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There are several questions on this site that deal with the correct pronunciation of "ll" and "y" but despite sounding like a duplicate, this question addresses a slightly different issue.

I have read almost universally that "ll" is pronounced as the "y" of "yellow" in Mexico. However, I also read someone saying that at least in Guadalajara they use a mix of two pronunciations (the "y" of "yellow" as well as the "j" of "jello"). He goes on to say that words like ella and amarillo are pronounced with the "yellow" sound whereas the place name Saltillo is pronounced with the "jello" sound.

Yet another resource gives the "jello" sound as the prevalent pronunciation in DF. Now it clearly seems that both the sounds are used in varying degrees in different regions of Mexico and certain words are pronounced with one sound while others go with the other sound. I really want to know and understand how the Mexicans decide which sound to go with for a given word. Are there unstated phonetic rules that the locals (Mexicans) follow?

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5 Answers 5

I am from Mexico City (DF) and I do not see any differences in pronunciation between "ll" and "y". For instance, I do pronounce the same way amarillo and Saltillo

The same goes for ella, Troya, olla, paella

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That doesn't answer the question. I am asking about "how" it is pronounced. Is it pronounced as "j" of "jug"? Or as "y" of "yellow"? My understanding is both pronunciations are used and thats what I am trying to find out – How do Mexican's decide where to use which pronunciation. You say both "ll" and "y" are pronounced the same way...but you don't say anything about WHAT that pronunciation is. –  Amit Schandillia Jun 11 at 17:03
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@AmitSchandillia, both are pronounced as "y" of "yellow", there is no difference at all. –  Nicoli Jun 11 at 17:06

The original spanish pronounciation of ll is a palatalized l (full tongue against the palate). This sound diverged through time and different areas. In México you mean hear it as the y in yellow or like j in jello, whereas in most of Argentina and Uruguay you will hear it as sh in show.

Don't worry much about the pronunciation. In general, spanish words are longer than say, English, and a difference in pronounciation of this particular sound will rarely cause confusion as long as you don't pronounce it as plain l.

You can pronounce joo-via, yoo-via, shoo-via, or even choo-via, and people will still understand you're talking about the rain.

If you refer to a stretcher buy saying cah-mee-lah instead of cah-mee-(j/y/sh)ah, though, people will think you're talking about some woman.

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Since we can't hear a difference [Unless you pay attention to it] it doesn't matter how you pronounce it, we mix both letters and pronunciations so you'll never find a pattern [Maybe ther's a pattern but i think that is complicated and we just don't think about it, linguistics stuff], even sometimes sounds as "Measure". But you just have to check that never sounds like "you" as a vowel.

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I had a Mexican (American) Spanish teacher from the southern part of Mexico who would often pronounce "ll" like a "j." For instance, the word "brillo," was pronounced "bri jo" instead of "bri yo." And she pronounced "llamo" as "jamo." So apparently, that is an "accent" from that part of the country.

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My question was more about the distribution of the "j" pronunciation vs the "y" pronunciation. So what you need to tell is if your teacher used the "j" sound for EVERY instance of "ll" or only some? –  Amit Schandillia Jun 12 at 1:37
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@AmitSchandillia: In this case, I would say "most." I only knew this person for two years, so I couldn't go around monitoring every instance of use. But even to me, it was clearly "more often than not." Thanks for asking the question; it explains (to me) why the teacher pronounced these words as she did. –  Tom Au Jun 12 at 14:53

While it is true that the "y" and "ll" are pronounced as a palatalized English J, in practice the difference is small enough to make it irrelevant. For example, when I was a kid I used to live abroad and essentially grew up not speaking Spanish, so I tend to pronounce it as an English J. Pretty much the only relevant difference is how these letters are pronounced as a "SH" in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and this one is readily distinguishable and easy to spot.

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