Spanish hyphenation rules?
August 20, 2005 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Spanish hyphenation rules/exceptions? Due to some new responsibilities, i need to improve my more-than-basic-but-less-than-fluent Spanish. Are there any online or purchasable cheatsheets/books outlining when/how to break words? (it's a general Latin-American Spanish and not pure Castilian)

I know about breaking on the vowel (cami-nar) but that's not always the case, and when it's a compound word or has a suffix (hacer-lo), but i need help. Any ideas?
posted by amberglow to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's not about vowels, or about compounds or suffixes or anything like that.

It's all about syllabes. You can break between any syllabes. That's it.

Now, the hard part is telling the syllabes apart, which is the kind of skill you learn early at school and is hard to explain. I guess the best I can say is that syllabes correspond to the independent sounds within a word. A word like "comunicacíon" is broken as "co-mu-ni-ca-ción". Most dictionaries will show you the syllabes for each word.

Now, syllabes tend to break after a vowel, and suffixes tend to be separate sounds, hence separate syllabes. Which explains why you thought those elements were related to the rules of breaking.

Finally, aestetics can help you decide where to break. Avoid leaving a "small piece" of the word in either the upper or lower line. Try to make it balanced, but if you can't, try to leave the larger segment on the upper line. Thus "comunicación" is best broken as "comuni- cación", or "comunica- ción", but "co- municación" should be avoided.
posted by sd at 11:52 AM on August 20, 2005

Response by poster: thanks sd, i guess i just need a good pocket dictionary--any recommendations?

what about double letters? like millones? (that one always messes me up) mill-ones? mil-lones?
posted by amberglow at 12:06 PM on August 20, 2005


say the word slow-ly, pausing between each syllable, that should give you a feel for where the word breaks.
posted by signal at 12:21 PM on August 20, 2005

Also remember that the double-l is one sound in Spanish, so you would never ever break it. Some people (though not the Real Academia anymore) consider it a wholly separate letter.
posted by signal at 12:22 PM on August 20, 2005

Same goes for "ch" and "rr".
posted by signal at 12:23 PM on August 20, 2005

F.T.R.: "Castillian" doesn't mean "Spanish as it's spoken in Spain", but rather one of the languages spoken in Spain and Latin America, that most of the rest of the world calls just plain "Spanish". I'll shut up now.
posted by signal at 12:31 PM on August 20, 2005

Response by poster: oh, sorry sig.

i guess because i'm thinking phonetically i'm not as confident. i think mil-yo-nes.
posted by amberglow at 12:36 PM on August 20, 2005

Amber, some of your confusion comes from a particular quirk in the pronounciation of the double -L: some (Latin American) accents pronounce the first L in the double-L words as an L.

Therefore your phonetic mil-yon-es is correct; however, in Spain the double-L is always pronounced as a Y and so the phonetics is mee-yo-nes.

Online Real Academia de la Lengua dictionary
posted by sic at 3:52 PM on August 20, 2005

Response by poster: thanks!
posted by amberglow at 4:10 PM on August 20, 2005

This page looks like it might be helpful.
posted by gubo at 6:47 PM on August 20, 2005

Here's another page with some general Spanish hyphenation rules (wayback link). And a PDF that looks promising.
posted by gubo at 7:01 PM on August 20, 2005

Response by poster: thanks gubo-! : >
posted by amberglow at 8:56 PM on August 20, 2005

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