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51 votes
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What is the longest word without a vowel in any language?

The question could be interpreted as being about "vowel letters". "Twyndyllyngs" is a candidate: said to come from Welsh. If we take "vowels" to be the letters [ieaou], ...
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33 votes
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Why vowels sound different from each other

Good question! This comes down to formants. Any periodic sound (from a violin, a trumpet, a guitar, or a human voice, among many many others) can be written as the sum of a whole bunch of sine waves ...
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19 votes

Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?

It certainly comes up occasionally, but mainly, I would think, across morpheme boundaries where one is a doubled letter and the other is that same letter but in its singular form (as in the new German ...
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16 votes

Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?

Estonian "jäääär" ("edge of the ice") comes to mind. It contains the letter ä 4 times in a row.
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15 votes

Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?

In German, you can make up such words on your own, as needed. Find words that ends with two of some vowel, like schnee (snow), tee (tea) and words that begin with the same letter, and you have: ...
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15 votes
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Is there such a thing as an L colored vowel?

Short answer: yes, but it's not as interesting. "R-colored vowels" are vowels that have are pronounced more like [ɝ], which is somewhat similar to [ɹ]. [ɝ] is a very interesting vowel, ...
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14 votes
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Why is vowel phonology represented in a trapezoid instead of a square?

The original reason was, "[æ] and [ɑ] sound less different than [i] and [u]". It seemed intuitively like there was less "space" between front and back low vowels, so they drew less space on that part ...
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13 votes

Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?

Russian has several words with triple letters: длинношеее - 'having a long neck', also короткошеее - 'having a short neck' змееед - 'snake-eater', the name of a bird доооновский - 'pre-UN'...
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13 votes

Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?

Ancient Greek has ἀάατος "inviolable".
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13 votes
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If Hebrew is written without vowels can there be multiple interpretations?

While there can always be some ambiguity, Hebrew and other Semitic languages have a system of triconsonantal roots, in which each sequence of three consonants suggests the meaning of the word. For ...
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  • 148
13 votes

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

There's a word (a sentence actually) in the Canadian language Bella Coola (aka Nuxalk) that only consists of obstruents (no vowels at all) and is longer than the Czech word you mentioned in the ...
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12 votes

Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?

In biblical Hebrew, we have חננני "have mercy upon me" (Psalms 9:13 - although that's an unusual form; usually it would be with two נs, and the first would be marked with a gemination symbol) and ...
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12 votes
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Which language has the most vowel phonemes?

This is one of those "it depends" questions. Dinka (Bor dialect) has the vowels [i e ɛ ɔ o u a], as well as long and over-long versions of these (21 vowels), and 4 phonatory contrasts (breathy, hollow,...
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11 votes

Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?

The number 22 in Dutch (and other numbers ending with 2) are written as tweeëntwintig - a compound of twee (two), en (and), and twintig (twenty). In Dutch, the diaeresis are added to the last ...
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11 votes
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How Hebrew Vowels Work

Perhaps it is helpful to understand some of the history behind this mixed system. Originally, Hebrew was never written with niqudot (diacritics added above, below, or within consonantal signs; ...
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10 votes

Why vowels sound different from each other

Just wanted to add this diagram which shows the subjective vowel sounds as they correspond to the combination of F1 and F2 formants in a two-dimensional chart. The chart is from this page of the ...
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9 votes
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Is the schwa nasalized before a nasal?

The short answer is yes--schwa before a nasal in the same syllable tends to be nasalized. The more nuanced answer is that nasalization in English is not really as straightforward as is sometimes ...
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9 votes

Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?

Welsh: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (Longest place name) Swedish: Hawaiiindianer Norwegian: An ortographic rule makes it impossible with three consonants, and seperates ...
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9 votes

Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?

In Tagalog, maaari is a fairly common word used to mean "can" or "able to".
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9 votes

Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?

Japanese has a prefix ō-, meaning "big" and pronounced as a long "o" (as if pronouncing two "o"s in a row), which in kana writing is おお. If this prefix is added to any word starting with お, you'll ...
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9 votes
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What's up with the letter W?

"W" developed as a standard, distinct letter by about the 17th century, taking its sweet time getting there. It is the result of standardizing a ligature of "vv", ramming the letters together. Bear in ...
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9 votes

What's up with the letter W?

Don't take spelling too seriously, it's often conventional and arbitrary. Language is primarily a spoken thing rather than a string of written letters. Don't confuse sounds (phonemes) with their ...
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9 votes
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What were the Proto-Bantu -ATR vowels?

The pool is small enough that the concept of "consensus" is mildly anomalous, but I think the consensus would be that we can't tell what the proto vowel system was phonetically. The standard view is ...
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9 votes
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GVS similarity in cognate words other Germanic Languages

The mainstream hypothesis is that the vowel found in words like white was pronounced as something like [iː] (a long close front vowel, like that in Modern German bieten) in Common Germanic, and then ...
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8 votes
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Does regular vowel dissimilation/disharmony exist?

In the realm of regular synchronic processes, vowel dissimilation is relatively uncommon (dissimilation itself is uncommon, and vowel-to-vowel dissimilation is most uncommon); however, it does exist. ...
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8 votes
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How many different vowels are there?

Nobody knows, and it's an experiment waiting to happen. The first problem that has to be overcome is creating the stimuli (which is the main non-practical impediment to me doing this). For consistency,...
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8 votes

Is a vowel only writing system possible?

This conlang seems to fit the bill: The Qohenje writing system is a "reverse abjad" (like the logical opposite of the Arabic or Hebrew writing systems, for example), with the dominant symbols being ...
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  • 2,954
7 votes

Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?

In Romanian, I know of about 6-7 words that end in triple 'i' - last i represents the definite article; some examples: copiii - the kids viii - the living ones camionagiii - the truck drivers
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  • 71
7 votes

What phonological process changes е to ё in Russian?

In the old Slavic languages, the sound [o] could never follow the palatalized consonants (which in those times also included the hushing consonants Ш [ʃ], Ж [ʒ], Ч [tʃ], Щ [ʃtʲ], and also Ц [tsʲ]), ...
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  • 15.4k
7 votes

Are sound changes regular?

I'm only an amateur in historical linguistics, so my viewpoint is fairly naïve. I'd say: not always, but often enough to make regularity the most important consideration in reconstruction. In modern ...
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