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Lesson Transcript

Beatriz: Bienvenidos a Spanishpod101.com. Buenos días, me llamo Beatriz.
Joseph: Joseph here. Spanish Phonetic Series, Lesson 8 – “The fusion of words in spoken Spanish – Part 1”. Muy bienvenidos. My name is Joseph and I’m here along with Beatriz. ¿Qué tal Beatriz?
Beatriz: Muy bien, gracias Joseph.
Joseph: Welcome to the eighth lesson of the Spanish Phonetic Series of Spanishpod101.com. Are you worried about speaking Spanish with a thick accent? Then you’re in the right place. Here, we show you exactly how the Spanish language is pronounced, which will make it a lot easier to speak, and also a lot easier to understand. In this series, we’ll break down the language and show you exactly how pronunciation, intonation, inflexion and spelling work in Spanish.
Beatriz: So, join us for this lesson of Spanishpod101.

Lesson focus

Joseph: So, in Phonetics Lesson 6 and 7 we studied accentuation and we learned about “palabras agudas, llanas, esdrújulas y sobreesdrújulas”. Today, we’re going to move on and ask the question “Why do words in Spanish sound blended together?”. And hopefully, we’ll be able to shed some light on that answer, as well. After that, we’ll talk about some common difficulties that students have when it comes to the pronunciation of phrases and sentences, and we’ll wrap up by doing some exercise to reinforce what we covered in this lesson. And before we start, I just want to mention that we’ve added a really cool feature to the Learning Center. If you go to the lesson transcripts with audio for a Newbie, Beginner and regional lessons, you can listen to the conversation line by line and then you can record your own voice and compare it to the conversation. It’s a really great way to focus on your pronunciation habits. Ok, I’m really excited about this lesson because I think that this is one of the most common complaints among new students to the language. So, Beatriz, let’s get right down to it. Why do words in Spanish sound like they’re blended together?
Beatriz: Bueno, las palabras en español suenan mezcladas porque, de hecho, se fusionan fonéticamente.
Joseph: So, words in Spanish sound blended together because they are phonetically fused. So, it’s right under our noses the whole time. Beatriz, let’s try to be a little more precise. “¿Cómo se llama este fenómeno?” – “What is this phenomenon called?”
Beatriz: En primer lugar, es una especie de metaplasmo.
Joseph: Ok. So, to begin, we can say that this is a kind of metaplasm and when we say metaplasm we’re not talking about the medical term that refers to lifeless matter in a cell, but rather the linguistic term, that refers to changes in spelling or pronunciation of words.
Beatriz: Claro. Y hay varios fenómenos como éste, hoy nos enfocaremos en la sinalefa.
Joseph: That’s right. There are many kinds of metaplasms. Today, we’re going to focus on what we call the “sinalefa”. So, Beatriz, now we’ve really focused our study, but I bet most of our students aren’t very familiar with the word “sinalefa”. So, could you define it for us?
Beatriz: ¿Cómo no? La sinalefa es el enlace de sílabas por el cual se forma una sola sílaba de la última de un vocablo y de la primera del siguiente, cuando aquél acaba en vocal y éste empieza con vocal.
Joseph: So, a sinalefa or a synaloepha or a synalephe, depending on how you want to transpose the Greek word, is simply a linking of syllables by means of which a single syllable is formed out of the final syllable of one word and the first syllable of the next, when the first word ends in a vowel and the second word begins in a vowel. Also, we must remember that these vowels do not need to be the same. And if they’re different, we form a diphthong.
Beatriz: Así es. Escuchemos un ejemplo.
Joseph: Good idea. Let’s listen to an example.
Beatriz: “Ella abre la puerta”.
Joseph: “Ella abre la puerta”. So, notice here that the personal pronoun “ella” ends in the vowel “A”, and that the next word, which is the verb “abre” begins with the vowel “A”, as well. So, the syllables that contain these vowels, are going to fuse phonetically. That means that instead of saying “ella abre”, we will say...
Beatriz: “Ella-abre”.
Joseph: Great. So, it’s starting to become clear why words sound blended together and as we’ve learned, Beatriz, this is due to the fusion caused by the sinalefa.
Beatriz: Claro. Además la sinalefa es muy común en la poesía tradicional en la cual el poeta trabaja para preservar el metro del poema.
Joseph: That’s a good point. So, the sinalefa is really common in traditional poetry in which the poet works to maintain the meter of the poem. Obviously, by using the sinalefa it makes it a lot easier to get the desired number of syllables, but it would be a mistake to think that the sinalefa is merely a poetic device, because it’s used all the time in spoken Spanish and most speakers probably don’t even realize that they’re using it. Ok. Now, that we’ve learned what a sinalefa is, let’s talk a little bit about some common mistakes related to this phenomenon of pronunciation. Beatriz, with regards to the sinalefa, what usually give students problems?
Beatriz: Bueno. Los estudiantes de español aprenden a ser muy conscientes de la pronunciación propia de esta lengua.
Joseph: So, students of Spanish learn to be very conscious of the pronunciation properties of this language.
Beatriz: Claro. Y como quieren pronunciar cada sílaba correctamente se olvidan de que el idioma no está hecho solamente por palabras, sino también por frases y oraciones.
Joseph: That’s a great point. And, because students want to pronounce each syllable correctly, they forget that the language is not only made up of words, but also of phrases and sentences.
Beatriz: Así es, Joseph. Observemos el siguiente ejemplo, “ella va a hablar con su jefe”.
Joseph: Ok. Let’s look at this example, “ella va hablar con su jefe”.
Beatriz: No es de extrañar que un estudiante diga: “ella-va-a-hablar-con-su-jefe”.
Joseph: That makes it clear. So, it wouldn’t be surprising for a student to say “ella-va-a-hablar-con-su- jefe”. And again, because the verb “va” ends in an “A” here, and then we have the preposition “a” which is simply spelled with an “A”, and then the verb “hablar” which begins with an “H”, but this “H” is also silent, and the next letter again is “A”, we say “va-hablar” and not “va a hablar”.
Beatriz: Así es. Y bueno, tampoco es un error grave, pero la verdad es que hace que la pronunciación sea mucho más difícil.
Joseph: That’s an interesting point. So, this isn’t a really serious error, but on the other hand, it makes the pronunciation a lot more difficult.
Beatriz: Y no sólo la pronunciación sino también la comprensión.
Joseph: Good point. So, if we don’t train ourselves to recognize the sinalefa, it doesn’t only make pronunciation difficult, but listening comprehension, too. You know, I would even go so far as to say that this is one of the main reasons why spoken Spanish has this attractive rhythm.
Beatriz: Así es. La sinalefa te permite hablar con mayor fluidez.
Joseph: That’s a good way to put it. So, the sinalefa allows you to speak with greater fluidity.
Beatriz: Claro. Y recordemos que los mejores ejemplos de sinalefa se encuentran en la música y poesía, porque allí es la melodía la que domina la expresión, pues el lenguaje tiene que ser armónico con el ritmo y con tal fin es necesario usar la sinalefa para lograr el deseado número de sílabas de cualquier verso.
Joseph: Yes, that’s true. We should remember that the best examples of sinalefa are found in music and poetry, because there it’s the melody which dominates the expression. Seeing that the language has to harmonize with the melody and with such a goal, it’s necessary to use the sinalefa to achieve the desired number of syllables for a given line. It’s a good point to remember. Now, before we move on to the practice, I just want to repeat that with the sinalefa, the vowels that we’re fusing do not need to be the same and that the “H” is always silent. So, if there is an “H” between the vowels, at the end of one word and the beginning of another, it will not obstruct the formation of the sinalefa. Well, that was probably a lot to take in, but let’s try to make this even more clear by giving some concrete examples.
Beatriz: Ejemplos concretos.
Joseph: Beatriz, why don’t you give us an example of the sinalefa at normal speed, then I’ll break it down word by word and point out where the fusion of vowels occurs, and we’ll both repeat it at normal speed again?
Beatriz: Suena muy bien. ¿Estás listo?
Joseph: Yes, I’m ready. Go ahead.
Beatriz: “Ella quiere entrar”.
Joseph: “Ella quiere entrar”. So, we notice that the auxiliary verb “quiere” ends in the vowel “E” and that the main verb “entrar” begins with the same vowel “E”. So, we usually don’t say “Ella quiere entrar”, but rather?
Beatriz: “Ella quiere-entrar”.
Joseph: “Ella quiere-entrar”. Great. Ok. How about another example?
Beatriz: “Él tiene hambre”.
Joseph: “Él tiene hambre”. So, here, we see that the verb “tiene” ends in the vowel “E”, and that the next word, which is the noun “hambre” begins with an “H”, and then the next letter is the vowel “A”. And because the “H” is silent, the “E” and the “A” fuse together. So, instead of saying “Él tiene hambre”, we say?
Beatriz: “Él tiene-hambre”.
Joseph: “Él tiene-hambre”. Very good. Now, let’s move on to another example.
Beatriz: “Jorge va a entrar a la casa”.
Joseph: “Jorge va a entrar a la casa”. So, in this example, we notice that the auxiliary verb “va” ends in the vowel “A”, and then we have the preposition “a” which is simply spelled with an “A”, and then the main verb “entrar” begins with an “E”. So, these two “As” and the “E” are going to be fused in such a way that we don’t say “Jorge va a entrar a la casa”, but rather?
Beatriz: “Jorge va-a-entrar a la casa”.
Joseph: “Jorge va-a-entrar a la casa”. Great. So, Beatriz, now let’s move on to another example.
Beatriz: “Martín se lo decía a ambos empleados”.
Joseph: “Martín se lo decía a ambos empleados”. Great example, Beatriz. So, here, the verb “decía” ends in the vowels “I” and “A”, and then we have the preposition “a”, again which is spelled with an “A”, and after that we have the adjective “ambos”, which begins with the vowel “A”. So, here, the vowels “I” and the following three “As” will all be fused together in such a way that we don’t say “Martín se lo decía a ambos empleados”, but rather?
Beatriz: “Martín se lo decía-a-ambos empleados”.
Joseph: “Martín se lo decía-a-ambos empleados”. Ok. Now let’s look at one more example, just to make sure that we really drive this home.
Beatriz: “Silvana volvió a Europa”.
Joseph: “Silvana volvió a Europa”. Great. So, this is a unique example because here there’re actually five vowels that are fused together. First, we notice that the verb “volvió” ends with the vowels “I” and “O”. Then we have the preposition “a”, which we know it’s spelled with an “A”, and then we have the noun “Europa”, which begins with an “E” and then a “U”. So, the sinalefa or this fusion of vowels, will include the “I”, “O”, “A”, “E”, “U”. And again, we wouldn’t pronounce the sentence “Silvana volvió a Europa”, but rather?
Beatriz: “Silvana volvió-a-Europa”.


Joseph: “Silvana volvió-a-Europa”. Great. All right. Well, I hope that helps clear up some of your doubts related to pronunciation and this is as far as we’re going to go today. Remember to check out the Newbie and Beginner Series at Spanishpod101.com. You’ll be surprised how quickly you will start speaking and understanding. Also, don’t miss the Learning Center, where you’ll get all the reference material you’ll need for the learning process. So, have a good one!
Beatriz: ¡Que les vaya bien!