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What, if any, difference is there between long vowels and a double vowels, i.e. consecutive identical vowels? For example, what is the difference between /i:/ and /ii/?

Phonetically, could it be that the former forms one syllable and the latter form two?
Or could there be a change in quality in one of the two vowels? Or a change in pitch, loudness, or duration of one of the two vowels? (I understand that these possibilities are not mutually exclusive.)

Are there languages that have both phonemic vowel length and double vowels?

Sorry for the lack of background, but I haven't found an answer to this question on the net.

2 Answers 2

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Phonetically, could it be that the former forms one syllable and the latter form two?

Yes, exactly, except that this isn't a phonetic distinction but a phonological one. If you have two successive identical vowels, they're always going to form two syllables; if you have one long vowel, it's always going to form one syllable.

There can also be phonetic differences in pitch etc., but not necessarily.

Are there languages that have both phonemic vowel length and double vowels?

Yes. Ancient Greek was such a language; I'm sure there are other examples.

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    English also has both phonemic vowel length and double vowels, an example of the latter is "studying" /ˈstʌdɪɪŋ/.
    – Yellow Sky
    Dec 22, 2013 at 2:01
  • Those vowels aren't identical, though, and there's often a glide between them: [ˈstʌdi(j)ɪŋ].
    – TKR
    Dec 22, 2013 at 2:03
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    @fdb Not all of them had /w/, and anyway that's a diachronic fact. Synchronically there's no /w/.
    – TKR
    Dec 23, 2013 at 1:02
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    @fdb And they're not "epic forms"; they all occur in Classical Greek (though in some words and in some dialects the identical vowels contract).
    – TKR
    Dec 23, 2013 at 1:08
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    @fdb Nothing to do with Homer. diidein is in Plato, airee in Herodotus, noos in Aeschylus, and there are many other such examples.
    – TKR
    Dec 23, 2013 at 1:23
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The essential difference is that a long vowel has one peak, and a double vowel has two peaks, usually the peaks are of pitch or loudness, or phonation, if it is used in a language. I know only of the languages in which double vowels form two different syllables.

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  • It's not necessarily true that two vowels = two peaks. Hebrew allows successive identical vowels, but there's only one pitch/loudness peak, depending on which of the two is stressed.
    – TKR
    Dec 22, 2013 at 1:46
  • @TKR - I didn't say the two peaks must be equally high, the unstressed can be lower. If you don't like "two peaks", will you like "a valley between them"?
    – Yellow Sky
    Dec 22, 2013 at 1:55
  • No, because there aren't two peaks at all. The pitch or loudness graph doesn't look like \/, but like _ or _/. (I'm not sure what you mean by a "phonation" peak, by the way.)
    – TKR
    Dec 22, 2013 at 2:02
  • That should be "like \_ or _/".
    – TKR
    Dec 22, 2013 at 3:41

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