It seems that at least in the Andes, a lot of people say e.g. [awa] for "agua"[agwa]. What's the phonological rule behind this? Is it really [w]? Why did this happen in the first place?

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    Wouldn't that just be intervocalic lenition? Jul 5, 2014 at 1:21
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    Isn't it more like "g" becomes a velar approximant/glide/semivowel? Dec 4, 2014 at 8:11
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    It's probably worth noting that the sequence gua was frequently used for the /wa/ sounds in transcribing Andean languages where modern Quechua orthography would have use w. @hippietrail Likely, but it, like b and d, is very weak when used intervocalically and certainly wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to be elided entirely. Dec 4, 2014 at 14:40
  • Yes I haven't been to the Andes region but there were certainly a range of elided consonants through Central America. Dec 4, 2014 at 15:00
  • @hippietrail's comment holds for standard versions of Spanish, so if Andean Spanish really is [awa], it's only a small further step to lose the already glided [g]. That is, the transcription [agwa] is not accurate.
    – Greg Lee
    Mar 4, 2015 at 20:45

3 Answers 3


At least from my experience as a native speaker (of Chilean Spanish), I think it's a more popular thing to hear that, as an example, I recall the word for someone with a big belly is guatón (guata = belly), which, as it's used in more informal contexts, could be heard as watón, while it should be written guatón.

Hope it helps.


In the title line you speak of "intervocalic g", while you actually mean "g followed by u", which is different. Only the latter case bears a similarity to "w".

In all languages I know, speakers make a difference between careful speech and casual speech, and this I believe is the case hier: "aɣwa" is careful speech and "awa" is easygoing speech.

I would also keep in mind that for millions of people in Peru and Bolivia Spanish is just a second language, so I would not expect everybody's pronunciation to be fully academic.


The pronunciation of ɣ and w are similar anatomically, as the rear part of the mouth rises, so agua [aɣwa] tends to become [awwa] by assimilation, and in loose speech this becomes [awa].

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