In the modern and advanced world of the 21st century, a world that knows not only globalisation, but incredible advances in science, technology and media, in an era when everything is as easy as pressing a single button, we cannot help but ask ourselves: What would the effects of these developments be on interpersonal relations, and in language and linguistic variation within these languages?
In order to begin to answer this question, the concept of linguistic variation needs to be clarified. Variation supposes the existence of differences between languages, or variants within the same language. Just as mathematical equations have variables that can have a number of different values, language too has variables. Linguistic variables (words, expressions, any linguistic element), too, can have a certain number of variants. Thus, speakers of a language choose one of these variants when expressing a concept.
Human beings have the need to establish and maintain social relationships with others. Starting at infancy, a person’s personality, manner of being, thinking and behaving, develop as a result of social contact. In other words, language (both verbal and non-verbal) is the key element in our development as human beings. In other words, society would not survive without language. However, for a person who lives in the 21st century and can travel with ease, experience other cultures, and get along with different peoples, this involves using not only one language, but many, or even using different variants of the same language, and according to the context (using formal and informal registers, different dialects, etc.).
Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, spread across the entire planet. And, as you can imagine, when speaking of such a geographically diverse language as Spanish, it is natural that there are differences between the variants of Spanish used in each country. The same thing is often expressed in different ways in the north of Spain, in Argentina, and in Puerto Rico. That is to say, as with many other languages, Spanish has various linguistic norms. We can speak of the norms of Peninsular Spanish and different Latin American norms that oppose those of Peninsular Spanish. Also, as with many other languages, Spanish has diatopical (or geographical), diastratic (or social), and diaphasic (or contextual) variations.
In order to understand it better, imagine that you are a Spanish-speaker, and are travelling. You want to write to your friends to tell them what you’ve done over the last few days. What do you send them? An ‘e-mail’ or a ‘correo electrónico’? What do you use to write your message? A ‘computadora’ or an ‘ordenador’? A ‘mouse’ or a ‘ratón’? Let’s suppose that after sending the message you want to rent a car. What will you ask for? A ‘carro’ or a ‘coche’? The answer is very simple: it depends on the region you are in. Such differences could also exist within the same country. For example, take the Canary Islands (a territory that belongs to Spain), where they say ‘papa’ for potato (just as in Latin America) while in (continental) Spain, it is called ‘patata’.
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