Spanish Sound Structure

Please note: this is archived course information from 2023 for SPANISH 341.


This course surveys the Spanish sound component (its intonation, stress, vowels and consonants) to achieve two main goals: help students develop a native-like pronunciation and acquire a solid foundation in Spanish phonetics and phonology. Accordingly, the course content is delivered entirely in Spanish and all work students produce is entirely in Spanish as well.

The course is organised around six main topics selected from Estructura de los sonidos del español (Piñeros 2009). It begins by acknowledging the broad range of pronunciations that exist across Spanish-speaking countries and familiarising students with the components of the human voice (frequency, duration, intensity and timbre). With this background, we undertake a survey of Spanish suprasegmental structure focusing on two specific properties: stress and intonation. The survey is then extended to segmental structure, where the content is organised into two main topics: issues related to the pronunciation of vowels and issues related to the pronunciation of consonants. The members of each vocalic and consonantal class are presented and practised paying special attention to those that are most challenging for English speakers. The intricacies of Spanish pronunciation are unravelled with the help of pertinent linguistic concepts, phonetic transcriptions, illustrations of the vocal tract and computer animations of articulatory gestures. A rich repository of useful materials is available through the course website.

For each class, there is an assigned reading from the textbook and a questionnaire is supplied to help students work through the content. Active class participation is an essential component of this course given that speaking out loud is an absolute necessity to develop a better pronunciation. Students work in small groups to answer key questions about the content presented by the teacher and each class includes numerous whole-class pronunciation drills.

As the semester unfolds, students develop their own research projects in which they investigate the phonetic idiosyncrasies of specific Spanish dialects. They may choose to focus on one specific country/region or compare two or more countries/regions with respect to certain pronunciation features. There are various check points and consultations through the semester to ensure steady progress towards the oral presentations. These take place during the last week, when students share their research findings with their classmates and demonstrate their improved command of Spanish pronunciation.

Availability 2023

Not taught in 2023


Coordinator(s) Associate Professor Eduardo Piñeros


Piñeros, Carlos-Eduardo. Estructura de los sonidos del español. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, Prentice Hall, 2008, 414 pp.

Quilis, Antonio y Joseph A. Fernandez. Curso de fonetica y fonologfa espafiolas. Madrid: Consejo Superior de lnvestigaciones Cientfficas. 1996.

Recommended Reading

Canfield, D. Lincoln. Spanish Pronunciation in the Americas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1981.
Lipski, John. El espafiol de America. Madrid: Catedra. 2007. 
Palacios Alcaine, Azucena. El espafiol en America. Barcelona: Ariel. 2008. 
Zamora Vicente, Alonso. Dialectologfa espafiola. Madrid: Gredos. 1978. 


SPANISH 341: 15 points


15 points from SPANISH 201, 278, 319, 321, 377, 378