What is the rule that predicts the distribution?

  • 5
    If it's for a class, it would be helpful to know the theoretical framework you're using for allophonic rules. If you just want a description of the distribution, however, then it's [z] before phonetically voiced consonants and [s] in other places. Besides this pattern, though, many Spanish dialects use allophone [h] for a coda /s/. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_phonology#Obstruents Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 3:12
  • thank you :) It is a homework question. We are given some data in Spanish and asked whether {s} and [z] are allophones of the same phoneme or separate phonemes. Thank you.
    – Arielle
    Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 22:03
  • 3
    What are your thoughts so far? Have you made any progress?
    – user2081
    Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 7:49

2 Answers 2


Yes, unlike English , in Spanish [z] is only a realization of /s/ (where s becomes before voiced consonants), and appears nowhere else in the language. So it’s only an allaphone of the phoneme /s/ ; whereas in English, existance of minimmal pairs such as “sip” amd “zip” proves /z/ to be a distinct phoneme from /s/.


Phonemically, there is no difference between [s] and [z]. In all Spanish dialects the phoneme /s/ is only slightly voiced [s̬] (sometimes written [z]), before voiced obstruents:

esnob /esnoB/ [es̬'nob] 'snob'

esbelto /es'Belto/ [es̬'β̞elto] 'slender, slim'.

on the other hand, elsewhere we have a voiceless [s]:

España /españa/ [es'paɲa] 'Spain'

esfuerzo /esfuerZo/ [es'fweɾθo]/[es'fweɾso] 'effort'

esencial /esenZial/ [esen'θjal]/[esen'sjal] 'essential'

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