teaching foreign languages at an early age

john at research.haifa.ac.il john at research.haifa.ac.il
Tue Jan 18 15:48:17 UTC 2011

The /s/ you're talking about is used in northern Spain (it's from Basque).
It feels to me like the difference from a 'normal' /s/ is that the passage for
frication is formed more with the blade of the tongue than the tip.
I don't think the /s/ for other Spanish speakers is in any way unusual (except
that in many dialects it gets elided or forms a geminate with the following
consonant in syllable-final position, but I don't think that's what you're
talking about). One thing Spanish and Greek have in common is that both have
voiced bilabial, dental, and velar fricatives (although the allophonic
distribution of them is different), I personal don't know any other language
with all three of these. But I don't know whether this is why they sound
similar to me--maybe other people don't feel this way.

Quoting Johanna Rubba <jrubba at calpoly.edu>:

> Spanish and Greek may sound similar in part because they both have an
> unusual /s/. I don't know how to describe it phonetically; it sounds
> "mushier" than /s/ in other IE languages. It's one of the things I
> find attractive about both languages. They don't sound similar to me
> otherwise; especially since Greek has theta (I'm used to American
> Spanish, not Castilian) and /ks/.
> Dr. Johanna Rubba, Ph. D.
> Professor, Linguistics
> Linguistics Minor Advisor
> English Dept.
> Cal Poly State University San Luis Obispo
> San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
> Ofc. tel. : 805-756-2184
> Dept. tel.: 805-756-2596
> Dept. fax: 805-756-6374
> E-mail: jrubba at calpoly.edu
> URL: http://cla.calpoly.edu/~jrubba

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