I am researching dialects in Chilean Spanish , and one feature that is often mentioned (and one that you can hear all across Chile in conversation) is the varying pronunciation of the 'ch' sound. I have only a basic knowledge of the IPA from undergrad level, and I have two different papers that describe what I think is the same feature in two different ways.

A brief explanation:

1. Lower-class, stigmatised pronunciation of 'ch' in (e.g.) mucho [ʃ] (fricative, sounds like the English 'sh').
2. Middle class, standard: affricate [tʃ] or [t͡ ʃ]
(similar to 'ch' in standard English).
3. The upper-middle and upper class pronunciation is described in 2 different ways in 2 different papers. (From my time in Chile, I can describe it as more like a 'tch' sound, e.g mutcho).

  1. as [t͡ʃ̟ ], which I read as an advanced/fronted voiceless post alveolar affricate. (2004)

  2. as [t̚ tʃ], which I interpret as not audibly released /t/ followed by a standard /tʃ/ sound, meaning basically a longer /t/ sound in the phoneme. (1998)

So, are 4 and 5 the same sound, just described in different ways? Or are they describing different phonemes? I think 5 corresponds more closely to what I heard when I was in Chile. One possible explanation is that the phoneme has subtly evolved in the ~14 years between the two studies. As far as I'm aware this sound does not exist in English.

1 Answer 1


As chilean I find more accurate this description to the ch of middle class, let's call it "neutral", and the upper class ch, so:

Neutral CH: t͡ɕ ʨ voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate UpperC CH: t͡ʃ ʧ voiceless postalveolar affricate

you can listen to UPCH here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiceless_palato-alveolar_affricate

and NCH here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiceless_alveolo-palatal_affricate

Answering your question, what do you mean with "not audibly released /t/", if it's no audibly there is no need to transcribe it, I would rather interpret it as a kind of gemination with the t, a short gemination if that's possible. Any way, and test it yourself, UPCH: the part immediately after the tip of the tongue press against the alveolusi and the front palate, while in NCH the same part of the tongue press against the front palate only.

I hope this helps instead of bringing confusion to you.

  • Andres: Thank you for your thoughts, I do have to say that I agree with your transcriptions and interpretations, your analysis of the position of the tongue is absolutely correct I think. Regarding the 'not audibly released', I am literally reading the transcription, like I said I'm not too familiar with all the aspects of IPA notation. I think you are right there, thank you for your help. So overall it seems to me like the two transcriptions do refer to the same feature of upper class Chilean Spanish, just that there are lots of ways to represent it.
    – Jack O
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 12:28
  • Well, in that case I would say that the description with the non audible "t" is wrong, think about the word "chalk" in English, I think that "ch" is pronounced in the exact same way as the chilean UP.CH, any way I think the British English pronunciation is stronger, and American English is a little bit softer. Well any way, that ch is described as ʧ voiceless postalveolar affricate Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 17:58
  • OK Andrés, thanks for responding. I think that both papers use /ʧ/ as the standard, as a starting point before trying to describe the UP.CH., which is why the descriptions are so complex. I agree with your descriptions, I will include a note in my work explaining all of this. Muchas gracias por su ayuda, que le vaya muy bien.
    – Jack O
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 8:30

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