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52 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], ...
user6726's user avatar
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35 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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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23 votes
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Why were vowels secondary citizens in many of the worlds sound-based writing systems?

In Ancient Egyptian, like many Afro-Asiatic languages, the consonants generally determine the root of a word, while the vowels inflect it. Sāḏam means "to hear", saḏma means "might hear&...
Draconis's user avatar
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21 votes

Are there languages with more vowels than consonants?

Probably the best-known and most often-cited example of this is Danish. Danish is generally said to have around 17 or 18 consonant phonemes, a fairly invariant number. The number of vowel phonemes ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
20 votes
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Why are letters with a stroke not decomposed in Unicode?

Contrary to what the other answers have stated, the Unicode Standard does not actually care whether Ø or Ð or any other character is “fundamentally a different letter” or not, whatever that may even ...
CharlotteBuff's user avatar
17 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, ...
Draconis's user avatar
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15 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 ...
Mellifluous's user avatar
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15 votes

Why isn't the American r considered a vowel?

Many phonologists do consider "r" in "girl" to be a vowel, I being one. There are many reasons for people to consider it to not be a vowel. First, in "rabbit", nobody ...
user6726's user avatar
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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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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14 votes
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Do the qualities of a vowel determine its semivowel’s place of articulation?

Yes, fundamentally and inextricably. One of the weaknesses of the International Phonetic Alphabet is that it has entirely separate and unrelated ways of describing the articulation of consonants and ...
Draconis's user avatar
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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 ...
klpkt's user avatar
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12 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 ...
Octopus's user avatar
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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,...
user6726's user avatar
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12 votes

Why were vowels secondary citizens in many of the worlds sound-based writing systems?

One reason is that vowels are much less important for distinguishing words than you might think. Years ago I did an analysis of the Carnegie Mellon Pronouncing dictionary. I asked what would happen if ...
adam.baker's user avatar
12 votes

Are there languages with more vowels than consonants?

The conventional understanding of "phoneme" is that it is a segment. There is vast disagreement over what constitutes a "segment". Given that, one example of a language with many ...
user6726's user avatar
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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; ...
Keelan's user avatar
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11 votes
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Are there languages with more vowels than consonants?

I have yet to see anyone bring up the Iau language of West Papua, Indonesia, which has only 6 phonemic consonants (not counting allophony) but 8 vowel qualities even before accounting for diphthongs ...
Arcaeca's user avatar
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11 votes
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How close are the Italian and the Romanian open central unrounded vowels?

Short answer: there is more variation than what is expected, but the data could be interpreted 'on average' to show that Romanian has more instances of a back /a/ than Italian. The /a/ phoneme covers ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
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11 votes
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How would vowel-heavy names be written in a pure abjad?

Sure. You'll find very few abjads in the world that don't have any way of representing vowels—in fact I'm not aware of a single one—but in Egyptian, about the closest you can get, a name like /...
Draconis's user avatar
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10 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 ...
melissa_boiko's user avatar
10 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 ...
user6726's user avatar
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10 votes

What is the difference between two symbols: /i/ and /ɪ/?

In Southern Standard British English, also know as RP, there are two highish, frontish unrounded vowels: the FLEECE and KIT vowels, /i:/ and /ɪ/. The former is the vowel heard in the word fleece, the ...
Araucaria - him's user avatar
9 votes
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Is there a rounded /æ/? Is there a Near-open front rounded vowel?

This is the official IPA chart. As you can see, the front round vowel in that region is the open front round vowel [ɶ], the round counterpart of [a], and [æ] has no round counterpart. Note that ...
user6726's user avatar
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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 ...
user6726's user avatar
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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 ...
Artemij Keidan's user avatar
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 ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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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. ...
user6726's user avatar
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8 votes
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Is it possible for a word-initial vowel to not have a glottal stop before it?

English words with vowel initial tend to get a glottal stop. This occurs in most dialects, so a native speaker wouldn’t notice its presence or absence; they will just hear it as a “normal” vowel. ...
Be Brave Be Like Ukraine's user avatar
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,...
user6726's user avatar
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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 ...
iacobo's user avatar
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