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?

  • 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
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 21:18
  • 1
    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
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 12:01
  • huff, hot question
    – Rosenthal
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 18:43

4 Answers 4


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].

  • IMHO the last video has the best, most correct and clearest pronunciation.
    – Laura
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 19:14
  • Last video is no longer available. Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 13:49

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.

  • 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
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 12:02

Bolivian Spanish still maintains the difference between the ll and y. This is considered Standard Bolivian Spanish. 17% of Bolivians speak Aymara while 25% speak Quechua, both languages that also contain this distinction. Peru should also maintain the distinction, however, it may be the case that some cities may be losing it, as well. I have a Peruvian friend who is from Lima who also pronounces the ll as /ʝ/, though to be fair, this is a sample of one.


Argentina and Uruguay pronounce Y and LL both same as the English sound of "she, should, show". The Wikipedia link shows a map of yeismo, but it may confuse the reader because Mexico and Argentina pronounce them the opposite: Mexicans (and everyone else in Central and South America but Argentina and Uruguay) pronounce Y and LL the same way, for example Yo=eeh-oh, Llover=eeh-oh-vir. The video posted by joulSauron is perfect to grab the idea. You will be safe pronouncing either way.

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