Language Information

Spanish is a language with a two-gender system and about fifty conjugated forms per verb, but small noun declension and limited pronominal declension. As for syntax, the unmarked sentence word order is Subject Verb Object, though variations are possible.

Spanish is written using the Latin alphabet, with a few special letters: the vowels can be marked with an acute accent (á, é, í, ó, ú) to mark stress when it does not follow the normal pattern or to differentiate otherwise equally spelt words (see below); u with diaeresis (ü) after g to indicate that it should be pronounced [gw]; and n with tilde (ñ) to indicate the palatal nasal [ɲ].

Written Spanish precedes exclamatory and interrogative clauses with inverted question and exclamation marks. This feature provides an immediate understanding of a written sentence's sense from its very beginning.

Spanish has a phonemic stress system the place where stress will fall cannot be predicted by other features of the word, and two words can differ by just a change in stress. Written Spanish marks unequivocally stress through a series of orthographic rules. The default stress is on the final syllable when the word ends in any consonant other than -n or -s and on the penultimate (next-to-last) syllable on words that end in a vowel, n or s. Words that do not follow the default stress have an acute accent over the stressed vowel.

Spanish orthography is such that every speaker can guess the pronunciation (adapted for accent) from the written form. While the same pronunciation could be spelled in several ways there are homophones, because of the language's silent h, vacillations between b and v, and between c and z.

Spanish pronunciation

Pronunciation of Spanish words is different in Europe and America.

Pronunciation of European Spanish

Pronunciation of European Spanish

Notes

  • c = [ θ ] before i or e, [ k ] elsewhere.
  • d = [ ð ] between and before vowels, [ d ] elsewhere.
  • g = [ x ] before i or e, [ g ] elsewhere.
  • gu = [ g ] before i or e, [ gw ] elsewhere.
  • only appears before i or e.
  • n = [ ŋ ] before g, e.g. tengo (I have), [ n ] elsewhere.
  • r = [ ɾ ] between vowels, [ r ] elsewhere.
  • w = [ w/β ] - only appears in loanwords.

Pronunciation of Latin American Spanish

Pronunciation of Latin American Spanish

Notes

  • Vowels are the same as European Spanish.
  • c = [ s ] before i or e, but [ k ] elsewhere.
  • g = [ h ] before i or e, but [ g ] elsewhere.
  • gu = [ g ] before i or e, but [ gw ] elsewhere.
  • ll = [ ʎ ] or [ j ] in Mexico, [ ʃ ] in Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, [ ʒ ] in Argentina, and [ j ] in other Spanish-speaking countries.
  • r = [ ɾ ] between vowels, [ r ] elsewhere.
  • rr = [ ɽ ] or [ l ] in Puerto Rico. [ x ] in other parts of Central America.
  • In Central America, s = [ h ] at the end of a syllable and/or after an other consonant.
  • v = [ v ] in Mexico, [ b ] elsewhere in Latin America.
  • x = [ s ] at the beginning of words, [ ks ] elsewhere. In Mexico, x = [ h ], [ s ] or [ ks ]. In words borrowed from Nahuatl, Mayan or other indigenous languages of Mexico, x = [ ʃ ] or [ s ].
  • y = [ j ] as a consonant or semi consonant. In emphatic speech in Argentina and Chile = [ ʒ ].
  • k and w only appear in loan words.

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