On the diphthong/hiatus contrast in Spanish: Some experimental results

José Ignacio Hualde, Mónica Prieto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some Spanish dialects have a lexical contrast between sequences in hiatus and diphthongs. Thus, whereas, for instance, dueto 'duet' admits a trisyllabic pronunciation with the sequence ue realized in hiatus [du.é.to], the word duelo 'sorrow' can only be pronounced as bisyllabic [dwé.lo]. Similarly, [pi.é] 'I chirped' contrasts with [pjé] 'foot' in this manner. The interest of this phenomenon lies in the fact that it represents a clear case of phonological contrasts between hiatus and diphthong or, in other terms, between high vowels and glides. What remains largely unknown is the dialectal extension of this contrast and how consistently specific items are classified as belonging to either the hiatus or the diphthong class within a given dialect or across dialects. In this paper we report on an experiment designed to test the consistency of the distinction in Madrid Spanish, as a first step in the crossdialectal investigation of the phenomenon. We measured the duration of the sequence ia in a group of test words inserted in a uniform carrier sentence. The results show that for all six speakers tested, the hypothesized hiatus and diphthong classes present different durational distributions, the sequence ia tending to be longer in hiatus-class words, although there is a certain amount of overlap between the groups and some variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-234
Number of pages18
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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