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What features make this dialect different from the ones spoken in the rest of Mexico? I am keen on understanding what makes a Norteño speaker stand out; i.e. pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, that would make a native speaker instantly recognize a Norteño speaker as such.

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I'm not from Mexico but living in el DF have had a lot of norteño friends, mostly from Monterrey.

People from the north tend to have a more rhythmic way of speaking that differs from the long drawn out syllables of the chilango in el DF. No maaaaanches weey súper Chilango. The northern accent can be a bit more lively and kind of 'chops' the words, commonly described as cantadito or golpeado.

Aside from this there is the slang and different verbs they use, some of them not real spanish and taken from english. They also insert more english words in their speech than chilangos.

For example ¿Que estás watcheando? - what are you watching. Pistear - to get drunk. Se fue a parkear la truka - He has gone to park the truck.

Also in the north they tend to say vato or compadre / compa for when we in the south may say wey. And in some areas, more towards Durango and Sinaloa, they often say el or la before the name of someone. Acabo de ver la Marioll hace rato y anda bien encabronada contigo.

pinishi - pinche (Like Motilio mentioned, the 'tsh' sound is very prevalent)

loqueron - loquera / borrachera

pichar - invitar vamos de parranda compa, si jalas?, va pero tu pichas, que yo invite la vez pasada

te la bañaste - te pasaste / te la mamaste (súper vulgar)

There are so many more and I'll add them as I remember them :)

This is a good video of slang comparison, although its not his native accent I think he does it well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IBSNVMQ7gc

This guy is norteño and this video is somewhat representative of mannerisms. Skip the first minute. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qW18sMYXU4s

Last one, check out this entry on Frikipedia, its a joke version of wikipedia maintained by Mexicans. http://inciclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Norteño

But, as Motilio mentions, there is no single accent. If you want a good example of the accent try and find a film called el infierno, its pretty famous.

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As a native norteño speaker I can tell you there is not a single norteño "dialect"

I'm from the northeast part of México (Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila) and we speak different to Chihuahua speakers and northwest speakers(Sonora, Sinaloa).

I thing the common factor is that sureños always ask if we are angry, I think our accent sounds aggressive to them. And by the words and some sounds you can identify the speaker origin. A typical example is the "sh" phoneme, northwest speakers pronounce shushi as chuchi.

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The sh-ch conversion sounds interesting...does it happen in every word with sh or only certain words? –  Amit Schandillia Jun 3 '14 at 19:25
@AmitSchandillia Mushasha instead of muchacha; leshe instead of leche. Anyway both are spelled as they must be, but the effect is represented in the first word. –  c.p. Jun 3 '14 at 20:19
That phonetic change ch -> sh occurs in some regions of Chihuahua, it's a common joke to tell Chihuahense something like "quieres osho shocolates mushasha shula" (quieres ocho chocoloates muchacha chula) But in Sonora it's the other way. They can't hear/pronounce the sh phoneme, so the say suCHI instead of suSHI. –  motilio Jun 4 '14 at 3:19

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