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Central American Spanish

Central American Spanish

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Encyclopedia
Central American Spanish (Spanish: español centroamericano) is the general name of the Spanish language
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 dialect
Dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

s spoken in Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

. More precisely, the term refers to the Spanish language as spoken in Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica , officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east....

, El Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

, Guatemala
Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

, Honduras
Honduras
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

, Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

, and Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

.

Variation


While most vocabulary is common, each country has its variations, for instance, for "corner store" and "soft drink": In Guatemala
Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

, they are tienda and agua (water is agua pura). In El Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

, they are tienda and gaseosa. In Honduras
Honduras
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

, they are pulpería (in the north called trucha informally) and fresco. In Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

, they are venta or pulpería and gaseosa. In Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica , officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east....

, they are pulpería and gaseosa although they could also be abastecedor and refresco or fresco,in Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

 they are "abarrote" and "chicha".

Phonetics and phonology


Some characteristics of Central American phonology
Phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

 include:
  • /s/ at the end of a syllable or before a consonant is pronounced like [h], except in Guatemala and in Costa Rica.
  • j (/x/), is aspirated except in some areas of Costa Rica; it is soft as the /h/ in English (e.g.: Yahoo).

  • Use of seseo.

Voseo


The most common form for the second person singular in Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

 is vos
Voseo
Voseo is the use of the second person singular pronoun vos in many dialects of Spanish. In dialects that have it, it is used either instead of tú, or alongside it....

 . However, usted is the dominant second person singular pronoun in Costa Rican Spanish
Costa Rican Spanish
Costa Rican Spanish is the form of Spanish language spoken in Costa Rica.-Phonetics:The unique or distinguishing characteristics of Costa Rican phonetics include the following:...

. There are Costa Rican speakers who use only usted in addressing others, and never vos or tu. Another important detail is that in Panama, the form "tú" is used instead since this country has been always closer to Caribbean Spanish than Central American Spanish. Vos is usually spoken more in El Salvador and Nicaragua.
People say "Vení" for "Come here" or "Pedí tu cosa" for "Order your thing" (see picture).

The imperative
Imperative mood
The imperative mood expresses commands or requests as a grammatical mood. These commands or requests urge the audience to act a certain way. It also may signal a prohibition, permission, or any other kind of exhortation.- Morphology :...

 is formed by dropping the final -R of the infinitive, and then adding an acute accent to the final vowel to retain the stress.
Verb Meaning Vos
ser "to be"
ir "to go" andá
hablar "to speak" hablá
callar "to become silent" callá
soltar "to release/let go" soltá
comer "to eat" comé
mover "to move" mové
venir "to come" vení
poner "to put" poné
salir "to leave" salí
tener "to have" tené
decir "to say" decí
pedir "to ask/order" pedí


The only irregular conjugation in the imperative is the verb ir and ser.

The conjugation of the present tense follows the pattern of replacing the final -R of the infinitive with an -S and adding an acute accent to the previous vowel.
Infinitive Vos
oir oís oyes
venir venís vienes
decir decís dices
dormir dormís duermes
sentir sentís sientes
salir salís sales
concluir concluís concluyes
poder podés puedes
querer querés quieres
mover movés mueves
tener tenés tienes
pensar pensás piensas
contar contás cuentas
jugar jugás juegas
cantar cantás cantas
errar errás erras


Note how the conjugation of vos presents less irregularities compared to tú.

The main difference of the voseo
Voseo
Voseo is the use of the second person singular pronoun vos in many dialects of Spanish. In dialects that have it, it is used either instead of tú, or alongside it....

 in Argentina is the conjugation of the subjunctive. Rioplatense Spanish prefers the subjunctive forms of tú, whereas in Central America, the vos forms are retained.

The pronoun usted is used when addressing older, unfamiliar or respected persons, as it is in all Spanish countries; however, in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras it is frequently used with younger people, and in Honduras between husband and wife, and friends. In Nicaragua, the pronoun is only used among youth during special or formal occasions or when addressing unfamiliar individuals in a formal manner. It's also used with most, if not all, profanities familiar to the region.

The use of tú in Costa Rica is considered pedantic except in the south, where it is preferred.

Pronouns and verb conjugation


As previously mentioned, one of the features of the Central American speaking style is the voseo
Voseo
Voseo is the use of the second person singular pronoun vos in many dialects of Spanish. In dialects that have it, it is used either instead of tú, or alongside it....

: the usage of the pronoun vos for the second person singular, instead of tú. In some Spanish-speaking regions where voseo is used, it is sometimes considered a non-standard lower-class sociolectic or regional variant, whereas in other regions 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.

Some people prefer to say "tú" instead of "vos" but conjugating the verbs using the vos forms; for instance: tú cantás, tú bailás, tú podés, etc.

The second person plural pronoun, which is vosotros in Spain, is replaced with ustedes in C. American Spanish, like 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
T-V distinction
In sociolinguistics, a T–V distinction is a contrast, within one language, between second-person pronouns that are specialized for varying levels of politeness, social distance, courtesy, familiarity, or insult toward the addressee....

). Ustedes takes a grammatically third person plural verb.

As an example, see the conjugation table for the verb amar in the present tense, indicative mode:
Inflection of amar
Person/Number Peninsular C. American
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

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
Root (linguistics)
The root word is the primary lexical unit of a word, and of a word family , which carries the most significant aspects of semantic content and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents....

:
Inflection of perder
Peninsular C. American
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 Central American vos employs the same form: instead of tú vives, vos vivís; instead of tú vienes, vos venís (note the alternation).

The imperative forms for vos are identical to the plural imperative forms in Peninsular minus the final -d (stress remains the same):
  • Hablá más alto, 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, most speakers use the classical vos conjugation, employing the vosotros form minus the i in the final diphthong. However, some prefer to use the tú subjunctive forms.
  • 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
Preterite
The preterite is the grammatical tense expressing actions that took place or were completed in the past...

, 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)

Usage


In the old times, vos was used as a respectful term. In C. American Spanish, as in most other dialects which employ voseo, this pronoun has become informal, displacing tú. It is used especially for addressing friends and family members (regardless of age), but may also include most acquaintances, such as coworkers, friends of one's friends, etc.

Usage of tenses



Although literary works use the full spectrum of verb inflections, in C. American Spanish (as well as many other Spanish dialects), the future tense has been replaced by a verbal phrase (periphrasis
Periphrasis
In linguistics, periphrasis is a device by which a grammatical category or grammatical relationship is expressed by a free morpheme , instead of being shown by inflection or derivation...

) in the spoken language.

This verb phrase is formed by the verb ir ("go") followed by the preposition a and the main verb in the infinitive. This is akin to the English phrase going to + infinitive verb. For example:
  • Creo que descansaré un poco → Creo que voy a descansar un poco
  • Mañana me visitará mi madre → Mañana me va a visitar mi madre
  • Iré a visitarla mañana → Voy a ir a visitarla mañana


The present perfect (Spanish: Pretérito perfecto compuesto), just like pretérito anterior, is rarely used, so it's replaced by simple past.
  • Juan no ha llegado → Juan no llegó todavía
  • El torneo ha comenzado → El torneo comenzó

Lexicon


There are also many words unique to Central America, for example, chunche or chochadas means thing or stuff in some places. Also the words used to describe children (or kids) is different in various countries, for example in Nicaragua they are called chavalos (similar to chavales in Spain); or sipotes; while in Guatemala they are called patojos. In Honduras they're called güirros, chigüin, and cipotes
Cipitio
Cipitio is a legendary character found in salvadoran folklore. He is generally portrayed as a 10 year old boy with a big hat and a large belly. His name is taken from the Nawat word for child: "Cipit" or "Cipote"...

 is used in both Honduras and El Salvador, while in Costa Rica they are called güilas or carajillos. In Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador money is called pisto, a term originally used by Maya peoples
Maya peoples
The Maya people constitute a diverse range of the Native American people of southern Mexico and northern Central America. The overarching term "Maya" is a collective designation to include the peoples of the region who share some degree of cultural and linguistic heritage; however, the term...

 in Guatemala.. In addition, chucho in El Salvador means dog.

External links


See also



  • Spanish dialects and varieties
    Spanish dialects and varieties
    Spanish dialects and varieties are the regional variants of the Spanish language, some of which are quite divergent from one another, especially in pronunciation and vocabulary, and less so in grammar....

  • Caliche