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There are several phrases, most of which are easily distinguished by context, that have very similar, if not the exact same pronunciation. The distinction I'm curious about is a single vowel in a word such as "le" or the double vowel in "lee" for example. Another example would be ¿Qué vas a ser? and ¿Qué vas a hacer? with the single 'a' in the first example and the 'a ha' in the second. I know in some dialects the 's' in ser and the 'c' in hace would be different, but I'd like to know specifically if there is a difference in the vowels. Do you draw out the sound a little longer if there is more than one of the same vowel?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

When 2 vowels appear in a row in he same word they belong to different syllables (there's an hiatus on them). So you would pronounce a longer sound but you have to take into account that you should make the stress in the stressed syllable of the word.

For example

"Le" vs "Lee"

  • Le: one syllable
  • Lee: 2 syllables (le-e)

In this case "Le" has only one syllable but "lee" has 2. So you have to make the 2 syllables in "lee" stressing the "le" syllable. So the sound will likely sound as a longer "e" sound which starts stressed but finished unstressed.

"Cree" vs "Creé"

  • Cree (present of verb "creer"): 2 syllables (cre-e)
  • Creé (past of verb "crear"): 2 syllables (cre-é)

In this case both words have 2 syllables but the stressed one changes. So in "cree" the long "e" sound starts stressed and finishes unstressed but in "creé" it's in the opposite way (starts unstressed but finishes stressed).

The same happens when you have 2 words in a row and one finished with the same vowel sound as the next one. For example the one you give in your question:

a hacer (a ha-cer)

In this case the sound of "a" is linked and you'd usually pronounced them without any pause between them and as both are stressed the sound is the same as "a" sound just a bit longer. When there's no change in stress between the syllables the sound is not as long as when you have to stress one of them.

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Is there a difference in the pronuciation of a single vowel or multiple vowels in a row?

Sí.

Do you draw out the sound a little longer if there is more than one of the same vowel?

Sí, exactamente. Esa es la manera oficial de pronunciarlas. En "lee", pronuncias un sonido "e" de doble duración, y en "a hacer", pronuncias una "a" de doble duración. En este segundo caso, si además estás separando las palabras (porque, por ejemplo, estés contándolas en voz alta), pronunciarás dos sonidos "a" separados. En un ámbito coloquial, o cuando hablas deprisa, o cuando no hay peligro de confusión, o cuando habla alguien que no cuida mucho su pronunciación, puedes perfectamente pronunciarlas u oírlas con duración simple (de una sola vocal).

En general, no hay problema, porque suelen ser únicas las palabras que cuadran con los sonidos pronunciados. Pero en casos como [boialabar], si no hay contexto, puede no quedar claro si estamos diciendo "voy a lavar" o "voy a alabar". Lo habitual es pronunciar [boialabar] o [boi a labar] si estamos queriendo decir "voy a lavar" y [boiaalabar] o [boi a alabar] si estamos queriendo decir "voy a alabar".

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