In yeísmo dialects there is regional variation in how the phoneme represented by "ll" / "y" is pronounced:

/ʝ/ = [ʝ] ~ [ʒ] ~ [ʤ] ~ [ʃ] ~ [tʃ]

However I recently read that there is also variation in how non-yeísmo dialects realise "ll", with the classical Central Andean Accent for example realizing "ll" as [ʒ] as opposed to the standard [ʎ] ("y" is realized as [ʝ] as expected).

Does such a distinction ("ll" [dʒ ~ ʒ] vs. "y" [ʝ]) exist in any dialects in Spain?

If so, would forcing myself to use such a distinction help with learning to spell words etc? Would such a pronunciation be seen as unnatural?

  • 1
    Forgive me for asking, Dan, but are you learning in a bubble, or do you have people you can practice with? In which case, where are they from? Thanks. // Possible workarounds: picture the spelling while you are saying or hearing the word. Or air-write the letter. Sep 22, 2019 at 3:13
  • I don't get to speak with native speakers, most people I speak it with do not have any distinction between ll and y. And a strong foreign accent, too. Those sound like good ideas, thanks!
    – Dan
    Sep 22, 2019 at 3:35
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    My initial conversation partners were Polish. Our common language was Spanish. It worked great, because they spoke more slowly than native speakers; their pronunciation was quite good; and their vocabulary was somewhat limited. This helped me gain confidence. // Many native speakers confuse ll and y when writing. Sep 22, 2019 at 5:29
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    @walen, haha, no, it's not so simple. I know the difference exists somewhere to the north, my question is, whether within that area there are places where people have ʤ and ʝ, or ʒ and ʝ, or ʃ and ʝ. I think I specified the question enough by writing "such a distinction ([dʒ] or [ʒ] vs. [ʝ]) exist anywhere in Spain?"
    – Dan
    Sep 25, 2019 at 18:58
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    Hi Dan - I've reworded your question to get to the heart of what I think you're asking in light of all the close votes and comments. Feel free to revert my edit if I've misunderstood you at all.
    – jacobo
    Sep 27, 2019 at 9:00

3 Answers 3


This is called yeísmo:


De ye e -ismo.

  1. m. Fon. Desaparición de la diferencia fonológica entre la consonante lateral palatal y la fricativa palatal sonora, de manera que, en la pronunciación, no se distinguen palabras como callado y cayado.

And I found this entry in Wikipedia which shows a map of the different countries differentiating whether there is yeísmo or not. From that list I can conclude that:

In Paraguay and Bolivia there is no yeísmo.

In the north of Argentina, north of Chile, east of Perú, east of Ecuador and almost the most part of Colombia (except the north) there is no yeísmo but there is in the other areas of those countries.

In all other American countries (Uruguay, Venezuela, México and the Central American countries yeísmo is the standard.

You can also see the map of Spain in that link, but since I am not familiar with Spanish geography, I won't be digging there.

This is quite interesting since I am from Chile and can't say that in those areas marked in the map in my country actually people make such distinction, but maybe I just don't notice the difference.

Anyway, I don't believe that noticing such a difference will help me to understand whether people are saying valla (fence) or vaya, you just get that from the context. So as an advice, don't waste much time on that while learning.

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    I hate to say that, but I had already known what yeismo is and its approximate geopraphical distribution. I should probably update the question explicitly mentioning this linguistic term so that it would not lead people wrong way, i.e. into explaining to me what I already know and what wasn't really part of the question... I should probably also add the sounds the IPA signs stand for so that people could hear it. On the other hand, your observations regarding the situation in Chile are extremely interesting, gracias!
    – Dan
    Sep 25, 2019 at 19:02

Frame challenge

Distinguishing between the sounds of /ll/ and /y/ will not help you in a practical sense at all.


This site (official resource for Spanish rulings) has this to say about /ll/:

Actualmente, en la pronunciación normal de la mayor parte de los territorios de habla hispana, representa el sonido palatal central sonoro /y/. La pronunciación como /y/ del dígrafo ll se denomina «yeísmo».

Paraphrased translation:

Currently, in the normal pronunciation of the majority of Spanish speaking territories, "ll" represents the voiced palatal fricative /ʝ/ ("y"). The pronunciation of "ll" as "y" is called "yeísmo".

So even if you were practising on a daily basis with native Spanish speakers you would most likely not be able to tell a difference between "y" and "ll".

  • Well, I personally tend to misspell things in foreign languages based on how I speak them and on what I hear... E.g. mistakes like "to" instead of "too", and much, much worse, e.g. writing "mane" instead of main. So it would be a reminder for me personally how I should write this word. And I guess I'm not the only one. True, but I'm learning it in a non-spanish bubble environment, and when I listen to native Spanish I can still remember myself how it is spelt.
    – Dan
    Sep 27, 2019 at 19:48
  • @Dan - If this workaround works for you then I think you should go for it, even if you sound a little funny. As a learner you are allowed to sound a little funny in the beginning. One of my children was having trouble pronouncing R and RR in Spanish when he was quite small, so I temporarily modeled the French/German R while talking to him in Spanish, so he would use that type of R initially. My thought was that that would make the transition to the Spanish R easier, and I do think that was the case. By 2 and a half or 3 he had made the transition. Sep 30, 2019 at 3:35

I learned Spanish in Southern Chile, (10ma Región), and only learned that I was a yeísta when I moved to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, for a couple of years. My neighbors pointed out my apparent "spelling error" as though to a first grader, and you can imagine my chagrin when, after defending myself from an old Chilean Gramática ("Gramática Española por FTD curso medio"), I found out from Manuel Seco's beautiful discourse on Spanish phonics that I was wrong.

Although I admit that the Spanish pronunciation is not a very great orthographic help to the speaker, yeísmo introduces an unnecessary ambiguity when teaching new words to children or new speakers.

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