ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-18009-99




    La siguiente conversación partió de una pregunta sobre acentuación planteada por Paul E. VanvLeet el 29 de marzo:

One of my students asked me why alguien doesn't have an accent over the letter a. I have a theory, but does anyone have any solid information?

[9503: 423]

    Como puede apreciarse, Paul no indicó el contexto, verbal o situacional, en el que había surgido la duda.

    Rápidamente, los listeros trataron de explicar -basándose unos en su competencia de hablantes nativos de español y otros en sus conocimientos gramaticales- por qué alguien no es una palabra esdrújula sino llana acabada en -n y por lo tanto, según las reglas generales de acentuación del español, no lleva tilde39:

The question was asked: Why doesn't the word alguien carry a written accent over the a?
I don't just have a theory, I have the simple answer.
It follows the most basic of accentuation and stress rules.
Words which end in a vowel, n or s carry their stress on the penultimate syllable, which isthe a. Thus, no accent mark is needed.
Is it possible that you believed this to be a three syllable word? Al-guien two syllables The "ie" is a dipthong and does not split.
Does this make sense to you? If not, write back and I'll try to expand the explanation.

[9503: 424]

It follows precisely the norm that palabras llanas terminadas en -n, -s o vocal naturally have the accent on the next-to-the-last syllable. We might better wonder why the Academia insists on putting an accent on bu'ho, but not on, say, cohibe. I mean really.... Either an orthographic h breaks up a diphthong or it doesn't.

[9503: 425]

Est'as seguro de que la Academia insiste en eso? Yo no lo he mirado, pero soy hispanohablante, he estudiado toda mi carrera en Espa"na y no se me ocurrir'ia ni por asomo escribir buho con acento!

[9503: 430]

    Como se ve, en algunos de estos mensajes la discusión sobre la acentuación ortográfica de este pronombre se extiende a la de otras palabras. Nuevamente intervino Paul E. VanvLeet para agradecer las respuestas recibidas y para solicitar algunas aclaraciones sobre vocales y diptongos, puesto que muchas de las explicaciones se basaban en estas unidades fonéticas:

Muchas gracias --some answers I received seem to indicate that algUIEN contains a triphthong uie -- other say it is a ie diphthong (but then does that indicate that gu does not contain avowel?

[9503: 439]

    Dorine Houston trató de aclarar las dudas de Paul E. VanvLeet con este mensaje:

!Exactamente! GU no conbtiene vocal *pronunciada* porque su u'nica funcio'n es la de guardar la oclusividad de la /g/; que si no estuviera alli', la /g/ se convertiri'a en fricativo. Asi' que el DIPtongo es /ie/.

[9503: 442]

    A raíz de este debate sobre la acentuación, Geoffrey Hargreaves planteó una nueva cuestión:

Contributors rapidly disposed--apparently-- of the question why 'alguien' doesn't carry an accent, on the grounds that the 'i' doesn't count.
However, 'estoy' doesn't carry an accent either, these days. In the past, when it was 'esto'', it did.
Adding the 'y', I understood, obviates the need for the accent. Why does "i" in one case not count and "y" in another does?

[9504: 217]

que exigió nuevamente explicaciones sobre fonética, esta vez referidas a la naturaleza vocálica o consonántica de los sonidos que se representan gráficamente por  y:

Geoff, Estoy doesn't have an accent, because y is a consonant, and the rule is that a word ending in any consonant other than n or s has the stress on the last syllable. Since alguien ends in n, the stress is on the next to the last syllable, which is al-. -ie- is a diphthong and so counts as one vowel, not two.

[9504: 219]

    Era evidente que muchos profesores y estudiantes de español pertenecientes a ESPAN-L tenían problemas para distinguir vocales, consonantes, diptongos y sílabas. A partir de este momento el tema central pasó a ser la definición de estos conceptos40:

If you can stand just one more comment on poor 'alguien'...I think the whole question started when someone's student asked why it doesn't carry an accent.
The rule of vowel, -n, -s is obviously at work here, as has been documented by many, but students probably need to have it pointed out that the 'u' is basically in the word only to maintain the proper 'g' sound, that it thus cannot be 'counted' as a vowel for purposes of syllablification and accentuation.

[9504: 220]

I think you're opening up Pandora's box by your explanation that 'y' is a consonant. 'I' latin and 'y' griega are different only orthographically, no? 'Estoy' = estoi, I think, and if 'i' doesn't count in 'alguien', why does it count here, regardless of whether its shape is Greek or Latin?

[9504: 221]

If 'y' is a consonant, what is the definition of a vowel?

[9504: 228]

A straight "extensional definition:" a vowel in Spanish is any member of the following set: a, e, i, o, or u. You then include the caveat that sometimes the 'u' is used to keep the /g/ sound, in which case it's just an orthographic convention, which then op=E8ns up the door to the use of the dieresis in words like "agUita" or "vergUenza," and you're done with it.
Part of the problem is remembering to distinguish a "vowel letter" (which has to do with spelling rules) from a "vowel sound." Granted that 'y' in syllable final position "sounds like a vowel," it's not a vowel letter. The accent-mark rules in Spanish refer to letters, not necessarily to sounds.
That's why the conquistador's name, "Cortez," doesn't have an accent mark, but the adjective that fails to describe him accurately, "corte's," does, even though in Ame'rica they're pronounced exactly the same way. Hang in there and keep those questions and comments coming. You help keep all of us on our toes.

[9504: 229]

I'm not quite sure what an 'extensional' definition is, but I feel outmanouevred by it, anyway.
What I like about this list is that it gives one a chance to raise all those innocent questions that occur to one in Beginners' Spanish, but which one postponed in the urgency to acquire ther basics. Frankly, I could never see why 'j' wasn't a vowel, pronounced like 'g' before 'e' or 'i'.
If 'z' is a convention based on written language--and I assume that's fair enough, since accents are part of written language-- who can complain that 'y' is not a vowel, if the convention makers insist otherwise.
However, my 'Diccionario de dudas' says that 'y' is 'vocal cuando va en fin de palabra siguiendo a otra vocal: buey/ley/soy/jersey.

[9504: 235]

Orthographic 'y,' except in the conjunction, represents a consonant: yo, vaya, lo que sea. In 'standard' spanish, it represents the 'jod' sound, which is a glide consonant, NOT a vowel. Both 'alguien' and 'estoy' adhere to rules of spanish orthography perfectly.
They are not exceptions; if you don't believe, I suggest looking at the rules more closely . . .

[9504: 236]

'estoy' is a two-syllable word. the 'toy' syllable is built around a diphthong, which is a vowel combined with a glide consonant. 'oy' is NOT two vowels in hiatus anymore than English "pay," "I," or "toy," all of which are considered as monosylabic by English speakers.

[9504: 237]

If 'estoy' is a 2-syllable word and the 'oy' is regarded as one syllable, wouldn't you need an accent on 'oy' in order to avoid the pronunciation : est'oy?

[9504: 238]

Vowels are sonorant sounds that are characterized by unobstructed airflow. Vowels serve as anchors to syllables. In spanish phonology, 'i' represents the front high unrounded vowel, and 'y' does not (except in the conjunction)
Although pronunciation differes according to dialect, /y/ is ALWAYS characterized by some kind of oral movement that CHANGES THE AIRFLOW while the segment is being articulated.
Geoff, please understand that this is not a flame. I just want you to know that the questions you are asking are by no means any grand mystery, controversy, or paradox within spanish orthography, a social construct invented CONSIOUSLY to represent "Spanish" phonemically. You're questions are due to your own lack of understanding about the system, not because of inconsistencies in the system. I recommend that you pick up an introductory linguistics texts and read up about phonology. It will clear up your "vowel/glide/consonant" questions.
Sorry if I sound rude. Had a fight with a good friend of mine today, and, although I want to answer your questions, I still feel a little hostle. I hope I'm not projecting it through this message . . .

[9504: 239]

Then I guess that solves it. "y" and "i" don't count as vowels in 'estoy' and 'alguien'--they're both consonantal glides. Hence there's no call for accents in either case. ?De acuerdo?

[9504: 240]

No, because the RAE says that stress-final words will only need an accent if a word ends in a, e, i, o , u, n, or s. This is orthographic convention, Geoff, NOT linguistic or phonological convention.

[9504: 241]

Bueno, glides really go both ways. It's really up to how a language decides what a syllable is. Glides hang out with consonants in that they are DEFINATELY not vowels: there is undeniably some post-glottal air-flow hanky panky going on. HOwever, certain vowels can combine with certain glides to make certain diphthongs that produce minimal pairs:

1) 'ma' short for 'mother' in my Seattlite-of-color dialect
2) 'my' possesive adjective.

I would call 1) CV. Number two for me is CV, or if you're a really picky phonology professor CD (consonant-diphthong) but I would resist calling it CVC or even CVG. I dont' know why, but I think my judgements are pretty native. What's happening here is that English's set of 'vowels' include not only the acoustic vowels, but certain diphthongs too.
Again, this is a construct that has to do with the subjective judgements of a speech community.
Spanish has a different set of syllable 'cores' than english does (when I say 'core' I mean something, be it vowel or diphthong, that can both be syllabic and take on segments--opposing it to syllabic n, m, or l for example.) So anyway, lots of our students probably operate under the false hypothesis that Spanish phonology is just like English phonology, only the words are different. So, they apply English phonological rasgos, like ability to pronounce 's'+C word inital, application of english orthography, pronouncing 'dice' as in ?Como se dice? the way it looks in english, so 'dice' the six sided game piece that you throw a pair of onto the craps table, etc.
Many students don't realize that when they have problems with Spanish, their problem is their English--they haven't yet learned that Eglsih is nuts in just about every way . . . .

[9504: 246]

    Geoffrey Heargreaves intervino en este momento para poner en duda la eficacia de las explicaciones gramaticales:

My head is spinning. I'm close to re-writing Browning: "He settled 'Alguien's" business--let it be-- Properly based 'estoy'-- Gave us the doctrine of the consonantal glide" I suspect the problem is one of confounding categories and looking for consistency between categories confounded.

[9504: 245]

y John-Patrick Villanueva y Dorine Houston aprovecharon esta reflexión para destacar el papel del lingüista frente al del gramático:

Ah, Geoff, what a delightfully syntactically ambigiuous sentences!
Phonology can be fun. Don't let high-falloo'in linguistics terms scare you. It's really a LOT more concrete than, say, literary theory or learners' styles. In fact, it made me almost forget about that fight I had with that bruja friend of mine. Boy, she's nuts!
So bury the grammarian . . . and long live the linguist!!
Cuidense, mis companneros . . ,
John-Patrick Villanueva

[9504: 248]

Eso, !que vivan los lingu:istas! El grama'tico manda; el lingu:ista describe.

[9504: 254]

    Así, como vemos, la pregunta de Paul E. VanvLeet sobre si alguien debía o no llevar tilde generó casi cuarenta mensajes -todos procedentes de los Estados Unidos excepto los de Geoff, del Canadá, y los de Graciela, de Noruega- que configuraron una compleja discusión con claras ramificaciones temáticas. La polémica duró veinte días y, finalmente, se apagó sin un mensaje que la cerrara a modo de conclusión.


39. Pueden verse también los mensajes [9503: 429], [9503: 428], [9503: 435], [9503: 437] o [9503: 438].

40. La discusión dio lugar a muchos mensajes, de los cuales hemos seleccionado los más significativos, que reproducimos a continuación, pero puede seguirse paso a paso la polémica si se consultan también los siguientes: [9504: 222], [9504: 227], [9504: 242], [9504: 243], [9504: 244], [9504: 250], [9504: 253], [9504: 257] y [9504: 258].

Ir a la siguiente conversación (conversación 15).

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ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-18009-99
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