador (from ordinateur in French) for computer in Peninsular Spanish, which is masculine, instead of the Hispanic-American-preferred computadora, which is feminine, from the English word 'computer' (the exceptions being Colombia and Chile, where PC is known as computador, which is masculine).

Speakers from Latin America tend to use words and polite-set expressions that, even if recognized by the Real Academia Española, are not widely used nowadays (some of them are even deemed as anachronisms) by speakers of Castilian Spanish. For example, enojarse and enfadarse are verbs with the same meaning (to become angry), enojarse being used much more in the Americas than in Spain, and enfadarse more in Spain than in the Americas. Below are select vocabulary differences between Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. Words in bold are unique to Spain and not used in any other country (except for perhaps Equatorial Guinea which speaks a very closely related dialect, and to a lesser extent the Philippines).

Selected vocabulary differences
Iberian Spanish Latin American Spanish[N 1] English
vale bien (universal), listo (Colombia), dale (Argentina, Chile), ya (Peru) okay
gafas anteojos/lentes eyeglasses/spectacles
patata papa potato (papa also means poppet or child)
judía, alubia frijol/frejol/caraota (Venezuela) / habichuela (Caribbean) / poroto bean
jersey/chaleco suéter/saco/pulóver sweater
coche auto/carro car
conducir manejar to drive
aparcar estacionar/parquear to park
fregona trapeador, trapero, lampazo (Argentina, Uruguay), mopa, mapo (Puerto Rico) mop
tarta torta/pastel (Mexico, El Salvador) / queque/bizcocho (Puerto Rico) cake
ordenador computadora/computador computer
zumo jugo juice
chulo/guay chévere/chido/piola/copado/bacán/bacano cool (slang)
cabezal cabeza head (of an apparatus)
  1. ^ Latin American Spanish consists of several varieties spoken throughout the Americas so the examples may not represent all dialects. They are meant to show contrast and comparing all variants of Latin America as a whole to one variant of Spain would be impossible as the majority of the vocabulary will be reflected in other variants.


  1. ^ "Castilian Spanish". Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  2. ^ "Castilian". Archived from the original on November 9, 2009. Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  3. ^ MARCOS, JAVIER RODRÍGUEZ (2011-12-15). ""En ningún sitio se habla el mejor español del mundo"". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 2019-04-01.
  4. ^ "Lingüista sostiene que no hablan mejor español en Valladolid que en Medellín". La Vanguardia (in Spanish). 2016-09-03. Retrieved 2019-04-01.
  5. ^ a b Lipski, John (2012). "Geographical and Social Varieties of Spanish: An Overview" (PDF). In Hualde, José Ignacio; Olarrea, Antxon; O'Rourke, Erin (eds.). The Handbook of Hispanic Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. pp. 1–26. doi:10.1002/9781118228098.ch1. ISBN 9781405198820.
  6. ^ a b Lipski, John M. (2018). "Dialects of Spanish and Portuguese" (PDF). In Boberg, Charles; Nerbonne, John; Watt, Dominic (eds.). The handbook of dialectology. Hoboken, NJ. pp. 498–509. doi:10.1002/9781118827628.ch30. ISBN 9781118827550.
  7. ^ Penny 2000, p. 157.
  8. ^ "División silábica y ortográfica de palabras con «tl»". Real Académia Española (in Spanish). Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  9. ^ Hualde, José Ignacio; Carrasco, Patricio (2009). "/tl/ en español mexicano. ¿Un segmento o dos?" (PDF). Estudios de Fonética Experimental (in Spanish). XVIII: 175–191. ISSN 1575-5533.
  10. ^ Alonso, Amado (1967). De la pronunciación medieval a la moderna en español (in Spanish)., cited in Cotton, Eleanor Greet; Sharp, John (1988), Spanish in the Americas, Georgetown University Press, ISBN 978-0-87840-094-2
  11. ^ Soler-Espiauba, Dolores (1994). "¿Tú o usted? ¿Cuándo y por qué? Descodificación al uso del estudiante de español como lengua extranjera" ['Tú' or 'usted'? When and why? Decoding for the use of the student of Spanish as a foreign language] (PDF). Actas (in Spanish). ASELE (V): 199–208. Retrieved 17 September 2020.


External links[edit]