Spanish Phonology - Vowels

Vowels

Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid
Open ä

Spanish has five vowels /i/, /e/, /a/, /o/ and /u/. Each occurs in both stressed and unstressed syllables:

stressed unstressed
piso 'I step' pi 's/he stepped'
peso 'I weigh' pe 's/he weighed'
paso 'I pass' pa 's/he passed'
poso 'I pose' po 's/he posed'
pujo 'I bid' (present tense) pu 's/he bid'

Nevertheless, there are some distributional gaps or rarities. For instance, an unstressed high vowel in the final syllable of a word is rare.

Allophones

Phonetic nasalization occurs for vowels occurring between nasal consonants or when preceding a syllable-final nasal, e.g. cinco ('five').

Arguably, Eastern Andalusian and Murcian Spanish have ten phonemic vowels, with each of the above vowels paired by a lowered (or fronted) and lengthened version, e.g. la madre 'the mother' vs. las madres 'the mothers'. However, these are more commonly analyzed as allophones triggered by an underlying /s/ that is subsequently deleted.

Read more about this topic:  Spanish Phonology

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