What makes the Spanish of Argentina unique?
I figured it was time for me to write specifically about language, considering I’m a Spanish major who’s always been fascinated by linguistics. The dialect of Spanish spoken in Argentina (I should really say “dialects”, because they’re even different from province to province) is distinct in many ways from the dialects of other Spanish-speaking countries.
One of the first things many people notice about Argentine Spanish is the intonation. Vowels tend to be elongated and the syllables in a word may vary quite a bit in pitch. This is likely due to the considerable Italian influence in the country, but there may be other contributing factors. (See the video at the end of this entry for an example of what I’m talking about.)
Another aspect that distinguishes the Argentine variety from other countries’ is its vocabulary, which comes from a range of sources. To give just a few examples, you’ll hear: “auto” (car) instead of “coche”; “laburar” (to work) instead of “trabajar”; and “plata” (money) instead of “dinero”. It takes a bit to get used to, but because these words are used so often, they feel perfectly natural now.
Additionally, as in many Latin American countries, there is a large number of borrowings from English in everyday use. Some of these include: shopping (used to mean “mall”), outfit, ticket, show, sale, casual, CD, hockey, cupcake and freezer, many of which were originally borrowed into English from other languages.
Some words and phrases describe things that simply do not exist in the United States. One example came up just last night, when my host mom told me she was going to a “ruidazo”, which is a sort of demonstration where people bang on pots and pans as a form of political protest. Another term is “mantero”, which is a person who sells handmade goods displayed on an open blanket.
The last example I wanted to mention is “mufa”, which is particular to Buenos Aires but known elsewhere in Argentina. A mufa is someone who is believed to bring bad luck to those around him/her. There is a whole ritual involved with this concept: if a woman encounters a mufa, she is to place her hand over her left breast; if a man encounters one, he is to put his hand over his left testicle, as to protect themselves. Trust me, I checked with several people to make sure this was actually a thing, and it is. Obviously not everyone believes in it, but it’s common enough that whole movies have been made about it (for example, La suerte está echada).
Looking at the example above, at the number of English borrowings, at the Italian-influenced intonation, and every other aspect of Spanish in Argentina, we see that language and culture cannot be separated; rather, they reflect and change with each other, although language tends to take more time to catch up (e.g. We still say “sunrise” and “sunset” even though we know it is the earth that moves, not the sun).
I could write pages and pages more about phonetics, syntax, morphology and semantics, but I’ll spare you the boredom.