Latin American Spanish
Grammar and Spelling
Section One - Grammar and Spelling
1. Gender: Spanish has masculine and feminine genders. The gender affects nouns, adjectives, demonstratives, possessives and articles, but not verbs, e.g. Está cansada (She's tired), Está cansado (He's tired).
2. Plurals: Generally speaking, the plural is formed by adding '-s' to words ending in a vowel and by adding '-os' or '-es' to words ending in a consonant. This is however, governed by a set of rules.
3. One letter words: One letter words include: a, e (replaces 'y' (= and) before a word beginning with 'i'), o, u (replaces 'o' (= or) before a word beginning with an 'o'), y.
Y/o ('and/or') should be replaced with 'o'.
4. Double consonants: The only groups of two equal consonants are the following: cc, ll, nn, rr.
5. Umlaut/Diaeresis: The umlaut occurs very rarely in Spanish. The circumflex and grave accents are only used with foreign words which haven't assimilated a Spanish spelling. The acute accent is very common and there are very strict rules about its use.
6. Capitalisation: Occurs at the beginning of sentences and for proper names.
Unlike English, days of the week/months of the year/languages/nationalities/managerial posts like director financiero, do not take a capital letter.
With regard to titles/headings/subheadings, etc., only the first word is capitalised.
Upper case is used for polite forms of address (el Ministro de Finanzas), but not when they are used generically (los ministros de finanzas de la Unión Europea).
Section Two - Punctuation
Spanish rules are similar to English with some exceptions:
1. Question and exclamation marks: In Spanish there are opening question and exclamation marks, ¿ and ¡, which can appear right at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence. In the latter case, the following word will go in lower case.
If a closing question or exclamation mark appears in the middle of a sentence, the following word will go in lower case.
In sentences which are both questions and exclamations, it is not accepted to use both symbols together (?!). Depending on the syntax of the sentence, it can start with a question mark and close with an exclamation mark or viceversa.
2. Brackets: Full stops are placed inside the brackets (or inverted commas) when the contents form a complete sentence and outside if the bracketed clause forms part of a sentence, e.g.:
Le respondieron que era «imposible atenderle hasta el mes siguiente».
Era la primera vez que solicitaba sus servicios (después de seis años de estar abonado).
They responded that it would be "impossible to see you before next month".
It was the first time he had sought their services (after six years as a member).
«Es imposible atenderle hasta el mes que viene.» Con estas palabras respondieron a su llamada. (Y hacía seis años que estaba abonado.)
"It is impossible to see you before next month." With these words they responded to his phone call. (And he had been a member for six years.)
(Examples taken from Manuel Seco's «Diccionario de dudas y dificultades de la lengua española».)
3. Colons: A colon replaces a comma at the beginning of a letter (Querida mamá: = Dear Mum,). The following word can go either in upper or lower case.
If a colon precedes a quotation, this will start with a capital letter and will appear between inverted commas.
The three dots ... (ellipsis) can replace the abbreviation etc. (although this is an informal use). It also denotes a short pause, an omission or gives a sense of surprise, fear, etc.
4. Inverted commas: There are three types: simple (' ... '), double (" ... ") and French (« ... »). Some style manuals recommend avoiding the use of the French inverted commas.
5. Short dash: The use of the short dash in sentences such as "HP printers - the best in the world" is incorrect. Please replace it with a colon or even with a full stop: "Impresoras HP. Las mejores del mundo."
6. Long dash: There often seems to be confusion in the use of the long dash in English. In Spanish, they are sometimes used to separate a remark from the rest of the sentence, although commas typically serve this function. They also work as brackets within brackets. They can be found, in the case of transcriptions of dialogues, at the beginning of each speaker's sentence. Here's an example of the spacing between words and long dashes: "Las impresoras HP - las mejores del mundo - son muy fiables."
The following English sentence: "I'm so tired", he said,
"I just want to go home". would be punctuated in exactly the same way in Latin
7. Full stops: Do not use full stops at the end of headings, titles, etc., if they are not a complete sentence. However, captions do end in a full stop. In the case of bullet points, it depends on the type of text. For instance, if they are full sentences or paragraphs that make up a list of examples, they should have a full stop at the end.
Section Three - Measurements and Abbreviations
1. Measurements: Metric are the only official measurements. Imperial measurements must be converted into metric. However, there are some instances of the use of inches, such as in screen sizes and floppy disks.
Time: Both Spain and Latin America use the 24-hour clock, i.e. 10.00 / 15.00.
Date: the format is 25.8.04 or 25/8/04.
Spanish uses a decimal comma (3,7%), and a dot after 999 (16.000).
Abbreviations of measurements:
Be careful to avoid the confusion between metre (m) and minute (m.).
Spacing: there should be a space between numbers and the measurement abbreviation, which should also be in the singular and without accents.
N/a = n/c
Av. = Avenue (before name)
Most abbreviations in Spanish have just one dot at the end, but more common ones like N/KM, etc. observe the International System and have no dots.
Also, in the case of ordinals, there exist abbreviated versions for masculine and feminine formed with the number and the symbol ° (alt + 0186) for masculine or ª (alt + 0170) for feminine: 6°, 6ª, 27°, 27ª, etc. Note that ° is slightly bigger than the degree symbol ° (alt + 0176).
Section Four - Hyphenation
Hyphenation within words is more usual between nouns (café-restaurante, precio-calidad) than between adjectives (audio-visual / audiovisual, físicoquímico / fisicoquímico).
Note that when hyphenated words appear at the end of a line, the best way to split them is by separating the two words.
In words such as 'ex-wife', the hyphen is replaced with a blank space: ex esposa.
1. End-of-line hyphenation: With regard to end-of-line hyphenation, it is best to leave words whole in normal text and leave hyphenation for restricted text boxes, columns, etc. However, if absolutely necessary...
1. A single consonant between two vowels joins the second.
2. Hyphenation between two consonants applies. Examples: in-novador, tensíon, ac-ceso.
3. However, there are exceptions in the case of the following groups: pr, pl, br, bl, fr, fl, tr, dr, cr, cl, gr, rr, ll, ch (e.g., ca-ble, ma-cro, i-rracional).
4. Between three consonants, the first two will go with the preceding vowel and the third with the following vowel (e.g., trans-por-te), except in the case of the aforementioned consonant groups, in which the first one will go with the preceding vowel and the third with the following vowel (e.g., im-presora, des-truir).
5. Avoid hyphenation between two vowels.
6. Avoid hyphenation when using it will result in vulgar Spanish (e.g., dis - puta, tor-pedo).
7. It is advised that the last line in a paragraph contains more than four characters (punctuation marks included).
Section Five - Miscellaneous Peculiarities
Not strictly a peculiarity, but to the non-Spanish eye, can look
Section Six - Geographic Distribution
Spanish is the most widely spoken of the Romance languages, both in terms of the number of speakers and the number of countries in which it is used. As well as being spoken in Spain, it is the official language of all South American republics, except Brazil and Guyana, the six republics in Central America, as well as Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. It is also spoken in the Balearic and Canary islands, in parts of Morocco and the west coast of Africa, as well as in Equatorial Guinea. In the United States it is widely spoken in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California (in New Mexico both English and Spanish are recognised as official languages), and by the large Puerto Rican population in New York City. More recently it has become common in southern Florida, used by people who have moved there from Cuba. A variety of Spanis h known as Ladino is spoken in Turkey and Israel by descendants of Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492. In total, there are about 350 million Spanish speakers in Latin America.
Pronunciation and usage of Spanish naturally vary between countries, but regional differences are not so great as to make the language unintelligible to speakers from different areas. The purest form of Spanish is known as Castilian, originally one of the dialects that developed from Latin after the Roman conquest of Hispania in the 3rd century A.D. After the disintegration of the Roman Empire, Spain was over run by the Visigoths, and in the 8th century the Arabic-speaking Moors conquered all but the northernmost part of the peninsula. In the Christian Reconquest, Castile, an independent kingdom,took the initiative, and by the time of the Spain's unification in the 15th century, Castilian had become the dominant dialect. In the years that followed, Castilian, now Spanish, became the language of a vast empire in the New World.
Spanish vocabulary is of Latin origin, though many of the words differ noticeably from their counterparts in French and Italian. Many words beginning with 'f' in the other Romance languages begin with 'h' in Spanish (e.g., hijo-son, hilo-thread). The Moorish influence is seen in the many words beginning with al- (algodón-cotton, alfombra-rug, almohada-pillow, alfilerpin). As in British and American English, there are differences in vocabulary on both sides of the Continent.
Spanish is spoken/used in the following countries:
Source: http://www.worldlanguage.com/Languages/Spanish - Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.
Section Seven – Character Set
[ ] = Alt key codes
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