Wednesday, March 23, 2016


In relaxed conversation, we usually stress the important words --the “content words,” as we say in linguistics-- and do not stress the unimportant words --the “function words.”

Content Words                                       Function Words
Nouns                                                      Subject Pronouns: I, you, he, etc. 
Possessive Pronouns: mine, yours, etc. Object Pronouns: me, him, her, etc.
Interrogative Pronouns: what, why, etc.
Main verbs                                               Auxiliary verbs
                                                                Modals: should, may, might, etc.
                                                                Prepositions: to, for, in, etc.
                                                                Conjunctions: and, so, but, etc.
                                                                Articles: a, an, the, etc.

Example:  I’m going to talk to her. (“I’m gonna talk to‘er.”)

No such thing as function words, or unstressed words in Spanish.  

To the extent that you do not pay attention to the pronunciation of each word in a sentence, your speech is considered sloppy.

In Spanish, we are supposed to pronounce every word clearly.

Example:  Hablaremos mañana; encontraremos una solución.
                 (As opposed to English: We’ll talk tomorrow; we’ll find a solution.)

Linkage. We do link words in conversational Spanish.

     (a) When same vowels at the end and beginning of following words:
          Example:  la-almohada  (the pillow)
          But those who want to be careful pronounce both a’s, or as a longer ‘a’.
     (b) Also when vowels are different:
          Example:  hombre-alto (tall man)
          Again both vowels are articulated although linked.

    (c) Words ending with a consonant and followed by a vowel.
         Example:  el-abuelo  (the grandfather)
Remember: In English we have a similar stress system in the pronunciation of vowels  (the unstressed vowels usually become indefinite). And in sentences, again, we also have a stress system based on important (content words) and unimportant words (function words).

In Spanish, we do not have “unimportant” or unstressed words in a sentence.

Languages reflect the native culture. As opposed to English, Spanish is originally from once aristocratic Spain (la Real Academia Española – the Royal Spanish Academy). Remember Don Quijote, the medieval gentleman who refused to accept modern times.

Controversial (I love thoughtful controversy)
That’s why many Cubans in the island –although educated-- tend to be “sloppy” in their pronunciation. The Marxist-Leninist revolution rejected the middle-class manners (considered “bourgeois”) and replaced those manners with those of the proletariat, the worker. 

Again, on the average, island Cubans tend to be more educated, but South Americans, for example, even in the least developed countries, are more careful in their pronunciation. Those are societies in which language shows our social level. 

Colombians go to the extreme of using formal ‘usted’ even with their girlfriends/boyfriends. 

Nobel-prize novelist Garcَía Márquez’s novel Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Loneliness) deals with those medieval strains still found in some South American countries –although globalization is doing away with those windmills.

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