Spanish-English Contrasts: A Course in Spanish Linguistics

By M. Stanley Whitley | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Phonemes

2.0 Comparing systems.

This chapter first compares the consonant and vowel systems of Spanish with those of English. Next, it discusses the different ways in which the two languages join phonemes to form syllables and words. Finally, since pedagogy usually takes up Spanish phonemes in terms of their orthography, spelling conventions are described and distinguished from phonological processes. The methods of contrastive analysis (v. 0.2.1) have been particularly successful in the arena of phonology, because a comparison of phonemic systems readily reveals cases of shared elements (e.g., Spanish /m/= English /m/), of similar elements with different form or function (e.g., /t/ and /r/ in the two languages), and of wholly different elements or patterns (e.g., the Spanish eñe /ɲ/ and erre

sounds, which English lacks).


2.1 Consonants.

English and Spanish share many of the same consonants and spell them similarly. The main problems center on shared phonemes with different articulations or allophones, Spanish phonemes that are absent from the English system, and dialect variation at two major points in the Spanish system.


2.1.1 General comparison of consonant systems.

Figures 2.1 and 2.2 display the consonant systems of Spanish and English. (Remember that these are phonemes and that their allophones can vary.) The two systems are constructed similarly: both make voiceless/voiced distinctions in their stops (/p t k/ vs. /b d g/), both distinguish two glides (/j w/) and three nasals, and there is direct overlap in that /f m 1 s ʧ n g/ and other phonemes occur in both. In learning the consonant phonemes of Spanish, therefore, the English speaker need not start from scratch, and this fact is commonly exploited by pedagogical instructions such as "Spanish f is pronounced like the f of English find"


2.1.2 Consonants with different articulations: /t d/.

One must be careful in equating phonemes by their symbols alone. Both languages have two phonemes conventionally symbolized /t/ and /d/, but this does not mean that they are identical. One difference is

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