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According to the Wikipedia article on Spanish phonology, the phonemes /b/, /d/, and /g/ are realized as approximants or fricatives instead of plosives in all but certain contexts (after a pause, nasal consonant, or a lateral consonant followed by /d/). Where or when are they realized as approximants, and when as fricatives?

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Yes in fact even the IPA symbols chosen for these sounds often are not those of the plosives but rather /β/, /ð/, and /ɣ/ respectively. –  hippietrail Nov 16 '11 at 16:05
    
Well close, /β/, /ð/, and /ɣ/ don't exist, [β], [ð], and [ɣ] do. Phonemes are realized as allophones. –  jrdioko Nov 16 '11 at 23:25
    
Well that depends on the analysis and the linguist, etc. Just as with English, not everybody uses IPA the same way for a given language. I'll try to keep an eye out for places that use the fricative symbols rather than the stop symbols so I can provide a reference. –  hippietrail Nov 17 '11 at 6:27
    
@hippietrail: I'd be curious to see that. For the fricatives to be phonemes, you'd need a minimal pair between the fricative and the plosive, and I've never heard of that existing in Spanish, even regionally. –  jrdioko Nov 17 '11 at 17:41
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@jrdioko: You have posted 179 questions on this site but you only have a 51% accept rate. Maybe accepting a few answers would encourage others to help you further. –  CesarGon Jan 29 '12 at 14:40

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

If you look at the reference on Wikipedia, you'll see that it's not a matter of sometimes they're fricatives and sometimes they're approximants, but rather it's that scholars seem to be in disagreement as to whether they are fricatives or approximants (altogether). In the past, they were called fricatives, but new analyses seem to indicate that they are actually approximants because of the lack of turbulence.

In any case, the spirantized versions [β, ð, ɣ] are realized intervocalically.

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