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The Variations of the Spanish Language in Ecuador

A Brief Historical Review

Ecuador was subjugated by the Spaniards in 1534, after conquering the Incas in the modern territory of Peru. The resistance of the native population in the region was suppressed by Sebastian de Benalcazar’s army. During that period, the Spaniards founded the largest cities of Ecuador, including Guayaquil, in the province Guayas, which became one of the largest ports in South America (Mzrvin, 2016). The Spaniards’ conquest contributed to the spread of the Spanish language in the country, and today Spanish is the official language in Ecuador.

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It is important to note that Spanish in Ecuador is the least dialect-influenced variant of this language in South America despite the use of native or regional languages in the country. Today, Spanish is used by the majority of the Ecuadorian population, but indigenous people still use Quichua (the language of the Incas) among other regional languages, such as Shuar (Mzrvin, 2016). For decades, the Ecuadorian variant of Spanish has developed under the impact of Quichua, but regional or geographical aspects had a more intense impact on language development in contrast to linguistic factors.

Thus, three different variants of Spanish have developed in Ecuador: Equatorial Coastal Spanish used in Guayaquil, Amazonic Spanish, and Andean Spanish. Equatorial Coastal Spanish is influenced by the Caribbean dialects typical of Venezuela and Colombia, as well as by the language variants spread in Peru. Furthermore, this variation of Spanish also adopted the lexicon common for Andean Spanish and Quichua (Mzrvin, 2016; Rough Guides, 2014).

These processes and adoptions have led to the appearance of Equatorial Coastal Spanish and the unique Guayaquil accent. Moreover, Amazonic Spanish is typical of the Amazonian region of the country, and Andean Spanish is used in the mountainous region of Ecuador.

Phonological Variation

Guayaquil is a linguistic center of Guayas where Equatorial Coastal Spanish is used. Its phonological characteristics include the aspiration of the final “s” in words and the fact that /x/ phoneme sounds as [h]. In addition, the velarization of /n/ is observed. Moreover, the deletion of the final /ɾ/ in words is typical, as well as the use of /s/ instead of /θ/ (Rough Guides, 2014). Guayaquil accent is characterized by aspirating the “s” sound, particular intonation patterns, and pronouncing “s” as [ʃ], which is typical of the “street” variant of the language.

It is also important to note that the mentioned phonological variations are closely related to such aspects as the social status of language users and social classes, ethnicity, and territories where Equatorial Coastal Spanish is applied. Thus, the prestigious use of Equatorial Coastal Spanish by upper-middle-class representatives is characterized by following the norms for pronouncing “s” and /θ/ typical of standard Spanish, avoiding aspiration (Reiter & Rojo, 2014; Rough Guides, 2014).

The velarization of /n/ is popular among speakers with the African roots. Citizens of rural territories tend to pronounce /l/ and /ɾ/ similarly, and the deletion of the final /ɾ/ is a variant used in colloquial speech.

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From this perspective, it is possible to state that representatives of social classes in Guayaquil tend to use Equatorial Coastal Spanish differently, and the tendency is that well-educated people try to refer to pronunciation and intonation patterns typical of standard Spanish. Sociolinguistic stereotypes related to using the variant of the language are Guayaquil are associated with explaining certain phonological patterns with reference to gender and ethnicity factors (Reiter & Rojo, 2014). Thus, women often over pronounce “s” in contrast to the overall tendency toward aspiration. One more stereotype is that differences in intonating and using specific rhythms while speaking Spanish are typical of people of African descent.

Lexical Variation

The lexical variety of Equatorial Coastal Spanish was highly influenced by languages of native communities, with the main focus on borrowings from Quichua. The citizens of Guayaquil were among the first Spanish-speaking persons to use “achachay” to determine feeling cold and “arr array” for identifying something hot, “ñaño” for identifying brothers and sisters, and “chuchaqui” for describing the hangover.

Additional specific words were added to the Spanish of Guayaquil under the impact of other languages and contacts with other South American countries (Stimola, 2018). Thus, Ecuadorians use “guambra” for speaking about a child (niño), “aguetatar” for waiting (aguardar), “chévere” for determining something terrific (tremendo), “pana” for a friend or a buddy (amigo), and “biela” for beer (cerveza).

Equatorial Coastal Spanish is also rich in idioms like “precio de huevo” (meaning “cheap”), “¡chendo” (“just joking”), “de ley” (meaning “of course”), “¡tengo unas ganas de jamar” (meaning being hungry), “¿Cachas?” (Got it?), “¡Chuta!” (meaning “Shoot!” when feeling frustrated), and “lanzar/tirar los perros” (meaning seducing somebody) among others. Referring to slang and jargon, it is important to pay attention to such words as “aniñado” that literally means “childish,” but it is used to speak about a high-status person from Guayaquil. “Lámpara” is used in Guayaquil to describe something sketchy. In this region, the slang word “caleta” is used to describe someone’s home (Stimola, 2018).

There are also Anglicisms in Equatorial Coastal Spanish that include the words “hobby,” “man” (hey man!), “bestseller,” “feedback,” “marketing,” “cool,” “relax,” as well as sports and IT terms (Stimola, 2018). Some of the archaisms used in the Ecuadorian variant of Spanish are “dizque” (“I say that”) and “creder”.

Morphosyntactic Variation

In Ecuador, the second person singular form that is typically used by speakers is “vos” in contrast to “usted” that is widely used in other Latin American countries. Still, “vos” as a conversational norm coexists with “usted” in this region. The use of these forms also depends on the status of a person to which it is addressed. Thus, “usted” is mainly applied among friends and close people in Ecuador. The category of gender is also actively used in the Ecuadorian variant of Spanish as all nouns are regarded as masculine or feminine (Young, 2015). There are no regional differences in using singular and plural forms of different nouns in Spanish.

Ecuadorians typically use definite and indefinite articles in their speech. Different forms of definite and indefinite articles are utilized depending on the plural or singular form of a noun. Spanish speakers in Ecuador are also inclined to excessively use definite articles with proper names. One more characteristic feature of Ecuadorian Spanish is the duplication of possessives. For example, “su casa de Juan” with the meaning of “Juan’s house.”

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In addition, Ecuadorians often use the present tense form while speaking about actions in the past, and this feature is also typical of other Spanish dialects in Latin America (Young, 2015). One more important aspect is that Spanish speakers often put the verb at the end of a sentence in order to accentuate its meaning.

Sociolinguistic Attitudes and Tendencies in Spanish of Ecuador

The idea of language or sociolinguistic attitudes is based on such notions as linguistic loyalty, linguistic pride, and linguistic prestige. Concerning linguistic loyalty, Ecuadorians are inclined to defend specifics of their variant of Spanish, and they actively use idioms and slang typical in the regions they live in. They do not perceive Ecuadorian Spanish as the lower variant in contrast to standard Spanish (Mzrvin, 2016).

In terms of discussing linguistic pride, it is possible to state that Ecuadorians are satisfied with their regional variant of Spanish, but they do not discuss it as superior in Latin America (Reiter & Rojo, 2014; Stimola, 2018). However, the users of Equatorial Coastal Spanish, Amazonic Spanish, and Andean Spanish in Ecuador tend to regard their variants of Spanish as more actively used than others.

While discussing linguistic prestige, it is possible to state that, in spite of high-levels of linguistic loyalty, representatives of upper classes in Ecuador usually choose norms and rules of standard Spanish in order to accentuate their status. From this perspective, Ecuadorian Spanish, and Equatorial Coastal Spanish in particular, is not viewed as highly prestigious in relation to its linguistic variety (Reiter & Rojo, 2014; Stimola, 2018).

The reason is that active users of these dialects, for whom the reference to all unique features of Ecuadorian Spanish is typical, often represent a non-prestigious group of the country’s or region’s population (Mzrvin, 2016). Thus, it is possible to speak about the tendency of referring to traditional norms of European Spanish in formal communication though specific lexical forms and grammatical constructions of Ecuadorian Spanish are still used in informal or everyday communication.


Mzrvin, U. (2016). Ecuador history: Pre-Hispanic era, discovery and conquest, Spanish colonial era, society, economy, government, politics. New York, NY: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Reiter, R. M., & Rojo, L. M. (2014). A sociolinguistics of diaspora: Latino practices, identities, and ideologies. London, UK: Routledge.

Rough Guides. (2014). Rough guide audio phrasebook and dictionary – Latin American Spanish. London, UK: Author.

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Stimola, M. (2018). 103 Ecuadorian slang words to give vim and vigor to your Spanish. Web.

Young, D. J. (2015). Latin American Spanish grammar. New York, NY: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

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StudyCorgi. "The Variations of the Spanish Language in Ecuador." December 29, 2020.


StudyCorgi. 2020. "The Variations of the Spanish Language in Ecuador." December 29, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'The Variations of the Spanish Language in Ecuador'. 29 December.

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