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Spanish liaisons


This is really a question for the connoisseurs of Spanish. In phonetics, a liaison is "the pronunciation of a latent word-final consonant immediately before a following vowel sound"

Liaison (French)

Examples of liaisons in spoken English:

" I really appreciate it " (possible liaison between appreciate and it)

"Not at all" (possible liaison between at and all - well, British English mostly)

Recently I learnt that "más allá" is a definitive liaison in Spanish.

What other liaisons are there in Spanish please?
Here I'm really looking for examples similar to "más allá" where the liaison is practically obligatory. In other words, one would show a lack of knowledge of the language if one had pronounced the two words with a pause in between.

updated OCT 31, 2009
edited by peterpierre2
posted by peterpierre2

4 Answers


This is a slighly complex answer, because I think you may be a little confused about the use of the word 'Liaison'. On the one hand you are talking about words running into one another, such as "I'm a man", which in English is indistinguishable from "Ima man", and there's nothing wrong with that. In Spanish, all such consonant-vowel combinations will do that" "¿Eres Andrea?" will be pronounced "eresandrea", as a glottal stop between S and A would sound forced and unnecessary.

Liaison is more complex than this. It is in fact most widely used in French linguistics where of course there are many 'latent final consonants', i.e consonants which one does not pronounce. For example 'mes' in French is pronounced 'meh'; however, 'mes amis' would be pronounced 'mezamee', because the 'z' sound would be reinstated to avoid an unattractive glottal stop 'meh (!) amee'. This is known as liaison, as the 'z' joins, or 'liaises' between the two vowel sounds. In spanish, there are almost no examples of silent consonants in official pronunciation, I'm sure you'll remember your first lesson when you were told to pronounce EVERY LETTER. However, depending on regional accent, some areas, such as the south of Spain, drop some consonants, especially 's', most often found in the word 'más' (i think you know where I'm going with this...). So a southern speaker, to say 'the biggest', may pronounce it like this: "lo ma grande". However, if he wanted to say 'the hereafter', as in life after death, which in Spanish is 'el más allá', he would almost certainly put the 's' back in, to avoid "el mA Allá", two 'ah' sounds next to each other. This could conceivably be called liaison, although in official usage, the 's' should never have been latent in the first place.

So, after that long answer, words in Spanish often run into one another, indeed they should, and in certain accents, you should expect the 'liaising' or reintroduction of silent consonants to break up consecutive vowels, just as you would in French. Hope this helps!

updated OCT 31, 2009
posted by nathanvictor
Excellent answer. - 00515f39, OCT 31, 2009

Coincidentally, earlier today, I watched Toy Story in Spanish. Buzz Lightyear says "Al infinito y más allá."

updated OCT 31, 2009
posted by webdunce

As I understand it, in well spoken English, liaisons are not considered to be a good thing. For example: at all should not be pronounced as a tall. It should clearly be two distinct words even if the space between them is a miilisecond,

updated OCT 31, 2009
posted by 00515f39
When I speak conversationally and say, for example, "not at all," it sounds almost like "nadadoll." I think we English speakers speak faster and run things together much more than we realize...or maybe it's just me. (I'm American, by the way) - webdunce, OCT 31, 2009
By the way, my above comment is no jab at you moritmerfan...just a tangential comment. - webdunce, OCT 31, 2009
Sorry mortimer, I totally disagree with you, visualise how the Queen in England would pronounce "Not at all" - It sounds exactly like "Not at tall". You ever watched a TV series in the UK called "To the Manner Born" character Audrey Forbes-Hamilton ? - peterpierre2, OCT 31, 2009
or was it "To the Manor Born" ? - peterpierre2, OCT 31, 2009
No, the Queen of England says Not at Awl. She speaks posh correct English just like the lady Audrey Forbes-Hamilton. If you want to know how not to speak English properly, listen to Dick van Dyke trying to be a cockney, - 00515f39, OCT 31, 2009
No you are wrong, I have a DVD copy of an episode where Audrey pronounces Not at all exactly like Not at tall in a typically upper crust accent, hence I started this thread about liaisons - peterpierre2, OCT 31, 2009
Picturing Audrey, I can hear her say it as you say. By the way, I hope you realise that not many Brits speak like her. I f you want to have a laugh, look up Brian Sewell on Youtube. - 00515f39, OCT 31, 2009

If you mean the phenomenon where the final constant sounds as though it starts the following word, I understood that this occurred in Spanish anytime a word ended in a consonant and the following word began with a vowel. Therefore más allá would sound like má sallá.

But the article at wikipedia, like all their language articles, was mind-numbing...so I might have misunderstood your question.

updated OCT 31, 2009
posted by webdunce
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