Feature descriptions

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Distinction of /s/ vs. /θ/

The alveolar and interdental fricatives constitute separate phonemes. A defining characteristic of Castilian Spanish, spoken in central and northern Spain.


Absence of the distinction between phonemes /s/ and /θ/ in favor of the interdental fricative or an acoustically similar sibilant. Characteristic of many parts of southern Spain but also found in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Apical /s/

The sibilant is produced with the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge. Common in central and northern Spain, highland Bolivia, and the department of Antioquia in Colombia.

Aspiration of /s/

Pronunciation of (almost always) syllable- or word-final /s/ as a glottal (or occasionally velar) fricative. Common in southern Spain and in coastal and lowland America.

Deletion of /s/

Deletion of /s/ in syllable- or word-final position. Common in southern Spain and in some coastal and lowland American dialects.

Intervocalic /s/ voicing

Voicing of /s/ to [z] between vowels, either word-finally or word-internally. Common in highland Ecuador and in Costa Rica.

Aspiration of Latin /f/

Intial /f/ in Latin was aspirated and later written h in Spanish words such as harina (< FARINA) and hembra (< FEMINA). The aspiration ([h] sound) was generally lost in early Modern Spanish but vestiges remain in certain words and in certain dialects (e.g., in Andalusia and the Caribbean).

Bilabial /f/: /f/ ➔ [ɸ]

The phoneme /f/ is pronounced with the two lips rather than with the bottom lip against the top teeth.

Deaffrication of /tʃ/: /tʃ/ ➔ [ʃ]

The "ch" sound loses its occlusive component and ends up being pronounced instead like English "sh". Common in southern Spain, as well as in some American dialects.

Deletion of /d/

The phoneme /d/ weakens considerably between vowels and often deletes completely, notoriously in the suffix -ado. Extremely common throughout Spain and the Caribbean, but also attested in other parts of lowland America.

Labiodental /b/: /b/ ➔ [v]

The expected bilabial approximant allophone [β] of phoneme /b/ is instead realized as the labiodental fricative [v], whether it is orthographic "b" or "v". Common in Chile.

Liquid leveling: lateralization

Phonemes /l/ and /ɾ/ are neutralized in coda position, where they are generally realized as a lateral: alma and arma are both pronounced ['al.ma].

Liquid leveling: rhotacism

Phonemes /l/ and /ɾ/ are neutralized in coda position, where they are generally realized as a rhotic: alma and arma are both pronounced ['aɾ.ma].

Liquid leveling: liquid gliding

Phonemes /l/ and /ɾ/ are neutralized in coda position, where they are generally realized as a palatal glide: alma and arma are both pronounced ['ai̯.ma].


The traditional phonemic distinction between graphemes "y" and "ll" is maintained, generally with the latter representing the palatal lateral /ʎ/. Haya and halla are not pronounced the same.


One or both of the graphemes "y" and "ll" are pronounced with the voiced alveopalatal sibilant [ʒ] or its voiceless counterpart [ʃ]. Characteristic of Porteño pronunciation, in which there is no distinction between "y" and "ll", but also found in Quito, where the sibilant pronunciation is always voiced and used only for "ll".

"Jota glotal": /x/ ➔ [h]

The Spanish letter "j" (as well as "g" before vowels "i" or "e") is pronounced with glottal aspiration [h]. Characteristic of the Caribbean, Central America, Colombia, and Bolivia.

"Jota velar": /x/ ➔ [x]

The Spanish letter "j" (as well as "g" before vowels "i" or "e") is pronounced with velar friction [x]. Characteristic of Mexico and the Southern Cone.

"Jota uvular": /x/ ➔ [χ], [ʀ̥]

The Spanish letter "j" (as well as "g" before vowels "i" or "e") is often pronounced as a voiceless uvular fricative [χ] or trill [ʀ̥]. Common in central and northern Spain.

Pre-aspiration of /r/

The trilled "r" in the Caribbean is often accompanied by glottal aspiration.

Uvular /r/: /r/ ➔ [ʀ̥], [χ]

In Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, trilled /r/ is often uvular.

Assibilation of /r/

Known colloquially as the "erre arrastrada" in some regions, this is not a trill but a fricative with varying degrees of sibilance. In some dialects the sound, transcribed [ɹ̝], is acoustically similar to [ʒ] but with "r-coloring". Characteristic of Andean Spanish but also common in Paraguay, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico. In some dialects and speech styles, coda /ɾ/ can also assibilate and devoice.

Assibilation of /tr/

Common in many places where we find assibilated /r/ (e.g., Paraguay, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala), this sounds much like the "tr" of English tree.

Leveling of tap /ɾ/ and trill /r/

Word-internal trills are produced as taps, and there is no phonemic distinction between the two rhotics. Found in some Mexican-American and Judeo-Spanish communities.

Velarization of word-final /n/

Word-final /n/ is velarized to [ŋ] before a pause or a word beginning with a vowel. Heard in NW Spain, Andalusia, Canary Islands, the Caribbean, Central America, and the Andes.

Vowel raising

Unstressed mid vowels /e/ and /o/ are raised to [i] and [u], respectively. Heard in parts of central Mexico.

Vowel weakening/deletion

Unstressed vowels tend to be shortened, devoiced, or lost. Common in "consonant-heavy" dialects of Mexico and the Andes.

Weakening of intervocalic voiced palatal obstruent

The consonant spelled "y" or "ll" is weakened to a glide between vowels, and often lost after a front vowel: milla is pronounced like mía.


The use of vos instead of as the familiar second-person pronoun—and/or its associated verbal morphology. A third of Latin American speakers are voseantes. Found in all countries except Spain and the Antilles, but not in most of Mexico, Venezuela, or Peru.


The second-person plural pronoun vosotros and its associated morphology (e.g., verb forms and possessive adjectives) are used productively only in Spain.

Ustedes with 2PL verb morphology

The use of the pronoun ustedes but with verb forms corresponding to the second-person plural vosotros: e.g., ustedes vais. Common in Andalusia.


The use of de que where normative Spanish would prescribe simply que: e.g., Creo de que ....

Present perfect for preterite

Use of the present perfect in contexts where most other dialects would prefer the preterite. Typical of Spain and the Andes, but triggered by different pragmatic factors.


Use of the clitic pronoun le in place of lo (or even la) as a direct object, most commonly when referring to a person.

Omission of direct object

Failure to state the direct object of a verb in contexts where most dialects would require a clitic pronoun.