Dialect identification and listener attributes:
Do you hear la tonada?


Standard spanish =/to.ná.da/

(the tonic syllable /na/ would be longer in duration and may also have higher pitch and an increase in intensity relative to the other syllables, Hualde 2002).

La tonada cordobesa = /to:náda/

(some of these correlates of stress may be applying to the pre-tonic syllable /to/, when the word is in phrase final position)


In Argentina, the word “tonada” is used to refer to particular accents, such as “la tonada cordobesa” or alone it can refer to having a noticeable accent, such as “yo no tengo tonada pero mi mamá sí.”

Used this way, and as in this paper, “la tonada” is shorthand for the accent of Cordoba, which has enough recognition to be referred to as just “La Tonada”


Córdoba Capital: capital city of Córdoba Province
Nickname: La Docta

Population 1.3 million (2008 census)
Second-largest city in Argentina

Second-oldest founded university in Latin America: La Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, 1613



Córdoba = una de las “regiones de transición”
Map from Vidal de Battini, 1966 (p.82)

Research on la tonada and dialect identification

The existence of La Tonada has been confirmed by linguists and popular culture alike, all agreeing that the pre-tonic syllable is lengthened (Malmberg 1950; Vidal de Battini 1964; Fontanella de Weinberg 1971; Yorio 1973; Jaworski’s website)

However, this lengthening has yet to be empirically measured or tested across a variety of speakers in production or perception.

Naive listeners are able to accurately classify unfamiliar talkers with above chance performance in six-alternative forced-choice categorization tasks. (Clopper, 2004; Clopper et al., 2005)

intonation alone is sufficient for a listener to determine the dialect of a given speaker, testing listeners on filtered speech in which phonetic information is removed, leaving only the intonational contour (Gooskens 1997; Bezooijen & Gooskens 1999, for Glasgow dialect and Received Pronunciation (English); Peters et al. 2002 for Northern Standard German, Berlin Urban, and Hamburg Urban varieties of German)

Research Questions

Dialect categorization

RQ1: Does vowel duration influence the perception of a speaker’s origin, i.e. longer durations would induce Cordoba identification, and shorter durations a Buenos Aires identification?

Language attitudes and stereotypes

RQ2: Does perceived dialect origin correlate to the perception of a speaker’s social-psychological features, (eg. social class, intelligence, etc.)?

Listener linguistic experience and background

RQ3: How will listeners’ experience with Cordoban Spanish speakers influence their perception and attitudes towards this dialect? What other listener-specific features affect dialect perception and ideologies?

Results - Correct %identification of speaker origin for all listeners


Misidentification of manipulated tokens by speaker group


Correct % identification of speaker origin by listener group


Do you think your accent is nice, compared to other accents of Spanish?



1. All listeners were more accurate in identifying Buenos Aires speakers, and least accurate for Tucuman speakers (except Tucuman listeners) for Natural speech tokens, which may reflect the relative familiarity and exposure the listener experiences with these dialects = BA most widespread.

2. Changing the Pre-tonic vowel lengthening, with all other linguistic features held constant, does affect perception of speaker origin.
• Cordoba speakers with shorter pre-tonic V were mis-perceived equally between BA and TU, meaning the absence of this single feature leaves the speaker origin equally probable between the two options.
• Speakers from Buenos Aires and Tucuman with longer pre-tonic V duration were mis-perceived as CORDOBA a majority of the time, meaning this linguistic feature is associated to this dialect.

3. When asked “Creés personalmente que tu acento es lindo, en relación a otros acentos del español?” (Do you personally think that your accent is nice, in relation to other accents of Spanish?), participants from Buenos Aires showed the highest self-esteem (63%=yes), Cordoba about 50/50, and Tucuman participants esteemed their variety very low (22%=yes).
• While there are many possibilities accounting for this difference, the recognizability of the Buenos Aires variety of speech in front of the un-recognizability of the Tucuman variety may be an important factor in forming an opinion – be it positive or negative – towards a given dialect. The Buenos Aires dialect is most likely enregistered as a linguistic repertoire, meaning it has become differentiable within a language as a socially recognized register of forms (Agha 2003); whereas the Tucuman variety, arguably has not undergone this process yet.

Future directions

This study assumes perceptual normalization = that the Listeners compensate to “hear” output of same category (Gladon, Henton & Pickering 1984; Johnson 1991; Ladefoged & Broadbent 1957)….But, the talker normalization theory assumes that listeners' subjective, abstract impressions of talkers play a role in speech perception, (and is evidenced in a wealth of research on linguistic stereotypes)

Listener responses towards speakers of these 3 dialects directly and indirectly measure stance towards social status (similar to competence) and solidarity (roughly combining integrity and attractiveness)


Abercrombie, D. (1967). Elements of General Phonetics. Aldine; Chicago.
Agha, A. (2003). Language & Communication. 23(3,4),231–273
Fontanella de Weinberg, M. B. (1971). La entonación del español de Córdoba (Argentina) Thesaurus: Boletín del Instituto Caro y Cuervo. 26(1),11-21
Hualde, J. (2002). Intonation in Romance. Probus: International Journal of Latin and Romance Linguistics, 14(1), 1-204.
Malmberg, Bertil. (1950). Études sur la Phonétique de l’Espagnol Parlé en Argentine. Lund: Glerrup.
Vidal de Battini, B. (1964). El español de la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Consejo Nacional de Educación.
Yorio, Carlos Alfredo. (1973) “Phonological style in the dialect of Spanish of Córdoba, Argentina.” Dissertation: University of Michigan.