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Spanish Phonetics

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The Spanish language has only 5 vowel sounds and 18 consonants.[1] The language also has 29 possible allophones and 841 theorically possible combinations, requiring only 521 to cover more of  the 99.99% of the concurrences within the language.[2]

Spanish VocaloidsEdit

The following are a list of Vocaloids that use Spanish.

Phonetic System's CharacteristicsEdit


The system includes the 5 vowels of Spanish. In comparison to other languages such as English or Korean, the system doesn't includes diphones for the diphthongs. Instead, the system includes the respective glides or semivowels of the "weak" vowels ([i] and [u]) which allows it to perform the diphthongs when combined with the corresponding vowels.


The system includes 4 glides which allows to perform all the diphthongs of the Spanish. There are two types of glides: the non-silibant versions of the phonemes [i] and [u], used for the falling diphthongs (vowel followed by glide); and for the raising diphthongs (glide followed by vowel), the approximant counterparts [j] and [w] (used for [i] and [u] respectively).

Although the vowel and both glides are practically the same, there are subtle difference between them.[3]


Approximant AllophonesEdit

Lenition is a kind of sound change that alters the consonants, making them "softer" in some way. Lenition occurs especially often intervocalically (between vowels). In this position, lenition can be seen as a type of assimilation of the consonant to the surrounding vowels, in which features of the consonant that are not present in the surrounding vowels (e.g. obstruction, voicelessness) are gradually eliminated.

In the Spanish, the Lenition has been an important phenomena since the evolution from the Latin, and continues affecting some consonants, particularly the voiced plosives /b/, /d/ and /g/. Those ones in intervowel context are realized as respective "softer" approximants allophones. Although they are approximant (this means they don't produce block of the airflow, like the vowels and glides), the Spanish approximant's sound quality tends to be more stressed, which makes them sound closer to they respective fricative. It for this reason why it isn't weird to be transcribed as that in some text.

voiced stop continuant (fricative) approximant (spirant)
[b] voiced bilabial plosive [β] voiced bilabial fricative [β̞] bilabial approximant
[d̪] voiced dental plosive [ð] voiced  dental fricative [ð̞] dental approximant
[g] voiced velar plosive

[ɣ] voiced velar fricative

[ɣ˕] velar approximant

Due this, the Spanish Phonetic system includes individual phonemes for the lenited consonants. Those ones are differenced of their standard "stronger" counterparts by the uppercase symbol, fitting in that way with their respective X-SAMPA's symbol for the fricatives.

The "harsher" plosives generally appears at the beginning of the words, after a nasal consonant like [m] or [n], and after a pause, while their "softer" allophones appears in all the other context, especially intervowel.

Like in the case of the English's aspirated allophones, both versions can be interchanged without problem, varying only by the degree of stress and emphasis of the words. The slow speech tends to favor the "hard" plosives while the fast speech tends to favor their "softer" counterparts.[4]

Rhotic ConsonantsEdit

The Spanish language is one of the few Indo-European languages which has a clear distinction of the rothics consonants /ɾ/ alveolar tap (the "flapped D" in the American English, known as "ere" in the Spanish) and /r/ alveolar trill (Rolling R, known as "erre" in the Spanish). Usually these phonemes are merged or are allophonic in the most of the cases.

The alveolar trill and the alveolar tap are in phonemic contrast word-internally between vowels but are otherwise in complementary distribution. For distinct a intervowel alveolar trill, the double R (or 'rr') notation is used while a single intervowel R always is an alveolar tap. In the Spanish phonetic system, this orthographic notation was used instead the usual X-SAMPA notation, as the the alveolar tap is represented as [r] while the alveolar trill is represented as [rr], not as [4] or [r] how they should be respectively.


Phoneme ReplacementEdit

In the Spanish shows a notorious contrast at the beginning of the syllable, however at the end of the syllable (coda position) the contrast of some consonant, making them prone to assimilation processes and/or causing merging. Knowing these ones it's possible replace some of the phonemes for the respective allophone, allowing change the stress and pronunciation

Voicing AssimilationEdit

Nasal AssimilationEdit

Realization of the REdit

Phonetic ListEdit

Symbol Classification IPA's Symbol / Name Sample Notes Related Phonemes
a vowel ä open central unrounded vowel padre
e vowel mid front unrounded vowel enero [i] (lowered)
i vowel i close front unrounded vowel finca, mío

[j] (glide)

[I] (non-syllabic)

o vowel mid back rounded vowel foco, oído [u] (lowered)
u vowel u close back rounded vowel musa, dúo

[w] (glide)

[U] (non-syllabic)

j semivowel j palatal approximant amplio, ciudad Used in raising diphthongs (glide+vowel).

[i] (syllabic)

[I] (non-syllabic)

[j\] (fortitied)

w semivowel w voiced labio-velar approximant huevo, buitre Used in raising diphthongs (glide+vowel).

[u] (syllabic)

[U] (non-syllabic)

[G] (unrounded)

I semivowel aire, muy Used in falling diphthongs (vowel+glide).

[i] (syllabic)

[j] (glide)

U semivowel pausa, neutro Used in falling diphthongs (vowel+glide).

[u] (syllabic)

[w] (glide)

p consonant p voiceless bilabial plosive perro, apto [b] (voiced)
t consonant voiceless dental plosive tuyo, traba [d] (voiced)
k consonant k voiceless velar plosive caña, quise, kilo

[g] (voiced)

b consonant b voiced bilabial plosive bestia,embuste, vaca, envidia At the beginning of the word or after a pause or after a nasal consonant.

[p] (voiceless)

[B] (lenited)

B consonant

β~β̞ bilabial spirant

bebé, obtuso, vivir, curva Lenited /b/. In middle of a word, in all the cases where /b/ isn't used. [b] (fortited)
d consonant voiced alveolar plosive dedo, cuando, aldaba At the beginning of the word or after a pause or after a nasal consonant or after /l/.

[t] (voiceless)

[D] (lenited)

D consonant

ð~ð̞ dental spirant

dedo, arder, admirar Lenited /d/. In middle of a word, in all the cases where /d/ isn't used. [d] (fortited)
g consonant ɡ voiced velar plosive gato, lengua, guerra At the beginning of the word or after a pause or after a nasal consonant.

[k] (voiceless)

[G] (lenited)

G consonant

ɣ ~ ɣ˕ or ɰ velar spirant

trigo, amargo, sigue Lenited /g/. In middle of a word, in all the cases where /g/ isn't used

[g] (fortited)

[w] (rounded)

tS consonant ʧ voiceless postalveolar affricate chancho [t] (deaffricated)
f consonant f voiceless labiodental fricative fase, café
T consonant θ voiceless dental fricative cerro, cima, zumo, paz

[D] (voiced)

[s] (seseo or th-alveolarization)

[t] (th-stopping)

[f] (th-fronting)

s consonant s voiceless alveolar silibant casa, xilófono [T] (ceseo; dentalized or lisped)
x consonant x voiceless velar fricative jamón, reloj, genero, México
m consonant m bilabial nasal mamá , campo, invertir Also an allophone of /n/ in front of labial consonants. [n] (delabialized)
n consonant n alveolar nasal nido, sin

Contains various allophones:

/n/ at the beginning of word or after a pause

/ɲ/ or /nʲ/ before palatals as /ʎ/, /ʝ/ or /ʧ/

/ŋ/ before velars as /x/, /k/, /g/ or /ɣ/

// before dentals as /d̪/, /ð/ or /t̪/

[J] (palatalized)

[m] (labalized)

J consonant ɲ palatal nasal ñandú, enyesar Also an allophone of /n/ in front of a palatals as /ʎ/, /ʝ/ or /ʧ/. [n] (depalatalized)
l consonant l alveolar lateral approximant lana, principal
r consonant ɾ alveolar tap caro, bravo, Amor eterno [rr] (trilled)
rr consonant r alveolar trill rumbo, carro, honra, alrededor, disruptivo, Azrael At the beginning of the word or after a nasal consonant, /l/, /s/ or /θ/. Intervowel only if is specified by a double R. [r] (lenited)
L consonant ʎ palatal lateral approximant llave, pollo

[j\] (yeísmo)


j\ consonant ʝ voiced palatal fricative ayuno

[L] (lleísmo)

[j] (lenited)

See alsoEdit

Conversion Lists
Interwiki articles

External linksEdit


  1. link
  2. Jordi Bonada and Xavier Serra - Pompeu Fabra University, Music Technology Group, Ocata, 1, 08003 Barcelona, Spain: Synthesis of the Singing Voice by Performance Sampling and Spectral Models
  3. link
  4. link

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