pronunciation of "c" before "i" or "e", and the letter "z".

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I guess there's no correct way to pronounce these? Is it a preference thing'

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updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by A---C---

14 Answers

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I think in cases where /d/ is approximated, it's usually analysed as being interdental; when a stop, it's usually dental (or, more precisely, denti-alveolar: the tongue touches the upper teeth, but it still touches the alveolar ridge!). Of course, /d/ also undergoes some assimilation with surrounding sounds: e.g. it can be an alveolar approximant before /r/ (e.g. padre).

Utterance-finally, a complication is that /d/ is usually devoiced. That actually makes things slightly more complex, because there seems to be a general tendency for approximants to be pronounced with a little bit more friction when voiceless. So you'd have to judge whether there is "strong turbulence" or "controlled, tense articulation to produce friction" that would usually be criteria for classing the sound as a fricative, or whether you're just witnessing a small amount of "accidental" friction characteristic of voiceless approximants. (In this case, I don't think there's actually such a consensus.)

samdie said:

Neil Coffey said:

By the way (and now we do go slightly off-topic), it's something of an urban myth that the ds in, say, ciudad are pronounced like the th in there

Both "d's"'! I'm going by the evidence of my ears, rather than any (vaguely) recollected texts that I've read on Spanish phonetics but I think that the the 1st 'd' is alveolar and the second (clearly) lingual-dental. I would be willing to concede the point on the 1st 'd' (i.e. that it, too, is lingual-dental).

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updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey
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Neil Coffey said:

By the way (and now we do go slightly off-topic), it's something of an urban myth that the ds in, say, ciudad are pronounced like the th in there
Both "d's"'! I'm going by the evidence of my ears, rather than any (vaguely) recollected texts that I've read on Spanish phonetics but I think that the the 1st 'd' is alveolar and the second (clearly) lingual-dental. I would be willing to concede the point on the 1st 'd' (i.e. that it, too, is lingual-dental).

updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by samdie
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By the way (and now we do go slightly off-topic), it's something of an urban myth that the ds in, say, ciudad are pronounced like the th in there.

You clearly know much more about phonetics and linguistics than I, but I have to disagree with you here. I have listened very carefully to many native speakers pronounce words such as ciudad and enchilada, and at least to my ear, the sound is exactly the same, or very nearly the same, as the TH of "there." I once even had a teacher (one on one) stop in mid-pronunciation so I could examine her tongue positioning, and it was basically the same as that for "there."

Obviously, there will be some variation in pronunciation among individuals and regions, but to me it is perfectly accurate to say that those Ds are pronounced as the voiceless TH.

updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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Perhaps my bad, but I assumed it would be clear that when I wrote th, I was talking about the voiceless variant. As you rightly interpret, I'm talking about the point of articulation, not about voicing.

By the way (and now we do go slightly off-topic), it's something of an urban myth that the ds in, say, ciudad are pronounced like the th in there. Or at best, it's a bit of phonetics Chinese whispers. To cut a very long story short, they're generally approximants, but earlier Spanish phonetics literature used the term fricativo for both fricatives and approximants (the term aproximante was introduced in the early 80s).
This appears to have been mistranslated into English phonetics texts on Spanish (or misinterpreted by English phoneticians reading such Spanish texts). With that plus the fact that there is no separate API symbol for a fricative vs approximant in cases such as [D], it was only a matter of time before this misrepresentation of Spanish phonetics would hit mainstream textbooks, dictionaries etc...

samdie said:

James Santiago said:

In AmEng we have two distinct TH sounds, those of "the" an "thick." The former is pronounced with the tongue behind (touching) the teeth, and the latter with the tongue between the teeth. In Spanish, the former sound (or one very similar) is used to pronounce, for example, the first D in ciudad and the D in words such as encantado. The latter sound is, I believe, very similar to the way most people in Spain pronounce the Z in zeta and the C in veces.

Oh goody! Heavy duty phonetics.

I agree that in English we have two pronunciations for "th" but the distinction (between the "the" and "think" of your example is merely one of voiced/unvoiced, not point of articulation. On the other hand, I agree that with the first 'd' of 'ciudad' the point of articulation is the alveolar ridge (just behind the upper incisors) which is would, then, resemble the sound that Neil is describing for Brits.

However I've never heard a Brit use that sound for a 'th' (to the best of my recollection, their 'th' is/are the same as in the colonies. The British 'very nice' (often transcribed as 'veddy nice'), on the other hand, is articulated on the alveolar-ridge but, then, so is the American 'tt' in 'butter' (for most speakers).

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updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey
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James Santiago said:

In AmEng we have two distinct TH sounds, those of "the" an "thick." The former is pronounced with the tongue behind (touching) the teeth, and the latter with the tongue between the teeth. In Spanish, the former sound (or one very similar) is used to pronounce, for example, the first D in ciudad and the D in words such as encantado. The latter sound is, I believe, very similar to the way most people in Spain pronounce the Z in zeta and the C in veces.
Oh goody! Heavy duty phonetics.

I agree that in English we have two pronunciations for "th" but the distinction (between the "the" and "think" of your example is merely one of voiced/unvoiced, not point of articulation. On the other hand, I agree that with the first 'd' of 'ciudad' the point of articulation is the alveolar ridge (just behind the upper incisors) which is would, then, resemble the sound that Neil is describing for Brits.

However I've never heard a Brit use that sound for a 'th' (to the best of my recollection, their 'th' is/are the same as in the colonies. The British 'very nice' (often transcribed as 'veddy nice'), on the other hand, is articulated on the alveolar-ridge but, then, so is the American 'tt' in 'butter' (for most speakers).

updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by samdie
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It's in section 5.1 on "Non-Sibilant Anterior Fricatives". See page 143 onwards. He mentions:
- descriptions by Navarro Tomás on Spanish (it's his Manual de Pronunciación -- I'm pretty sure I have it scanned so could dig out the exact description at some point)
- the fact that descriptions of English RP pronunciation tend to assume the tongue tip behind the upper teeth, whereas descriptions by US authors tend to assume it between the teeth
- an informal study he did with Californian and British university students (only 28 of each), where 90% of Californians produced think with the tongue tip between the teeth, but only 10% of British students produced it this way

lazarus1907 said:

Neil Coffey said:

  • from what I've read, it appears that many (most') Spanish speakers tend to pronounce z with the tongue between the teeth; this is similar to most US speakers, but different from the th of most UK speakers (going by an informal study conducted by Ladefoged, "The Sounds of the World's Languages"). Lazarus -- does this tie in with how you hear Spanish speakers pronounce the z, would you say?

I read that book a long time ago. Do you know the pages? I need to re-read it again carefully (I've got it here, with me).

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updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey
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Neil Coffey said:

  • from what I've read, it appears that many (most') Spanish speakers tend to pronounce z with the tongue between the teeth; this is similar to most US speakers, but different from the th of most UK speakers (going by an informal study conducted by Ladefoged, "The Sounds of the World's Languages"). Lazarus -- does this tie in with how you hear Spanish speakers pronounce the z, would you say?

I read that book a long time ago. Do you know the pages? I need to re-read it again carefully (I've got it here, with me).

updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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The point I was making is that British speakers apparently tend to pronounce th with the tip of the tongue behind the front teeth, whereas most US speakers (and, at appears, Spaniards) pronounce it with the tip of the tongue between the two sets of teeth (or at least, behind both sets of teeth rather than just the upper teeth).

I think I see what you're getting at now.

In AmEng we have two distinct TH sounds, those of "the" an "thick." The former is pronounced with the tongue behind (touching) the teeth, and the latter with the tongue between the teeth. In Spanish, the former sound (or one very similar) is used to pronounce, for example, the first D in ciudad and the D in words such as encantado. The latter sound is, I believe, very similar to the way most people in Spain pronounce the Z in zeta and the C in veces.

I don't know where you are from originally, but I would be very surprised to hear that the above two AmEng sounds are not the same or very similar in BrEng. All of the Brits I know pronounce "the" and "thick" pretty much the way we Americans do. What exactly is the difference you are referring to'

updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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The point I was making is that British speakers apparently tend to pronounce th with the tip of the tongue behind the front teeth, whereas most US speakers (and, at appears, Spaniards) pronounce it with the tip of the tongue between the two sets of teeth (or at least, behind both sets of teeth rather than just the upper teeth). So if you're a US speaker, pronouncing Spanish th will require little adjustment, whereas for a UK speaker it may.

James Santiago said:

Sorry, obviously I'm talking about speakers who pronounce it as a th sound! That wasn't obvious at all, because if they pronounce it as a TH sound, they MUST pronounce Z with the tongue between the teeth, as there is no other way, to my knowledge, to produce that sound. You said "it appears that many (most') Spanish speakers tend to pronounce z with the tongue between the teeth."

See why it's confusing?

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updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey
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Sorry, obviously I'm talking about speakers who pronounce it as a th sound!

That wasn't obvious at all, because if they pronounce it as a TH sound, they MUST pronounce Z with the tongue between the teeth, as there is no other way, to my knowledge, to produce that sound. You said "it appears that many (most') Spanish speakers tend to pronounce z with the tongue between the teeth."

See why it's confusing'

updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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Sorry, obviously I'm talking about speakers who pronounce it as a th sound!

James Santiago said:

Neil wrote: from what I've read, it appears that many (most') Spanish speakers tend to pronounce z with the tongue between the teeth

Not in my experience. The Z here in California and in Mexico is pronounced as an S. There is a radio station called La Zeta, and the DJ's say it exactly like La Seta/Ceta. And the famous El Zorro sounds just like El Sorro. As Lazarus says, this is why many native speakers write things like "Es la única ves que..."

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updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey
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Neil wrote:
from what I've read, it appears that many (most') Spanish speakers tend to pronounce z with the tongue between the teeth

Not in my experience. The Z here in California and in Mexico is pronounced as an S. There is a radio station called La Zeta, and the DJ's say it exactly like La Seta/Ceta. And the famous El Zorro sounds just like El Sorro. As Lazarus says, this is why many native speakers write things like "Es la única ves que..."

updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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By the way, a couple of subtleties:
- from what I've read, it appears that many (most') Spanish speakers tend to pronounce z with the tongue between the teeth; this is similar to most US speakers, but different from the th of most UK speakers (going by an informal study conducted by Ladefoged, "The Sounds of the World's Languages"). Lazarus -- does this tie in with how you hear Spanish speakers pronounce the z, would you say?
- in dialects where s and z are not distinguished, there are cases where two "sounds" are reduced to one (e.g. escena in Spain may be pronounced "es-the-na", but in Latin America would always be "e-se-na").
- similarly, in excelente, where logically you'd expect eks-se-... or eks-the-..., the ks tends to be reduced in different ways in Spain vs Latin America. So in Latin America, you end up with ek-se-..., whereas in Spain you tend to end up with es-the-.....

updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by Neil-Coffey
0
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It depends on the country. In most parts of Spain, they both sound like "th" in "thin". Practically everywhere else, they sound pretty much like an s.

Changing the "th" sound for an s is extremely easy, and anyone can do it every time, but this pronunciation is very useful for people who are learning, because otherwise, you never know whether the sound "s" is the letter s, the letter c, or the letter z. And people who use the "s" sound tend to make many spelling mistakes, unless their education and spelling is good.

updated ENE 15, 2009
posted by lazarus1907