Yeísmo (Spanish pronunciation: [ɟʝeˈizmo, jeˈizmo]) is a distinctive feature of many dialects of the Spanish language, which consists of the loss of the traditional palatal lateral approximant phoneme /ʎ/ (written ⟨ll⟩) and its merger into the phoneme /ʝ ~ j/ (written ⟨y⟩), usually realized as a palatal approximant or affricate. In other words, ⟨ll⟩ and ⟨y⟩ represent the same sound /ʝ ~ j/. The term yeísmo comes from the Spanish name of the letter ⟨y⟩ (ye). Nowadays over 90% of Spanish dialects exhibit this phonemic merger.  Similar mergers exist in other languages, such as Italian, Catalan, Portuguese or Galician, with different social considerations. Occasionally the term lleísmo (pronounced: [ʎeˈizmo]) has been used to refer to the maintenance of the phonemic distinction between /ʝ ~ j/ (spelled "y") and /ʎ/ (spelled "ll").
Most dialects that merge the two sounds represented by ⟨ll⟩ and ⟨j⟩ commonly realize the remaining sound as a voiced palatal fricative [ʝ], which is similar to the ⟨y⟩ in English yellow, though it may also sound like ⟨j⟩ in English jar, especially after /n/, /l/, or at the beginning of a word, or pronounced as a palatal approximant [j] (which is exactly similar to the ⟨y⟩ in English yellow) and [dʒ] (exactly sounds to ⟨j⟩ in English jar). For example, relleno is pronounced [reˈʝeno], [reˈjeno], or [reˈdʒeno], ayer is pronounced [aˈʝeɾ], [aˈjeɾ], or [aˈdʒeɾ], while conllevar is pronounced [koɲɟ͡ʝeˈβaɾ] or [koɲdʒeˈβaɾ], or even [koɲjeˈβaɾ], enyesar is pronounced [eɲɟʝeˈsaɾ], [eɲdʒeˈsaɾ], or [eɲjeˈsaɾ], llano is pronounced [ˈɟ͡ʝano], [ˈdʒano], or [ˈjano], and ya is pronounced [ɟ͡ʝa], [dʒa], or [ja].
In Spanish spoken in most of Argentina and Uruguay, this sound is pronounced [ʒ]; and the sound has recently been devoiced to [ʃ] among the younger population (in most of Argentina and Uruguay). Thus, relleno, ayer, conllevar, enyesar, llano, and ya are pronounced [reˈʒeno], [aˈʒeɾ], [konʒeˈβaɾ], [enʒeˈsaɾ], [ˈʒano], and [ʒa], or [reˈʃeno], [aˈʃeɾ], [konʃeˈβaɾ], [enʃeˈsaɾ], [ˈʃano], and [ʃa].
Extent of yeísmo and lleísmo
At present, the distinction between /ʝ/ and /ʎ/ remains in the Ecuadorian highlands, Andean Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela, most of Bolivia and the northeastern portions of Argentina that border with Paraguay. The distinction is more common in areas where bilingualism with indigenous languages such as Aymara and Guaraní is common. In Spain, most of the northern half of the country and several areas in the south used to retain the distinction, but yeísmo has spread throughout the country, and the distinction is now lost in most of Spain, particularly outside of areas with linguistic contact with Catalan and Basque.
Thus, relleno, conllevar, and llano are pronounced [reˈʎeno], [koɲʎeˈβaɾ], and [ˈʎano].
- haya ("beech tree" / "that there be") ~ halla ("s/he finds")
- cayó ("s/he fell") ~ calló ("s/he became silent")
- hoya ("pit, hole") ~ olla ("pot")
- baya ("berry") / vaya ("that he go") ~ valla ("fence")
Due to the relatively low frequency of both /ʝ/ and /ʎ/, confusion is unlikely. However, orthographic mistakes are common (for example, writing llendo instead of yendo). A similar effect took place in the local name of the island of Majorca: Mallorca is a continental Catalan hypercorrection of the earlier Maiorca.
- "La "i griega" se llamará "ye"" Cuba Debate. 2010-11-05. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
- Coloma (2011), p. 103.
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- Lipski (1994), p. 170.
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- Diccionari català-valencià-balear, Institut d'Estudis Catalans (look up the term "Mallorca")
- Álvarez Menendez, Alfredo I (2005), Hablar en español: la cortesía verbal, la pronunciación estándar del español, las formas de expresión oral, Universidad de Oviedo
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- Lipski, John (1994), Latin American Spanish, New York: Longman Publishing
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- Navarro, Tomás (1964), "Nuevos datos sobre el yeísmo en España" (PDF), Thesavrvs: Boletín del Instituto Caro y Cuervo 19 (1): 1–117
- Torreblanca, Máximo (1974), "Estado actual del lleísmo y de la h aspirada en el noroeste de la provincia de Toledo", Revista de dialectología y tradiciones populares 30 (1-2): 77–90
- Schwegler, Armin; Kempff, Juergen; Ameal-Guerra, Ana (2009), Fonética y fonología españolas, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 0470421924
- Travis, Catherine E. (2009), Introducción a la lingüística hispánica, Cambridge University Press
- Pharies, David (2007). A Brief History of the Spanish Language. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-66683-9.