The dialect of Spanish spoken in and around Buenos Aires, Argentina is known as Rioplatense or River Plate Spanish. The dialect’s sphere of influence extends to other major cities within the River Plate region including La Plata, Santa Fe, Rosario, Paraná and Mar del Plata in Argentina, and Montevideo in Uruguay. While significant dialectical differences exist between the Spanish spoken in the various regions of Argentina, most foreigners equate “Argentine Spanish” with the Rioplatense version.
The following linguistic features set Rioplatense Spanish apart from other dialects spoken in Latin America and Spain.
Voseo. In Rioplatense Spanish, the second person singular pronoun tú is completely replaced by vos, a linguistic phenomenon known as voseo. The conjugation of the second person form in the present indicative tense and the imperative mood also changes [Example: tú hablas (you speak) becomes vos hablás, dime tu nombre (tell me your name) becomes decime tu nombre]. Click here for more information on voseo.
Rehilamiento or sheísmo. The linguistic feature known as rehilamiento or sheísmo refers to a characteristic of Rioplatense Spanish in which the sounds “ll” and “y” are pronounced as [ʃ] or [ʒ] (like the sounds in the English words mission and measure). As a result, the word pollo (chicken) is pronounced “po-sho” or “po-zho” while playa (beach) sounds like “plah-sha” or “pla-zha.”
Appearance of numerous European loanwords. The great wave of European immigration to Argentina at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century led to the incorporation of a number of loanwords from Italian, French, German and English. Traces of Italian are particularly noticeable in everyday words, e.g. morfi (food).
Unique intonation influenced by Italian. Italian also left its mark on the Rioplatense dialect in terms of speakers’ unique intonation. Many people describe the sound of Rioplatense Spanish as Spanish spoken with an Italian accent.
Aspiration of the letter “s” at the end of a syllable. The letter “s” often seems to disappear in Rioplatense Spanish [Example: the word “fresco” is pronounced “freh-ko”]. Some linguists feel that this feature of the dialect is attributable to the influence of Italian as well.
Use of Lunfardo. Rioplatense Spanish is peppered with numerous words and phrases from the colorful slang known as Lunfardo. One of the features of Lunfardo is the use of vesre, a form of wordplay that reverses the order of syllables in a word [Example: café → feca (coffee)].
Influence of indigenous languages such as Araucano, Quechua and Guaraní. The languages of the various indigenous peoples of Argentina have shaped the Spanish language in this country. Examples of indigenous words that have entered into Rioplatense Spanish are the word tambo meaning dairy farm, which comes from Quechua, and the Araucano word laucha meaning mouse.