How do I pronounce murciélago, and why?

According to Rules applied to the separation of syllables , "i" is a a closed vowel, and "e" is an open vowel, so without an accent, it would be a diphthong.

According to this comment "ié" is also a diphthong.

How is the word broken up, and how is it stressed? I would strongly assume that if there's an accent mark, then that must be stressed, but listening to various pronunciations on forvo, it seems (at least to this English-speaking brain) that most of the time they say "mur ci e la go", with the stress seeming to be on a "ci" syllable rather than on the "e".

  • 3
    According to one of my sons, who is going to turn 3 in few days, it is murciégalo, which is by the way accepted as an older form of murciélago.
    – Charlie
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 10:37

1 Answer 1


Murciélago is pronounced mur-cié-la-go. A diphthong like ie doesn't stop being a diphthong if the full vowel (in this case e) is stressed, and the fact that there's an orthographic accent mark on a vowel doesn't indicate anything but stress in this case. In other words, the cié in murciélago is identical to the cie in cielo; the accent on é only indicates stress.

The semivowel in a diphthong (here, the i in ie) cannot be stressed. If you have a high vowel (i or u) followed or preceded by another vowel, and you stress this high vowel, then there's no diphthong but a hiatus (each vowel belongs to a different syllable, as in son-rí-e, ac-tú-a, etc.).

I don't hear a hiatus between i and e in the word murciélago in the examples at forvo. Some speakers may be taking extra care to pronounce the i.

There are some cases where a hiatus can be heard in places where a diphthong should be; for example, most people pronounce cliente as cli-en-te. But this is not the case, that I know of, with murciélago.

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