5.4 Word Juncture

Handshake by dear_theophilus. Openclipart.

Word juncture, another important suprasegmental feature, refers to the way in which native speakers blend words together in order to create fluent speech.  In regular speech, we do not pronounce words separately and we only make pauses between words at given intervals.  Learning how to blend words together is one of the most daunting tasks that a student of Spanish is confronted with.  This challenge is compounded by the fact that syllabification in written Spanish, that is the separation of words into syllables, oftentimes differs from how syllables are separated in speech.  (It is not within the scope of this pronunciation course to address rules of syllabification.  If necessary, please consult other sources to review those rules.) Given this inconsistency, it is useful to apply resyllabification, a phonological process in which adjustments of syllable structure across word boundaries are made.  For example, in written Spanish, the phrase Irma va a asistir a un curso de historia would be syllabified as ir-ma-va-a-a-sis-tir-a-un-cur-so-de-his-to-ria.  Listen to the phrase by clicking on it and then click on the back arrow when you are done.  As you can appreciate, the pronunciation of this phrase is choppy and unnatural.  Thus, resyllabification is necessary in order to create a more natural speech pattern.  The result would look and sound like this: ír-ma-va-sis-tí-raun-cúr-so-deis-tó-ria.  (In this kind of notation, all nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs take an accent mark on the tonic vowel.  Also, the letter “h” is omitted since it is silent.)  As you can observe in the former example, the main challenge is not the blending together of consonants but of vowels that belong to different words, for example:  1) the three “a’s” in vaaasis, 2) the “a” and the “u” in aun, and 3) the “e” and the “i” in de-his.  The process of blending two or more adjacent vowels of different words into one syllable is called synalepha.  For example, in the example above, three syllables, va-a-a become one, va.

Now, let us review the three basic rules of resyllabification:

1. When re-syllabifing, create as many open syllables as possible, that is, syllables that end in a vowel.

In writing, las señoras encantadoras is divided as las-señó-ras-en-can-ta-ras (the four open syllables are in bold).  However, when we re-syllabify the phrase in order to better reflect its actual pronunciation, we get laseñóra-sen-can-ta-ras (six open syllables).

2. Join two adjacent vowels into one syllable (diphthong) rather than separate them into two syllables (hiatus).

La hermosa estación central becomes laer-mó-saes-ta-ción-cen-trál and not la-er-mó-sa-es-ta-ción-cen-trál.

3. When two like vowels come together, they are pronounced as one syllable.

Va ahora a la casa becomes vá-ó-ra-la-cá-sa.

Now, let’s look at some examples.  We first provide the phrase with regular orthography and then we resyllabify it to reflect the way it is pronounced.  Please listen to the resyllabified phrases.

•  Le he dicho eso ya: le-dí-choe-so-yá.

•  Cuando Rodrigo esto oyó: cuán-do-ro-drí-goes-to-yó.

•  La empresa se fue a la bancarrota ayer, porque al jefe se le ocurrió hacer un desfalco:
laem-pré-sa-se-fuéa-la-ban-ca-rró-ta-yer / pór-queal-jé-fe-se-leo-cu-rrióa-cer-un-des-fál-co.

•  La abogada va a afirmar que el negocio hacía transacciones ilícitas: la-bo-gá-da-vá-fir-már-quel-ne-gó-cioa-cí-a-tran-sac-cio-ne-si-lí-ci-tas.

•  Mari es la más inteligente y la más guapa: má-riés-la-má-sin-te-li-gén-tey-la-más-guá-pa.

•  Las habitaciones azules no están a la modala-sa-bi-ta-ció-ne-sa-zú-les-noes-tá-na-la-mó-da.

•  Los hermanos del hombre con el bastón tienen hambre: lo-ser-má-nos-de-lóm-bre-co-nel-bas-tón-tié-ne-nam-bre.

Now it is your turn to practice!  Please resyllabify the following phrases and then check your answers.  Remember to keep in mind the three rules of syllabification and to accent all nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs like in the examples above.




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I'm All Ears by Jorge González Casanova is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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