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Chilean Spanish

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Chilean Spanish

Chilean Spanish (Spanish: español chileno, español de Chile or castellano de Chile) is any of several varieties of Spanish spoken in most of Chile. Chilean Spanish dialects have distinctive pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and slang usage that differ from those of standard Spanish[1]


  • Variation and accents 1
  • Phonetics and phonology 2
  • Syntax and grammar 3
  • Pronouns and verbs 4
    • Ser 4.1
    • Conjugation 4.2
  • Vocabulary 5
    • Coa and Lunfardo expressions 5.1
    • Mapudungun loanwords 5.2
    • Quechua loanwords 5.3
    • French, German and English loanwords 5.4
  • Example 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Bibliography 9
  • External links 10

Variation and accents

In Chile, there are not many differences between the Spanish spoken in the Northern, Central and Southern areas of the country, although there are notable differences in zones like Aysén, Magallanes, (mainly in the border with Argentina) Chiloé, or Arica (especially in their accent). There is remarkable variation in the Spanish spoken by different social classes,[2] however. It also has strong influences from the Extremadura Castúo in rural areas from Santiago to Valdivia,[3][4] but some authors point to the province of Andalusia and more specifically Sevilla as the biggest influence in the Chilean Spanish.

Phonetics and phonology

There are a number of phonetic features common to most Chilean accents, though none of them individually are unique to Chilean Spanish.[5] Rather, it is the particular combination of features that sets Chilean Spanish apart from other regional Spanish dialects.[6] These features include:[7][8]

  • Yeísmo, the merger of the phonemes /ʎ/, spelled , with /j/, spelled . Thus, cayó ("fell") and calló ("fell silent") are homophones, both pronounced [kaˈjo]. In dialects which lack yeísmo, the two words would be pronounced respectively [kaˈjo] and [kaˈʎo]. Though yeísmo is common to most of Latin America, it is not the case that this feature should be considered a Latin American one, because both in Spain and Latin America there are regions with and without "yeísmo". Even in Chile, there are some people, mostly elderly speakers in rural zones, that are not "yeístas" .
  • Word- and syllable-final /s/ is aspirated to [h] or lost entirely, another feature common to much of Latin America which is also common to Canary Islands and the southern half of Spain. Whether final /s/ aspirates or is elided depends on a number of social, regional, and phonological factors, but in general aspiration is more common, especially when preceding a consonant. Complete elision is most commonly found word-finally, but is somewhat less common overall in formal or upper-class speech . Thus, los chilenos ("the Chileans") is [lɔh t͡ʃiˈleːnɔ].
  • The velar consonants /k/, /ɡ/, and /x/ are fronted or palatalized before front vowels. Thus, queso ("cheese"), guía ("guide"), and jinete ("rider/horseman") are pronounced respectively [ˈceːso], [ˈɟi.a], and [çiˈn̪eːt̪e].
  • Between vowels and word-finally, /d/ commonly elides or lenites (a process common throughout the Spanish-speaking world; the name of Valparaíso is actually derived from older Valparadiso), so that contado ("told") and ciudad ("city") are respectively [kon̪ˈt̪aːo] and [sjuˈð̞aː]. This is less common in formal or upper-class speech.
  • The voiceless postalveolar affricate /t͡ʃ/ is pronounced as a fricative [ʃ] by many the lower-class speakers (thus, Chile is pronounced [ˈʃiːle]). This type of pronunciation is viewed as very undesirable. Other variants are more fronted, and include an alveolar affricate, [t͡s], and an even more fronted dental affricate, [t̪͡s̪], mostly used by the upper class.
  • The sequences [h]+[β̞], [h]+[ð̞], and [h]+[ɣ̞] (where the [h]s are the results of /s/-aspiration) are devoiced to, respectively, [f], [θ], and [x], identical to Andalusian Spanish. Thus, resbaló ("slid"), desde ('from') and rasgó ("tore") are realized [rɛfaˈloː],[ˈdɛθːe] and [raˈxoː] by some speakers.
  • /s/ in Andean dialect is pronounced [], a sound transitional between [s] and [ʃ], this phonetic trait (unique in the Americas) is to be associated with a large number of northern Spanish settlers in Andean Chile.
  • The sequence /ɾn/ is sometimes assimilated to [nn] in lower-class speakers. Thus, jornada ("workday") may be pronounced [xonˈn̪aː] .
  • In the sequence /bl/, the /b/ may be vocalized to [u]. Thus, inolvidable ("unforgettable") may be [in̪olˈβ̞jaːule], in rural and lower-class urban speakers.
  • Lipski also mentions the devoicing of word-final, unstressed vowels.

Syntax and grammar

  • A common feature of most current Spanish varieties is the limited use of the verb in future form, replaced by the periphrasis "going to + infinitive." For example, a phrase like «iré al cine mañana» (I will go to the cinema tomorrow) is replaced by «voy a ir al cine mañana» (I'm going to go to the cinema tomorrow). The future conjugations are instead used to indicate doubt: «¿será esa la micro que nos sirve?» (“is this/will this be the bus that we need?”); or «ahí viene el Martín con una mochila, me pregunto si traerá lo que le encargué» (“here comes Martín with a backpack - I wonder if he will bring what I asked him to”).
  • As with all of Latin America, in Chile ustedes is used as the second person plural pronoun instead of vosotros, as used in Spain. Ustedes is accompanied by the third person plural verb: «Ustedes saben lo que podría pasar» (“You (plural) know what could happen”).
  • Duplication of the personal pronouns "me", "te", "se", "lo", "la" and "le" before and after the verb is quite common. For example, “I'm going to go” becomes Me voy a irme", “I'm going to give them to you” becomes Te las voy a dártelas. This manner of speaking is considered more common in less educated or lower class people.
  • The Queísmo (when "que" is used instead of "de que") is socially accepted and used in the media, while the Dequeísmo (using "de que" instead of just "que") is avoided.
  • In common speech, the conjugations of the Imperative mood of a small number of verbs tend to be replaced with the indicative singular third person. For example, the imperative of "poner" (to put), "pon", becomes "pone"; the imperative of "hacer" (to do), "haz", becomes "hace"; and the imperative of "salir" (to go out), "sal", becomes "sale". Ex: "Hace lo que te pedí (“Do what I asked”). However, that is not allowed in formal speaking. Chilean Spanish speakers also substitute the imperative of the verb “ir” (to go), "ve" for the imperative of the verb "andar" (to walk), "anda", while "ve" is reserved for the verb "ver" (to see). Ex: Ve la hora (“look at the time”).
  • Another feature to note is the lack of use of the possessive "nuestro" (“our”), usually replaced by "de nosotros" (“of us”). Ex: «ándate a la casa de nosotros» (“go to the house of us”), instead of «ándate a "nuestra" casa» (“go to our house”).
  • It is very common in Chile, as in many other Latin American countries, to use the diminutive suffixes "-ito" and "-ita". They not only mean “little”, as in "perrito" (“little dog”) or "casita" (“little house”), but also have the additional functions of expressing affection, as with "mamita" (“mummy” or “mommy”), or of diminishing the urgency, directness or importance of something, to make something annoying seem more pleasant.[9] So, if someone says "Espérese un momentito" (“Wait a little moment”), it does not mean that the moment will be short, but that the speaker wants to make waiting more palatable while possibly hinting that the moment may turn out to be quite long.

Pronouns and verbs

Chileans scarcely use the voseo and tuteo forms in the second person familiar, as in many Latin American countries.

Verbal voseo is the use of corresponding verb forms (tenís instead of tienes, hablái instead of hablas, etc.).

Voseo is common in Chile, with both Pronominal and Verbal voseo being widely used in the spoken language. However, unlike in neighboring Argentina, neither is deemed acceptable as part of any written document except as reported speech. Voseo of any kind is considered bad linguistic form and generally labels the speaker as unsophisticated, rude or lacking in education.

In Chile there are at least four grades of formality:

1. Pronominal and verbal voseo, that is, the use of the pronoun vos (with the corresponding voseo verbs).
For example: vos sabís, vos venís, vos hablái, etc.
This combination occurs only in very informal situations and should be approached and used with caution by foreigners. It is always considered rude and insulting but is tolerated and enjoyed as part of friendly bonding and banter. However, with even a slight change in intonation it can change from a tone of friendly banter to a form of insult in a heated argument, even among friends. Non-natives should refrain from using vos until sufficient understanding of its use is gained.

2. Verbal voseo, using the pronoun .
For example: tú sabís, tú tenís, tú hablái, tú vivís, etc.
This kind of voseo is the predominant form used in the spoken language.[10] It should never be used in formal situations or with people one is not very familiar with.

3. Standard tuteo.
For example: tú sabes, tú hablas, tú tienes, tú vienes, etc.
This is the only acceptable way of writing the informal second person. Because of this more literary facet, its use in spoken language is reserved for slightly more formal situations such as (some) child-to-parent, teacher-to-student or peer-to-peer relations among people who aren't familiar with each other.

4. The use of the pronoun usted.
For example: usted viene, usted habla, usted tiene, etc.
Used for all business and other formal interactions (e.g. student-to-teacher, but not always teacher-to-student), as well as upwards in situations where one person is considered to be well respected, older or of an obviously higher social standing. Stricter parents will demand this kind of speech from their children as well.

The Chilean voseo conjugation has only three irregular verbs in the indicative present: ser, ir, and haber.


In Chile there are various ways to say "you are" to one person. From the least to the most formal:

Vos soi
Vos erís
Tú soi
Tú erís
Tú eres
Usted es


A comparison of the conjugation of the Chilean voseo, the general voseo used in Latin American countries except Chile, and the tuteo.

Form Indicative Subjunctive
Present Past Conditional Present Past
Voseo (Chile) caminái
Voseo (general) caminás
Tuteo caminas

* Rioplatense Spanish prefers the tuteo forms.


Chilean Spanish has a great deal of distinctive slang and vocabulary. Some examples of distinctive Chilean slang include gallo/a (guy/gal), fome (boring), pololear (to go out as girlfriend/boyfriend),[11] pelambre (gossip), poto (buttocks),[12] quiltro (mutt) and chomba (knitted sweater).[11] In addition, several words in Chilean Spanish are borrowed from neighboring Amerindian languages.

Coa and Lunfardo expressions

Lunfardo is an argot of the Spanish language that originated in the late 19th century among lower classes of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Coa is an argot common among criminals in Chile. It has been heavily influenced by Lunfardo. Examples of Lunfardo and Coa words and phrases in Chilean Spanish are:[13]

  • abacanado - presumptuous
  • agarrados - being in a fight, mad
  • amarrete - stingy, mean
  • arrastre - influential
  • avivarse - to realise
  • bacán - awesome
  • cana - jail
  • chanchada - disloyal act
  • echar la foca (lit. throw the seal/breath) - to severely address someone or express disapproval or disappointment
  • emputecer - getting mad
  • engrupir - to fool someone
  • fiaca - laziness
  • garúa - drizzle
  • gil - fool
  • guacho - bastard / someone or something left alone
  • guasca - whip
  • hacer perro muerto (lit. do a dead dog) - to dine and dash or do something similar
  • malandra - thief
  • mina - woman
  • pucho - a cigarette or cigarette butt
  • vagoneta - loafer
  • tira - undercover police
  • yeta - originally 'bad luck' in Lunfardo, in Chile now means someone who brings bad luck

Mapudungun loanwords

The Mapudungun language has left a relatively small number of words in Chilean Spanish, given its large geographic expanse. Most Mapudungun loans are names for plants and animals for example:[14]

  • cahuín[15] - a rowdy, usually drunken, gathering, also malicious or slanderous gossip
  • copihue - Chile's national flower
  • culpeo - a fox species.
  • luma - a native tree species known for its extremely hard wood, also a police baton (historically made from luma wood in Chile)

Quechua loanwords

The Quechua language is probably the Amerindian language that has given Chilean Spanish the largest number of loan words. For example, the names of many American vegetables in Chilean Spanish are derived from Quechuan names, rather than from Nahuatl or Taíno as in Standard Spanish. Some of the words of Quechuan origin include:[14]

  • callampa - "mushroom" (Quechua k'allampa,[16] seta in Castilian Spanish) or penis
  • cancha - field, pitch, slope (ski), runway (aviation), running track, court (tennis, basketball)[15] (Quechua kancha)[16]
  • chacra - a small farm[15] (Quechua chakra)[16]
  • chala - "sandal"[15] (sandalia in Standard Spanish)
  • chasca - "tassle" can also be diminutized to "chasquilla" which means bangs (of hair)
  • china - a female servant in a hacienda or fundo[15]
  • choclo - "maize/corn" (Quechua chuqllu,[16] maíz in Standard Spanish)
  • chúcaro - "spirited/wild" used traditionally by guasos to refer to a horse
  • chupalla - a type of hat[15]
  • chupe - "soup/chowder" (Quechua chupi)[16]
  • cocaví - "snack/lunch" or "picnic" (from coca)
  • cochayuyo - a type of seaweed[15] (Quechua qucha yuyu)[16]
  • guagua - "child, baby" (Quechua wawa,[16] niño, bebé in Standard Spanish)
  • guanaco - a native camelid animal (Quechua wanaku)[16]
  • huacho - an orphan or illegitimate children. also used as an adjective meaning 'lone' or 'without a pair', as in a matchless sock
  • huaso - a country bumpkin or horseman[15]
  • huincha - a strip of wool or cotton or a tape measure, also used for adhesive tape (Quechua wincha)[16]
  • humita - an Andean dish similar to the Mexican Tamale (Quechua humint'a, jumint'a).[16][17] Also a bow tie.
  • mate - an infusion made of yerba mate
  • mote - a type of dried wheat (Quechua mut'i)[16]
  • palta - "avocado" (aguacate in varieties of Spanish that derive the name from Nahuatl)
  • poroto - "bean" (judía/alubia in Castilian Spanish and frijol in Mexico and Central America, Quechua purutu)[16]
  • yapa or llapa - lagniappe
  • zapallo - "squash/pumpkin" (calabaza in Castilian Spanish, Quechua sapallu)[16]

French, German and English loanwords

There are some expressions of non-Hispanic European origin such as British, German or French. They came with the arrival of the European immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries. There is also a certain influence from the mass media.

  • bifé - piece of furniture, from French buffet.
  • bistec or bisté - meat, from English 'beefsteak'.
  • budín - pudding, from the English 'pudding'.
  • chutear - to shoot, from English 'shoot'.
  • clóset - closet, from English 'closet'.
  • confort - toilet paper, from French confort; a brand name for toilet paper.[18]
  • hacer zaping - to change channel whilst watching TV, from English 'to zap'.
  • jaibón - upper class, from English 'high born'.
  • kuchen or cujen - A kind of fruit cake, from German Kuchen.
  • lobear - to lobby, from English 'to lobby'.
  • livin - living room, from English 'living room'.
  • lumpen - lower class people, from German Lumpenproletariat.
  • lukear or luquear - to look, from English 'to look'.
  • marraqueta - a kind of bread, from French Marraquette, surname of the Frenchmen who invented it.
  • panqueque - pancake, from English 'pancake'.
  • overol - overall, from English 'overall'.
  • short - short trousers, from English 'short trousers'.
  • strudel or estrudel - dessert, from German Strudel, a typical German and Austrian dessert.
  • vestón - jacket, from French veste.


An example of a text in normal, carefully spoken Latin American Spanish and the same text with very relaxed pronunciation in informal Chilean Spanish of lower class people:[19]

Text ¡Cómo corrieron los chilenos Salas y Zamorano! Pelearon como leones. Chocaron una y otra vez contra la defensa azul. ¡Qué gentío llenaba el estadio! En verdad fue una jornada inolvidable. Ajustado cabezazo de Salas y ¡gol! Al celebrar [Salas] resbaló y se rasgó la camiseta.
("Standard" Latin American Spanish)
[ˈkomo koˈrjeɾon los tʃiˈlenos ˈsalas i samoˈɾano | peleˈaɾoŋ ˈkomo ˈle‿ones | tʃoˈkaɾon ˈuna j‿ˈot̪ɾa ˈβ̞es ˈkon̪t̪ɾa la ð̞eˈfens aˈsul | ˈke xen̪ˈt̪io ʝeˈnaβ̞a‿el esˈt̪að̞jo | em beɾˈð̞að̞ ˈfwe‿una xoɾˈnað̞a‿inolβ̞iˈð̞aβ̞le | axusˈt̪að̞o kaβ̞eˈsaso ð̞e ˈsalas i ˈɣ̞ol | al seleˈβ̞ɾaɾ rezβ̞aˈlo‿i se razˈɣ̞o la kamiˈset̪a]
(Chilean Spanish)
[ˈkoːmo kɔˈr̥jeːɾon̪ lɔh ʃiˈleːn̪o ˈsaːla‿i samoˈɾaːn̪o | peˈljaːɾoŋ komo ˈljoːn̪ɛh | ʃoˈkaːɾon̪ ˈuːn̪a j‿ot͡ɹ̝̥a ˈβ̞eːh kon̪t͡ɹ̝̥a la‿eˈfeːns aˈsuːl | ˈceː çen̪ˈt̪iːo jeˈn̪aː‿el eˈʰt̪aːð̞jo | ʔem bɛɾˈð̞aː ˈfweː‿un̪a xonˈn̪aː‿in̪olˈβ̞iaːule | ʔaxuˈʰt̪aːo kaβeˈsaːso‿e ˈsaːla‿i ˈɣ̞oːl | ʔal seleˈβ̞ɾaː r̥ɛfaˈloː‿i se r̥aˈxoː la kamiˈseːt̪a]
Translation "How those Chileans

See also


  1. ^ Miguel Ángel Bastenier, "Neologismos y barbarismos en el español de dos océanos", El País, 19 July 2014, retrieved 20 July 2014. "...el chileno es un producto genuino e inimitable por el resto del universo lingüístico del español."
  2. ^ CLASES SOCIALES, LENGUAJE Y SOCIALIZACION Basil Bernstein, retrieved June 25, 2013
  3. ^ "CHILE - Vozdemitierra" (in Español). Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  4. ^ "Extremadura en América - Diez mil extremeños - Biblioteca Virtual Extremeña". Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  5. ^ EL ESPAÑOL EN AMÉRICA cvc.cervantes.e - JESÚS SÁNCHEZ LOBATO - page 553-570
  6. ^ Language of Chile: Chileanismos, Castellano and indigenous roots - February 22, 2011, retrieved August 08,2013
  7. ^ Lipski (1994: 199-201)
  8. ^ Sáez Godoy, Leopoldo. "El dialecto más austral del español: fonética del español de Chile". Unidad y divesidad del español, Congreso de Valladolid. Centro Virtual Cervantes. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  9. ^ Chilean Spanish & Chileanisms retrieved June 27, 2013
  10. ^ Lipski (1994: 201-2)
  11. ^ a b "Real Academia Española". Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  12. ^ Lipski (1994: 203)
  13. ^ Joelson, Daniel. Chilenismos : a dictionary and phrasebook for Chilean Spanish. 
  14. ^ a b Zúñiga, Fernando (2006-06-11). "Tras la huella del Mapudungun". El Mercurio (in Spanish). Centro de Estudios Publicos. Retrieved 2007-11-12. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Correa Mujica, Miguel (2001). "Influencias de las lenguas indígenas en el español de Chile". Espéculo. Revista de estudios literarios. (in Spanish). Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Retrieved 2009-05-31. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Teofilo Laime Ajacopa, Diccionario Bilingüe Iskay simipi yuyayk'ancha, La Paz, 2007 (Quechua-Spanish dictionary)
  17. ^ Diccionario Quechua - Español - Quechua, Academía Mayor de la Lengua Quechua, Gobierno Regional Cusco, Cusco 2005 (Quechua-Spanish dictionary)
  18. ^ 
  19. ^ Marcela Rivadeneira Valenzuela. "El Voseo En Medios de Comunicacion de Chile." (PDF) (in Español). Retrieved 2010-12-10.  Pages 82-83.


  • Lipski, John M. (1994). Latin American Spanish. Essex, England: Longman Group Limited.

External links

  • (Spanish) Diccionario de Modismos Chilenos - Comprehensive "Dictionary of Chilean Terms".
  • Pepe's Chile Chilean Slang - basic list of Chilean slang/unique colloquialisms.
  • Contact Chile Chilean Spanish - short guide to Chilean Spanish.
  • Jergas de habla hispana Spanish dictionary specializing in slang and colloquial expressions, featuring all Spanish-speaking countries, including Chile.
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