How Many 5-Letter Words Are There In The English Language Improve Your Spanish Pronunciation – Getting the Rhythm

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Improve Your Spanish Pronunciation – Getting the Rhythm

You may find that your favorite Spanish guide or dictionary has a section on pronunciation. If that section is in any way typical, it will deal largely with the pronunciation of the individual sounds of the language. It is certainly a useful starting point to consider how to pronounce, say, “ar spagnola rolled” or “the Spanish vowel ‘i'” in isolation, or in some examples of words. But your strategy for improving your pronunciation also needs to go beyond this letter-by-letter or sound-by-sound approach.

If you want your speech to sound as natural and intelligible as possible, the rhythm of your speech can be as important as, say, the quality of individual vowels. As an illustration of the importance of rhythm in speech, think in English of how a “lighthouse keeper” is distinguished from a “light housekeeper.” In this article, I will describe two important elements of rhythm and how they work in Spanish: syllabification and stress. Syllabification is the process of organizing the sounds of a word or expression into syllables, and it can differ slightly from language to language. Informally, when we clap a word or phrase, we clap once for each syllable[1].

By “stress” we mean making certain syllables prominent relative to others around them. For example, in English, the first syllable is stressed in the words “Inca” and “impotent”, while the second syllable is stressed in “incur” and “important”.

1. Syllabification

A key to giving your Spanish a more natural rhythm is to understand a process called diphthongization: that is to say make two vowels share a single syllable. Whenever you see an “i” or “u” vowel next to another vowel in Spanish, you need to think about diphthongization:

(1) if the “i” or “u” is the accented vowel – usually written with an accent, as in “María”, “país” (“country”), “dúo” (“duet”) or “búho”. ‘ (“owl”) – then the two vowels form separate syllables: Ma.rí.a, pa.ís, dú.o, bú.(h)o (remember, the Spanish letter “h” is not pronounced). );

(2) otherwise, “i” or “u” are usually pronounced in the same syllable as the vowel next to it: thus Spanish speakers pronounce “San Die.go” as three syllables, not four as in English “Saint”. Di.e.go’; The Spanish “u.sual” is two syllables, compared to the English “u.su.al”. In these cases the “i” or “u” “glides” into the other vowel, a bit like an English “y” or “w”. In other cases, it could “glide out” from the other vowel, as in “au.la” (“classroom”, “classroom”), “seis” (“six”).

Variation

Especially in some parts of Spain, there is a variation to (2): there is a greater tendency towards separate syllables at the beginning of words (e.g. “bi.ó.lo.go”, also “bió .lo.go” is also possible), and where a word with definitely separate syllables has an influence on the other by analogy. Thus, the word “ví.a” (“road”, “way”, “way”), always pronounced as two syllables, tends to influence the speakers’ pronunciation of “vi.a.ble” (“viable “); “rí.e” (“he/she laughs”) tends to influence “ri.en.do” (“laugh”), while on the other hand speakers would generally pronounce “sien.do” (“to be”) as two syllables[2].

The verb forms “vosotros” are triphthongs

Note that the endings of the verb forms “vosotros” always contain a diphthong. In a few cases, an “i” or “u” vowel can come before and after another vowel, resulting in a triphthong: three vowels that share one syllable. Examples include the “vosotros” form of regular -iar verbs (so “(vosotros) cambiáis” will be pronounced with only two syllables: “cam.biáis”) and a few other words such as “buey” (“bue “; “idiot”. “) and “Pa.ra.guay”.

Syllabification in normal speech

The models we have presented above apply to what we can call a “careful” speech: for example, the style used by a news reader who reads from the autocue. In normal, relaxed speech, diphthongisation goes a couple of steps further:

(1) any two vowels next to each other tend to share a syllable;

(2) also beyond the limits of wordstwo vowels can share a syllable.

Therefore, in careful speech, “poeta inglés” (“English poet”) would be spelled “po.e.ta.ing.lés”, in five syllables, but in normal and relaxed speech it tends to be “poe.taing. les”. ‘; “come y toma” (“eat and drink”) would be “co.mei.to.ma”; “mi amigo” would be “mia.mi.go” etc. The word “carrot” (“carota”) is often pronounced as three syllables, “za.na(h)o.ria”: as said before, the “h” is not pronounced and does not affect syllabification.

2. Stress

In general, every Spanish word has exactly one stressed syllable (with a couple of exceptions we will consider in a moment). The “default” is for the syllable next to the last to be stressed, and is considered to be the case for about 80% of the words.[3]; Words ending in a consonant except the plural -s are regularly accented on the final syllable. Where the stressed syllable of a word is not provided for by these rules – and even in some cases where it is – the stressed syllable is marked with a written accent, as in “fácil” (“easy”), “métrico”. (“metric”). But even when the regular rules apply, subtly, we must apply the rules of diphthongisation above to count syllables. Thus, in “monopolio” (“monopoly”), it is the last “o” that is accented: mo.no.pó.lio, since the final -lio forms a single syllable. In the word ‘continuous’, the ‘i’ is accented, as the word is spelled ‘con.ti.nuo’, in three syllables, not four (unlike the English ‘con.ti.nu.ous ‘).

A couple of exceptions to the rule of one stress per word are worth it. First, a few “function words” don’t usually have any stressed syllables. These include:

– possessives (‘me’, ‘you’ etc.);

– clitic pronouns (the pronouns that come before the verb: ‘me’, ‘te’, ‘se’ etc);

– monosyllabic prepositions (‘de’, ‘por’, ‘a’ etc.);

– various conjunctions when they are not used in a direct question (‘when’, ‘mientras’, ‘quien’ etc).

Where these words that do not carry stress end in a vowel, they are ripe candidates to form a diphthong with the following word in fast speech, as in “mi amigo” (“my friend”: mia.mi.go) , “. me apuro’ (“I will prepare”: mea.pu.ro) ‘de otra manera’ (“another way”: deo.tra.ma.ne.ra).

Finally, Spanish adverbs that end in -mente are the meanest of words, and usually have two stressed syllables. In effect, the suffix -mente is treated as a word in its own right in terms of stress (and actually derives from the word for “mind”); then, the adverb takes another accent in place of the corresponding adjective. For example, “fácil” (“easy”) is stressed on the first syllable; “fácilmente” (“facilmente”) is stressed on the first and last syllable. The word “frequente” (“frequent”, “common”) is regularly accented on the penultimate syllable (the “cuen”, which contains a diphthong of course!); the adverb “frequently” (“frequently”, “commonly”, “often”) on the “cuen” and “men”.

Conclusions

In this article, we present some tips to improve the rhythm of your Spanish pronunciation. If you can get into the habit of following the patterns we have presented, this will help make your Spanish sound more natural and intelligible to native speakers.

Notes

[1] This is obviously an informal, intuition-based definition of “syllable”. The Spanish pronunciation section of the Spanish-English The website gives a more formal definition.

[2] For more details and examples, see: Chitaron, I. & Hualde, JI (2007), “From hiatus to diphthong: the evolution of vowel sequences in Romance” in Phonologia (24): 37-35.

[3] Source: Alcoba, S. & Murillo, J. (1998), “Intonation in Spanish” in “Intonation Systems: A Survey of Twenty Languages”, CUP.

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