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Thread: H, the not so silent letter...

  1. #1
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    Default H, the not so silent letter...

    Not that I need any help with my pronunciation, I am just curious as to why many Dominicans pronounce the H - it is supposed to be silent. The best example I can think of is Haina, pronounced "jaina", but also hartura, harto, hot dog, hamberger, Heidy (pronounced Heydy), . Theres a few other words, but can't seem to remember them now. Is there any particular reason for this? Perhaps american influence? Is the correct pronunciation Aina or "haina"?

    Now that I think of it, the J is often pronounced the same way as it is english or if not as a Y, mainly in names. Obvious names like Jennifer, ok, but Julissa, ect. Again must be from foreign influence, right?

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    American influence. A lot of those words are of English origin to begin with...

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    But Haina, and Harto?

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    Hamaca, which for some reason appears in a banner ad on this site as sometimes pronounced - "jamaca"...

    I'm sure I've heard 'harto' pronounced as 'jarto' in Spain too.

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    There are a lot of non English origin words that the h is produced, such as halar, hallar etc. Nonetheless, I understand the aspiration of the H is an amercianized trait.

    As far as the names go, one shouldn't infer that grammar rules used for names will apply to normal words, they don't. Many Dominicans love odd names that don't sound like they read.

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    Odd names like Julisleidina - Ok, I just made that one up, but I'm sure someone could find it a lovely name for their child.

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    I have noticed that the H is usually silent except for in some English-language words like hamburger and hot dog, but then when a Dominican is really annoyed or they want to make an emphasis the H comes out in harto or hablador...would that make sense?

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    Default El_Uruguayo

    You asked a good question, however, the responses thus far don't provide much insight to your query and are speculative.


    It's just another example of a speech pattern typical of the Dominican vernacular and has nothing to do with American influence but rather education because many of the words are not English words, borrowed words, or false cognates etc. that may lend itself to justifying the mispronunciation. Simple as it is it goes back to education and the traditional difficulties that many Dominicans and some Spanish speakers of a lesser base level education (and even many educated speakers also) have with certain letters specifically /j/ vs./ /g/, /c/ vs. /s/, vs. /z/, and the silent /h/ which is written but should not be pronounced. No exceptions exist in Spanish orthography or phonetics. What one sees written and heard pronounced in the DR that go against the rules are regionalisms. For example, the Dominican meaning of 'jablador' (spelt with a 'j') vs. the standard meaning of 'hablador'. I think the spelling of it with a /j/ is an example of the incorrect usage regardless what the regional meaning may be. When speakers don't understand basic orthographic rules the result is many illogical misspellings and pronunciation. 'Jablador' is not even registered in the RAE.


    You may want to look into the sociolinguistic research done on these linguistic variations which include spelling and pronunciation as it relates to a speech population. The best one of I have read thus far on Dominican speech is the one by Grupo León Jimenes, Cómo hablamos los dominicanos which was referenced in this forum many times. It's a detailed sociolinguistic compendium of Spanish spoken in the DR. If you really want to get a good understanding of the where, when, how and why, consider reading the book. As well, you always have to remember the education and socio-economic level of the speaker. If you have an opinion or concpet in your mind how the 'average' Dominican speaker speaks and writes then this concept of the silent /h/ being pronounced should not be a surprise to you. As all linguists, grammarians, educators etc. would say these irregular and regional speech patterns should not be duplicated by foreigners or other Spanish speakers outside of the Dominican vernacular. Good observation yes, but not to be repeated. In general, when foreigners or second language speakers start to imitate incorrect Dominican speech patterns, it's just an open door for criticism and/ or ridicule.

    Linguist John Lipski has also done plenty of research on Latin American Spanish- Cuba, the DR and PR have been researched. You may want to look into some of his scholarly data.

    Cómo hablamos los dominicanos is available online in a PDF format. It's well-complied and very informative.



    Grupo Len Jimenes | Biblioteca virtual | Cmo hablamos los dominicanos


    Here is the summary:

    Según su autor, Orlando Alba, el propósito central de este libro es ofrecer algunas ideas sobre la identidad de la atractiva modalidad lingüística hispánica que se habla en la República Dominicana, con la esperanza de que el lector obtenga una visión de conjunto del habla del país desde una perspectiva sociolingüística. Podría decirse que el objetivo final consiste en responder de forma sencilla unas preguntas que muchos, callada o expresamente, se han hecho alguna vez: ¿Existe un español, o un modo de hablar el español, típicamente dominicano? ¿Es la lengua hablada en el país exactamente la misma que se habla en otros países hispánicos o tiene unas características peculiares que la distinguen? O, formulando la cuestión de manera más directa, ¿cómo hablamos los dominicanos?.

    -Marianopolita
    Last edited by Marianopolita; 06-10-2009 at 05:38 PM.

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    I'm not sure lack of education is the real cause of the h's being aspirated - as if this were the case I think one should see this trait in other countries where education is poor.

    From researching some of previous threads, I'm inclined to believe there are other influences. For example, the pronunciation of the h is a feature of Andalusion Spansish according to our distinguished Chirimoya and according to a not so distinguished ex DR1'er it is a leftover trait from the Tainos.

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    People are being nice today - distinguished, no less

    Yes, the 'j' for 'h' sound is used in the south of Spain, maybe other areas as well, and in exactly the same way as in the DR - by less educated folks and for emphasis. "!Estoy JARTA de limpiar!"

    And can anyone explain why 'jamaca' and not 'hamaca" in the banner ad?

    Quote Originally Posted by RAE
    La palabra jamaca no está registrada en el Diccionario.

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