The role of the city in the formation of Spanish American dialect zones
John M. Lipski
The Pennsylvania State University
1. IntroductionFive hundred years ago, a rather homogeneous variety of Spanish spoken by a fewthousand settlers was scattered across two continents. Although many regional languages werespoken in 15
century Spain (and most are still spoken even today), only Castilian made its wayto the Americas, in itself a remarkable development. More remarkable still is the regional andsocial variation which characterizes modern Latin American Spanish; some of the differencesamong Latin American Spanish dialects are reflected in dialect divisions in contemporary Spain,while others are unprecedented across the Atlantic. Some practical examples of this diversityare:
In at least some part of every Latin American nation except for Puerto Rico and theDominican Republic, the pronoun
is used instead of or in competition with
forfamiliar usage; at least six different sets of verbal endings accompany
is not used in any variety of Peninsular Spanish, nor has it been used formore than 300 years.
In the Caribbean, much of Central America, the entire Pacific coast of South America,the Rio de la Plata nations, and a few areas of Mexico, syllable- and word-finalconsonants are weakened or lost, especially final [s]. In interior highland areas of Mexico, Guatemala, and the Andean zone of South America, final consonants aretenaciously retained, while unstressed vowels are often lost, thus making
. Such vowel-weak pronunciation is nonexistent inSpain, while loss of final consonants is found in many parts of that country.
In the Antilles (Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic) and sporadically in otherCaribbean nations, non-inverted questions of the sort
¿Qué tú quieres? ¿Dónde usted vive?
are common, while being virtually unknown in other Latin American dialects. InSpain, such constructions are almost never heard, except occasionally in Galicia (underthe influence of Galician), and the Canary Islands (where the Galician influence was onceprominent).
In the same Caribbean Spanish dialects and a few others, normative expressions with thesubjunctive are replaced by the combination
, soundingsuspiciously like "errors" committed by English speakers learning Spanish:
antes de yovenir aquí, para nosotros llegar al centro
, etc. This construction is only sporadicallyattested in Spain, typically in Galician-influenced areas.
Direct object pronouns exhibit great variety when accompanying direct object nouns andpronouns. Thus, while all Spanish dialects allow (even require)
lo conozco a él
),Southern Cone dialects also allow
lo conozco a Juan
, while Andean and some otherdialects further allow
lo conozco el museo
, with a non-animate direct object. AmongAndean speakers for whom Spanish is a second language, non-agreeing
may also beused:
lo veo las casas
. In Spain, only pronominal direct objects allow doubled cliticpronouns:
le conozco a él
2. The sources of dialect differentiationIn accounting for dialect diversification in Latin American Spanish, three main factorscome into play. The first is the Peninsular roots of Latin American Spanish, meaning the