Chilean Spanish

Discover a historically unique Spanish, changing at a rate never seen before.

Andes Mountain (1780) by Fernando BrambillaOriginal Source: National Library of Spain

Before the arrival of the Spanish in the northern section of what is now Chile, it was dominated by the Inca Empire, although there were few settlements. The Mapuche, the principal group in the region, inhabited the central region.

Portrait of Diego de Almagro (s. XVII)Original Source: National Historic Museum of Chile

Spanish control

Following the voyages of exploration of Diego de Almagro, in 1541 the city of Santiago was founded, and then in 1550, Concepción. The south was colonized later, although it was never heavily populated, while the Chiloé Archipelago was even more isolated.

Inca Empire (1780) by Fernando BrambillaOriginal Source: National Library of Spain

The country lived through continuous but sporadic confrontations between the settlers and the indigenous population. Thanks to the continuous conflict, and its position far from commercial routes and large conurbations, Chile was always a captaincy under the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of Peru.

Chilean settler (1910) by F. LeblancOriginal Source: National Library of Spain

Its permanent captaincy status kept away the elites who migrated to the region, and so the majority of the Spanish-speaking conquistadors were not exactly erudite or great linguists.

Santiago de Chile (1780) by Fernando BrambillaOriginal Source: National Library of Spain

Following its independence, the country's economy was based mainly on mining, which was controlled by foreign (and especially British) interests, leading to many Anglicisms penetrating the local lexicon.

Andes Mountains (2016) by Jens JohnssonFundación Antonio de Nebrija

A Spanish of its own

Chilean Spanish experiences very little regional variation, even though its territory extends across more than 1,800 miles (3,000 km). Even so, some experts divide the country into four zones: north, central, south, and the Chiloé archipelago.

Santiago de Chile (2019) by Alisha LubbenFundación Antonio de Nebrija

Chilean Spanish, represented by the dialect of Santiago-Valparaíso, differs so greatly from that of its neighboring countries that, at a dialectal level, it is considered a totally separate area from the rest. Many classifications apply this special status to Chilean Spanish.

Mountain (2022) by Jens JohnssonFundación Antonio de Nebrija

There is one reason for this unique form of Spanish: Chile is bound by an ocean, a mountain range, a desert, and the Antarctic. These natural borders, along with the extraordinary dimensions of the South American country, enclose great wealth and variety.

Torres del Paine (2022) by Cristian VillanuevaFundación Antonio de Nebrija

More than just a form of expression, it is a variant of Spanish characterized by words that are cut short, copious idioms, neologisms, indigenisms, nicknames, communicative gestures, and also a pinch of humor in the language.

Flags of Chile (2022) by DiegograndiFundación Antonio de Nebrija

It is undoubtedly the most difficult to classify, and the most recognizable for its melody, its idioms, and its revolutionary spirit. Chilean Spanish is far removed from the confines of the Spanish Royal Academy. It is the language undergoing the most rapid change in the Spanish-speaking world.

Credits: Story

With information from Observations on Latin American Spanish (Observaciones Sobre el Español en América) by Pedro Henríquez, and Latin American Spanish (El Español de América) by John M. Lipski

Curator: Rodrigo Díaz

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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