Spanish 1/Linguistic characteristics

Cognates, Borrowed Words, Pronunciation, & Other RulesEdit


In Spanish, there are several cognates that are extremely similar to those in English. Using cognates will help you understand surrounding words in a text even if you don't know what they entirely mean. The following is a list of a few cognates in Spanish to English.

  • aire = air
  • editor/a = editor
  • médico = medical
  • policía = police
  • dentista = dentist
  • similar = similar
  • piano = piano

Borrowed WordsEdit

Most, if not all languages have at least one borrowed word from another language. Borrowed words also act as cognates. A list of words in English borrowed from Spanish include: rodeo, patata, corral, rancho. The words mean rodeo, potato, corral, and ranch respectively. A list of words in Spanish borrowed from English include: pudín, jersey. The words in respective order mean pudding and jersey.


One of the easiest things about Spanish is its pronunciation: almost everything is pronounced as it is written. However, there are some exceptions. The following is a list of pronunciation rules in Spanish.

- a is pronounced as in English as ah.

- c is pronounced as in English as k; if the c is before e or i, it is pronounced as in English as s in Latin America or as the th in think in Spain.

- h, by itself, is never pronounced.

- e is pronounced like e in the English word hey.

- i is pronounced like i in the English word police.

- g is pronounced like g in the English word galaxy. If before e or i, it is pronounced like h in the English word hello.

- j is pronounced with a breathy huff of air from the throat (like a hard "h" sound).

- ll is pronounced like y.

- ñ is pronounced like the ny in canyon.

- o is pronounced as in English like the o in no.

- r is pronounced by tapping the tip of the tongue against the gum ridge in the back of the upper teeth.

- rr is pronounced as the same way as r but rolled—this may take some practice to get right.

- s is pronounced as the s in lesson.

- u is pronounced similar to the u in rule.

- x is pronounced as the Spanish j (i.e., like "h").

- v is pronounced as a slight b.

- ü is pronounced with a strong huff.

- accent marks are pronounced as the letter they are above, but with a strong huff of air in the throat. Accent marks are used to denote emphasis (stress) in Spanish where it may not be expected; for example, in the word "está", the last (accented) syllable is stressed.

All letters, except "h", are always clearly pronounced in Spanish. "H" is only pronounced in loanwords such as "hip hop". There are dialectical differences in pronunciation in Spanish and two of the biggest are lleismo/yeismo and ceceo/seseo which basically amount to the extent to which "ll" and "y" are pronounced the same or whether or not "s" is pronounced with a "th"-type lisp.

Other RulesEdit

  • In Spanish, the adjective usually comes after the noun (unlike in English, where the adjective comes first). Most adjectives, like nouns, are classified by gender: masculine nouns and adjectives usually end in o and feminine nouns and adjectives usually end in a. Adjectives that have gender in this course will have the feminine form in parentheses.
  • In Spanish, an upside down question mark or exclamation mark is placed before a question or exclamation. Examples: ¿Qué? ¡Hola!