Uruguayan Spanish

Usually, one talks about Argentine Spanish as “rioplatense”, an adjective that takes it name from the areas adjacent to the River Plate. However, this is a mistake, as the River Plate also forms part of Uruguayan territory. Therefore, when speaking of rioplatense Spanish one refers to the idioms that are normally used as much in Argentina as in Uruguay, two brother countries as far as customs and traditions are concerned.

The differences between each variant are negligible and are indistinguishable for Spanish speakers from other places. The Uruguayan variant is very similar to the Buenos Aires variant (because of its relationship with the port of Buenos Aires), though it does have some differences con the latter, and talk of homogeneity does not apply in this case. The same applies with the Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires and that spoken in Patagonia, which sound practically the same, but have slight underlying differences.

Some Characteristics of Uruguayan Spanish Are:

  • Incorporated vocabulary and influences

    The use of “tu” instead of “vos”. In Uruguay, the personal pronoun “tú”, similarly to “vos”. Also both pronouns share the same verb conjugation: “tú tenés; tú sos/vos tenés; vos sos”. In other words, it is normal for a Uruguayan to create phrases using one verb form or another, interchangeably.

  • Slight influence of Brazilian Portuguese

    This is in some cases, even to the point of bilingualism, which is commonly known as “Portuñol”, and is similar to what happened in areas on the Argentina-Brazil border. It is true that the Italian colonization influence exists in Uruguay, but almost exclusively in the capital. In the rest of the country, there is more of an influence of Brazilian/Portuguese idioms. This dates back to the period of the Portuguese colonization, primarily because of the constant disputes between Spain and Portugal over the borders. Later, the Treaty of Tordesillas was created in order to fairly divide the land belonging to the two kingdoms. It was at this time that the Portuguese founded Colonia del Sacramento. Starting then, many disputes began between the Portuguese and the Spanish as well as between the Spanish and the indigenous peoples who had at the time been living in the eastern side of the country, until the fight for independence began (1825).

  • Slight indigenous influence

    Idioms from the colonial period. In Uruguay, there are influences from the languages of different indigenous groups such as the Charruas, Minuanes, Charás, and Guaraní. However, these languages disappeared almost without trace, with the exception of some place names that have been preserved and the names of some native species of flora and fauna.

  • Idioms with European influence

    As happens with Argentine Spanish, the European immigration in the twentieth century, especially from the south of Italy and various Spanish provinces, had a strong influence on Uruguayan speech. In some cases, there are also some Gallicisms in educated speech (“bulevar”, “liceo, chofer) that are not so common in other countries in the region, as well as some Italianisms, particularly in food-related words and music.