On Mon, 26 Jan 2004 18:59:59 -0500, Trebor Jung <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>How different are the Arabics spoken in Morocco, Iraq, Tunisia, Saudi
Arabia etc., the Germans spoken in Germany, Switzerland, Austria etc., the
Frenches spoken in France, Canada, French Guiana etc., and the Spanishes
and Portugueses spoken around the world? What are some of the phonological
and grammatical changes in these dialects compared to the 'standard'?
Latin American Spanish dialects are, to most speakers, quite mutually
intelligible, certainly closer in their phonologies than the pronunciation
differences in American English dialects. Variations occur in the sound
spelled ll_ (as the recent /c/ /j/ /J/ /J\/ thread made clear) as well as
syllable-final /s/ becoming [h] or silent (with lengthening of the
preceding vowel) in some dialects.  In some colloquial dialects in the
Caribbean, uvular approximants or trills can be heard in place of the apico-
alveolar trill (word-initial _r_ and intervocalic _rr_).  Continental
Spanish phonology (particularly Castilian) is rather different sounding to
Latin American ears, being less musical (more monotone), as well as having
the ceceo /T/, the retroflex /s`/ in place of Latin American /s/, /X/ in
place of /x/, and the _ll_ pronounced /L/.  Vowel sounds are surprisingly
uniform throughout the Spanish-speaking world.  There are, of course,
occasional lexical differences in all the dialects, as well as differences
in idiomatic expressions as is the case with dialects of all languages.
There are very few significant grammatical differences between Spanish
dialects, even between Continental and Latin American.

Portuguese is more interesting.  Having had several Brazilian
acquaintances, having spent 3 weeks in Portugal last summer, and being a
near-fluent Portuguese speaker myself, I am personally familiar with the
differences, which are numerous in terms of phonology, the lexicon,
idiomatic expressions, and even syntax.  The Brazilians I've known (mostly
speakers of the Carioca dialect of Rio) find Continental Portuguese rather
difficult to understand. All vowels are fully pronounced in Brazilian,
whereas Continental Portuguese speakers pronounce unstressed /e/ as /@_X/
if necessary and elide it (as well as syllable-final /o/) completely when
phonotactically permissible.  Cariocas palatalize /t/ and /d/ into /tS/
and /dZ/ before front vowels; not so in Continental.  Carriocas
pronounce /r:/ variously as [h], [x], or [X] whereas Continental speakers
usually pronounce it [R], sometimes [r:]. Such rules can lead to
unintelligible differences in word-pronunciations, e.g., _ferramentos_
meaning 'tools', pronounced by Cariocas as the 4-syllable [feh6me_ntuS] and
in Portugal as the 2-syllable [fR6me_ntS].  Examples of grammatical
differences are the use of _estar_ + the gerund to signify progressive
verbal aspect in Brazilian, whereas Continental prefers _estar a_ +
infinitive.  Object pronouns cannot occur sentence-initially in Continental
and are usually suffixed to verb forms, e.g., _Vejo-o_ (I see him);
Brazilians prefer placing them before verbs and usually have no problem
with sentence-initial object pronouns, _O vejo_ (I see him).

As for Arabic, I only know about a few phonological differences between the
dialects.  /q/ is realized as /q/in Iraqi, /g/ in Hijazi (Western Saudi
Arabia), and /?/ in Levantine.  An example of a lexical difference
is /'taj:ib/ "good" in Hijazi, a word unknown in Egyptian, where /'kwEj:is/
is used.

I speak passable-but-not-great French and the only difference I can hear
between Continental and Quebecois is in the vowel /i/, pronounced more
like /I/ in Quebec.  Parisians tell me, however, that a Quebecois accent is
quite audible, even "quaint" to their ears.

--John Quijada