Question regarding English Speech Patterns vs those of Spanish
Thread poster: Lithium381
Lithium381
Spanish to English
Oct 23, 2005

Is it correct to say that english favors closed sylables and a word based speech pattern as opposed to say Spanish that has the tendency to leave sylables in the open position and use a phrase-based speech pattern? This is regarding teaching and attempting to help the students learn better habits in regards to Spanish pronunciation.

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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
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open and closed syllables in English & Spanish Oct 23, 2005

Lithium381 wrote:

Is it correct to say that english favors closed sylables and a word based speech pattern as opposed to say Spanish that has the tendency to leave sylables in the open position and use a phrase-based speech pattern? This is regarding teaching and attempting to help the students learn better habits in regards to Spanish pronunciation.


A closed syllable is simply one that has a consonant at the end; an open syllable is one without a consonant at the end. In English all vowels can be in a closed syllable, but only certain vowels can exist in an open syllable.
If you want we can discuss lax and tense vowels in detail (their duration, and in which circumstances they occur), because there is a big difference there between Spanish and English; but for now to answer your question regarding open and closed syllables, I don't think there's any specific tendency in Spanish to leave syllables in an open position.
In English I don't think there's any specific tendency either, there are both open and closed syllables in words. English has words such as "bee", which has one open syllable (with tense vowel /i/), words such as "bit", which has one closed syllable (lax vowel /I/), and words such as "bait" (closed syllable with tense vowel /eI/) or "bay" (open syllable, again with tense vowel /eI). Spanish has a much simpler system with five contrasting vowels only, as you already know.
Where I do see a tendency in English is with tense vowels in open syllables: i.e. open syllables tend to have tense vowels, rather than lax vowels. In fact right now I can't think of an open syllable with a lax vowel.
Could you give a couple of examples that could illustrate your view that Spanish tends to have open syllables? Perhaps I didn't understand your qestion well.
Maria


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Lithium381
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Within Phrases, not within words Oct 23, 2005

Maria Karra wrote:

A closed syllable is simply one that has a consonant at the end; an open syllable is one without a consonant at the end. In English all vowels can be in a closed syllable, but only certain vowels can exist in an open syllable.
If you want we can discuss lax and tense vowels in detail (their duration, and in which circumstances they occur), because there is a big difference there between Spanish and English; but for now to answer your question regarding open and closed syllables, I don't think there's any specific tendency in Spanish to leave syllables in an open position.
In English I don't think there's any specific tendency either, there are both open and closed syllables in words. English has words such as "bee", which has one open syllable (with tense vowel /i/), words such as "bit", which has one closed syllable (lax vowel /I/), and words such as "bait" (closed syllable with tense vowel /eI/) or "bay" (open syllable, again with tense vowel /eI). Spanish has a much simpler system with five contrasting vowels only, as you already know.
Where I do see a tendency in English is with tense vowels in open syllables: i.e. open syllables tend to have tense vowels, rather than lax vowels. In fact right now I can't think of an open syllable with a lax vowel.
Could you give a couple of examples that could illustrate your view that Spanish tends to have open syllables? Perhaps I didn't understand your qestion well.
Maria


Well, at this point it's not my view, it is that of my professor/text. It's not specifically in words only, but overall as a phrase, as it seems that Spanish is communicated as a phrase(not a set of words, if that makes sense), and within the phrases, there is more emphasis on ending in an open sylable, with words connecting to eachother to facilitate this, with much more frequency than that in English.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:57
English to Spanish
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Never heard of that Oct 23, 2005

I've never heard of that. But I do think it would be best not to confuse students with such things in trying to improve their Spanish pronunciation. The best way is to listen to good models and then repeat.

Most English speakers do not have big problems in pronouncing Spanish, and those few sounds that are difficult can be practiced and mastered in s short time. There are other issues where students need much more help.


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
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What does your text say exactly? Oct 24, 2005

Lithium381 wrote:
Well, at this point it's not my view, it is that of my professor/text. It's not specifically in words only, but overall as a phrase, as it seems that Spanish is communicated as a phrase(not a set of words, if that makes sense), and within the phrases, there is more emphasis on ending in an open sylable, with words connecting to eachother to facilitate this, with much more frequency than that in English.


I find this subject very interesting. I wish I could help you, but I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you mean. You wrote that "within the phrases, there is more emphasis on ending in an open syllable". Do you mean that words within the sentence end in an open syllable, or the last syllable of the last word of the phrase is open? And what do words facilitate exactly? Could you cite your text? If you have specific examples, even better.

Regarding Spanish being communicated as a phrase, I'm afraid I haven't heard of this concept.

P.S. Henry, this may be a paper on second-language teaching methods; perhaps these concepts won't be explained to students. I agree that they would find it confusing. The only case where this information would be useful to a second-language learner is if this were an adult student who already reached the plateau (with respect to accent, of course) and wanted to correct his accent; in that case it would be useful to know what exactly he's doing wrong (and even then, too many details would be confusing).


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Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:57
German to English
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outsider comment Oct 24, 2005

By way of preface, I'm a complete outsider here, but maybe what the text is saying (in effect) is that spoken Spanish is more fluid and melodic than spoken English (and IMO that's true: I had the opportunity to spend some time in Colombia and Ecuador, and the Spanish spoken there is truly beautiful to hear).

[Edited at 2005-10-24 09:57]


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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
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Yes, Spanish favors open syllables Oct 24, 2005

Spanish, like other Romance languages, is characterized by having a high ratio of open to closed syllables. Conversely, English tends to have closed syllables.

This leads to English speakers pronouncing a Spanish phrase such as
'mis amigos están aquí' as 'mis-am-ig-os-es-tán-a-quí', instead of as 'mi-sa-mi-go-ses-tá-na-quí'.





[Edited at 2005-10-24 13:12]


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:57
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English vs Spanish phonology Oct 24, 2005

Lithium381 wrote:

Is it correct to say that english favors closed sylables and a word based speech pattern as opposed to say Spanish that has the tendency to leave sylables in the open position and use a phrase-based speech pattern? This is regarding teaching and attempting to help the students learn better habits in regards to Spanish pronunciation.


I've just read this question above and then all of the subsequent replies in this thread.

It is important to distinguish between:
* syllable structure (open syllable CV or closed syllable CVC where C = Consonant, V = Vowel)
* Vowel quality (tense vs lax) due to height of the tongue at a given articulation point [i] vs [I]
* Word stress
* phrase level (intonation) patterns

These types of issues are more or less taught in a 3rd or 4th year university course dedicated to Spanish phonetics/phonology, not in a Spanish language course (Spanish as a foreign/second language).

In teaching Spanish language to English speakers, I personally would focus rather on vowel quality and regular word stress for beginners and intermediate learners. In the case of 3rd/4th year courses, with a good introduction to phonetics and phonology, then it would be possible to "teach" phrasal and sentence level intonation.

In general, yes Spanish seems to favor open syllables, and these tend to be tense vowels (some call them "pure" vowels).
Spanish has a set word level stress (2nd to the last syllable, penultimate, off the top of my head).
English has more of a word-based stress, which varies depending on word class. The same word stem can have different word-level stress depending if the word is a noun, verb, or adjective.

Phrase and sentence level stress is also more marked in Romance languages, yet not so in English, other than affirmative vs question type type phrases.

I did a quick search on Google to find the following list of docs that I have indicated in order of reading priority:

The Melody and Rhythm of Speech - English language
Dr. E. Grabe Phonetics Department ...
http://ufal.ms.mff.cuni.cz/~ess2001/doc/grabe/Grabe1.ppt

Course on Spanish Linguistics
http://www.uiowa.edu/~spanport/personal/Pineros/crsDescr.htm

Some systems refer to the timing of the complex tone components ...
http://students.washington.edu/lesley/paralanguage.doc

The Acquisition of the Phrase Accent by Intermediate and Advanced ...
http://www.lingref.com/cpp/casp/6/paper1130.pdf

Intonation across Spanish, in the Tones and Break Indices framework
http://www.degruyter.de/journals/probus/2002/pdf/14_9.pdf
http://www.ling.ohio-state.edu/~mbeckman/Sp_ToBI/Sp_ToBI_Jul29.pdf

Focus and early peak alignment in Spanish intonation
http://www.degruyter.de/journals/probus/2001/pdf/13_223.pdf
(Be careful, this is deep in autosegmental metrical phonology which won't be understandable at all unless you read 1 or 2 of the docs above).

Hope that helps,

Jeff
-----
Jeff Allen, Ph.D.
Paris, France
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/


[Edited at 2006-02-14 23:17]


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
United States
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Greek to English
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open/closed and sentence-level stress Oct 24, 2005

Jeff Allen wrote:
Spanish has a set word level stress (2nd to the last syllable, penultimate, off the top of my head).
English has more of a word-based stress, which varies depending on word class. The same word stem can have different word-level stress depending is the word is a noun, verb, or adjective.

Right, like the word "contact", stressed differently depending on grammatical category. What I don't understand is what the relation is between a "sentence-level stress" and the existence of open syllables. Is there one?
Perhaps the answer to this is in one of the reference you gave, Jeff; thanks a lot for looking them up.


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:57
Member (2011)
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not focus on relationship of phrase-stress & open syllables in Spanish Dec 27, 2005

Lithium381 wrote:
Is it correct to say that english favors closed sylables and a word based speech pattern as opposed to say Spanish that has the tendency to leave sylables in the open position and use a phrase-based speech pattern? This is regarding teaching and attempting to help the students learn better habits in regards to Spanish pronunciation.


Jeff Allen wrote:
It is important to distinguish between:
* syllable structure (open syllable CV or closed syllable CVC where C = Consonant, V = Vowel)
* Vowel quality (tense vs lax) due to height of the tongue at a given articulation point [i] vs [I]
* Word stress
* phrase level (intonation) patterns

...

In general, yes Spanish seems to favor open syllables, and these tend to be tense vowels (some call them "pure" vowels).
Spanish has a set word level stress (2nd to the last syllable, penultimate, off the top of my head).
English has more of a word-based stress, which varies depending on word class. The same word stem can have different word-level stress depending if the word is a noun, verb, or adjective.

...

Phrase and sentence level stress is also more marked in Romance languages, yet not so in English, other than affirmative vs question type type phrases.


Maria Karra wrote:
Right, like the word "contact", stressed differently depending on grammatical category. What I don't understand is what the relation is between a "sentence-level stress" and the existence of open syllables. Is there one?
Perhaps the answer to this is in one of the reference you gave, Jeff; thanks a lot for looking them up.


Even if sentence-level stress and open syllable structure exist in Spanish, I don't think that it is necessary to try to find a a relationship between them.

French also has a recognized phrase-level stress (falling on the last syllable of the last word of each phrase in the sentence) + overall sentence-level stress. I just pulled out a book on French phonetics (Prononciation du français standard by Pierre Léon) and turned to all of the exercises written directly in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Just from looking over them, more of the exercises tend to end in CV structure than CVC. But I see no need to try to find a relationship between them. And even more, no need to try to focus on such a relationship for basic pronunciation skill improvement.
However, it might be worth teaching each of these two elements "separately" to the students. Probably not theoretically but simply with lots of examples, for them to grasp the concepts. That is all that is necessary for pronunciation purposes.
If they were 3rd/4th year university students with a specialization in linguistics, then I might consider looking at additional phonological relationships. But this does not seem to the goal expressed in the original post in this thread.

Jeff
------
Jeff Allen, Ph.D.
Paris, France
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/



[Edited at 2006-02-14 23:15]


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
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examples of word-level stress differences in English Dec 27, 2005

Jeff Allen wrote:
English has more of a word-based stress, which varies depending on word class. The same word stem can have different word-level stress depending if the word is a noun, verb, or adjective.



Many examples of this provided at:

21 reasons why the English language can be difficult to learn
http://www.proz.com/post/81296#81296

Jeff
------
Jeff Allen, Ph.D.
Paris, France
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/


[Edited at 2006-02-14 23:16]


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
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glide dipthongs instead of lax vowel Dec 29, 2005

Maria Karra wrote:
English has words such as "bee", which has one open syllable (with tense vowel /i/), words such as "bit", which has one closed syllable (lax vowel /I/), and words such as "bait" (closed syllable with tense vowel /eI/) or "bay" (open syllable, again with tense vowel /eI).


The examples of "bait" and "bay" are /ej/ instead of /eI/. These are both cases of a closing dipthong as a glide, based on /i/, instead of its lax corollary /I/.

Jeff


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
United States
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/ej/ vs /eI/ Jan 5, 2006

Jeff Allen wrote:

Maria Karra wrote:
English has words such as "bee", which has one open syllable (with tense vowel /i/), words such as "bit", which has one closed syllable (lax vowel /I/), and words such as "bait" (closed syllable with tense vowel /eI/) or "bay" (open syllable, again with tense vowel /eI).


The examples of "bait" and "bay" are /ej/ instead of /eI/. These are both cases of a closing dipthong as a glide, based on /i/, instead of its lax corollary /I/.

Jeff


Jeff, I don't understand why you wrote /ej/. I'd use /ej/ for the pronunciation of the Spanish word "bello". In "bait" and bay" we have a clear /eI/.
Maria


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
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you are right about phonetics of "bay" & "bait" Jan 5, 2006

Maria Karra wrote:
English has words such as "bee", which has one open syllable (with tense vowel /i/), words such as "bit", which has one closed syllable (lax vowel /I/), and words such as "bait" (closed syllable with tense vowel /eI/) or "bay" (open syllable, again with tense vowel /eI).


Jeff Allen wrote:
The examples of "bait" and "bay" are /ej/ instead of /eI/. These are both cases of a closing dipthong as a glide, based on /i/, instead of its lax corollary /I/.


Maria Karra wrote:
Jeff, I don't understand why you wrote /ej/. I'd use /ej/ for the pronunciation of the Spanish word "bello". In "bait" and bay" we have a clear /eI/.


Maria, /eI/ seemed bizarre to me. Somewhere along the line I've probably used /ej/ with a superscript j to represent this.
But I've just checked Peter Ladefoged's "A course in Phonetics" and you are right. The table on page 28 indicates "hay" as /eI/ for both American and British speakers. Also the example number 24 on page 31 "citation" is /eI/.
So my comment should be disregarded.

Jeff
------
Jeff Allen, Ph.D.
Paris, France
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/



[Edited at 2006-02-14 23:14]


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