The Musa Alphabet for Spanish

El Alfabeto Musa para Castellano

One often hears Spanish mentioned as an example of a language with good orthography, and there's a lot of truth to that. Spanish words are written as they're pronounced, and Spanish dictionaries don't even have pronunciation guides. But the choice of letters for sounds is in fact quite odd.

Spanish vowels are fine: there are only five vowels, always the same length, and a dozen or so diphthongs and tripthongs. The only oddity is that stressed e and o usually become ie and ue, respectively, but the orthography reflects that change, so it's not a problem. The problem is the consonants, where a very regular system is hidden by odd spelling.

Here is a summary of the problems:

In addition to the problems above, Spanish - the world's fourth most spoken language with more than 330 million speakers - has substantial dialectical variation. In seseo dialects, including Andalusian and American Spanish, the th sound is missing altogether, and z is pronounced as s. In yeísto dialects, which include all the Spanish spoken outside of Castille and a strip of the Andes between Colombia and Paraguay, the ly sound is missing altogether and ll is pronounced as y. There are also dialects in which s is always pronounced as z (ceceo) or dropped (Cuba), in which ll is pronounced as sh (Argentina), in which x represents kh (Mexico), in which y is never affricated (Rio de la Plata), and many more.

When Spanish is written in the Roman alphabet, all these dialects write the words alike (with minor exceptions): Bilbaoans and Balboans agree that the word for match is spelled cerilla, they just don't agree whether it's pronounced therilya or seriya. But when writing Spanish in the Musa alphabet, both dialects write it as they pronounce it, and we say they have two different words for match. That's no different from noticing that they also have different words for many other things, too.


papel total chucho coquilla
bomba donde ya gringo
habia adios tuyo hogar
fosforo cerveza shopping jengibre
mismo ninguno año shopping
asno local llama
siesta orador recorren

In fluent speech, the sounds of tuyo and hogar above are further relaxed to become IPA j and ɰ, and would be written in Musa as and , or between rounded vowels as and .

Vowels and Semivowels

i  ui
e  ie  ue  ey  eu
a  ia  ua  ay  au
o  io  uo  oy
u  iu  uy

The first column shows the five vowels. They are written high when accented, low otherwise. The next four columns show diphthongs. The triphthongs (e.g. Uruguay) aren't shown, but they're straightforward.


The transcriber is a tool for converting Spanish from the Roman Alphabet to Musa:



Now that you've learned the letters, why don't you try reading a sentence?

No engendré yo hijo que fuese contra mi tierra.

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