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I've learnt that the v sound in Spanish is pronounced as a "b", however why are some words such as "por favor" and "Revolucion" pronounced as a "v"? Also, is this type of pronunciation Spanish (spoken in Spain)?

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    I think only in Argentina and maybe Venezuela "b" and "v" can have different sounds. In Spain, we pronounce it the same way, including these 2 examples "por favor" and "Revolución". – Blas Soriano May 30 '15 at 7:41
  • And also more or less with Y and LL, for some reason we pronunciate them the same way. – alphamikevictor May 30 '15 at 9:37
  • possible duplicate of Historical pronunciation of letters "b" and "v" – user0721090601 May 30 '15 at 14:04
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    In general, pronouncing the letter V as /v/ (and not /b/) is an overcorrection that was, surprisingly enough, taught in some schools in Latin America. Dialectically, in regions where there is another language that distinguishes (like in Catalonia) you may hear it, but it's not considered part of standard Spanish. – user0721090601 May 30 '15 at 14:07
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    In Spain, "b" and "v" are pronounced the same way. – Airman01 May 30 '15 at 20:14
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According to the Diccionario panhispánico de dudas of the Real Academia Española de la Lengua,

There's no difference in the pronunciation of b and v in Spanish: both represent nowadays the bilabial voiced sound /b/. Spanish Orthography has mantained both letters, which represented different sounds in Latin, for reasons of tradition [...] The pronunciation of v as labio-dental has never existed in Spanish, and only happens occasionally in Valencian and Majorcan speakers, and in some from Southern Catalonia, when they speak Spanish, because of the influence of their regional languages, and in some places of America by influence of Amerindian languages. In every other case, it's a mistake some people make because of an excess of scrupulousness, based in recommendations from the past, for even if the Academia had recognised in its Diccionario de Autoridades (1726-1739) that "We Spaniards don't differentiate between the pronunciation of both letters", several editions of the Academia's Ortografía and Gramática in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries described, and even recomended, the pronunciation of v as labio-dental, believing it convenient at the time to differentiate it from b as many of the great European languages, including French and English, that were then so influential, did ; but since the 1911 Gramática, the Academia ceased to explicitly recommend this differentiation. In short, the correct pronunciation of the letter v in Spanish is identical to that of b, so there's no oral difference in our language between words such as baca and vaca, bello and vello, acerbo y acervo.

I recognise I just learnt this, as I usually differentiate both sounds when speaking.

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    Note to everyone: Extended comments are not appropriate here. If certain aspects of the answer need to be discussed at length, please do so in chat. – Flimzy Jun 5 '15 at 21:55
  • Great answer. I just wanna add that in Latin America we rarely use V, because we pronounce B indistintly, even if at elementary school, you learn the difference between both. As long as you live in Latin America, no problem, EXCEPT when you speak French or Portuguese. Some friends correct me all the time to pronounce better the B and V. This is because in their languages they distinguish the sound easily. Once I said in French, "Vérifie ton bol" (Check your bowl) I wanted to say "Vérifie ton vol" (Check your flight). Some friends can understand by context but others don't (closed-minded ones). – Maximus Decimus Jan 19 '16 at 16:31
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I believe the question is why do the sounds /V/ (sonoro, bilabial, fricativo, as "Victor") and /B/ (sonoro, bilabial, oclusivo, as "Bumblebee") get used, when their written representations ('V' and 'B') are supposed to be interchangeable.

The /V/ sound is used between two vowel sounds (not the spelling, the actual phonetic sounds), while the /B/ sound is used after a consonant sound, to start an utterance (or after a pronounced pause), or when being emphasized for some reason.

/V/ - revolución, que le vaya bien, lávame (and seen on dirty windows in Chihuahua: lábame)

/B/ - Vamos al cine, Beisból

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  • Your answer explains well the differences for that pair V/B, but missed the second part of the question: Also, is this type of pronunciation Spanish (spoken in Spain)? Do you agree there are no distinction between v and b sounds today in Spain? – Blas Soriano May 30 '15 at 23:54
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    Academically, there is not supposed to be a difference, and from the few times I've spoken with folks from Spain, the V/B thing never caught my attention, meaning they appear to pronounce those sounds the same way I learned in Mexico. Sorry, – Kent A. May 31 '15 at 0:00
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    There is indeed a distinction between intervocalic and non-intervocalic /b/ but it's not between [v] (voiced labiodental fricative) and [b] (voiced bilabial stop), rather [β̞] (voiced bilabial approximate) and [b]. [β̞] is the sound made by starting to move the lips to articulate a [b], but not fully blocking the airflow before moving into position for the next vowel. A similar phenomenon happens with /g/ and /d/ ([g]~[ɣ̞] and [d]~[ð̞] ). [v] requires articulating with the top teeth and the bottom lips and is the voiced equivalent of [f]. – user0721090601 May 31 '15 at 23:15
  • Both letters are pronounced the same, everywhere, in every spanish speaking countries. Don't get confused for such a subtle thing... maybe some accents in some regions differenciate it (specially those influenced by english cultures) but most of spanish speakers don't differenciate between "b" and "v", both sound like /b/. – Luis Jan 12 '16 at 19:33
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In many Spanish speakers it is possible to find the differentiation between 'V' and 'B' very well marked, regardless of their country of origin, although there are some countries in which the inconsistency you refer to is more frecuently found. It is very beautiful and makes a lot of sense when you can hear these subtleties in the spoken language. I have identified it is easier to understand when they are present. In my experience, regardless of what books may say, I found it is pretty much the same in every Spanish speaking country I have been to, which suggests the ability to execute these sounds is highly linked to the speaker or a group of people, even regions or social groups, and their foundations at speaking and understanding the Spanish language, more than being linked to a specific country. This is why you will always find the inconsistencies you refer to in your question. It is part of our human nature.

Not because a definition in a dictionary renders a sound a one-way universal axiom, it means such is true and actually happens for the whole of the spoken Spanish. A mere definition can't wipe out reality. It has been said previously in this forum (source here) and in other online sources, that they learnt to make a distinction when pronouncing b and v, and that is very much alive. The fact is that there are many groups of people in Spain and America speaking with a labio-dental V and they can't be labeled as not speaking correctly because somewhere it says that THE rule is to make no distinction between both sounds (B and V). There are historical and sociological reasons for pronouncing the V labio-dental (sort of vibration if that is easier to understand. Listen here) and it even comes sometimes as a natural sound which endures in time and pervades social groups. The later has been indeed documented in the following study made in Chile:

PRODUCCIÓN DE /v/ COMO ALÓFONO DE /b/ EN NIÑOS PRE ALFABETIZADOS DE LA PROVINCIA DE CONCEPCIÓN (CHILE) by Vergara Fernández, Viviana, Boletín de Lingüística, vol. XXIII, núm. 35-36, enero-diciembre, 2011, pp. 123-142 Universidad Central de Venezuela Caracas, Venezuela.

Also we have an exploration into the existence of the labio-dental sound in certain regions in Chile:

THE VOICED LABIODENTAL ALLOPHONE [v] OF THE PHONEME /b/ IN THE SPANISH OF CONCEPCIÓN (CHILE): AN EXPLORATORY STUDY by Scott Sadowsky, Estudios de Fonética Experimental, ISSN 1575-5533, XIX, 2010, pp. 231-261 - Laboratorio de Fonética. Universidad de Concepción, Chile.

The following is an exciting and very well documented research showing why in the Spanish dialect in Chile, the sounding labio-dental fricative [v] is exercised, which entertains, in turn, the exercise in differentiating between B and V in parts of Chile. In page #10 it gives references of this differentiation being taught formally in certain educational backgrounds:

Incidencia de la alfabetización en la producción de los alófonos de /b/ by Viviana Vergara Fernández, Universidad de Concepción, Chile - 2010.

This singularity in the pronunciation of the Spanish language in Chile (although the labiodental V is to be found in other regions of America) has been registered to come also as a natural event unaffected by the educational process:

"The voiced labiodental fricative [v] has traditionally been rejected as a natural allophone of /b/ in Spanish in general, as well as in Chilean Spanish, although its existence has been admitted in cases of extra-linguistic influence, and recent research has included it in the phonetic inventory. This paper seeks to contribute by providing new data on the production of allophones of /b/, including [v]. To achieve this purpose, audio and video recordings of the speech of 19 pre-literate and literate native speakers of Spanish from Concepción, Chile, were analyzed. The results show that for all speakers, [v] is not just a natural allophone of /b/, it is the most common one". Furthermore, it is demonstrated that the existence of [v] is not affected by the literacy process. (Abstract, A study of the careful speech of pre-literate and literate speakers, by Viviana Vergara Fernández: Laboratorio de Fonética, Facultad de Humanidades y Arte, Universidad de Concepción

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    Quoth the source: Se observa que la frecuencia de los alófonos de /b/ es similar para ambos grafemas. Cuando /b/ se representa como <b> y <v>, respectivamente, [b] = 13,6% y 7,4%, [B] = 23,0% y 19,9%, y [v] = 62,4% y 71,9%, lo cual indica que no existe una relación entre grafema y alófono. your source does not say what you think it says – user0721090601 Jun 5 '15 at 17:28
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    If you read well, specially under conclusions, you will see that Sadowsky's paper shows that [v] labiodental is pretty much in use by the studied population! What else do you want? It even stretches to say it existence in Chile may be a sign of linguistic change, since [v] was lost towards the end of the medieval times. – Lola Berwoots Jun 5 '15 at 17:46
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    Let me put this as simply as I possibly can. He states that the allophone (non-contrastic pronunciation, that is like much of Spanish speaking world using [h] for non-final s) [v] exists for the phoneme /b/. The phoneme /b/ in Spanish is represented by the graphemes b and v. Both b and v are pronounced /b/ (phoneme, not phone). That is not in question. His study was towards the allophonic variations of the phone /b/ and found 11 allophones of /b/, which included [b] and [v]. – user0721090601 Jun 5 '15 at 17:55
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    He found that the grapheme (letter) was not correlated (had nothing to do with) the allophone (actual pronunciation) of the phoneme /b/. – user0721090601 Jun 5 '15 at 17:55
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    That isn't in relation to this thread Guifa. If you want to talk about that, open a therad for that and I follow you there. I will try again: Sadowsky and Fernández's papers research show that the voiced labiodental fricative V is in used by certain groups in Chile and it shed light into its reasons. This is relevant to those who need documentation regarding why V and B are pronounced differently by some groups. – Lola Berwoots Jun 5 '15 at 18:09
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Both "b" and "v" are pronounced as a /b/ sound. Always. :)

The only difference is in writing, not in speaking.

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The confusion of b and v is a phenomenon that occurs not only in Spanish but in most of the Romance languages and even in classical Latin. It's called betacismo (betacism).

Although sometimes you try to teach children that there are difference in pronunciation, is that just a sign of exaggeration and sometimes pedantic oratory.

As in practice the words baca and vaca are pronounced exactly the same, spelling difference is due just to historical reasons, and their proper orthographic use is exclusively memoristic. So there is the confusion.

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    And the history of the spelling differences is interesting. The goal was to do it etymologically, but (like with haber) some words had already standardized so much that they just left them as they were. – user0721090601 Jun 5 '15 at 14:45
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    @guifa: Another examples: abogado derives from vocatus and abuelo from avus. And there is a famous phrase that is even quoted by Don Quijote: "Beati hispani quibus vivere est bibere". – Rodrigo Jun 5 '15 at 15:02
  • "B" and "v" are pronounced as /b/ in Spanish. Period. Maybe in some regions, cultures... there may be some subtle difference, but I wouldn't pay much attention to such a tiny thing. You can safely pronounce both letters the same way and you'll get understood. You can pronounce them differently and most of the spanish people will stare at your confused :D – Luis Jan 12 '16 at 19:35

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