Spanish in Argentina – Pronunciation, Intonation, and Argentina Vos Form

Argentine Spanish, Feature — By


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Argentine Castellano, or better said, caste-SH-ano, is significantly different from all other forms of Castellano (which means the Spanish language).    If you have come here to learn Spanish, be aware that there are many differences, and you will be learning a Spanish that differs a lot from Spanish spoken in all other countries.  That being said, it is still the same language, so it is not a bad thing to learn it here (also note that what I describe here is Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires – there is some variation across the country, which I do not get into in the description below).

There are two major differences in Argentine Castellano that distinguish it from the Castellano spoken in other countries.  These differences are the intonation, and the accent.

1- Intonation – the main reason the Argentine intonation is so different is because of the use of the Vos form.

Vos should not be confused with Vosotros.  In Argentina, when speaking using the 2nd person singular form, they use “Vos” instead of using “Tú” as is used in all other forms of castellano.  This Vos form is conjugated differently.
–  When using Vos, the stress comes on the last syllable of the verb, and for this reason, an accent has to be added.  Ex. Vos hablás – Tú hablas.  Vos cumplís – tú cumples.  Vos comés – tú comes.
–  The Vos form does not do the stem changes that the Tu form does  Ex.  Vos almorzás Tú almuerzas.  Vos querés – Tú quieres.  Vos pedís – Tú pides
**Important note – this difference only exists in the present.  The past, future, subjunctive, are all the same as the Tú form, although they still say Vos.  Ex. Vos fuiste

Commands – also change the intonation of Argentinian castellano.  A normal Tu (informal) command from castellano spoken in other countries has the stress on the 2nd to last syllable (assuming no direct or indirect object pronouns are used):  calla, manda, come, escribe.  In the Vos command form, similar to the present conjugation of verbs, the stress is on the last syllable: callá, mandá, comé, escribí.   Of course, most commands usually have a pronoun attached, so here are some comparison examples of how the commands change.

Other Countries    Argentina
mándamelo               mandámelo
ábrelo                        abrilo
cómelo                      comelo

The other thing to note with argentinian commands, is that they don´t have any irregular commands.   The ones that are irregular in other forms of castellano are regular in argentine.

Other Countries    Argentina
di                               decí
ven                             vení
haz                             hacé

Notice that with the Argentine command form, all you need to do is drop the r, and add an accent.  Really, it is easier than the tú commands.

The location of the stress of the vos form makes a big change in the intonation when speaking Spanish.  However, the intonation is also different here because of the countries Italian roots.  Remember, nearly half the population has Italian roots, and at one point, there were a large amount of Italian immigrants in Argentina.  If you´ve ever heard someone speak Italian, you know their intonation goes way up, and way down, various times in one sentence.  The argentines speak someone like that, way more so than Spanish speakers from other countries.

2- Accent – The Argentine accent is significantly different, namely the “shh” sound.  In Castellano, a “ll” o “y” make a “ye” sound.  This varies from country to country.  For example, in Columbia it is more of a “je” sound.  Here in Argentina, and more specifically Buenos Aires, it is a “sh” sound.  Hence, what you would pronounce “caste-YA-no” in Spain, here is pronounced “caste-SHa-no.”  The verb llegar in Spain is pronounced “Yay-gar” and here is pronounced “Shay-gar.” (note also that there is variation even within Buenos Aires – sometimes the -sh- is pronounced as -zh-…this variation occurs both across speakers and within individual speakers)

So there you have it.  You now know why Argentine Spanish sounds so much different, and now you know how to speak proper Argentine🙂 Next step is to learn the Argentine slang and expressions!

Questions….comments?   Let me know!

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13 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    Que grande, che! Buena explicacion de la manera de hablar portena. Sos Gardel!

  2. jose says:

    excelente!

    te falta decir que no utilizamos tiempos pasados perfectos, solo utilizamos pasado simple.

  3. DiegoMalingo says:

    Hola Jose, tienes razón. Mas adelante lo agregaré a esta pagina 🙂

  4. Interesante explicacion. Solo faltaria aumentar las expresiones caracteristicas de la manera de hablar portena.

  5. LoboSolo says:

    The “sh” for “ll” is definitely Buenos Aires … I have friends in Misisones and it sounds like “y” there but when some people visited from BA, it was “sh” and confusing the heck out of me! lol

  6. angel says:

    I love this website. 100 % white light

  7. NickinBA says:

    (sorry, that last one was wrong!)

    i wrote this today, please give it a read! it is about getting to grips with argentine language, so i feel it’s pretty relevant!!

    http://www.expanish.com/blog/2011/08/differences-between-argentinean-spanish-and-castilian-spanish/

  8. Amanda says:

    Is the accent in Buenos Aires the same accent in all of Argentina? When I say accent I mean the intonation…like it’s very Italian sounding in Buenos Aires and it’s really strong. Is it like that in the other provinces too?

  9. Matt says:

    Hi Amanda,
    The accent and intonation change depending on the region of Argentina. The dialect in and around Buenos Aires is the one that demonstrates the greatest influence of the Italian intonation.
    – Matt

  10. Fred says:

    Do Argentinians still understand European Spanish?

  11. Matt says:

    Yes. While there are several differences in the Spanish (things like words, expressions, accent and intonation), people from Spain understand people from Argentina and vice versa. The two dialects are not so different that they aren’t understood.

  12. Dorothy says:

    Añado a un buen trabajo solo que esta manera de hablar que describe es muy de Buenos Aires y sus alrededores y de Uruguay, especialmente en los urbes. En el campo, en las pampas, la lingüística de B.A. varia bastante. Argentina no es Buenos Aires.

  13. Diego says:

    Tenés razón, gracias por señalarlo. He cambiado el artículo para que esté claro que así hablan los porteños, pero no necesariamente gente de otras regiones de argentina.

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