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 How to pronounce Spanish / Part:02

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PostSubject: How to pronounce Spanish / Part:02   How to pronounce Spanish / Part:02 I_icon_minitimeSat 4 Dec - 11:01

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Figure 1. Commonly assumed syllable structurewith English and Spanish names for the parts of the syllable. In this example,the four phonemes of the word flor are shown in their respectivepositions: the cluster fl occupies the onset.

The syllable in Spanish

To speak Spanish more naturally and to understand spoken Spanish moreeasily, it will help to have an idea of how the syllable worksin Spanish. Syllables are the "rhythmic units" that we subconciously divideour speech into. (Usually, when you clap a word or phrase, you clap once per syllable.) In general:

  • every vowel forms the centre of a syllable;
  • consonants generally sit at the edges of syllables;
  • languages differ in their phonotactics: that is,the combinations or choices of soundsallowed in different positions of the syllable;
  • the pronunciation of sounds typically varies depending (amongother things) on where it is in the syllable (for example, in English,voiceless stops such as t are accompanied by an aspiration or "puff or air"at the beginning of a syllable, but not at the end).
Note that strictly speaking, syllabification is not a spelling issue.(Some grammars and style guides appear to confuse syllabification withhyphenation.)Syllable structure

Syllables are often analysed as having an internal structure, as shown in Figure 1.The beginning of the syllable, called the onset,can hold a consonant or a cluster of consonants. The middle of the syllable,called the nucleus, holds a vowel1. And the end of the syllable or codaholds another consonant.1. A vowel sound is generally one where the airway is not impeded, whereasa consonant "blocks" or "impedes" the airway. But there are certain consonants, such as l, n,that are actually quite "vowel-like" in that they only block the airway to a limited extent.In English, but not Spanish, these "vowel-like consonants"can potentially fill the syllable nucleus, as in the final l sound in the English wordlittle, usually syllabified lit.l, or possibly the final s in the word strengths.There are some similarities and some differences in how this structure can befilled in English and Spanish (phonotactics):

  • In both Spanish and English, onset clusters can bea stop or f plus a liquid (l or r),giving groups such as pl-, br-, cl-, fr- etc.
  • In English, the onset can also be formed by s plus a stop orcluster with a stop (e.g. spray, scanner etc).Such clusters are unstable in Spanish; we'll look at this issuein more detail below.
  • English readily allows clusters in the coda (, meetings; possibly even [kst] in mixed); in Spanish,only a very limited range of single consonants tend to occur in the coda(d, s, n, r and the fricative z1 in Castillian Spanish),although other codas are possible in loanwords.
  • Unlike English, some varieties of Spanish allow tl in the onset (essentiallyLatin America and Western Spain), e.g. in the Mexican words tlacoyo,tlayuda etc. In such varieties, a word such as atlas wouldbe syllabified a.tlas, as opposed to at.las in other varieties (principallyCentral and Eastern Spain).
  • Both languages allow diphthongs and triphthongs:vowels that are glides between two or three targets (cf English height wherethe vowel glides between an [a] and an sound). But the inventory of diphthongs andthripthongs allowed in the two languages differs, as do the circumstances when theyoccur. In Spanish, diphthongs and triphthongs tend to occur as more of an automatic processwhen certain vowels occur in sequence, rather than being simply dictated by specific words.

1. This is the voiceless interdental fricative, similar to US English th in think, where the tip of the tongue sits between the backsof the two rows of teeth, at the right position to cause friction.How utterances are grouped into syllables

The start of a word or prefix doesn't necessarily coincide with the start of a syllable.In general, words and phrases are grouped into syllables in Spanish as follows:

  • In general, the vowels i and u form a diphthongwith the neighbouring vowel, so that the i and u become a "glide into"or "glide out of" the other vowel. So for example, the word fuerteis two syllables, and fue- occupies a single syllable,with ue a dipthong.
  • In rapid speech, any sequence of two vowels can become a diphthongand fill a single syllable. So for example, tea.tro is often pronouncedas two syllables, with ea forming a diphthong.
  • Consonants generally fill syllable onsets in preference tosyllable codas. So given a sequence of consonants, they will form a clusterin a syllable onset if Spanish allows that combination in an onset (see above),else they will be split into the coda of one syllable and the onset of the next.For example:

    • the word hablar is syllabified ha.blar(and not *hab.lar), because Spanish allows the clusterbl- in a syllable onset (put another way, this sequence can come at thebeginning of a word)1;
    • the word is syllabified with two separate syllables, because sp- can't generally forman onset cluster (or stably come at the start of a word) in Spanish;
    • the word en.trar is syllabified with tr-at the start of the second syllable, rather than *ent-rar,because tr- is a valid syllable onset (and beginning of a word)in Spanish, and syllabification maximises onsets at the expense of codas.However, we of course can't syllabify *e.ntrar, becausentr- isn't a valid syllable onset in Spanish (or indeed English).
  • These syllabification patterns span over words. So forexample, come y toma is generally pronounced as four syllables, with"(com)e y" forming a diphthong (although written with a letter y,the word y is actually just the vowel , so the usualdiphthongisation rule applies).

  • When the same vowel accurs twice across a word boundary(i.e. at the end of a word then at the beginning of the following word), thenone of the vowels is normally elided (so in effect it's "pronounced once"):la alfombra becomes three syllables: lal.fom.bra,as does le escucho:
1.* Some slightly more complex situations actually arise.In the case of a word such as hablar, speakers appear to have astrong intuition that the division is ha-blar. But in the case of a wordsuch as subliminal, speakers appear less sure intuitively as to whether thedivision is su.bli.mi.nal (as expected by the maximum onset principle) (not expected, but possibly influenced by the fact thatsub- is a morpheme).

TOPIC : How to pronounce Spanish / Part:02  SOURCE : Linguistic Studies **
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