Spaniards shouldn't have a problem with the "th" phoneme, apart from some in the Souht of Spain which don't have it in their accent. They have a very similar phoneme in their Spanish vairety which is represented by the letters c and z before the i and e vowels. Latin Americans on the other have no such sound in our speech, it is non-existent and explains why we have such a difficulty in producing the "lispy" sound. This sound is one of my pet hates.
First, it depends on the variety of Spanish and Catalan is another story: unvoiced "th" as in "thongs" exists in Peninsular Standard Spanish. An example would be "ciencia" pronounced as "thienthia" in Spain and "Siensia" in Latin America and some Spanish regions. It is true that Catalans don't have this phoneme in Catalan but we learn to pronounce it when speaking Standard European Spanish. On the other hand, The "s" of "breeze" exists in Catalan but not in Spanish and many Spanish-speakers learn it when learning Catalan.
This said the fact that a person cannot say a phoneme doesn't mean he can't hear it. It merely means he can't reproduce it in on a normal scale. It is very difficult to adopt new phonemes after age 9 or 10. This has been studied elsewhere and it has to do with first language acquisition and changes in the brain's capacity to learn languages at native level. This is the reason why most people who learn a language after age 10 have a foreign accent in that language and why a second language should be introduced as early as possible since it leaves the "door open" for a third language and greater phonematic capacity. Latin American speakers realise that many European Spanish speakers pronounce "thienthia" but it is extremely difficult for most of them to do so. All Spanish speakers will have difficulties in pronouncing the "s" of "poison" because that soft "s" doesn't exist in Spanish but it does exist in Catalan as in most other European languages.
Very often an adult speaker will be able to reproduce the phoneme, after some training, but will forget to do so when several such phonemes appear in a sentence or chain. They're simply not trained to do this and it's above them. The more the phoneme appears several times the more it is difficult to reproduce. The main reason why early bilingual speakers have "better" accents and learn languages "more easily" is precisely because they have more phonemes (adding up the two languages) and a greater lexical and morphosyntaxis inventory.
I hope that helped. As in everything in life it all depends on ability. Some adults are simply more able (flexible) than others but there is a time and age when learning a second language is so easy that all teaching systems should take good note of this.
<<Yeah, Aztecs were very intelligent people but, unfortunately, Spaniards killed them. Something similar happened here, Spaniards killed the Incas, including our beloved Atahualpa...
What are you talking about Xatufan. Of course the Spaniards didn't kill them. Do you think we are a 100% PURE EUROPEAN Spaniard descendants? They subjugated us, yes that was unfortunate. They almost obliterated us into oblivion with the aid of their diseases brought from the "Old World". But they didn't, and our people mixed with these invaders over the following years to become the unique "racial" blend that it is today.
I must be thinking of "z" like in "I was alright"; that's where I hear a lisp and fade-out.
re: Aztecs: there's some truth to it you have to admit, and obviously this encroaches over the cultural aspect - after all, what is Aztec today?
I wonder Jordi, because I've always been under the impression that pronunciation went hand in hand with listening ability. Foreigners who have been here for most of their lives still pronounce "pack" [p@k] like "puck" [p^k] and I've always believed this is because [@] and [^] are one and the same to them. This doesn't mean they can't identify them in context.
Like the "th"/"z" scenario, you believe many foreigners can hear @ and ^ independently, but can't reproduce [@]?
You don't really need to get out of your own language system. When a non-rothic Australian English speaker listens to a rothic speaker of English what happens? Does he recognise the phoneme? I'm sure he does and that you are perfectly aware that those "r" belong to an Irish, Scottish or American speaker. Does that mean you can reproduce them? You probably can and you can certainly be coached to do so. But, very often, you'll find most people just won't bother and there can be many reasons for that. You've got to have a trained ear, a certain linguistic ability and the will to do it. When an Australian English Speaker produces "broad vowels" does that mean he can't produce near RP-vowels. Some Educated Australians certainly do and it was a part of the Australian System to encourage people to do so before the seventies. I can assure you I can pronounce "Australia" the way an RP-speaker would. I just don't do it because I'm at ease with my accent and it only changes because of contact. Imagine just common people with no linguistic training at all. You'll often find that the heaviest foreign or regional accents belong, most of the time, to speakers lower on the social and educational scale. There are, as I said previously, people with a privileged ear and I've known first generation adults migrants, with scarce schooling behind them, to speak excellent English. They are, of course, the exception to the rule. As I told you before all very young children born of foreign parents learn the language without an accent or with a very slight accent indeed.
Confining ourselves to the English framework isn't a good idea, especially as in the example of comparing rhotic to non-rhotic English. The problem with this is that the "r" sound is present in all English dialects (except maybe Scottish), regardless of WHERE and WHEN it is pronounced. There is also the exception in non-rhotic languages where a final "r" is brought to life if the following word starts with a vowel eg. "the playeR is...". In any case, hopping between rhotic and non-rhotic English doesn't involve learning a new phoneme in "r". Likewise, RP and non-RP exhibit mostly the same phonemic patterns; RP as far as I'm concerned is just scaled down and simplified in its phonemic set. eg. ü is dropped in favour of u; so 'who' in Australian becomes a diphthongised version of 'hoo' in 'hook'.
The issue I brought up was concerned with the adaptation of new phonemes and this requires us to look outside of one language. As you say, beyond a certain age it's very hard to learn a new phoneme, so we simply align it to one in our mother tongue. This sometimes means overlapping it with another that's already been used up in the target language eg. @ overlapping ^ as explained before. Another example is English speakers who learn French do this with 'é' and 'eille' so these 2 sounds become as one in "ay". They pronounce them both "ay"; but is a distinction really made when they hear them?
I agree with you and I admit I see things clearer now. There must be something related to the ear (and the brain) since people who are good at several languages are usually good at music as well. My mother, who's an excellent singer, speaks several languages very well whilst my father speaks them with a strong accent. Must I tell you he sings like a frog? So one must definitely hear and identify a sound clearly before even trying to reproduce it. I'm convinced that foreign accents can improve greatly with proper coaching and that would imply identifying the phoneme as something absolutely different to what we've heard before and trying to reproduce it as something "independent". The reason why many Spanish-speaking people pronounce "bed" as "bed" and "bad" as "bud" is because the first vowel phoneme exists in Spanish and the second doesn't. The vowel in "bad" would be what we would call an "open e" in Catalan where it does exist (same as French "fête") whilst Spanish-speaking people only know what we call the "closed e" of "bed". Therefore Catalan speakers can say "bad" in English without problems but Spanish speakers can't. They could, of course, say "bed" for both "bed" and "bad" but they assimilate the second to Spanish spelling to make the difference. Perhaps in New Zealand English it would be easier for them since the quality of "bad" is closer to "bed". As you can see I've done quite a bit of thinking about what you said and I appreciate your insight.
The thing is ordinary people just can't be bothered and people who are probably don't get the right coaching.
That's interesting what you say about "bad"; I never thought of it as an open e. For me this "a" is just... completely different to an open ê, so I identify three distinct sounds: é, ê (or è) and a. Béd and bèd and bad all sound different but the first 2 mean the same thing of course. Note their quality in English is gentler before consonants.
Hmm I thought about @ as an open è but it can also be pronounced with that "something-element" from a closed é ! The latter is typical of Kiwis and ocker... the former sounds more educated.
Well, the strange phenomenon Jordi said could be right. I have serious problems in my French class to speak with nasal vowels. I can't really hear the difference between "con" and "conne"...
Well, I can say perfectly the sound "th" as in "thick", even though I'm Latin American. This might be because I started to learn Spanish when I was 3, so I'm used to that sound. However, my teachers were from here, they spoke a "Latino" English, so they didn't pronounce "easy" with the "z" sound, so I'm learning it now.
Interesting advice, Jordi!
OK, OK, we are all a mixture of Amerindian, African and Spanish. We should not be ashamed of what we are...
Are you sure you are 13 Xatufan? You sound much older. ;-)
<<We should not be ashamed of what we are...>>
Nobody's mentioned anything about being ashamed Xatufan. Where did you get that from? I'm just stating the facts. Nothing more, nothing less. I don't mean to sound patronising but I like to correct people when they make obvious misinformed comments.
<<This might be because I started to learn Spanish when I was 3, so I'm used to that sound.>>
What does that mean? Your age shouldn't make any difference because as far as I know no one in Latin America has a lispy sound in their respective accents. What do you mean that because you started learning American Spanish at the ripe old age of 3 that that has helped you in some mysterious way to get used to the lispy sound. I'm confused????? It doesn't exist in Latin America !!! Please explain??
no, the lisp doesnt exist is Latin America.
"What are you talking about Xatufan. Of course the Spaniards didn't kill them. Do you think we are a 100% PURE EUROPEAN Spaniard descendants? They subjugated us, yes that was unfortunate. They almost obliterated us into oblivion with the aid of their diseases brought from the "Old World". But they didn't, and our people mixed with these invaders over the following years to become the unique "racial" blend that it is today."
Don't people of pure Aztec descent still exist and still speak Nahuatl? From what I've read, they tend to live in small villages, though. I would think that if Mexicans really wanted to reject their Spanish heritage they should start trying to speak Nahuatl again and not Spanish, or whatever "native" language they identify closely with if not of Aztec descent. I've never understood why the Irish continue to speak English either. The Welsh seem to be doing the right thing in order to preserve cultural identity by setting up educational programs to increase the number of people who speak that language.
<<Don't people of pure Aztec descent still exist and still speak Nahuatl? >>
It is a matter of degree. Unlike the States, segretation was not commonly practiced in Latin American societies. People where able to come together with whomever and whenever they pleased. Those so-called PURE Aztecs descents in all likelihood may have great, great, great grandfather's/mother's of European descent. True, genetically speaking they might be only 0 - 10 % European since their most recent ancestors may have been mostly Aztec in ancestry. On the other extreme are the "elite", which are widely lauded as PURE European descendants. It wouldn't surprise me at all if scientific tests proved that the majority (some recent arrivals from Europe are 100% European, no doubt) of these members had some, however minute, Aztec blood. That percetange may only range, like the so-called Aztecs but in reverse, between 0 - 10 %. I've explained in a previous post why this type of behaviour arose, and it's mostly practiced by people in power not the common folk.
<<I would think that if Mexicans really wanted to reject their Spanish heritage they should start trying to speak Nahuatl again and not Spanish>>
Who's mentioned anything about rejecting "Spanish" heritage? We are what we are, we are part Aztec and part European Spanish. We are unique, we are neither one nor the other. WE ARE BOTH. Although invidually in different measures when it comes to "RACE" issue. But RACE is irrelevant and a nonissue, hopefully, to most of us common folk. We are not hung up on that, it's more to do with social standing when discrimination rears it's ugly head.
What you are suggesting cannot be simpy implemented anyway. How about if US American of French, Swizz, Italian etc started learning those respective languages just because that's their ANCESTRAL LANGUAGES. Would they take the time and effort even if it's not that useful in ordinary day to day US American life. English is spoken after all, what would be the use unless they planned to travel or move there permanently. Same applies in Latin America. I've grown up speaking Spanish, which makes it my native tongue, and learning any language, even if it's my "ancestral language" takes considerable time and effort, like any other woud. It won't be easy to convince a whole group of people to give up and stop talking in their NATIVE TONGUE, a language that comes naturally to them and make no effort in speaking, with one that isn't.
Mi5 Mick wrote:
<<I must be thinking of "z" like in "I was alright"; that's where I hear a lisp and fade-out.>>
Excuse me Mi5 Mick but I don't quite understand the point you are trying to convey. Where is the "z" that you are talking about in that sentence("I was alright"). I can't see any, there is only "s" in the word WAS?
Mi5 Mick wrote:
<<re: Aztecs: there's some truth to it you have to admit, and obviously this encroaches over the cultural aspect - after all, what is Aztec today?>>
Truth to what? And what do you mean BY SOME??? Well Aztec was the name one of the many original groups of people that inhabited the Americas before the arrival of invading Europeans called themselves. Similar to French, Swizz etc in Europe. I don't know by how much the Aztecs differed genetically to their subjugates (other native nations) but I think it would be fair to assume that it wouldn't have been by much. Sort of like the difference between Russians and Germans.