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Manual de Pronunciación Española. Tercera edición corregida y aumentada. Por Tomás Navarro Tomás, Madrid, 1926.

This third edition of the Manual de pronunciación española contains important changes and additions. The extent of the enlargement may be judged by the fact that the new edition has approximately eighty pages more than the old edition.

In the Introduction, § 3, the general distinction between the Spanish of central and northern Spain on the one hand, and that of southern Spain and Spanish America on the other, is brought out clearly:

"Desde este punto de vista la semejanza entre el andaluz y el hispanoamericano no se funda únicamente en la extensión con que en uno y otro se dan el seseo y el yeísmo, sino en la evolución de las consonantes finales, en la relajación de la j, en la tendencia de determinadas vocales a tomar un timbre más abierto y en cualidades menos concretas y aún no bien definidas que afectan al mecanismo total de la articulación. Verdad es que tratándose de personas cultas, las diferencias fonéticas entre castellanos y andaluces o hispanoamericanos son mucho menores que entre las clases populares.

"Se comprende que en el habla de América debe haber influencias fonéticas de todas las regiones españolas, pero no es cosa fácil establecer la época, los lugares y las circunstancias relativas a la influencia de cada región. El número y la procedencia de los colonizadores, aun siendo datos de principal interés, pueden no aparecer siempre en relación con el arraigo y la amplitud de determinados fenómenos. El hecho es que el oído español puede confundir a un hispanoamericano con un extremeño o andaluz, pero no, por ejemplo, con un asturiano, castellano o aragonés."

In §4, Navarro undertakes to define the kind of Spanish that he considers the norm of good pronunciation. It is the speech of cultivated people in Castile. It rejects both provincial variations and the pronunciation of the lower classes in Madrid, Toledo, etc. And it also rejects the speech of people who, for etymological or orthographic reasons, attempt to use a pedantic pronunciation (such as pronouncing b and v as in French or English).

Once more Navarro warns us against the erroneous belief that "Spanish is pronounced as it is written." Although Spanish orthography approximates a phonetic system much more nearly than does English orthography, after reading through Navarro's Manual one cannot fail to be impressed by the large number of cases where orthography and pronunciation differ in Spanish. In this connection it might not be amiss to add some day to the Manual a concise, general statement regarding the double pronunciation of Spanish, which uses one or the other according as the speaker utters the words slowly and emphatically or rapidly and without conscious effort. Thus, a teacher dictating to beginners and pronouncing each syllable separately, would say: un-ba-so-de-a-gua, with n and with relatively occlusive d and g; while in normal conversation he would say umbaso de agua, with m, with a completely occlusive b, and with fricative d and g. Again, he would say mismo if articulating with pedantic distinctness, but if he spoke normally he would say

mizmo. The number of such changes is large in Spanish, and they cause our beginners much trouble. For instance, a beginner may ask his teacher, a native Spaniard, to give him the "correct pronunciation" of mismo, and the teacher will invariably give mis-mo. But when this same teacher is talking in a normal tone of voice and without self-consciousness he will pronounce the word mizmo.

When we come to the body of the Manual we note, for instance, that the exercises have been transferred to the back of the book and the bibliographies have been considerably enlarged. Both changes are commendable.

In § 42, Navarro calls attention to the fact that the open or close quality of Spanish vowels depends on environment rather than on etymological grounds, and he calls attention to the existence in Spanish of a variety of metaphony that is common in Portuguese, namely where final unstressed o tends to close the preceding stressed vowel, and final a or e tends to open it. This kind of metaphony, by the way, is found in Rumanian also. In Spanish, however, the resultant change is less than in Portuguese or Rumanian.

Paragraph 44, on the tendency of unstressed vowels toward "relaxation," reminds one of the advisability of warning English-speaking students to disregard all that Navarro says regarding relaxed or obscure unstressed vowels in in Spanish. Navarro's statement is correct and should appear in a manual such as this, but it must be used cautiously by our beginners. It is really better not to tell them that the final a of cama is more relaxed or obscure than the stressed a. It is better to instruct them to pronounce the two a's alike if they can. In fact, the language of central Spain (Castilian) and the language of central Italy (Tuscan) are, so far as I know, the only Romance languages that have kept intact in their purity the final o and a. Elsewhere final o has become u or has disappeared, and final a has become an obscure "neutral" or "mixed" sound, or has even disappeared as commonly in modern French. But in Castilian and Tuscan we still hear luna and tanto with a full, resonant a and o that it is a joy to hear.

In the new edition, Navarro uses trabada and libre, instead of cerrada and abierta respectively, when referring to syllables.

No rules in Spanish phonetics are more important than those for distinguishing the open vowels from the close. Some important changes in these rules appear in the third edition. Thus, i is open before j. And e is open in contact with multiple r, except when between the r and s, as in resto; e is also open in a closed syllable, except before m, n, s, d, 2, and r=gs. Here the second edition mentioned only n and s. The o is open in contact with multiple r, whether it precedes or follows, before j (as in hoja), and in the combination aor and aol (as in ahora and la ola). The u is open in contact with multiple r.

In the discussion of the three shades of pronunciation of Spanish a, Navarro repeats the statement that the Spanish palatal a has approximately the sound of English a as in "ask." It would have been better to choose another word, such, for instance, as "act" or "bad." In "ask" the quality of the a varies all the way from the palatal front a, as heard commonly but not exclusively in the United States, to a medial or velar (back) a, heard com

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monly in parts of England, and generally among cultivated people in the United States.

Navarro (§ 58) warns against the diphthongation of stressed o, of which he says: "especialmente los angloamericanos suelen efectuar diciendo algo como touno, nouta, por tono, nota, etc." The fact is that the Americans of English speech, and especially the western Americans, make the stressed o and the stressed e less diphthongal than do the English of central or southern England. Thus, an American tends to say "code" with little diphthongation, while an Englishman will usually say code, with open o and a distinct u glide. Incidentally, on page 50, chante should be chanté; and on page 63, twelfth line from the bottom, "final" should be "principio."

The material in §§ 68-70 is in part new and in part is drawn from the later pages of the old edition. For English-speaking people, with their fondness for hiatus, probably nothing in Spanish is more troublesome than the use of sineresis and synalepha; nor is anything more important. Listen to the beginner in schools and colleges read no está aquí as a sentence of five syllables (instead of three). They will all do it unless the teacher hammers away at them constantly. And when it comes to such subtleties of synalepha as are found in empezó a retozar and medité un momento, with shift of stress to a and un, I fear that even some of our advanced students may stumble. Certainly, no one can read verse properly or sing to set music without a control of sineresis and synalepha; and in Navarro's new Manual none of the material is more important for English-speaking students.

In § 70 the following statement is made:

"Las vocales representan approximadament el 50% del material fonético del idioma español. Las consonantes, aunque forman una serie más numerosa que la de las vocales, no entran en mayor proporción que éstas en la composición de las palabras. Hay varias consonantes de uso relativamente escaso. La vocal más frecuente es la a. En el recuento de varios trozos, el orden de frecuencia en que han resultado las cinco vocales, dentro del 50% indicado, ha sido: a, 16%; e, 14; o, 10.4; i, 6; u, 3.6. Las variantes abiertas e, o, son menos frecuentes que las cerradas e,


These data are interesting and one wonders whether they do not throw some light on the Spanish fondness for assimilation to a (as in para, navaja, trabajar, etc.) and less often dissimilation from i or u (as in vecino, culebra, etc.).

In §74 the statement is made that the Germans and English are wont to pronounce pas b, etc. The Germans from certain parts of Germany do so, as many of us have noted, but I doubt that any English-speaking people do so.

There is in §93 an interesting discussion of the seseo, and in § 108 the ceceo is treated. Navarro advises all foreigners, even if they go to Spanish America, not to pronounce z as s:

"En cuanto a los extranjeros que estudian este idioma, es indudable la conveniencia de que aprendan a hacer una distinción que, aparte de facilitar la ortografía y la lectura del verso, es considerada en España como la forma más correcta y no parece afectada ni pretenciosa en América tratándose de personas que no son naturales del país."

And yet he says that:

"La opinión general en Castilla acepta el seseo andaluz e hispanoamericano como modalidad dialectal que los hispanoamericanos y andaluces pueden usar sin reparo hasta en los círculos sociales más cultos y escogidos. Son muchas, sin embargo, las personas de dicho origen que teniendo que viajar o vivir fuera de su país adoptan el uso de la zeta, cuyo sonido, por su carácter culto, borra todo indicio de procedencia.”

Probably no sound is more difficult for English-speaking people than the Spanish s. In north central Spain it is a back s, slightly palatal. In Andalusia and in most of Spanish America it is a front s, uttered softly and without hissing when initial or intervocalic. Before a consonant, or final, it frequently: resembles German ch in ich pronounced very softly, or it has disappeared altogether, as in loh pahtore (los pastores), etc.

A distinguished Spaniard from Cordoba, Spain, who now lives in Madrid, told me once that he had resided in the capital ten years before he could use the Castilian back s without conscious effort. Whichever Spanish s they learn, the back slightly palatal s of Old Castile, or the front and non-sibilants of Andalusia and most of Spanish America, our students should expect to use conscious effort for several years before breaking away from their offensively sibilant English s.

Navarro has added to the treatment of r (see §§ 113, 115, and 117). I said above that probably no sound is more difficult for our students than the Spanish s. I now retract, to this extent. The Spanish single r (not the double or multiple r) is the most difficult sound of all for those Americans who were born and reared between the Alleghenies and the Sierra Nevada, and north of the Ohio River, that is to say, in the great hinterland, where the natives use a back or velar r (with the tongue pulled back) that affects every sound in its vicinity. This r is not found, oddly enough, anywhere along the Atlantic, Gulf, or Pacific Coasts, except on the tongues of people who have come from the northern Middle West of the United States. Anyone that uses this velar r will have great difficulty in acquiring a Spanish r that will be even intelligible to Spanish ears. Probably the best way for such a person to acquire the r of cara, for instance, is to follow the advice of Professor O. Q. Russell—which is also given by Navarro on page 118—to make the r as nearly as possible in the d position. I would add that the d should be as far forward as possible, so as to make sure that the d is not made in or near the position of the back 7. Say se lava la cada, and one gets a sound much nearer the Spanish r than if one says se lava la cara with a Middle-Western American r. At any rate, the cada would be understood, while the cara probably would not be, unless its meaning were gotten from the context.

Another difficult sound for English-speaking students is the Spanish y as in ya, yo, etc. The English y will not do, of course. But when our students attempt to make the y properly fricative, they are apt to go too far and pronounce it like English j in just. The only consolation for this is that some Spaniards and Spanish Americans do so too when they speak emphatically. In fact, Spanish y after n or I should have the sound of English j in just

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(§ 119), as in con hierro, el yerno, etc. I wonder how many of our advanced students in Spanish know this and practice it.

In § 121, Navarro calls attention to the pronunciation of intervocalic y like English s in "pleasure" in parts of New Castile and Andalusia (I have heard caballo, with the thus pronounced, in Toledo, Spain). This is the common pronunciation of intervocalic y in the Argentine. It has often been said that this Argentine sound came from Italy, as about one-third of the Argentines are of Italian descent. The Italian speech habits may have helped to establish the zh sound in the Argentine, but as the sound is wide-spread in Spain, it is not necessary to go to Italy to find the source of the Argentine pronunciation of intervocalic y (or y from ll).

Again, I wonder how many of our students have broken with the English ny and ly (as in "onion" and "million"), and have learned to pronounce ñ and Il with the tip of the tongue against the lower teeth.

It is customary in our North American schools and colleges to say that we are teaching the "Castilian pronunciation" if we use the zeta and do not pronounce the Ill as y (forgetful of the two s's, the two jotas, etc.). But the conditions are not so simple as all that. It is true that the zeta line is south of Madrid, but on the other hand the y (for II) line is north of Madrid. In both Madrid and Toledo the natives use the zeta, but they generally pronounce the Il as y, except on the stage or in the pulpit.


In our schools I, for one, would advise the use of zeta. As to y for ll, am in doubt. Most of our students who are trying to pronounce the ll give it the sound of English li in "million," and that is infinitely worse than y. And then y for ll is common in Madrid and Toledo.

The "Resumen" (§ 132) is new, and it shows how much spoken Spanish may differ from what one would expect from the printed page, and also how fluctuating and imprecise are many Spanish sounds. Thus, in the same small town, one person may say cansado, another may say cansao, while a third says cansau with a very broad a (§ 101). A gentleman, by the way, may say cansao, but he is not allowed to say cansau.

In this "Resumen" there are interesting statistics regarding the frequency of the several consonants:

"Las consonantes sonoras, en el cuadro de nuestros sonidos, son más numerosas que las sordas. Aparte de esto, algunas de ellas, como la r, la l y la n, se destacan entre todas por su extraordinaria frecuencia. La s es más frecuente que cualquiera de las oclusivas p, t, k, pero la theta, la jota y especialmente la ƒ se dan en proporción más pequeña que dichas oclusivas. En cifras aproximadas se puede calcular la proporción media de las vocales en un 50 por 100, la de las consonantes sonoras en un 30 por 100 y la de las sordas en un 20 por 100."

The long chapter on "Sonidos Agrupados" is one of the most important in the book, and one that our advanced students should study with care. How many already know, for instance, that in al día siguiente, su tía Dolores, se había venido, etc., the ia is pronounced iá "en la conversación ordinaria y corriente," "sin protesta del oído . . . diciéndolas con naturalidad y rapidez" (§ 148) ?

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