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Teaching Spanish pronunciation
Teaching Spanish pronunciation

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4 Liquids (líquidas)

As mentioned in Week 2 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , linguists classify two groups of consonants as liquids: laterals and rhotics. Most Spanish dialects have a single lateral sound /l/, spelt ‘l’. Spanish lis always the so-called “clear l”, that is, articulated with the tip of the tongue touching the alveolar region, similar to English lin words like lid, lap. The Spanish lateral might be difficult for some English learners, especially when it occurs in syllable coda, e.g. alto (tall), mal (bad), since in English in this context a “dark l”, phonetically speaking a velarised l, is pronounced.  /l/ in Spanish assimilates to the consonant that follows it.

For higher levels: A few varieties of Spanish have a second lateral phoneme; a voiced palatal lateral /ʎ/ spelt ‘ll’ as in calle. It is similar to the sound in Italian that is spelt gli, as in fogli(leaf).

Activity 1

Timing: Allow approximately 20 minutes.

Go to the Sounds of Speech website: main/ spanish Select Spanish, and study the allophones of /l/. Which places does it assimilate to?