Is anyone aware of research that indicates that the centering diphthongs in English are actually sets of monophthongs?

If so I would be interested in reading some sources and be greatly appreciative for any advice where to look.

  • 2
    If something actually is a centering diphthong, how can it actually be a monophthong? There a presupposition missing here. Are you asking about e.g. a comparison between pronunciation of certain nuclei in one dialect, compared to another dialect? I am aware that the centering diphthongs of my dialect correspond to monophthongs in some other dialects. Is that what you're asking about? – user6726 Oct 22 '16 at 23:08
  • I formed that question poorly. I meant to ask if there is any research evidence suggesting that what was previously considered centering diphthongs in English, actually turns out to be sets of clearly distinguishable monophthongs. In other words, on careful analysis of phonetic transcriptions one can see a distinction of sounds in these "diphthongs" - and to the best of my knowledge across all dialects of English. – Tom Oct 23 '16 at 12:32
  • Still not clear--When you say "are ... sets of monophthongs" do you mean that what is assumed to be a single vowel (one diphthong) should actually be analyzed as a sequence of two separate vowels (two monophthongs)? – musicallinguist Nov 22 '16 at 1:08
  • That is my understanding. I don't necessarily believe that, it was brought up in a class and I want to investigate it further - if anyone here has any further knowledge about it? – Tom Dec 5 '16 at 1:18
  • No, they're not a myth. This is so obvious that we are all trying to figure out what you really intend to be asking. – Greg Lee Dec 21 '16 at 22:02

Centering diphthongs are not a "myth" per se: they really exist/existed in some English accents. These accents are not universal, obviously: they are/were only used by certain groups of speakers in certain historical periods. It's true that many modern British English speakers use monophthongs, not centering diphthongs, in words like care, beer, pure. You can find a description of this in Geoff Lindsey's blog post The British English vowel system, which tries to describe the phonetic differences between what he calls "Standard Southern British" and Received Pronunciation as transcribed by Gimson. In that post, he transcribes the vowel of square as /ɛː/, the vowel of near as /ɪː/ or disyllabic /ɪjə/ = FLEECE followed by COMMA, and the vowel of pure as /ɵː/, /oː/, or disyllabic /ʉwə/ = GOOSE followed by COMMA.

You may be aware of this already, but the use of e.g. /eə/ to transcribe the SQUARE phoneme does not necessarily mean that the transcriber intends to indicate a phonetically diphthongal pronunciation. For example, John Wells used /eə/ in his transcriptions for the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary but he has a blog post explaining that this is meant to cover monophthongal pronunciations as well.

  • I think there's a terminological problem, since "centering diphthong" is also used to refer to sit being pronounced [sɪət], and this is actually the norm in General American as far as I know (though maybe not in Minnesota). – user6726 Oct 22 '16 at 23:14

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