I noticed that my Spanish teacher sometimes does not pronunce the letter "s" in some syllables. For example, she says Ih-rael instead of Israel. Or she says "mah" instead of "mas". The thing is, she does this occassionally and doesn't seem to be aware of that.

I made a small researched about it and found out that this is something called s-aspiration and it is common among native speakers. But I wonder when and where does the letter "s" may become aspirated.

3 Answers 3


Letter 's' is commonly aspirated at the end of words, and it may be aspirated as well at the end of syllabes when the next letter is another consonant. But as you said, it is common on native speakers but depends strongly on the region. Canary Islands have a strong aspiration, Cadiz has an absolute mutening of 's' at the end of words, Zaragoza use a quite strong final 's' and no aspiration on syllabes, etc.

  • Thanks for explanation, aspiration issue became clear now :)
    – srhat
    Apr 22, 2014 at 13:49

Syllable final s-aspiration is a distinctive feature of many dialects of Spanish:

Debuccalization of coda /s/

In much of Latin America—especially in the Caribbean and in coastal and lowland areas of Central and South America—and in the southern half of Spain, syllable-final /s/ is either pronounced as a voiceless glottal fricative, [h]) (debuccalization, also frequently called "aspiration"), or not pronounced at all. In some varieties of Hispanic American Spanish (notably Honduran Spanish) this may also occur intervocalically within an individual word, as with nosotros, which may be pronounced as [nohotroh].

Note however that the specific combination /sr/ in e.g. Israel is often assimilated to /r/ in some Spanish dialects which do not feature pre-consonantal s-aspiration or assimilation generally (note the author uses [R] to represent the voiced apical trill [r]):

c. The cluster s̲r̲, whether divided by a word boundary or as in l̲o̲s̲ ̲r̲i̲c̲o̲s̲ or within a word as in I̲s̲r̲a̲e̲l̲ (which, along with i̲s̲r̲a̲e̲l̲i̲t̲a̲ etc., is the unique example of morpheme-internal s̲r̲), has a number of pronunciations. Navarro Tomás (1965, pp. 109-123) states that simply [R], with the s̲ completely absorbed, is a normal Castilian pronunciation of this cluster.

84 Pronunciación de la s. § 110

En el grupo sr (israelita, los reyes, dos reales) la s se sonoriza como en los casos precedentes; pero la punta de la lengua, arrastrada por la enérgica articulación de la siguiente, abandona la forma característica de la estrechez redondeada que la punta de la lengua forma en la s, haciendo perder a ésta su timbre sibilante y produciéndose propiamente en vez de la z una ɹ, o sea una r fricativa : iɹr̄aəlíta, lǫɹr̄éyəs, dǫ́ɹr̄əales; otras veces, en pronunciación relativamente fuerte, la s se pierde por completo, aumentándose, en compensación, las vi- braciones de la siguiente.


Usually the S is aspirated at the end of a syllable.

It is not unlike the glottal stop for Ts in British English. i.e

Bri - ish,

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