QD3E: Tildes & Silibas Tónicas
QD3E stands for Qué Díficil Es El Español, the name of this subseries, and what my partner tells me whenever trying to explain something to me about Spanish.
Stressed syllables in Spanish always confused me. There were the words that we learned, and we learned how to pronounce them, but as I learn more and more advanced words, I don’t always know what syllable to emphasize.
That’s because in many introductory Spanish courses this topic is either glanced over, or in my case not even taught. So if you’ve taken Spanish or are just starting to learn it, I’m here to emphasize where to emphasize.
First we need to review a couple points on pronounciation.
- Vowels are always pronounced (el diente = el /dee.ehn-tay/, or the real phonological pronounciation would be [ˈdjɛ̃nte], note it only has two syllables)
- When two vowels are next two each other, they often form a new syllable . When it’s two strong vowels like a, e, and o, they stay separate syllables, but often merge together (ma•e•stro, but may sound like /mae•stro/). Secondly, when a weak (i, u)and a strong vowel or a weak and a weak vowel combine, they change to one syllable (can•cíon). With a native English background, we may want to separate (can•cí•on, but that would be wrong).
I’d recommend working on your base in pronounciation. I really struggle with this and am constantly guessing. Having a stronger base here, although perhaps less interesting than learning new words, is important.
Agudas, llanas y esdrujulas, oh my!
Spanish has many more rules that you can learn and follow easily which departs from much of English (although sometimes those rules are violated or have exceptions, of course — can never be too easy). One of those rules applies to silibas tónicas, or stressed syllables. In Spanish there are three buckets words can fall into for applying stressed syllables. For the first example, we’re going to take the made up word (yes I’m condensing it into one word) of meeneemineemo — from the English children’s song.
- Aguda — stressed syllable is the last one (mee•nee•mi•nee•mo)
- Llana — stressed syllable is the second from the last one (mee•nee•mi•nee•mo)
- Esdrujula — stressed syllable is the third from the last one (mee•nee•mi•nee•mo)
Now let’s apply those in actual cases. I came up with a table to help below.
This concept is one I still really struggle with, so if that resonates with you as you read this, just keep practicing!
- Erichsen, G. (2018, September 21). Why does it matter if a Spanish vowel is strong or weak? ThoughtCo. Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://www.thoughtco.com/strong-vowels-and-weak-vowels-3080300
- Spanish grammar articles and lessons. SpanishDict. (n.d.). Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://www.spanishdict.com/guide/spanish-vowels