Spanish language in the Americas

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Spanish speakers in the Americas.
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The Spanish language spoken in the Americas is distinct from Peninsular Spanish and Spanish spoken elsewhere, such as in Africa and Asia. Linguistically, this grouping is somewhat arbitrary, akin to having a term for "overseas English" encompassing variants spoken in the United States, Canada, Australia, India, New Zealand and Ireland, but not the United Kingdom. There is great diversity among the various Latin American vernaculars, and it would be hard to point to one trait shared by all of them which is not also in existence in one or more of the variants of Spanish used in Spain. Of the more than 469 million people who speak Spanish as their native language, more than 418 million are in Latin America and the United States.[1]

There are numerous regional particularities and idiomatic expressions within Spanish. In Latin American Spanish, loanwords directly from English are relatively more frequent, and often foreign spellings are left intact. One notable trend is the higher abundance of loan words taken from English in Latin America as well as words derived from English. The Latin American Spanish word for "computer" is la computadora, whereas the word used in Spain is el ordenador, and each word sounds foreign in the region where it is not used. Some differences are due to Iberian Spanish having a stronger French influence than Latin America, where, for geopolitical reasons, the United States influence has been predominant throughout the twentieth century.

Main features[edit]

Pronunciation varies from country to country and from region to region, just as English pronunciation varies from one place to another. In general terms, the speech of the Americas shows many common features akin to southern Spanish variants, especially to western Andalusia (Seville, Cádiz) and the Canary Islands. Coastal language vernaculars throughout Hispanic America show particularly strong similarities to Atlantic-Andalusian speech patterns while inland regions in Mexico and Andean countries are not similar to any particular dialect in Spain.

  • Most Spaniards pronounce ⟨z⟩ and ⟨c⟩ (before /e/ and /i/) as [θ] (called distinción). Conversely, most Hispanic Americans have seseo, lacking a distinction between this phoneme acc /s/. However, seseo is also typical of the speech of many Andalusians and all Canary islanders. Andalusia's and the Canary Islands' predominant position in the conquest and subsequent immigration to Hispanic America from Spain is thought to be the reason for the absence of this distinction in most American Spanish dialects.
  • Most of Spain, particularly the regions that have a distinctive /θ/ phoneme, realize /s/ with the tip of tongue against the alveolar ridge. Phonetically this is an "apico-alveolar" "grave" sibilant [], with a weak "hushing" sound reminiscent of retroflex fricatives. To a Hispanic American speaker, the /s/ in Spanish dialects from northern Spain might sound close to [ʃ] like English ⟨sh⟩ as in she. However, this apico-alveolar realization of /s/ is not uncommon in some Latin American Spanish dialects which lack [θ]; some inland Colombian Spanish (particularly Antioquia) and Andean regions of Peru and Bolivia also have an apico-alveolar /s/.
  • As mentioned, Anglicisms are far more common in Hispanic America than in Spain, due to the stronger and more direct US influence.
  • Equally, indigenous languages have left their mark on Hispanic American Spanish, a fact which is particularly evident in vocabulary to do with flora, fauna and cultural habits. Nevertheless, European Spanish has also absorbed numerous words of Amerindian origin, although for historical reasons, the vast majority of these are taken from Nahuatl and various of the Caribbean languages.
  • Doublets of Arabic-Latinate synonyms with the Arabic form are common in Hispanic American Spanish being influenced by Andalusian Spanish like Andalusian and Hispanic American alcoba. In this sense Hispanic American Spanish is closer to the dialects spoken in the south of Spain. Examples include the previously mentioned alcoba along with standard cuarto, recámara, habitación, dormitorio, aposento or pieza ('bedroom'), or alhaja for standard joya ('jewel').[citation needed]
  • See List of words having different meanings in Spain and Hispanic America.
  • Most Hispanic American Spanish usually features yeísmo: there is no distinction between ⟨ll⟩ and ⟨y⟩, and both are [ʝ]. However, yeísmo is an expanding and now dominant feature of European Spanish, particularly in urban speech (Madrid, Toledo) and especially in Andalusia and Canary Islands, though in some rural areas [ʎ] is not completely disappeared. Speakers of Rioplatense Spanish pronounce both ⟨ll⟩ and ⟨y⟩ as [ʒ] or [ʃ]. The traditional pronunciation of the digraph ⟨ll⟩ as [ʎ] is preserved in some dialects along the Andes range, especially in inland Peru and the Colombia highlands (Santander), northern Argentina, all Bolivia and Paraguay.
  • Most speakers of coastal dialects may debuccalize or aspirate syllable-final /s/ to [h], or drop it entirely, so that está [esˈta] ("s/he is") sounds like [ehˈta] or [eˈta], as in southern Spain (Andalusia, Extremadura, Murcia, Castile–La Mancha (except North-East), Madrid, Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla).
  • ⟨g⟩ (before /e/ or /i/) and ⟨j⟩ are usually aspirated to [h] in Caribbean and other coastal language vernaculars, as well as in all Colombia, and southern Mexico, as in much of southern Spain. In other American dialects the sound is closer to [x], and often firmly strong (rough) in Peruvian Spanish dialect.[citation needed] Very often, especially in Argentina and Chile, [x] becomes fronter [ç] when preceding high vowels /e, i/ (these speakers approach [x] to the realization of German ⟨ch⟩ in ich); in other phonological environments it is pronounced either [x] or [h].
  • In many Caribbean varieties the phonemes /l/ and /r/ at the end of a syllable sound alike or can be exchanged: caldo > ca[r]do, cardo > ca[l]do; in the situation of /r/ in word-final position, it becomes silent, giving Caribbean dialects of Spanish a partial non-rhoticity. This happens at a reduced level in Ecuador and Chile[citation needed] as well. It is a feature brought from Extremadura and westernmost Andalusia.
  • In many Andean regions the alveolar trill of rata and carro is realized as an alveolar approximant [ɹ] or even as a voiced apico-alveolar [z]. The alveolar approximant realization is particularly associated with an indigenous substrate and it is quite common in Andean regions, especially in inland Ecuador, Peru, most of Bolivia and in parts of northern Argentina and Paraguay.
  • In Belize, Puerto Rico, and Colombian islands of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina, aside from [ɾ], [r], and [l], syllable-final /r/ can be realized as [ɹ], an influence of American English to Puerto Rican dialectand British English to Belizean dialect and Colombian dialect of Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina (in the case of the latter three, it is not exclusive to Colombians whose ancestors traced back to Spanish period before British invasion, under British territorial rule, and recovery of Spanish control, but is also used by Raizals, whites of British descent, and descendants of mainland Colombians); "verso"' (verse) becomes [ˈbeɹso], aside from [ˈbeɾso], [ˈberso], or [ˈbelso], "invierno" (winter) becomes [imˈbjeɹno], aside from [imˈbjeɾno], [imˈbjerno], or [imˈbjelno], and "escarlata" (scarlet) becomes [ehkaɹˈlata], aside from [ehkaɾˈlata], [ehkarˈlata], or [ehkaˈlata]. In word-final position, /r/ will usually be one of these:
    • a trill, a tap, approximant, [l], or elided when followed by a consonant or a pause, as in amo[r ~ ɾ ~ ɹ ~ l] paterno 'paternal love', amor [aˈmo],
    • a tap, approximant, or [l] when the followed by a vowel-initial word, as in amo[ɾ ~ ɹ ~ l] eterno 'eternal love').
  • The voiced consonants /b/, /d/, and /ɡ/ are pronounced as plosives after and sometimes before any consonant in most of Colombian Spanish dialects (rather than the fricative or approximant that is characteristic of most other dialects): pardo [ˈpaɾdo], barba [ˈbaɾba], algo [ˈalɡo], peligro [peˈliɡɾo], desde [ˈdezde/ˈdehde]—rather than the [ˈpaɾðo], [ˈbaɾβa], [ˈalɣo], [peˈliɣɾo], [ˈdezðe/ˈdehðe] of Spain and the rest of Spanish America. A notable exception is the Department of Nariño and most Costeño speech (Atlantic coastal dialects) which feature the soft, fricative realizations common to all other Hispanic American and European dialects.
  • Word-final /n/ is velar [ŋ] in much Latin American Spanish speech; this means a word like pan (bread) is often articulated ['paŋ]. To an English-speaker, those speakers that have a velar nasal for word-final /n/ make pan sound like pang. Velarization of word-final /n/ is so widespread in the Americas that it is easier to mention those regions that maintain an alveolar /n/: most of Mexico, Colombia (except for coastal dialects) and Argentina (except for some northern regions). Elsewhere, velarization is common, though alveolar word-final /n/ can appear among some educated speakers, especially in the media or in singing. Velar word-final /n/ is also frequent in Spain, especially in southern Spanish dialects (Andalusia and the Canary Islands) and also in the Northwest: Galicia, Asturias and León.

Accent[edit]

To understand the concept of the Hispanic American accents in Spanish, one must remember that every country in Hispanic America has different accents in this language, many of which are very similar. This is caused by interaction of different accents.

Spaniards arrived from many regions within Spain and brought with them their own regional colloquial/accents. However, the great majority of Spanish immigrants to Hispanic America throughout its history came from the southern region of Spain known as Andalusia. Another great majority arrived from the Canary Islands. Canarian and Hispanic American vernacular languages share a similar intonation which, in general terms, means that stressed vowels are usually quite long. When visiting Tenerife or Las Palmas (Islas Canarias, Spain), Hispanic Americans are usually taken at first hearing for fellow-Canarians from a distant part of the Canary archipelago. It is the accents of these regions which served as the basis of the style of Spanish spoken in Hispanic America. Other Spanish immigrants like Castilians (another native Spanish-speaking people), Catalans, Galicians, and Basques also settled Hispanic America and affected the accents.

Indigenous peoples who were met by Spaniards also affected the accents. Their languages, together with the strong influence of the Canarian speech, have added to Latin American Spanish the softer sing-song speaking tone. Africans were brought to Latin America in as slave labor, the majority for work on coastal or lowland sugar plantations. They contributed hundreds of words, colloquialisms, intonations, and rhythm.

In late 19th century, European settlers of non-Spanish origin (including Italians, Germans, Britons, Scandinavians, Poles, and Russians) and Middle Eastern settlers (mostly Arabs from Lebanon and Syria) arrived in Hispanic America and affected various Hispanic American accents.

Local variations[edit]

North America[edit]

Central America[edit]

The Caribbean[edit]

South America[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]