3.6: Consonants and Vowels
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Vowels and Consonants (See webpage for complete content)
Libro digital Herramientas de español
Spanish Tools Online Grammar Book
1. Consonants / Las consonantes
Spanish spelling is pretty consistent: most letters represent a single sound regardless of their position in a word. Note the following peculiarities:
H – la hache is never pronounced. Thus, words like Honduras, ahora and alcohol have no aspiration before the /o/ sound.
CH – la che is always pronounced as in “cheers”: coche, ocho.
La hache is not combined with any other consonants: there is no th, sh, ph, gh, etc.
(English “ph” may translate to “f”: filosofía, Filadelfia, fantasma).
C – la ce is pronounced /k/ (as in “case”) in most positions: caso, cosa, cuota, frecuente, crisis.
– Before -e, -i, it is pronounced /s/ (as in “sin”) in America or /th/ (as in “thin”) in Spain: cielo, acento.
– The /k/ sound (as in “kiss”), is spelled “qu” (mute “u”) before -e,-i: queso, quince.
G – la ge is pronounced /g/ (as in “go”) in most positions: gala, gota, guante, globo.
– Before -e, -i, it is pronounced almost like /h/ (as in “hen”): general, gitano.
– The /g/ sound (as in “get”), is spelled “gu” (mute “u”) before -e,-i: guerra, guitarra.
If the letter “u” is to be pronounced in a “gue/gui” combination, it is marked with a diaeresis (la diéresis): pingüino, bilingüe, nicaragüense.
Q – la ku is used only in the que/qui combinations, and the “u” is always mute in this position. Therefore, the word quinteto has no /u/ sound, and English “quota” and “frequent” translate to cuota and frecuente.
Z – la zeta is pronounced /s/ in America and /th/ in Spain.
Spanish avoids the ze/zi combination and prefers ce, ci: lápiz → lápices ; cebra, cenit.
Only four consonants can be duplicated to represent specific sounds:
• cc is used before “e” or “i” only and sounds /ks/ (/kth/ in Spain): aión and acceso but aento, ourrir.
• ll sounds /y/: calle, llama but ilegal, aludir, inteligente.
• rr represents the famous “rolling r” between vowels only: perro, carro vs. pero, caro.
• nn is used only when a prefix ending in “n” is added to a word beginning with “n”:
innecesario, connotación, but anual, anotación, conexión.
No other consonants are duplicated in Spanish: efectivo, común, oportunidad, imposible, adición.
|Summary / Resumen|
|Never pronounce the letter H (hache): alcohol, ahora, humano, Honduras, holocausto.|
|Hard C sound: /k/ as in kiss |
S/Z sound:/s/ or /th/ as in sink/think
Hard G sound: /g/ as in get
Soft G sound: /h/ as in hen
|ca que qui co cu |
za ce ci zo zu
ga gue gui go gu
ja je ji jo ju ge gi
|buscar, busqué |
|As you see, vowels e and i are exceptional in their combination with g and c. |
The words que, quien, guerra and guitarra may help you remember these spelling changes.
|No double consonants except rr, ll, cc and nn||ph → f : filosofía|
PRÁCTICA 1. Escriba en español el equivalente de las siguientes palabras, notando la ortografía (spelling).
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2. Vowels / Las vocales
Spanish has five vowel sounds –a, e, i, o, u-, pronounced the same way regardless of their position in a word:
a. like the a sound in “father”: casa, alma
e. like the e sound in”let”: lee, cena
i. like the ee sound in “leek”: mil, millaje
o. like the aw sound in “lawn”: son, hoja
u. like the oo sound in “loom”: tú, Honduras (u is mute in que, qui, gue, gui)
• i and u are called “weak” (débiles o cerradas) because, in combination with another vowel, are generally pronounced as one syllable: Ruiz, fue, dio, have only one syllable. These are considered true diphthongs in Spanish —two vowels in one syllable—, as in a·gua or vien·to.
• a, o, and e are called “strong” (fuertes o abiertas). Two strong vowels are pronounced as two syllables: po·e·ma has three syllables, ca·os has two. These are not true diphthongs, since the vowels belong in different syllables.