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Questions tagged [vowels]

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

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45 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-...
Timwi's user avatar
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19 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 ...
Lance's user avatar
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5 answers
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Why were vowels secondary citizens in many of the worlds sound-based writing systems?

Not considering logographic systems like Chinese, and outside Cuneiform (not sure if that is a logo system or something else), it appears at first glance that many of the world's writing systems ...
Lance's user avatar
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18 votes
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Are there languages with more vowels than consonants?

Almost all languages of the world have more consonants than vowels. Are there some languages of the world with more vowel phonemes than consonants?
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
17 votes
3 answers
10k views

What is the longest word without a vowel in any language? [closed]

(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 ...
honzukka's user avatar
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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?
Faraz Masroor's user avatar
14 votes
5 answers
2k views

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 ...
dainichi's user avatar
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14 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 ...
hippietrail's user avatar
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14 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 ...
Mitten File's user avatar
14 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 ...
James Grossmann's user avatar
13 votes
2 answers
4k views

Why isn't the American r considered a vowel?

As a native American English speaker from the Northwest, whenever I isolate the r in words like "right" or "rope" it's always /ɚ/, the same as the r in words like "first" ...
Wesley Inselman's user avatar
13 votes
1 answer
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Unexplained /ɪl/ /ɛl/ phenomenon in American English

(I hope all this background information I’m about to give is relevant.) I’m a teenager from the north side of Chicago with a mostly unplaceable General American accent. I have some general tendencies ...
Graham H.'s user avatar
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12 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 ...
Ming-Tang's user avatar
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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 ...
hippietrail's user avatar
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10 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 ...
AnasUrba's user avatar
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3 answers
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Why are letters with a stroke not decomposed in Unicode?

There's a strait which is called Øresund in Danish and Öresund in Swedish. Looking at Latin Capital Letter O with Stroke, it has no decomposition rules. Looking at Latin Capital Letter O with ...
chx's user avatar
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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 ...
Sjiveru's user avatar
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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 ...
msh210's user avatar
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10 votes
1 answer
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How close are the Italian and the Romanian open central unrounded vowels?

The "a" sound in Italian and Romanian, is identified as the central unrounded vowel and represented as being practically identical, very close to [ä]. Although a is used in these images to ...
cipricus's user avatar
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9 votes
3 answers
3k views

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 ...
ithisa's user avatar
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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, ...
James Grossmann's user avatar
9 votes
3 answers
8k views

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, ...
Nick Anderegg's user avatar
8 votes
4 answers
2k views

Why in English words is [o] followed by [ʊ]?

The close-mid back rounded vowel is usually diphthongized to [oʊ] or [əʊ] in North America and respectively, Britain. Examples: row, also. In fact, in the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary I ...
Bogdan Lataianu's user avatar
8 votes
2 answers
1k 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 ...
Lain's user avatar
  • 183
8 votes
2 answers
641 views

Do the qualities of a vowel determine its semivowel’s place of articulation?

[j] (the semivowel of [i]) is palatal. [w] (the semivowel of [u]) is labial–velar. [ɥ] (the semivowel of [y]) is labio-palatal. Does the position of the vowel in the mouth play a part in determining ...
Quinali Solaji's user avatar
8 votes
4 answers
287 views

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 ...
Phira's user avatar
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8 votes
1 answer
3k views

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 ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
8 votes
2 answers
2k views

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 ...
Joshua's user avatar
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8 votes
2 answers
2k views

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.
Kaninchen's user avatar
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7 votes
1 answer
6k views

Which language has the most vowel phonemes?

Which language has the largest number of vowels with minimal pairs?
Rock's user avatar
  • 465
7 votes
1 answer
729 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, ...
Ryan David Ward's user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
750 views

is schwa a phoneme in English?

or is it simply an unstressed allophone of unstressed lax vowels? I'm curious because I've heard some people claim that [ə] is not a phoneme and it is just a reduced allophone of all the unstressed ...
LinguisticsFanatic's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
2k 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 ...
joaqo's user avatar
  • 73
6 votes
2 answers
2k 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?
Alan Evangelista's user avatar
6 votes
3 answers
1k views

How would vowel-heavy names be written in a pure abjad?

There are a lot of names like "Ai", "Kai", "Anita", or "Amari" that would be quite tricky to infer based on the consonants. Disregarding abjads with matres ...
John Greene's user avatar
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 ...
Arhama's user avatar
  • 81
6 votes
2 answers
366 views

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 ...
ERSA's user avatar
  • 71
6 votes
3 answers
233 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, ...
Draconis's user avatar
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6 votes
4 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 ...
Matthew T. Scarbrough's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
1k 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),...
imz -- Ivan Zakharyaschev's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
459 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 ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
421 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 & ...
Tsutsu's user avatar
  • 1,068
6 votes
1 answer
277 views

Is there a universal basis for consonants vs vowels?

Is this unique to certain families of language or all verbal human language?
user22152's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
610 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 ...
James Grossmann's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
1k 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 ...
N.D.H.'s user avatar
  • 101
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 ...
iddober's user avatar
  • 447
6 votes
1 answer
495 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 ...
Ryan David Ward's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
926 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 ...
Tom's user avatar
  • 61
6 votes
1 answer
576 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 ...
Filipp Voronov's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
3k views

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)? ...
fauxneticien's user avatar

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