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Something I've wondered ever since I started learning Spanish about 8 years ago.

One often hears that the sound for "ll" and "y" is merged in "most accents". Wikipedia's IPA for Spanish guide, for instance, says:

/ʎ/ merged with /ʝ/ in most dialects

In metropolitan areas of the Iberian Peninsula and some Central American countries, /ʎ/ has merged into /ʝ/; the actual realization depends on dialect. In Rioplatense Spanish, it has become [ʃ] or [ʒ].

I probably haven't seen any accent being described without an explanation to this effect:

se cayó ("he fell down") is homophonous with se calló ("he became silent")

Yes, I got that. However, in what accents are "ll" and "y" not merged? What does that sould like? How would someone with such accent say e.g. "calle" and "yo"? (Please link to audio examples if possible!)

Of course, someone from Madrid pronouncing "ll" and "y" identically most likely sounds very different compared to someone from Buenos Aires also pronouncing them identically (but using a voiceless [ʃ]). Is the same true for different areas where speakers do make the distinction? (In other words, do the actual speech sounds employed differ between several accents making the distinction?) Can you give examples of this?

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What would you exactly like to know? The actual sound of "ll" /ʎ/? If in accents where they do the distinction if it is always done like /ʎ/? More or less I understand your question, which is a good one. –  JoulSauron Jun 12 '12 at 21:18
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Like I wrote, I'd like to know 1) what accents (what areas) do not use yeísmo, and 2) how exactly would speakers of such accents say words like "calle" and "yo", and yes, 3) is the distinction realised with the same speech sounds in all such accents. I probably have never heard anyone speak with such accent, and I'm curious. –  Jonik Jun 13 '12 at 12:01
    
Thanks for the clarification. –  JoulSauron Jun 13 '12 at 15:26
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2 Answers 2

The question tells much about the spread of yeísmo as it seems to be more common than the original pronunciation. The logical question would be "Where do they use yeísmo" to know where they pronounce "ll" as "y", but as I said before, it is very spread now and I understand that you asked the opposite as you haven't heard it yet.

I really suggest you to have a look at the article on Yeísmo from Wikipedia. There you can see in a map the exact areas where yeísmo is spotted and isn't. So, within a given accent you can spot that some areas where yeísmo is heard and in other don't. For example, in the Northern Iberian accent, in the northernmost part yeísmo is not that heard as in the South of Castille and Leon.

You know how to pronounce "y" (I guess you use /ʝ/, but I think you are also aware of the Rioplatense accent from your question). Remember that "yeísmo" is to not pronounce "ll" as in the original way, but in the way of how "y" is pronounced locally. This means that "y" is always pronounced the same, it doesn't matter if there is yeísmo or not. "Yo" is pronounced in the same way by a "yeísta" and a not "yeísta". The point is how to pronounce "ll" as the original /ʎ/ of "ll".

So, the original sound of "ll" is /ʎ/, and the lose of this sound in favour of the one used for "y" is called "yeísmo". The sound /ʎ/ is not exclusive of Spanish, it exists in other languages and is called "Palatal lateral approximant". Here you can hear the sound. Also this video is good.

Finally, in this video you can check the differences in the pronunciations between the "ll" and "y" in different accents. In the Spanish and Chilean accents, the distinction is made, whereas in Argentinian (Rioplatense) and Cuban isn't. Note that the video is done in purpose to learn the differences, it doesn't mean that in all Spain and Chile is done this way. However, in Cuba and Argentina is not done. In Argentina "ll" and "y" are always pronounced as [ʃ] or [ʒ].

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IMHO the last video has the best, most correct and clearest pronunciation. –  Laura Jun 13 '12 at 19:14
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I am "yeísta" in Spanish, even though I can pronounce the palatal lateral "ll" without effort.

I am not "yeísta" in Catalan, Portuguese or Italian.

Nowadays "yeísmo" is standard Spanish.

Most Spanish speakers cannot even pronounce the palatal lateral “ll”. Foreign students should not worry about it.

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Yes, absolutely; I know it is standard Spanish and nothing to worry about for a student. But the rule comes up often enough that I want to know in what areas/accents the alternative (i.e. distinction) is still used, and how exactly does it sound like. –  Jonik Jun 13 '12 at 12:02
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