Questions tagged [vowels]

Those speech sounds made with open, unrestricted vocal tracts, in contrast to consonants.

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44 votes
6 answers
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How do linguists place the vowels of a language precisely on the vowel trapezoid?

Since vowels in human speech are a continuous spectrum rather than a discrete set, many descriptions of languages I’ve seen — not only on Wikipedia — place the vowels of a language as dots in a two-...
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17 votes
3 answers
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Why vowels sound different from each other

This might be a basic question but I am confused about how mouth shapes for vowels, at a deeper level, are producing different sounds. Wanted to see if one could demonstrate with another instrument ...
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4 answers
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What is the longest word without a vowel in any language?

(see edit below before you answer!) I'm not a linguist, but I've always been fascinated by the fact that in Czech, there is a 9-letter word without a single vowel: čtvrthrst. It means "quarter of ...
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14 votes
19 answers
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Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?

I was just reading a french text with the word créées (created). Are there any other languages where triple letters, especially vowels, can be found occasionally?
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14 votes
5 answers
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Vowel harmony in Spanish?

Some irregular Spanish verbs with infinite in "-ir" seem to have an interesting pattern in their conjugation: For some verbs with "o" as last vowel in the infinite stem (e.g. dormir, morir), the form ...
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13 votes
4 answers
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Which languages other than Chinese have apical vowels?

Which languages other than some Chinese languages have apical vowels? The "apical vowels" are the i in zi, ci, si (in IPA: z̩ (also seen as ɿ)) and ʐ̩ (also seen as ʅ). They are basically buzzed ...
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13 votes
6 answers
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How to distinguish Korean "ㅔ" /e/ and "ㅐ" /ɛ/?

I've always had trouble with the distinction between the "e"-like vowels in European languages: /e/ vs /ɛ/. But pronouncing them the same has never caused me any problems. In fact I don't even know ...
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13 votes
3 answers
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Is there such a thing as an L colored vowel?

I am wondering about vowels with approximant sounds. I am talking about a variant of a r colored vowel. An r colored vowel is found in words like earth. But, I want to take this a step further. Is ...
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13 votes
1 answer
5k views

How does vowel harmony typically arise in a language?

How does vowel harmony typically arise in a language? Here's a definition of vowel harmony from the WALS chapter on Vowel Quality Inventories: http://wals.info/chapter/2. "When a language is ...
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11 votes
7 answers
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Why are consonants distinguished differently than vowels?

Consonants are distinguished normally by features like place of articulation, manner of articulation, voiced/voiceless, etc. while vowels are usually distingusihed by stuff like tongue's position and ...
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11 votes
5 answers
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In Turkish, how exactly does "ğ" affect the vowel it follows?

In Standard Turkish, "ğ" is explained as having no sound of its own but instead lengthens the previous vowel. So would "aa" and "ağ" sound alike? What about "â" and "ağa"? Can there sometimes be ...
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10 votes
2 answers
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Is the concept of 'long vowel' still relevant in modern English phonology?

It seems to me that despite the fact that Middle English long vowels have long since shifted dramatically, their descendants still pattern like long vowels in modern English. Since there's really very ...
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10 votes
1 answer
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Is there a language with but one vowel sound?

Is there a language known to have no minimal pairs separating vowels, or in which only one vowel exists phonemically in the language, or whose speakers don't detect a difference between any two vowels ...
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10 votes
3 answers
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How can the IPA vowels be memorized?

Memorizing IPA consonants is trivially easy; each symbol represents one sound, and that sound can be described with a variety of parameters about manner of articulation, etc. The IPA vowels, however, ...
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9 votes
4 answers
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Why in English words is [o] followed by [ʊ]?

The close-mid back rounded vowel is, according to Wikipedia, "usually diphthongized to [oʊ]". Examples: row, also. In fact, in the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary I didn't see o ...
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9 votes
4 answers
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Are there languages without vowel reduction?

Are there languages without vowel reduction? That is, are there languages in which the vowels in certain syllables are not centralized and/or "de-rounded" and/or shortened because of speaking rate, ...
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8 votes
3 answers
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Are there any languages with only front vowels?

I'm curious why every language I've heard of has back or central vowels. Are there any languages that exclusively uses front vowels (say the phonemes /a/, /e/, /i/, /y/)? I want to know this more or ...
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8 votes
2 answers
712 views

If Hebrew is written without vowels can there be multiple interpretations?

This may be a silly question though I am unsure of this is the case for Hebrew. I know often the vowels are not shown in Hebrew in writing. Curious if it changes the words can be interpreted many ...
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8 votes
1 answer
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Does the syllable/word ratio in a language determine the number of vowel phonemes it has?

I've recently stumbled on this site dedicated to teaching English as a second language to Portuguese speakers. Right at the beginning, while making a comparison among English and Portuguese ...
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8 votes
2 answers
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What do the "less-than" and "greater-than" signs mean when used as IPA vowel diacritics?

I was recently reading an academic paper on Amdo Tibetan phonetics and the author uses IPA vowel diacritics that look like "less-than" and "greater-than" signs. Here is a picture so you know what I'm ...
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8 votes
2 answers
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How common is phonemic vowel length across languages?

Including different kinds of length distinctions, such as in stressed syllables only, or stressed and unstressed, etc.
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7 votes
4 answers
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Distinction of vowels depends on native language

I have seen a computer experiment at a science museum that asked the user to distinguish very similar vowels by sound explaining that visitors with different native language can distinguish different ...
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7 votes
2 answers
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What are the differences between the French and English [i] and how does it affect the perception?

I'm rephrasing my question after (very helpful) comments to my initial version: What are the differences between the [i] produced by French speakers (in French) and English speakers (in English)? ...
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6 votes
2 answers
1k views

Why is vowel phonology represented in a trapezoid instead of a square?

Given that the internal area of the human mouth is approximately a square, why the vowels pronunciation chart is usually represented by a trapezoid?
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6 votes
5 answers
2k views

Are sound changes regular?

Are sound changes regular now or not? I mean it seems to me that it's accepted that sound change is pretty regular, because of how sound changes are treated in etymology/historical linguistics. I even ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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Which language has the most vowel phonemes?

Which language has the largest number of vowels with minimal pairs?
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6 votes
2 answers
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Dataset/Database similar to WALS in Vowel/Phonology

I am wondering if there is any database similar to The World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS)(https://wals.info/). In the case that it is specifically more geared towards phonological aspects of ...
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6 votes
3 answers
205 views

Is there good evidence for five vowel phonemes in Hittite?

The Hittite writing system generally distinguishes three, sometimes four vowels: /a i u/ and sometimes /e/. However, I've seen it suggested that the language actually had five vowel phonemes, ...
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6 votes
1 answer
932 views

What rule governs the vowel alternations in Latin caput/capit-/-cep(t)-/-cipit-/-ciput?

In different forms, the Latin root caput "head" appears with different vowels: a-u: caput (nominative singular); a-i: capitis (genitive singular), capitī (dative singular), capita (nominative plural),...
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6 votes
2 answers
386 views

How many different vowels are there?

There are generally accepted estimates on how many shades of grey (far less than 50!) or how many colours the human eye can distinguish. How many different vowels can the human ear distinguish? To ...
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6 votes
1 answer
253 views

Can Semitic (Hebrew & Arabic) roots have vowels?

To the best of my knowledge, roots in Semitic, both Arabic & Hebrew, do not contain vowels. They are purely consonantal at the base. I read this a couple of years ago about Hebrew in Levin & ...
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6 votes
3 answers
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Is it possible for a word-initial vowel to not have a glottal stop before it?

I am not understanding how a word can begin with a glottal stop? Is it a glottal plosive? I guess I am trying not to outright ask why is it not called a glottal plosive. When I say some words that ...
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6 votes
1 answer
244 views

Is there a universal basis for consonants vs vowels?

Is this unique to certain families of language or all verbal human language?
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6 votes
2 answers
432 views

What, if any, difference is there between long vowels and a double vowels?

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 ...
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6 votes
2 answers
963 views

What is the phonetic and phonemic destinction between a semivowel and a vowel?

I have read several articles that claim that phonemically, /j/ and /i/ are the same and distinguished from each other by being syllabic or not. What confuses me is that I can hear the difference ...
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6 votes
3 answers
1k views

What languages have a three-way vowel distinction with backness?

I am learning a Tigrinya for the last couple of months, and find it difficult to grasp and produce the central vowels of the language (see picture). I want to know if there are other languages which ...
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6 votes
1 answer
474 views

What vowels are most likely to be deleted in European Portuguese?

Stepping off of the airplane in Lisbon, I could immediately hear that the pronunciation was much different from Brazilian Portuguese, which I am more accustomed to. The level of vowel deletion was ...
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6 votes
1 answer
799 views

Confused about vowel diagram (Vowel chart)—Can you clarify and explain how to read it?

Ok, here is the English vowel chart: I'm really confused, what do "front" "central", "back", "close(high)", "close-mid", "open-mid", "open (low)" mean? Ok, Here is what I understood, please correct ...
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6 votes
1 answer
499 views

Do cardinal vowels form a plane in 3D-space?

In 'A course in Phonetics' P. Ladefoged writes: If we consider vowels to be specifiable in terms of three dimensions, this implies that the cardinal vowels fall on a plane in this three-dimensional ...
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5 votes
3 answers
681 views

Does regular vowel dissimilation/disharmony exist?

Vowel harmony and Umlaut are widely attested, whereby vowels are affected by other vowels in the sense of making them closer in features to other vowels in the same word. Is there a comparable ...
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5 votes
3 answers
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Is a vowel only writing system possible?

An abjad is a writing system in which only consonants are normally written, is the opposite possible? I've recently discovered that English actually has far more vowel-sounds than we have vowel ...
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5 votes
3 answers
8k views

Difference between production of vowels, diphthongs and semi-vowels

I am studying speech recognition by Lawrence Rabiner's book. I am unable to find a proper and easy to understand answer for the following question : Difference between production of vowels, ...
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5 votes
2 answers
2k views

Is the schwa nasalized before a nasal?

I know that vowels are nasalized before a nasal in the same syllable in English. I am wondering if this would include the schwa [ə] as well? For example, would the schwa in "restriction" [rɪstrɪkʃən] ...
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5 votes
3 answers
677 views

Do some dialects of English have a liquid vowels, such as /ɹ/ and /ɫ/?

Given that there are some languages that treat /r/ and /l/ as a vowel, such as Czech and Hindi, I am wondering how come the same isn't true in some varieties of English. As a native English speaker ...
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5 votes
1 answer
726 views

Origin of the English word 'tooth' being pronounced /tʊθ/?

According to Wiktionary, the English word 'tooth' can be pronounced as /tʊθ/ (as opposed to its regular pronunciation in RP of /tuːθ/) in certain areas of Wales and the British Midlands. Is there any ...
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5 votes
1 answer
592 views

What phonological process changes е to ё in Russian?

I've been studying Russian for years now, but the one thing that I can't seem to wrap my mind around is why would the sound е je come to be pronounced like ё jo in certain circumstances? Obviously, ...
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  • 880
5 votes
1 answer
231 views

Why were the formants of high and back vowels difficult to obtain? And why not anymore?

I was reading the second chapter of Three Areas of Experimental Phonetics by Peter Ladefoged (1967), in which he summarizes the studies he conducted in the 1950s and 1960s which demonstrated practical ...
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  • 4,762
5 votes
2 answers
845 views

Can a vowel be a consonant?

So, I know there are certain consonants in the IPA that have vowel-like properties, and can therefor be used as vowels, such as [n], [m], and [l]. Examples include [pnt], or [ʒlf]. So, in the loosest ...
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5 votes
1 answer
1k views

Where can I find a vowel analyzer app or program?

I'm looking for a smartphone app or computer program that will listen to me pronouncing a vowel and will tell me where exactly the vowel is located in the IPA vowel chart. Does anyone know of apps or ...
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5 votes
1 answer
382 views

How do linguists determine at which point the Great Vowel Shift was complete?

The chart below shows a chain of sound changes that happened to the English language, from 1400 onwards. Although the chart was intended to describe the Great Vowel Shift, it is not accurate*, since ...
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