The standard variety of Spanish that is usually taught in classroom settings is otherwise known as Castellano or Español. However in many parts of Latin America, the standard variety is commonly accepted as Castellano, rather than Español. Apart from the standard variety, other Spanish dialects or varieties are also present due to geographical reasons. This does not mean that such dialects are inferior. These non-standard (instead of sub-standard) varieties usually differ in terms of pronunciation and vocabulary while grammar remains intact to a large extent. The different pronunciation and vocabulary merely reflect a different linguistic environment that has shifted away from the linguistic environment that adopts the standard variety.

Languages are subject to change overtime and the linguistic environment and speakers play a major role in influencing language use. Written Spanish does not differ amongst different speakers and the different spoken forms are not portrayed too. Differences can be found between European Spanish and Spanish America. Furthermore, there are also differences within European Spanish and Spanish America respectively. The different varieties that adopt Spanish America can be generally categorized into Mexican, Caribbean, Andrean Pacific (Cuba, Panama), Plata River (Peru, Colombia), Chilean and Central American (similar to Caribbean).

Despite an array of contrasts within the Spanish dialects, there is one extremely striking feature that allows listeners to tell Spanish speakers apart. This is usually known as the maintenance versus the loss of distinguishing these two phonemes /θ/ and /s/. The contrast between these historical phonemes /θ/ and /s/ is retained in northern and central Spain whereas these two phonemes have merged in Spanish America and a huge part of southern Spain. The maintenance of such a contrast is referred to as distinción in Spanish. Speakers of Spanish America produce the merged phoneme as [s] while on the Canary Islands, speakers produce it as either [s] or [], which is unlike /θ/.


cinco “five”
ciudad “city”

<to be continued…>

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