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Central American variants of the Spanish language

Written by admin on . Posted in Central America, Marketing

Central America´s Spanish language.

Central America´s Spanish language.

Spanish has many ways of being expressed, in which typical phrases in a region or idioms related to a certain country develop, as is the case of “Cubanismos,” in Cuba. This article highlights the variants of Spanish in Central America, and gives you some reasons as to why Central Americans, with their peculiar accent, are distinct.

Phonological Aspects

The /s/ at the end of a syllable is said as an /h/, and is most stressed in Nicaragua, less so in certain areas of Guatemala and Costa Rica.  This is the “final breath s,” as pronounced in Andalusia, and now, according to the erudite philologist Rafael Lapesa, it is also highly spread throughout various Castilian-La Mancha regions. In some parts of El Salvador, it has a whistling sound.

In Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador, the phonemes /rr/ and /r/ are vigorously vibrated with the tongue, the “rr’s” particularly strong, multiplying the /rr/ phoneme characteristic of the standard peninsular Castilian, and many Latin American countries. In certain areas of Guatemala and Costa Rica, the allophone /rr/ is the fricative variant [ɹ], which is to say, the “rr” has similarities to northern Spain’s [ɹ], like in Navarra, la Rioja, el País Vasco, and areas of Aragón, also in the interiors of Ecuador and Perú, and nearly all of Bolivia.

The muffled occlusive often changes from bilabial to blurred: from “aceptar” to “acectar,” or “concepto” to “concecto.” The following phenomenon isn’t part of the educated norm and is considered as slang for middle and upper social classes: semi-vocalizing  the occlusive (“perfecto” to “perfeito”) or assimilating the word with subsequent consonants.

The following allophone is considered as slang for all of Central America: The /s/ becomes an /h/ in the syllable’s initial position in order to differentiate between another within the same word, i.e. “nehesidad” instead of “necesidad.” This doesn’t occur in Guatemala nor Costa Rica, nor in other Central American republics where the people are educated, as this is generally associated with those having a low education level. This is also a typical phenomena for Colombia. In Central America, this pronunciation has very little prestige, and does not occur among the middle and upper classes.

The wheezing, or lisp, syllable has been recognized in parts of El Salvador and Honduras, in northeastern Costa Rica and in much of Nicaragua.


The use of “voseo” in El Salvador.

The pronoun “vos” is prevalent among all social classes in Central America and is a part of learned norms. In Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, the middle and upper classes use “voseo” completely. In Nicaragua, the pronoun “vos” is the cultural norm and all classes use it. In past years, various medias have also begun to use “vos.” Costa Rica also uses “voseo,” however, they and Guatemalans sometimes use the pronoun “usted,” including informal situations (i.e. among friends).

On the other hand, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras are countries where familiarity is not customary and generally avoided. In Costa Rica, using familiarity is considered pedantic. In El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, “usted” remains unchanged, just like in Spain; and unlike other Latin American dialects, it is respected and highly unusual among people who know each other, in informal context or among family.


Here we will discuss words used by educated people, affable terms accepted in written rule throughout Central America—not idioms or slang.

An establishment that sells groceries in Guatemala is called an “Abarrotería,” and in Panama, any of the following: “Abarrotería,” “tienda,” “minisúper,” and “comisariato;” El Salvador calls them “Tienda,” and in Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, “Pulpería” or “Mini Súper.” A carbonated beverage in Guatemala is referred to as “Agua” or “Gaseosa;” in El Salvador and Nicaragua, it´s “Gaseosa,” and in Costa Rica and Honduras, it´s “Fresco,” and Panama, “Soda.”

Many words originating from Central America are quite useful and have been included in the Spanish Royal Academy dictionary. For example, there is “íngrimo,” a superlative of “solo” (only) which includes much more than just the word, “solísimo.” “Ingrido,” applies to someone so concentrated that they are unaware of their surroundings, and “fachento” is the superlative to “jactancioso.” (a braggart).

As you can see, many words come from Central America, which are now normal in written language, even transnationally. Without going further, many etymologists seem to give Central America credit to the theory of the word “chancho” (pig) as an adjective and noun (coming from “credo” pork).

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