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The Sounds of Spanish: Analysis and Application
Robert M. Hammond
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Preface to the Teacher

As suggested by its title, The Sounds of Spanish: Analysis and Application is intended to be an introduction to and a thorough account of the sound system of the Spanish language. Since the book is descriptive in nature, it presents a true picture of the Spanish language as it is spoken by native speakers from the vast majority of different dialect zones. This book can be and has been used successfully in undergraduate introductory courses to Spanish pronunciation as well as in graduate level courses that are introductions to Spanish phonetics and phonology. As an undergraduate text, The Sounds of Spanish: Analysis and Application is very complete. It includes an abundance of examples and frequently repeats important principles. This book provides students with enough essential knowledge to enable them to later study other more advanced areas that deal with Spanish pronunciation, phonetics and phonology, phonological theory, morphophonology, dialectology, etc. In a graduate level course, this book can be supplemented by additional advanced readings in both general phonetics and phonology and/or Spanish phonetics and phonology.

Part I of the book, Phonetics and Phonology, is a general introduction to these two topics. It includes discussions about phonetic transcription and acoustic phonetics, the concept of the phoneme and the five families of sounds, general characteristics of speech production, and the articulation of vowels and consonants. For students with little or no background in phonetics and phonology, this section provides the necessary background for their subsequent formal study of Spanish pronunciation. For students with a stronger background in general phonetics and phonology, you can use Part I as a brief review of these topics.

Parts II, III, and IV provide the student with a complete analysis of the consonants and vowels of Spanish. In accord with your specific classroom goals, you will have to decide how much detail students will be required to retain. In a beginning undergraduate course in Spanish pronunciation, it will probably be reasonable to expect students to learn only the basic material. At the same time, this book will additionally serve these same students as a resource for future questions about Spanish pronunciation. For students in graduate-level programs in Spanish or Spanish linguistics, it is reasonable to require students to acquire a much more thorough background in Spanish phonetics and phonology.

In Part V, Other Topics in Spanish Pronunciation, topics such as the characteristics of Spanish word stress, intonation, and vowel combinations are presented. Finally, the last three chapters of this book provide brief introductions to the historical development of the Spanish language as it relates to present-day dialect differences and to the general characteristics of the Spanish spoken on the Iberian Peninsula, the Canary Islands, and the New World. These chapters provide only brief sketches about these topics and instructors may find it useful to supplement these areas with additional more advanced readings, especially in graduate level courses.

After much thought on the matter, and in consultation with many students and colleagues, a deliberate decision was made to write this book in English. The rationale for writing this book in English is that, especially for undergraduate students, it is useful to be able to read this type of scientifically-oriented material in their native language in light of the fact that for many of these undergraduate students this is their first Spanish linguistics course. If the course itself is taught in Spanish, then the student benefits from reading somewhat difficult material in English which is subsequently reinforced in Spanish.

Many of the tables and figures contained in this book have been recorded and placed as audio files at on the web. The tables and figures that are found on this web site are identified in the text by an accompanying headphones symbol. These audio files will help students acquire an accurate Spanish pronunciation.

The four individuals who made these recordings are all bilingual speakers of Spanish and English, but each is linguistically dominant in the language in which they were recorded. All of these speakers are graduate students in Spanish linguistics. Of the three speakers who made recordings in Spanish, one is from northeastern Spain, one is from the San Juan metropolitan area of Puerto Rico, and one is from Mexico City, Mexico. The speaker who recorded the tables and figures in English is from the Midwest area of the United States. In my estimation, each is a typical representative speaker of their dialect area. Of the three native Spanish speakers, one is from non-Andalusian Spain, one is from a conservative dialect area of Latin America (Mexico City), and one is from a radical dialect zone of Latin America (Puerto Rico).

Having said this, it is important to point out that each speaker made recordings in what they felt was their normal or typical pronunciation. That is, their speech was not overtly manipulated. The result of this freedom is that they sometimes do not pronounce Spanish according to the prescriptive norms of their individual dialects, and there are occasionally minor differences between the recording and the transcription in the text. This is not an apology, but rather a demonstration that even highly educated speakers do not always pronounce their native dialect or language according to prescriptive norms.

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