Pronunciation

A CUBAN ACCENT

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THE SPANISH VOWEL CHART

1. KIT              [ ï ]

 

The target sound in the KIT lexical set is a centralized [ ].

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divisions, contradictions, in different

PRACTICE WORDS: dim, ship, mix, dinner, sister, rhythm

2. BATH/TRAP/PALM                 [ ä ] 

This sound is merged in the BATH/TRAP/PALM lexical sets. The target sound is a centralized Spanish /a/ vowel.

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ask, bat, from Havana, in Spanish I have managed, hard to travel

PRACTICE WORDS: jazz, hand, glass, dance, plaza, Havana

3. STRUT                 [ ʊ̹ ]

The target sound in the STRUT lexical set is a very rounded near-close, near-back vowel. Think about protruding the lip corners as you make this vowel sound, and see if you can feel the back of the tongue arch fairly high towards the soft palate. 

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countries, young

PRACTICE WORDS: cup, buzz, punch, love, mother, enough

4. FOOT                [ u ]

The target for this sound is a rounded, close back vowel. To target this sound, round the lips and arch the back of the tongue very high towards the soft palate.

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butcher, and I would walk, good

PRACTICE WORDS: put, good, should, could, would, look

5. FACE               [ e̞ ]

The target for this sound is a monophthong, a single vowel - a lowered, unrounded, front, close-mid vowel. The front of the tongue will relax a bit from it's fairly arched position at the front of the vocal tract.

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basically okay I came, on the same time

PRACTICE WORDS: tape, craze, name, change, invasion, play

6. GOAT                [ o ]  

The target for this sound is a rounded, back, close-mid vowel. As you target this sound, think about rounding the lips and arching the back of the tongue fairly high towards the soft palate. 

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most of the textbooks, spoken language, so I don't know

PRACTICE WORDS: boat, home, road, soul, grow, though

1. Rhoticity

 

Rhoticity is the degree of "r-ishness" of the /r/ phoneme that occurs after a vowel. In the NEAR, SQUARE, LETTER, NORTH, FORCE, NURSE, START, and CURE, the tendency of this sound is to have more of a braced quality, meaning you might feel some tongue retraction or bracing of the tongue into the molars.

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father, quarter, buyer, hour, our, are, burn, fear, share, par, poor

PRACTICE WORDS: nurse, further, worst, weird, appear, care, far, market, adore, report, better, pressure

2. [ t͡ʃ]                  [ ʃ ]

Sometimes words that container the affricate [ t͡ʃ ], such as the /ch/-sound church or change will instead target those sounds as a post alveolar fricative [ ʃ ], or /sh/-sound.

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Listen to the word TEACH in this sample

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Listen to the words MUCH and CHINA in these samples

3. Final /l/-endings               [ ʊ ] 

Sometimes, when a post-vocalic /l/ ends a word, the target sound will be a fairly close, back vowel. You can almost think of the /l/ disappearing from the word and becoming the vowel sound. 

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Listen to the word STILL in this sample

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Listen to the word CALL in this sample

4. /v/ in the medial position              [ v̥ ]

There is a tendency for speakers of a Cuban accent to devoice the /v/ if it appears in the medial position of a word, resulting in a target close to the /f/ phoneme. 

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Listen to the words MOVED, LIVE, and HAVE in the samples

5. /th/               [ θ̪ ] or [ ð̪ ]

When a /th/ is in the initial or medial position of a word, it is often dentalized, meaning the tip or blade of the tongue will make contact behind the top teeth. 

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Listen to the pronunciation of the words THAT, THIS, THE, THINGS, 

6. Treatment of final consonants

  • [ z ] to [ z̥ ] Voiced alveolar fricatives are often devoiced, resulting in a target sound that is similar to the /s/ phoneme. In the sound sample, listen for the WAS in "I WAS born in Cuba."

  • Final unvoiced alveolar plosives [ t ] are often realized as a glottal stop [ ʔ ]. In the sound sample, listen for the final consonant in the words ACCENT and DIFFERENT in "the accent from different countries."

  • Consonant clusters such as /nd/ are often reduced to the /n/ phoneme, as there is no audible release on the [ d ]. In the sound sample, listen for the word SOUND in "you don't SOUND like a Cuban, and FIND in "it's hard to FIND to FIND food."

  • Voiced post alveolar fricative [ ʒ ] in the final position of a word often become devoiced. In the sound sample, listen for the CHANGE in "And then but not quite such a radical change."

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Cuban Spanish is shaped by pre-Colombian languages and cultures, contact with African languages brought by African slaves, and the immigration of Spaniards from the Canary Islands. It is part of the family of Carribean varieties of Spanish dialects. The weak pronunciation of consonants is a defining feature. 

1. Weakening of /s/

When /s/ is in the final syllable of a word, the target becomes [ h ] or disappears entirely. This can occurs when /s/ appears in the medial position of a word as well.

  • Listen to Emilio's pronunciation of ESPERAR in the YouTube clip.

  • Listen to Cristina's pronunciation of MUCHOS LIBROS in the YouTube clip.

2. Final /n/                [  ŋ  ]

Sometimes the final /n/ in a word will become a [ ŋ ]. Think about arching the middle to back of the tongue towards the soft palate for this sound. 

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el león, y al fin

3. Treatment of /r/ 

Sometimes if the letter /r/ is the final sound in a syllable, the /r / will appear to disappear.

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Buenas tardes, suerte, tambor

4. Intervocalic /d/

When /d/ is in the final syllable of a word and placed inbetween two vowels, the Cuban Spanish speaker will often omit the /d/.

Encantado              Encantao

Salado              Salao

Trabajado              Trabajao

Dedo              Deo

5.  /b/, /v/                      [ ʋ ] or [ β ]

The phonemes /b/ and /v/ will aim for either a [ β ] unvoiced bilabial fricative or a [ ʋ ] labiodental approximant. 

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alabao, que vivo

A MIAMI DIALECT

The Miami dialect is an evolving dialect spoken by communities in South Florida, particularly Miami-Dade County. It was developed by younger generations who were often bilingual, and is especially prevalent in Spanish-speaking communities. It shares subtle structural influences from Spanish. 

 

Listen to Kae talk about Cuban food in Miami.

1. GOAT                  [ o̙ ]

The target for this vowel is the Spanish [ o ], with some tongue root retraction. 

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home, mostly, you know most

PRACTICE WORDS: boat, home, road, soul, grow, though

2. Treatment of /r/

Tongue root retraction in /r/-endings or intervocalic /r/'s lead to stronger rhoticity (r-coloring) in the Miami dialect. 

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born, being in the water, by nature, compared

3. Treatment of /l/

Speakers of the Miami dialect will often retract the tongue root as they target intervocalic and final /l/'s. 

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culture in a bubble of my culture, credible, it can still feel like

4. TRAP/BATH/TRAM                [ a̝ ]

TRAP/BATH/TRAM are merged in the Miami dialect. The target for this merger aims for its Spanish realization, with the front body of the tongue being a bit more raised from it's cupped position. 

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and, and sandwiches, asking me

PRACTICE WORDS: jazz, hand, glass, dance, plaza, Havana