Why do people pronounce 'c' in spain as 'th'?



updated Feb 22, 2012
posted by xingchen01pd2018

3 Answers


Hello xingchen. Well, what an interesting question! Due to prolonged contact with other languages, the Spanish lexicon contains influences from Basque, Germanic, Arabic, and some of the languages of the Americas. The 'Interdental' lisp or 'th' sound in words such as 'cinco and hacer' is merely a development of the language over the past 1,000 years, and not a 'sudden' change. Words, and sometimes sounds will naturally change. Just as in English: wyfe is now wife, nyght is night. Ende, olde, and sweete all eventually dropped the 'e' to become Modern English. Before the 16th century, Spanish was known as, 'Old Spanish', since then it is is called 'Modern Spanish'. Castillian Spanish originated after the decline of the Roman Empire, as a continuation of spoken Latin. In the northern dialects, the 's' sound was pushed forward in the mouth to the 'Inter-dental' place of articulation. The result was the 'th' sound. In the south of Spain and in the Americas, this sound hardly evolved and stayed as the 's' sound. No one 'really' knows when or why the 'th' developed, but language evolves very slowly...usually over hundreds of years. Even in Andalusia where the 'th' is most prevalent, especially around the coastal areas, if you go far enough inland, it changes to 's'. Complicated isn't it??? Oh, by the way. If you've heard the story about the King of Spain with the lisp...it's just a fairy story, albeit a nice one!.....Hope this is of some interest...Jool.

updated May 28, 2012
posted by jool
Nice answer.
Gets my vote.
nice. :)

I've also heard people speaking English as a second language pronounce 'th' (as in think, thought etc) as 's' or even ' z', whereas here in England if people have trouble pronouncing 'th' they will use 'f' giving 'fink' , 'fought' and 'free' for think, thought and three.

Oh, and some people from Ireland simply pronounce it as 't' - giving 'tink', 'tought' and 'tree'!

Evidently it's not the easiest sound to pronounce.

I don't like using the word lisp for it though, jool, as a lisp is a speech impediment.

Differentiation between 's' and 'z'/'ce'/'ci' is not lisping.

updated Feb 22, 2012
posted by galsally

Well, why do English-speakers prounounce 'th' as they do? It's just languages! It's not much use asking why, we have to go along with it, otherwise nobody will understand us.

updated Feb 22, 2012
posted by annierats
Equally why do London East Enders drop their "H"s as in arpoon, otel, eaven, etc, etc, they just do.
I like it when they add in an h where there shouldn't be one - Helephant, Hopen etc, Eddy - dunno if that's a thing of the past though?
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