Let us classify the words to compare between Spanish and Portuguese into three numbered categories.

  1. The default category: Latin origin words.
  2. Loanwords from Spanish adopted into Portuguese and vice versa.
  3. Loanwords from other languages.

Spanish words with "ll" (originally pronounced /ʎ/, the pronunciation was changed to /y/ through Yeísmo, and also uses other pronunciations like /dʒ/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/; words under Category 3 above may pronounce "ll" as /ll/ or /l/ or whatever is the original language pronunciation) will also fall under one of these categories.

On the other hand "ll" usually does not occur in native Portuguese words, so Portuguese words with "ll" will usually fall under Category 3 above or maybe under Category 2 above if it is borrowed from Spanish.

The Spanish verb "llamar" falls under Category 1 above as it originates from Latin "clamare". Its Portuguese equivalent is "chamar".

On the other hand "llama" the animal falls under Category 2 above and is called "lhama" in Portuguese (the pronunciation of Portuguese "lh" is between /ʎ/ and /y/).

My question here is, when does the Spanish "ll" transform to "lh", when does it transform to "ch", and when does it transform to just "l" in Portuguese?

  • 1
    Don't forget "ll" can also be turned into a single "l", such as in "apellidar"/"apelidar", both derived from the latin appellitāre (to call).
    – stafusa
    Aug 24, 2022 at 7:41
  • 2
    @ArunabhBhattacharya Welcome to Portuguese SE and thanks for your contribution! I take that your final question is the core of your post, and your proposed categories are only accessory. If that's the case, only category (2) matters and I suggest you de-emphasize the categories or, better still, remove them altogether and only elaborate on (2), since (3) is tangential and (1) anyway assumed.
    – stafusa
    Aug 24, 2022 at 19:22
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    (Aside: I had never heard "lhama" for the animal llama In Portugal, I knew it as "lama". The dictionary has both entries.)
    – ANeves
    Aug 25, 2022 at 16:51
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    There is no transformation as one did not come from the other. Your questions are usually methodologically flawed. They are two different languages with two different ways words came into them from Latin. The words didn't come from one language to the other.
    – Lambie
    Aug 27, 2022 at 15:43
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    @ArunabhBhattacharya, sorry but I don't think I have anything to contribute that is not already part of mdewey's answer. In essence, I think you need to reframe your question: in general, words don't travel from PT to ES or vice-versa; maybe loanwords travel through one to the other, such as chocolate and tupi... but those are rare and probably not interesting to study.
    – ANeves
    Sep 27, 2022 at 19:54

1 Answer 1


Your question is based on a number of assumptions which seem to me to be questionable.

Just because two languages have a word in common or two similar words meaning the same it does not mean that one of them has borrowed the word from the other. In the case of languages with a common ancestor the default assumption must be that the words descended in parallel from a common source. As I am sure you know both Spanish and Portuguese have such a common ancestor, Latin.

Following on from that assumption your quest for a transformation from ll to lh or ch is misguided. What you should be looking for is the steps in the descent of each of them which changed the Latin, whatever that was, into the modern Spanish or Portuguese. Bear in mind as well that these rules are just summaries described by linguistic researchers of the steps they have observed. They are not rules which determined what speakers chose to do. In the same way the planets move in the way they do, they did not decide to follow Kepler's laws but rather Kepler observed their behaviour and described it.

As an aside the question ignores the information which might be obtained by looking at the descent of other Romance languages spoken in the Iberian peninsula notably in Galicia.

  • 1
    For inexperienced readers, note that Galician and Portuguese are very similar and close, both deriving from Galaico-Português. From WP: «The linguistic classification of Galician and Portuguese is still discussed today. There are those among Galician independence groups who demand their reunification as well as Portuguese and Galician philologists who argue that both are dialects of a common language rather than two separate ones.»
    – ANeves
    Sep 27, 2022 at 19:48
  • The question is based on a flawed premise. It's really that simple.
    – Lambie
    Sep 28, 2022 at 20:32
  • @Lambie indeed but I thought it worth posting an answer for the benefit of other people who might not have your insights.
    – mdewey
    Sep 29, 2022 at 14:26
  • I think the question should have been closed. And I certainly don't think it should have had a bounty.
    – Lambie
    Nov 14, 2022 at 18:43

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