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5. The Phonemes of Spanish


Subject Theoretical Linguistics » Phonology

Key-Topics grammar

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405198820.2012.00007.x


This chapter describes the phonemes of Spanish, focusing on their distribution. Special attention is paid to some of the major dialectal variants found across the Spanish-speaking world. The Spanish vocoids (i.e., vowels and glides) are discussed first in Section 2, followed by consonantal phonemes in Section 3, which are grouped together according to their manner of articulation. Section 4 discusses the status of some quasi-phonemic contrasts in Spanish, and section 5 concludes with some suggestions for future research based on recent findings. The approach taken in this chapter is to present traditional descriptions of the Spanish sound inventory together with some of the most recent developments in the field of Spanish laboratory phonology, which shed light on long-standing issues regarding the Spanish phonemes and their realization. Vowels are produced with a relatively open vocal tract so that the air flows unimpeded since no obstacle is present. This is the main articulatory difference between vowels and consonants. Also, vowels are characterized by default vocal fold vibration. Different vowel qualities result from differences in vocal tract configuration during speech production, namely from different shapes and position of the tongue and lips. These give rise to the articulatory terms used in the classification of vowels: tongue height, tongue backness, and lip rounding. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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