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Day 50 – Argentine Spanish Is Italian

November 29, 2010

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Date: Monday, November 29, 2010

If you’re not paying attention, the Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires—otherwise known as Porteño—sounds Italian. There’s good reason for this.

First, over the last 50 years or so, the largest immigrant group to Argentina has been Italians. Naturally, bits and pieces of Italian culture, including some words, have bled their way into BA culture. We even have evidence of this back home. Argentina’s greatest basketball export—Manu Ginobili—has an Italian last name. In other words, he is of Italian descent, as are many of his countrymen. A quick look at the prominent names in BA will confirm that.

Second, everyone here uses a lot of ito’s and isimo’s. Something isn’t pequeño, it’s pequito. It’s not bella, it’s bellisimo. All this makes Porteño Spanish sound quite Italian.

Third, Porteño sounds lazy. The ll’s and the y’s are pronounced with a “zsh” sound, which has the effect of this Spanish sounding nothing like Spanish. Nothing.

Finally, there’s the lilt. You know how caricatures of Italians have them speaking in quick rises in pitch of their voice? “That’s ah biggah pizzah!” kind of thing. Well, Porteños have got that down. Along with the wild hand gestures, particularly the pursed fingers waved at someone with an upturned palm.

Stop paying attention and you’d think you were in Rome with a bunch of Italians who happen to be speaking a little cotton mouthed (the “zsh” thing).

It’s part of what makes Argentina, and Buenos Aires in particular, unique.

GALLERY: No bonus pics, naturally, since Mervyn couldn’t even be bothered to take a regular one.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Karem permalink
    December 15, 2010 10:12 pm

    Really!! Really!! No pictures.

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