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Voseo (Spanish pronunciation: [boˈse.o]) is the use of vos as a second person singular pronoun, including its conjugational verb forms in many dialects of Spanish. In dialects that have it, it is used either instead of tú, or alongside it. Use of "tú" is known as "tuteo".
The Central American Spanish (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, southern parts of Chiapas in Mexico) also exhibits an extensive use of vos, though in Northern Central America the media use tú more frequently. In Nicaragua and Costa Rica, tú is used less frequently.
Vos had not been traditionally used in formal writing except in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. This gradually changed in Central America, where even the most prestigious media networks and press began to use the pronoun vos, reflecting the informal address in Spanish as opposed to the formal address of usted. Nowadays it is very common to see billboards and other advertising media using voseo. In the dialect of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay (known as 'Rioplatense Spanish'), vos is also the standard form for use in television media.
Vos is present in other countries as a regionalism, for instance in the Maracucho Spanish of Zulia State, Venezuela (see Venezuelan Spanish), in the Azuero peninsula of Panama, in various departments in Colombia, and in parts of Ecuador (Sierra down to Esmeraldas). In Peru, voseo is present in some Andean regions and Cajamarca, but the younger generations have ceased to use it excepting part of Quito where it is usually found as an informal pronoun. It is also present in Ladino (spoken by Sephardic Jews throughout Israel, Turkey, the Balkans, Morocco, Latin America and the United States), where it replaces usted. In the United States, Salvadoran Americans are by far the largest voseo users followed by other Central Americans, Hondurans, Nicaraguans, and Costa Ricans.
Voseo can also be found in the context of using verb conjugation for vos with tú as the subject pronoun (verbal voseo), as in the case of Chilean Spanish, where this form coexists with the ordinary form of voseo.
- 1 History
- 2 Usage
- 3 Geographical distribution
- 4 Synchronic analysis of Chilean and River Plate verbal voseos
- 5 Attitudes
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Sources
Originally a second-person plural, Vos came to be used as a more polite second-person singular pronoun to be used among one's familiar friends. The following extract from a late 18th-century textbook is illustrative of usage at the time:
We seldom make use in Spanish of the second Person Singular or Plural, but when through a great familiarity among friends, or speaking to God, or a wife and husband to themselves, or a father and mother to their children, or to servants.
Examples.O Dios, sois vos mi Padre verdadéro, O God, thou art my true Father; Tú eres un buen amígo, Thou art a good friend.— Raymundo del Pueyo, A New Spanish Grammar, or the Elements of the Spanish Language
The standard formal way to address a person one was not on familiar terms with was to address such a person as vuestra merced ("your grace" originally abbreviated as v.m.) in the singular and vuestras mercedes in the plural. Because of the literal meaning of these forms, they were accompanied by the corresponding third-person verb forms. Other formal forms of address included vuestra excelencia ("your excellence" abbreviated as ussencia) and vuestra señoria ("your lordship/ladyship" abbreviated as ussia). Today, both vos and tú are considered to be informal pronouns, with vos being somewhat synonymous with tú in regions where both are used. This was the situation when Castilian was brought to the Río de la Plata area (around Buenos Aires and Montevideo) and to Chile.
In time, vos lost currency in Spain but survived in Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia (east), Uruguay, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and many other countries and regions in Latin America, while Vuestra merced evolved into usted (vuestra merced > usarced > usted; in fact, "usted" is still abbreviated as either Vd or Ud). Note that the term vosotros is a combined form of vos otros (meaning literally "ye/you others"), while the term nosotros comes from nos otros ("we/us others").
In the first half of the 19th century the use of vos was as prevalent in Chile as it was in Argentina. The current limitation of the use of vos in Chile is attributed to a campaign to eradicate it by the Chilean education system. The campaign was initiated by Andrés Bello who considered the use of vos a manifestation of lack of education.
Vos as a replacement for other forms of tú
The preposition-pronoun compound contigo "with you" becomes con vos.
The direct and indirect object form te remains the same, unlike in the case of vosotros, where it becomes os.
|subject||direct object||indirect object||prepositional object||fused with con||direct/indirect object||prepositional object||fused with con|
|vos||te||te||vos||con vos||te||vos||con vos|
|usted||lo / la||le||usted||con usted||se||sí||consigo|
|vosotros||os||os||vosotros||con vosotros||os||vosotros||con vosotros|
The possessive pronouns of vos also coincide with tú <tu(s), tuyo(s), tuya(s)> rather than with vosotros <vuestro(s), vuestra(s)>.
Conjugation with vos
All modern voseo conjugations derive from Old Spanish second person plural -ades, -edes, -ides, and -odes (as in sodes, 'you are'). The 14th and 15th centuries saw an evolution of these conjugations, with -ades originally giving -áis, -edes giving -és (or -ís), -ides giving -ís, and -odes giving -óis. Soon analogous forms -ás and -éis appeared. Hence the variety of forms the contemporary American voseo adopts, some varieties featuring a generalized monophthong (most of them), some a generalized diphthong (e.g. Venezuela), and some combining monophthongs and diphthongs, depending on the conjugation (e.g. Chile). In the most general, monophthongized, conjugation paradigm, a difference between voseo forms and respective tuteo forms is visible exclusively in the present indicative, imperative and subjunctive, and, most of the time, in the preterite. Below is a comparison table of the conjugation of several verbs for tú and for vos, and next to them the one for vosotros, the informal second person plural currently used only in Spain. The accented forms (vos and vosotros) and the infinitives are stressed on the last syllable; the tú forms are stressed on the penultimate one. Note the absence of diphthongization in the roots of poder and venir.
|Tú / Vos
Southeastern Cuba and
Northeastern Colombia1 ,2
|Vosotros 2. Pl
And Vos formal 2.Sg
|ser||eres||sos||erís/ sois||sois||sox סוֹש /soʃ/||son||you are|
|hablar||hablas||hablás||habláis||favlax פֿאבֿלאש /faˈvlaʃ/||hablan||you speak|
|recordar||recuerdas||recordás||recordáis||recordax רֵיקוֹרדאש /rekorˈdaʃ/||recuerdan||you remember|
|comer||comes||comés||comís||coméis||comex קוֹמֵיש /koˈmeʃ/||comen||you eat|
|poder||puedes||podés||podís||podéis||podex פּוֹדֵיש /poˈdeʃ/||pueden||you can / may|
|vivir||vives||vivís||bivix בִּיבִֿיש /biˈviʃ/||viven||you live|
|venir||vienes||venís||benix בֵּינִיש /beˈniʃ/||vienen||you come|
|1 Because of the general aspiration of the letter s, it is usually not pronounced, except by highly educated people.
2 In Colombia, the rest of the country that uses vos follows the General Conjugation.
3 In the state of Zulia
4 in Azuero
General conjugation is the one that is most widely accepted and used in various countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, parts of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia, as well as Central American countries.
Some Uruguayan speakers combine the pronoun tú with the vos conjugation (for example, tú sabés). Conversely, speakers in some other places where both tú and vos are used combine vos with the tú conjugation (for example, vos sabes). This is a frequent occurrence in the Argentine province of Santiago del Estero.
The verb forms employed with vos are also different in Chilean Spanish: Chileans with voseo delete the final -s from the final diphthong -áis (and -ois): (vos/tú soi /erís; vos/tú estái).
In the case of the ending -ís (such as in comís, podís, vivís, erís, venís), the final -s is not totally dropped. Rather, in most cases, especially before a consonant, an aspiration similar to the 'h' sound in English is still audible.
Both Chilean Spanish and Venezuelan Maracucho Spanish are notable in that they preserve the diphthongized plural verb forms in all tenses, as still used with vosotros in Spain. The same happens in the Azuero peninsula of Panama.
In Ladino, the -áis, -éis, -ís, & -ois endings are pronounced /aʃ/, /eʃ/, /iʃ/, & /oʃ/.
In Chile, it is much more usual to use tú + vos verb conjugation (tú sabís). The use of pronominal vos (vos sabís) is reserved for very informal situations and may even be considered vulgar in some cases.
- General conjugation: the final -r of the infinitive is replaced by -s, and an acute accent is added to the final vowel (i.e. the one preceding the final -s) to keep the stress.
- the -ar ending of the infinitive is replaced by -ái
- both -er and -ir are replaced by -ís, which sounds more like -íh.
- Venezuelan (Zulian): practically the same ending as modern Spanish vosotros, yet with the final -S being aspirated so that: -áis, -éis, -ís sound like -áih, -éih, -íh (phonetically resembling Chilean).
|1 in Zulia; identical ending to modern vosotros|
Unlike tú, which has many irregular forms, the only voseo verbs that are conjugated irregularly in the indicative present are ser, ir and haber. However, haber is seldom used in the indicative present, since there's a strong tendency to use preterite instead of present perfect.
Vos also differs in its affirmative imperative conjugation from both tú and vosotros. Specifically, the vos imperative is formed by dropping the final -r from the infinitive, but keeping the stress on the last syllable. The only verb that is irregular in this regard is ir; its vos imperative is not used, with andá *(the vos imperative of andar) being generally used instead.
|estar||"to be"||está / estate||está / estate||estad|
|ir||"to go"||ve||id / ite *(andá / andate)||id|
|callar||"to become silent"||calla||callá||callad|
|soltar||"to release/let go"||suelta||soltá||soltad|
Again, the conjugation tú has far more irregularities, whereas vos has only one irregular verb in the affirmative imperative.
In Chile, the general vos conjugation is not used in the affirmative imperative.
Everywhere voseo is used, it is applied in the subjunctive, with the exception of Río de la Plata region, where the tú-conjugation is more common. For example, in Central America it is no mintás and in Chile is no mintái; however in Río de la Plata it is no mientas, just like in Spain or México. Real Academia Española models its voseo conjugation tables with Río de la Plata usage and therefore omits the subjunctive voseo. In this region, the vos-form in the subjunctive has not completely disappeared. It is still used to show emphasis or emotion.
|Río de la Plata region||Chile||Venezuela (Zulia)
|No quiero que mintás.||No quiero que mientas.||No quiero que mintáis.||I don't want you to lie.|
|No temás.||No temas.||No temáis.||Do not fear.|
|Que durmás bien||Que duermas bien.||Que durmáis bien.||Sleep well.|
|No te preocupés.||No te preocupes.||No te preocupís.||No te preocupéis.||Don't worry.|
|1including areas in Colombia with voseo, e.g. the Paisa Region.|
Verbal voseo and pronominal voseo
- 'Verbal voseo' refers to the use of the verb conjugation of vos regardless of which pronoun is used.
- Verbal voseo with a pronoun other than vos is widespread in Chile, in which case one would use the pronoun tú and the verb conjugation of vos at the same time. E.g.: "tú venís", "tú escribís", "tú podís", "tú sabís", "tú vai", "tú estái".
- There are some partially rare cases of a similar sort of verbal voseo in Uruguay where one would say for example "tú podés", "tú sabés".
- 'Pronominal voseo' is the use of the pronoun vos regardless of verb conjugation.
Countries where voseo is predominant
In South America:
- Argentina (both pronominal and verbal voseo, the pronoun tú is virtually unused)
- Paraguay (both pronominal and verbal voseo, the pronoun tú is virtually unused in most of the country, except in Concepción)
- Uruguay (both pronoun+verb and pronoun tú + verb conjugated in the vos form)
In Central America:
- Costa Rica (the voseo is primarily used with friends and family in advertising signage but only in a few parts for spoken usage. Usted is the primary form in Alajuela, Turrialba, and Limón and with strangers. The tuteo is seldom used, but when it is used it is commonly considered to be obnoxious and pretentious, despite the fact that is not actually used by the upper classes either.)
- Nicaragua (both pronominal and verbal voseo, the pronoun tú is seldom used)
Countries where it is extensive, but not predominant
In South America:
- Bolivia : in the Lowlands of Eastern Bolivia –with mestizo, Criollo and German descendants majority– (Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija and the Lowlands of La Paz) the voseo is used universally; while in the Highlands of Western Bolivia –with indigenous peoples majority– (Highlands of La Paz, Oruro, Potosí, Chuquisaca and Cochabamba) tú is predominant but there still a strong use of the voseo, especially in verb forms.
- Chile : verbal voseo is spreading north- and southwards from the center, whereas the pronominal voseo is reserved only for very intimate situations or to offend someone. In addition, voseo in Chile is only used in informal situations; in every other situation, the normal tú or vos pronouns are used.
In Central America:
- Honduras : a three-tiered system is used, that indicates the degree of respect or trust: usted, tú, vos. Usted expresses distance and respect; tú corresponds to an intermediate level, expressing familiarity, but not deep trust; vos remains the pronoun of maximum familiarity and solidarity, and also lack of respect.
- Guatemala : verbal voseo is widespread in the country. It is commonly used throughout the society.
- El Salvador : a three-tiered system is used, that indicates the degree of respect or trust: usted, tú, vos. Usted expresses distance and respect; tú corresponds to an intermediate level, expressing familiarity, but not deep trust; vos remains the pronoun of maximum familiarity and solidarity, and also lack of respect.
Countries where voseo occurs in some areas
In the following countries, voseo is used in certain areas:
- Colombia, in the departments
- Ecuador in the Sierra, the center, and Esmeraldas
- Panama in the west along the border to Costa Rica and in the Azuero Peninsula.
- Venezuela, in the northwest (primarily in Zulia State)
- Mexico, widely used in the countryside of the state of Chiapas, it is becoming rare in Yucatán, Tabasco and Quintana Roo. Mainly used by not enrolled-indigenous people.
- Peru, in some areas in the North and the South of the country. It is widely used in Arequipa.
Countries where vos is virtually absent from usage
In the following countries, the use of vos has disappeared completely or survives only very marginally in daily speech or not used at all.
*The use of the pronoun is vanishing and is now only heard of on the Eastern side of the country.
Synchronic analysis of Chilean and River Plate verbal voseos
The traditional assumption that Chilean and River Plate voseo verb forms are derived from those corresponding to vosotros has been challenged as synchronically inadequate in a Baquero and Westphal article, on the grounds that it requires at least six different rules, including three monophthongization processes that completely lack phonological motivation. Alternatively, the article argues that the Chilean and River Plate voseo verb forms are synchronically derived from underlying representations that coincide with those corresponding to the non-honorific second person singular tú. The proposed theory requires the use of only one special rule in the case of Chilean voseo. This rule plus other rules that are independently justified in the language make it possible to synchronically derive all the Chilean and River Plate voseo verb forms in a straightforward manner. The article additionally solves the problem posed by the alternate verbal forms of Chilean voseo like the future indicative (e.g. bailaríh 'you will dance'), the present indicative forms of haber (habíh and hai 'you have'), and the present indicative of ser (soi, eríh and eréi 'you are'), without resorting to any ad hoc rules. The theoretical framework of the article is that of classic generative phonology.
In some countries, the pronoun vos is used with family and friends (T-form), like tú in other varieties of Spanish, and contrasts with the respectful usted (V-form) which is used with strangers, elderly and people of higher socioeconomic status; appropriate usage varies by dialect. In Central America, vos can be used among those considered equals, while usted maintains its respectful usage. In Ladino, the pronoun usted is completely absent, so the use of vos with strangers and elders is the standard.
Voseo was long considered a reprehensible practice by prescriptivist grammarians (with the idea that only Castilian Spanish was good Spanish), but it is now regarded simply as a local variant.
- Similar trends of personal pronouns in Portuguese
- Spanish dialects and varieties
- Spanish verbs
- T–V distinction#Romance languages
- degruyter.com; Ana María Díaz Collazos, Desarrollo sociolingüístico del voseo en Colombia.
- Miranda, Stewart (1999). The Spanish Language Today. Routledge. p. 125. ISBN 0-415-14258-X.
- Raymundo Del Pueyo A New Spanish Grammar, or the Elements of the Spanish Language (London: F. Wingrave, 1792) 159; The book is online at Google Books at: https://books.google.com/books?id=NekRAAAAIAAJ&printsec=toc&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0#PPP9,M1
- Luizete Guimarães Barros. 1990. Lengua y nación en la Gramática de Bello. Anuario brasileño de estudios hispánicos.
- (Spanish) Lapesa Melgar, Rafael. 1970. "Las formas verbales de segunda persona y los orígenes del voseo", in: Carlos H. Magis (ed.), Actas del III Congreso de la Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas (México, D.F., 26-31 Aug 1968). México: Colegio de México, 519-531.
- (Spanish) García de Diego, Vicente.  1981. Gramática histórica española. (3rd edition; 1st edition 1951, 2nd edition 1961, 3rd edition 1970, 1st reprint 1981.) Madrid: Gredos, 227-229.
- -ides did not produce -íes because -iés and íes were already in use as Imperfect forms, cf. García de Diego ( 1981: 228) and Lapesa (1970: 526).
- See for example in Real Academia Española Dictionary, mentir or preocupar, where mentís and preocupás are present, but mintás and preocupés are missing.
- Susana V. Rivera-Mills. "Use of Voseo and Latino Identity: An Intergenerational Study of Hondurans and Salvadorans in the western region of the U.S." (PDF). Oregon State University.
- Martha D. Ortiz. "El voseo en El Salvador". Scholarworks.sjsu.edu.
- John M. Lipski. "El español que se habla en El Salvador y su importancia para la dialectología hispanoamericana" (PDF) (in Spanish). The Pennsylvania State University.
- revistas.unal.edu.co: Julia M. Baquero and Germán F. Westphal (2014) "Un análisis sincrónico del voseo verbal chileno y rioplatense." Forma y Función, 27 (2), 11-40.
- (Spanish) Díaz Collazos, Ana María. Desarrollo sociolingüístico del voseo en la región andina de Colombia.
- (Spanish) El voseo at Spanish Wikibooks
- (French) Le Voseo
- (Spanish) Voseo at the Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of Doubts (Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas). Royal Spanish Academy (Real Academia Española) (2005)
- (Spanish) Voseo Spanish Site dedicated to teaching Argentine Voseo usage
- (Spanish) Baquero, Julia M. and Westphal, Germán F. (2014) "Un análisis sincrónico del voseo verbal chileno y rioplatense.” Forma y Función, 27 (2), 11-40."
- (Spanish) Carricaburo. Norma Beatriz (2003). El voseo en la historia y en la lengua de hoy - Las fórmulas de tratamiento en el español actual
- (Spanish) Hotta. Hideo (2000). La estandarización y el regionalismo en el voseo del español argentino
- (Spanish) Roca, Luis Alberto (2007). Breve historia del habla cruceña y su mestizaje
- (Spanish) Rosenblat, Ángel (2000). El castellano en Venezuela
- (Spanish) Toursinov, Antón (2005). Formas pronominales de tratamiento en el español actual de Guatemala