The origin of the sound /θ/ in Spanish

Published 9th January 2018
post thumbnail

/θ/

If you study Spanish long enough, you will soon realise that the pronunciation of Z and C (before e and i) is not the same in all Spanish dialects. Z and C (before e and i) are pronounced something like the English “th” in most dialects of European Spanish.

In Spanish dialectology, the terms distinción, seseo, and ceceo are used to describe the opposition between dialects that distinguish the phonemes /θ/ and /s/ (distinción). And those that exhibit merger of the two sounds (neutralización) into either /s/ (seseo) or /θ/ (ceceo).

Some dialects of Spanish distinguish the two sounds. Therefore, some pronounce words like casa and caza differently. Seseo is typical of the American, Canarian and most dialects of Andalusia, whereas distinción is typical of most dialects in Spain.

Legend has it the phenomenon of distinción can be traced back to a Spanish king who spoke with a lisp. But this is just a legend. By the 15th century, the Spanish language had developed a large number of sibilant phonemes. During the 16th and early 17th centuries these phonemes merged differently in different areas of the country. They evolved into those of the different modern dialects.

Medieval Spanish had four sounds that were so close to one another. People used to get confused quite often, so eventually these sounds were simplified. The northern part of Spain reduced the system to two sounds: “s” and “th”. While most of the south of Spain reduced all four sounds to just “s”. When Christopher Columbus departed to South America, most of his crew were from Southern Spain, therefore, they pronounced Z as S.

disney-institute-lingua-translations 178 × 75
amazon-lingua-translations 120 × 28
procter-gamble - Lingua Translations 114 × 92
london-partners-lingua-translations 154 × 101
Swansea City | Lingua Translations 154 x 146
Man City | Lingua Translations 154 × 154
FC_Barcelona_(crest) 154 × 156
Star_Wars_Logo.svg_-1 1280 × 773
FiFA | lingua Translations 154 × 86
The-Score 232x120
M & S 271 × 186
Walmart-Lingua Translations 232 × 65
Welsh Government & Lingua Translations 400 × 400
Costco & Lingua Translations 232 × 155

 

TUI-Group Testimonial 205 × 46 EN

Ian Chapman – Director of Holiday Experience –

“Lingua Translations provides instant multi-lingual options for TUI’s 24/7 Holidayline, so 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year TUI’s customers are connected to an interpreter instantaneously. This service is designed to help holidaymakers who find themselves in difficulty and require non-English language assistance.

The service offered by Lingua Translations provides us with instant translation for every destination we travel to, and has proved invaluable.”

Do you know how many different languages Ed Sheeran has sung in?

It’s no secret that Ed Sheeran wrote his latest album while traveling the world and soaking up different cultures and styles of music. But he went further than that. He also isn’t afraid to delve into the world of languages either. What’s most impressive is his commitment to getting the foreign lyrics and their pronunciation …

Read More

International French Fries Day

Today is one of the best day of the year: the international French Fries Day. But let’s find out something about most people’s favourite guilty pleasure. Apparently, French fries are not French at all. Their origin can be tracked back to Belgium, where potatoes were allegedly being fried in the late-1600s. The legend says that …

Read More
Get a quote today