In the song "Cielito Lindo", canta y is pronounced as if it were cantay. Is this standard, just a singing oddity, or a regional variation?

  • I agree with @guifa; however, it's also a special feature of songs. May 9, 2017 at 5:44
  • In English, there is a tendency to add a glottal stop before a word that starts with vowel to avoid it to fuse with the previous. This is way less common in Spanish.
    – Rafael
    May 9, 2017 at 18:01

2 Answers 2


In Spanish poetry, when counting the syllables in a verse you must count as one syllable when the last syllable of a word ends with a vowel and the first one of the next one starts also with a vowel. This is knows as sinalefa:


Del lat. tardío synaloepha, y este del gr. συναλοιφή synaloiphḗ, der. de συναλείφειν synaleíphein 'confundir, mezclar'.

  1. f. Fon. y Métr. Unión en una única sílaba de dos o más vocales contiguas pertenecientes a palabras distintas; p. ej., mu-tuoin-te-rés por mu-tuo-in-te-rés.

To give you an odd example:

Me gusta el arte abstracto.

Me-gus-tael-ar-teabs-trac-to. (7 syllables in the verse.)

This is the general rule, as this is how we pronounce in real life, linking sounds. There are exceptions but in your case it is just like this:

Canta y no llores.

Can-tay-no-llo-res. (5 syllables in the verse.)

When singing, you need to sing according to the syllables in the verse, that's why you need to apply the same rules. In fact, you have another example in the same song:

Porque cantando se alegran,
cielito lindo, los corazones.

Por-que-can-tan-do-sea-le-gran. (8 syllables in the verse.)

Note that once more I have grouped sea in se alegran. This linking thing is not exclusive to the Spanish language. Just think how the English language does the same when rendering he is into he's. It is the same principle, only that Spanish does not contract words (with the exceptions of al and del) in the written expression.

  • 2
    This is an odd feature of Spanish verses; if se alegra were a single word (sealegra), it would have four syllables; but being two words, it just counts as three. Anyway, this is indeed how we pronounce, not an invention.
    – Gorpik
    May 9, 2017 at 6:52
  • 1
    @Gorpik indeed. Any Spanish speaker, when speaking in a fast, relaxed way, will say something like Me gusta l'art'abstracto. Yes, I have rendered el into le and merged it with the next word, much like in Italian. That's why we count syllables in verses this way.
    – Charlie
    May 9, 2017 at 7:00
  • 2
    the "technical" name for this is sinalefa
    – motilio
    May 11, 2017 at 7:00
  • @motilio thank you very much, I had forgotten that!
    – Charlie
    May 11, 2017 at 7:06
  • In English synalephas are less common because they tend to prepend a glottal stop before words starting with vowel
    – Rafael
    May 12, 2017 at 19:43

That is perfectly normal. Spanish links sounds between words, especially when the latter starts with a vowel.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.