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Chile is extremely long, undeniable. But it also feels even longer because it is the narrowest country in the world. This has even been validated by the Guiness Book: https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/90899-narrowest-country

While this wouldn't change the reality, the differences between Chilean Spanish and other Spanish accents are more significant than those between Czech and Slovak, which are generally considered two different languages.

Nice article!

PS: You missed an amazing chance to show a map on how to measure the world in "chiles": https://mapasmilhaud.com/mapas-curiosos/distancia-a-chile-con-chile-como-unidad-de-medida-2022/

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Indeed!

Its record is thinness, not length—which is why I mention that in the conclusion. In the intro, I don’t mention it because the precision gets in the way of the core message!

I didn’t know about the comparison between Czech and Slovak. Wow!

Thx for the additional map!

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They were not two different "languages" when they were one country, just like Hindi and Urdu are not two different languages

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Jul 3Liked by Tomas Pueyo

It's really because of history/culture why various Hispanic countries insist they all speak Spanish and the Arab countries insist that they all speak Arabic (Moroccan Arabic heard on the street and Arabic spoken on the Arabian peninsula are so different that they aren't mutually intelligible) while the different Slavic countries name a language after their country instead of just calling their language "Slavic".

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A shprakh iz a dyalekt mit an armey un flot 😏

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> the differences between Chilean Spanish and other Spanish accents are more significant than those between Czech and Slovak

Could you please mention the source of this information? And maybe - if you know - also the methodology how the distance between two languages is generally measured?

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This is the best study I'm aware on Slavic languages. It compares Czech and Slovak, but also Polish, Slovenian, Croatian and Bulgarian: https://pure.rug.nl/ws/portalfiles/portal/31880572/Chapter_2_.pdf (it's a PDF)

It evaluates Lexix, Orthography, Morphology, Phonolgy and Syntax. On the fifth chapter of the paper you can get all the details (with data and visualizations).

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Jul 3Liked by Tomas Pueyo

I'm from Chile, and when I was 16 years old, I was in an exchange in Itzehoe, a small town in Germany. There, the geography teacher asked me about my country, and I told him that I was from Chile, and then he said: "Is the prettiest country I've ever seen, it has desert, mountains, sea, lakes, everyting". I hope one day this teacher could read this message. The teacher was from Sophie Scholl Gymnasium (SSG) and it was in 2006. I will never forget that moment.

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Jul 3Liked by Tomas Pueyo

I think Japan is very analogous to Chilie, not quite as long (3000km vs 4200km, but they lost the Kuril islands to Russia in WWII which are another ~1000km), not quite as thin, and sure a lot of that is underwater, but as you pointed out the geography is very similar leading to a similar country, long, thin and famously isolated!

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Jul 3·edited Jul 3Author

Yes I’d agree it’s quite similar indeed!

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Jul 3Liked by Tomas Pueyo

My wife studied Spanish in high school and college amd did an exchange program in northwestern Spain in Oviedo. She got used to speaking in that accent/dialect while there. After college she took a job in Mendoza, Argentina for a few years. She said that while they still call it "Castellano" that it's pronounced there as more like "cast-uh-zha-no" and of course also has its own local/regional slang and phrasing and quirks. She said it took her 2-3 months before she felt like she really had a handle on how to speak there.

She moved back to the US, years intervened, etc. She still read a lot in Spanish to keep the vocabulary somewhat "top of mind" and got a job as a spokeswoman for a local tranist authority since she's bilingual. But most of the Spanish-speaking folks in our area immigrated from Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, so her mix of NW Spain and western Argentnian Spanish didn't go over so well, and when we go to Mexican restaurants she's found she has a very hard time speaking with the folks working there to boot.

Not Chilean, but definitely shows that theres lingual drift in any language, especially one spoken in far-flung places. FWIW, I've heard that the biggest problem most Spanish speakers have in listening to Chilean Spanish is due to them speaking incredibly quickly, so it's hard to process the sounds coming in so much quicker than your brain is used to.

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Jul 4Liked by Tomas Pueyo

Exactly, when I was a student, we spoke and studied castellano, because the Spanish was that from Castilla (the conquerors of South America). Later it changed to español (same language, different connotation). In Buenos Aires as well as in part of Uruguay we speak "Español Rioplatense" (the Río de la Plata is the access to the country by water where all inmigrants came, mostly Europeans). It differs a little from the español you can hear in other provinces of Argentina that kept some vocabulary derived of the original aborigins of the country.

For Argentinians it is more difficult to understand Mexicans or other central countries than Chileans, for instance. Regards.

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Jul 3Liked by Tomas Pueyo

Creo que también es importante el factor "mestizaje". En Chile, más allá de la discusión sobre el acento, usamos muchas palabras provenientes del Quechua o Mapudungún, incluso prefiriéndolas sobre su equivalente en español. Eso, sin contar lo mucho que nos gusta inventar términos y adoptar palabras de diferentes jergas.

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Lo de inventar algo nuevo, me sorprendería que fuera especial de Chile. Pero lo de palabras provenientes de lenguas locales tiene sentido: En Chile si entiendo bien los nativos no se les integró tanto en el imperio

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Jul 3Liked by Tomas Pueyo

En un inicio, en el proceso de descubrimiento y conquista, el proceso de mestizaje se dio de manera más activa, considerando que pocas mujeres llegaron en las primeras expediciones. Los nativos que opusieron más resistencia fueron los Mapuche (compuestos por varios pueblos), del centro sur de Chile. Aún así, se los usaba como servidumbre. Quizás fue así que quedó más de alguna palabra.

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Si. Hay cuestiones de "rango," formal/informal

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Jul 3Liked by Tomas Pueyo

It was fun to read, thanks a lot!

I am confused with your first hypothesis:

> It’s the farthest region from Spain, so the least communicated to the rest of the empire, and hence the one that drifted the most from the homeland."

However, the table shows that the Chilean differs from Castellano the *least* of all other dialects - the correlation is 0.26, which makes it one of the *closest* dialects to Castellano.

So Chilean is actually the dialects which drifted the *least* from the homeland, not the *most*.

I am not an expert on the Spanish language, but couldn't it actually be just the opposite as you write? That is, because Chile was so distant and without much interaction, it actually kept the language *unchanged*, whilst all the other dialects drifted from the the homeland?

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Ok so this is interesting.

You’d imagine that Spain ‘s Spanish is the most “average” Spanish. It is not.

Most emigration to Latin America came from Andalusia, in southern Spain, because that’s where its main port was. But Andalusia has a very specific accent, which it exported throughout LatAm. The result is that most of Spain has an accent very much unlike what you can commonly find in LatAm, whereas many LatAm countries have accents that are closer to each other (because they mainly descend from Andalusian).

By the time of independence in the early 1800s, the remoteness of Chile and its lack of known resources meant little settlement, and the little settlement there was was disconnected to the rest.

So really a more precise phrasing would be that Chile is isolated not just from Spain, but from all the Spanish territories.

Does that make sense?

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Jul 3Liked by Tomas Pueyo

The view that the American Spanish accent comes from the Andalusian settlers, popular as it is, is not without controversy in the academic literature. For instance, López Serena (2011)* surveys the historical debate between the polygenesis view (i.e., the Spanish developed in the Americas has multiple sources) and the Andalusian view on the origins of the American varieties of Spanish and proposes a norm-based hypothesis, where certain Andalusian characteristics deviate from the established (Iberian) norm, while those features retain some prestige in the American norm, and the anti-Spanish sentiment of the revolutionary Americas may have altered conventions and usage.

The Andalusian view is also punctuated by questions on the extent of its influence. López Morales** for instance shows how in the XVI century Andalusians were the largest group, at 29.4%, followed by a 19.3% of Old Castilians and 18.2% Extremadurans. Interestingly, Basques were only 2.4% of the settlers, but Chile seems to count with one of the largest communities of Basque descendants if the Wikipedia page on the Basque diaspora is to be believed. Some of the shared features across western Andalusian, southern Extremaduran and Canarian were also attested to in the American colonies during the XVI century (202). As you may know, "seseo" is one of the main features shared across Andalusia and the Americas, but Andalusian Spanish also has, as a sort of counterpart, "ceceo", which is not a common phenomenon in American Spanish (though still present--this mainly means that while seseo became the norm, ceceo did not do so and became relegated to a secondary phenomenon). It may be the case that earlier settlers followed the prestige of the Sevillian accent at the time and that latter settlers accommodated to the American norm, but as time went by, court officials, bureaucrats and the educated classes also emigrated to the Americas in larger number, influencing the change of the language in different directions.

There is a very fun article by Luis Alemany**** that talks about isolation and innovation in the Chilean variety, noting the diversifying strength of sociolects in the linguistic landscape. The story of isolation is understandable: Central Chile does not have many of the features Andean Spanish has (and there are mountains and deserts to make sure they stay separated), but at the same time it shares a number of features with Cuyo Spanish, despite the existence of the Andes separating both areas (these similarities are, however, explainable in large part by the old administrative borders of the Chilean Captaincy). And despite differences, some current Peruvian varieties (for instance, some sociolects in Lima) may also share other similarities with Central Chilean Spanish.

Anyway, thanks for the article!

* https://dialnet.unirioja.es/descarga/articulo/5873992.pdf

** https://grupo.us.es/ehandalucia/pdf/lecturas/andaluz_espanol_america.pdf

*** http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/langevol.html

**** https://www.elmundo.es/cultura/2021/11/30/61a4a36321efa013518b4571.html

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Fantastic comment, thank you so much!

Fun fact: Extremadura Spanish is actually very similar to Andalusian.

I had heard about the Basque phenomenon but I’d be curious to see what % of settlers came from there in Chile. I have many Chilean friends with Basque last names, but I’d be surprised if they comprised a large chunk of Chileans.

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Jul 3Liked by Tomas Pueyo

A thought on language: Chile didn’t make high school mandatory until 2003. This could mean (if other LatAm countries made education mandatory earlier) Chile had much less time to benefit from language standardization.

My cab driver in Patagonia gave me this theory when I had to ask him to repeat every sentence he said to me 😂 and said this is why Chileans are hard to understand.

Hard to find data on when other LatAm countries made public ed mandatory. But if true, this might be a contributor

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Education in Chile is structured into three main levels: basic education, secondary education, and higher education. Here is a description of each of these levels and their evolution over time:

### Basic Education

**Description:**

- Basic education in Chile is compulsory and free in public institutions.

- It comprises eight years of study, from first to eighth grade.

- Generally, children start basic education at the age of 6.

**Structure:**

- Basic education is divided into two cycles:

- **First cycle**: from 1st to 4th grade.

- **Second cycle**: from 5th to 8th grade.

- The curriculum includes subjects such as Language and Communication, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Physical Education, Arts, and Music.

**History:**

- Basic education in Chile was formalized through the Compulsory Primary Education Law in 1920, although the current structure has evolved over time.

### Secondary Education

**Description:**

- Secondary education is also compulsory and comprises four years of study, from first to fourth year of high school.

- Generally, students start secondary education at the age of 14.

- It is divided into two modalities: Scientific-Humanistic and Technical-Professional.

**Structure:**

- **Scientific-Humanistic**: Prepares students to continue higher education in universities.

- **Technical-Professional**: Orients students towards technical and vocational training, with specializations such as Electricity, Mechanics, Administration, among others.

**History:**

- Secondary education in its current form was consolidated with the General Education Law of 2009, although its roots date back to the Secondary Education Law of 1842.

### Higher Education

**Description:**

- It comprises post-secondary studies in universities, professional institutes, and technical training centers.

- The duration of programs varies depending on the type of institution and the chosen career, with programs ranging from 2 years (technical) to 6-7 years (medicine, for example).

**Structure:**

- **Universities**: Offer undergraduate, master's, and doctoral programs.

- **Professional Institutes**: Focus on technical and professional careers at a higher level.

- **Technical Training Centers**: Provide higher-level technical training, generally with programs of 2 to 3 years in duration.

**History:**

- Higher education in Chile has a long tradition, with the University of Chile founded in 1842 as the country's first university.

- The diversification of higher education accelerated in the 1980s with the creation of numerous professional institutes and technical training centers.

### Evolution and Reforms

- **1920 Reform**: Introduction of the Compulsory Primary Education Law.

- **1965 Reform**: Educational Reform that expanded the coverage of basic and secondary education.

- **1990 Reform**: Decentralization and increase in the coverage of basic and secondary education.

- **General Education Law of 2009**: Modernization and consolidation of the education system, establishing the compulsory nature of secondary education.

The educational system in Chile has evolved significantly since its inception, adapting to the social and economic needs of the country and seeking to improve the quality and accessibility of education for all its citizens.

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Jul 4·edited Jul 4

This still doesn't explain the number 0.26 in the table: why - out of all the Spanish dialects - the Chilean one is the most similar to the official Castellano?

Also there is an interesting fact in linguistics, that groups of people isolated from their original place of origin tend to *keep* their original language, rather than diverge from it. An examples of long-term expat groups are the Polish enclave in Czech Republic, or the Czech enclave in Romania - their language enclaves speak in a language which sounds funny to the Polls or Czechs respectively, because it sounds cutely archaic.

I am not sure about the Swedes in Finland, but I would not be surprised if it were so.

So I am still challenging your statement that the Chileans, *because of isolation*, **drifted** the most from their homeland. Couldn't it rather be that instead of *drifting*, they rather **kept** the most of all the LatAms their original language, whichever Spanish dialect it was?

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Jul 4Liked by Tomas Pueyo

Chilean Spanish is simultaneously a very conservative and highly mutated dialect. For example, the Chilean dialect did not incorporate the standardized "tuteo" promoted by the Spanish Crown between 1750 and 1800, and instead retained "voseo." However, Chilean voseo is unique because it evolved in isolation between 1550 and 1750. While in the rest of America "amáis" evolved into "amás," in Chile it became "amai" due to a "conservative" aspiration of the final "s" as done by Andalusians during the same period, which other dialects abandoned in favor of the proper pronunciation of the "s."

There are many "conservative" features in the Chilean dialect, especially in the rural accent, such as the 16th-century pronunciation of "ch" as [ʃ] instead of [tʃ] or the drop of consonants in closed syllables like the "p" in "septiembre". Most of these features have been regarded as uneducated since 1750, but they only really started to disappear after the expansion of compulsory education in 1940.

Also, anecdotally, your "because it sounds cutely archaic" reminded me that time my (Chilean) sister told me her peers in an University in Spain made her repeat some words because she sounded like a cute grandma.

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How interesting. Thanks for sharing!

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Hypothesis: Because it had a higher share of Basques vs Andalusians

Chilean hasn't been static though as it has had a very heavy Mapuche influence (among other things).

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Actually as a Chilean Spanish Speaker, I find Andulusian Spanish to be the most similar accent, more than the one from Madrid. For instance in both Chilean and Andalusian Spanish the letter “s” is silent at the end of words.

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Correct

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Jul 2·edited Jul 2Liked by Tomas Pueyo

Tomas, Thanks for a fun read!

The language correlation table implies that the two national dialects of Spanish that are closest to each other are Cuban and Dominican. That makes sense. Pretty close geographically. But the second-highest correlation appears to be Cuban-to-Peruvian. My wife and I are American, but she spent a whole year in her childhood in Peru, and is relatively fluent in "Spanish" as a result - but she always tells me that this does not mean she can easily have a conversation with a Mexican-American, etc...!

We have lived in Michigan, California, and Minnesota, so not a lot of Cuban-Americans for her to interact with... Do you have any theory for why the Spanish dialects of these two pretty distant countries (Peru and Cuba) would be among the most closely correlated?

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Hypothesis:

Cuba, Puerto Rico, Veracruz in Mexico, Cartagena de Indias in Colombia, and Lima / Callao in Peru would have the closest Spanish between each other as the main ports of the silver trade.

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Jul 2Liked by Tomas Pueyo

Very interesting read. Thanks for posting this.

W.r.t. to your graphs re how distant Chilean Spanish is from other dialects, your map and the table appear to disagree. Note that Cuba is red on the map (very hard to understand for a native speaker), while the table shows Cuban as the closest dialect to the Spanish spoken in Spain. Both things can't be true. In my limited experience, the map is correct, Cuban Spanish is hard to understand for non-Cubans.

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Yes the map does not come from the graph, it’s rather an “intuitive” interpretation, and in this case I think it’s more holistic than the table. What I like about the table is the quantification it gives, and how it’s unbiased (not one perspective on all Spanish dialects, but looking at every combination). Since they don’t quite measure the same thing, and neither is perfect, I thought it would make sense to share both.

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Jul 4Liked by Tomas Pueyo

I know Chile quite well as my wife is from there, we lived there for 3 years, and we go back for visits a lot. Thanks for so much interesting information on this unique country. Much of its beautiful coast, which is very similar to California in topography and weather, as well as its mid-southern lake and forest region, is undiscovered to most of the world. And I like it that way. Fortunately I speak and understand Chilean so I get along well.

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Thanks for sharing!

I know where I’ll go if I want to get lost

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Jul 3Liked by Tomas Pueyo

In Philip K. Dick's novel "The Man in the High Castle," America is divided into two main territories after the Axis powers win World War II: the Greater Nazi Reich in the east, controlled by Nazi Germany, and the Japanese Pacific States in the west, controlled by the Japanese Empire. The borderline between these two territories generally runs along the Rocky Mountains.

Additionally, there is a neutral zone known as the Rocky Mountain States, which serves as a buffer between the two larger territories. This neutral zone is less strictly controlled and functions somewhat independently, with Denver as a significant city within it.

That is the imaginary state division you mention in north America.

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I had heard of that. I think that tells us that Philip K. Dick was a thoughtful geohistorian

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Jul 3Liked by Tomas Pueyo

California is very similar to being a different country within the US already.

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Correct. A fact that strengthens the hypothesis that there could have been a norther Chile

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Jul 2Liked by Tomas Pueyo

I discovered today that one is never too old for a geography lesson like this one. Fascinating and well presented. Thank you!

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I contest that Chilean Spanish is THAT hard. It's mainly just accustoming the ear to a few dropped consonants. I agree about highland Bolivian Spanish, but its no easier than highland Colombia or Ecuador.

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Hahaha my experience meets that map (and the table), but that’s the extent of my evidence!

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Jul 5Liked by Tomas Pueyo

. My theory about Chilean Spanish is that for many years, the conquerors brought the rich and powerful, as well as the top religious figures with the best Spanish and books, to different areas such as Lima, with the Viceroyalty of Peru, and Bogotá, with the Viceroyalty of New Granada. Consequently, even today, you see Peruvians from Lima and people from Bogotá who have great intonation, modulation, and clear Spanish.

In Chile, we didn't have the most interesting people but rather stronger individuals who, despite the challenges of weather and earthquakes, along with brave and resilient indigenous people (who were never defeated and had to come to a peaceful agreement after 500 years of fighting), represented the best people from Spain to conquer the area.

By the way, the war between Chile and Bolivia/Peru originated from England, which wanted to use its railroad company throughout the region, but Bolivia decided against it. During the Guerra del Pacífico, two remarkable things happened: Chile had a small but brave contingent of Chinese soldiers who were forced to work in Bolivia's mines and gained their freedom through Chile. After decades of slavery in Bolivia, they ended up wanting to fight. Additionally, there is a myth that England tried for the first time the same war strategies used in the D-Day during this war in Chile, and it worked.

* I worked in the governments commission to celebrate 200 years of Chile as a nation.

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Wow. Super interesting. Thanks for sharing! I had read about England but I had no idea about the Chinese!

Your hypothesis on selection bias is valid. I’d be curious about evidence reinforcing it.

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Regarding "La toma del morro de Arica," it is said that Chilean/Chinese soldiers were at the front. While there is evidence supporting this claim, I don't have it with me at the moment. This information comes from the files of a mason/doctor we interviewed.

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Fascinating to me how big an impact landscape has on a country’s culture. Mountains completely divide two regions that could be similar but have been completely divided. Oceans isolating islands. Inhabitable deserts limiting populations. Understanding the Earth’s climate and topography is super important to fully understand so many other aspects of human and animal life.

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It is! We don’t fully grasp it in our everyday lives

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Jul 4Liked by Tomas Pueyo

Tambien hay que considerar las variantes linguisticas dependiendo del territorio. En el norte la influencia Aymara determina parte del lenguaje. En la Patagonia, la interacción entre Chile y Argentina y las lenguas originarias. En el centro (mas o menos desde Bio Bio a Los Andes), hay mas interaccion con los origenes europeos dada la concentracion de actividad economica e industrial en los siglos 19 y 20. Chiloé es un caso aparte. en la década de los 80-90, los acentos y dialectos locales tenian diferencias. Hoy se han atenuado. Pero....igual hay un lenguaje comun en todo el territorio, que se expresa en algunas palabras propias del slang nacional.....y que sirve para expresa cualquier cosa, lo cual confunde a extranjeros.

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