Saturday, February 23, 2008

Phonology - Vowels


Main article: English phonology


IPA Description word
i/iː Close front unrounded vowel bead
ɪ Near-close near-front unrounded vowel bid
ɛ Open-mid front unrounded vowel bed
æ Near-open front unrounded vowel bad
ɒ Open back rounded vowel box 1
ɔ/ɑ Open-mid back rounded vowel pawed 2
ɑ/ɑː Open back unrounded vowel bra
ʊ Near-close near-back rounded vowel good
u/uː Close back rounded vowel booed
ʌ/ɐ/ɘ Open-mid back unrounded vowel, Near-open central vowel bud
ɝ/ɜː Open-mid central unrounded vowel bird 3
ə Schwa Rosa's 4
ɨ Close central unrounded vowel roses 5
e(ɪ)/eɪ Close-mid front unrounded vowel
Close front unrounded vowel
bayed 6
o(ʊ)/əʊ Close-mid back rounded vowel
Near-close near-back rounded vowel
bode 6
Open front unrounded vowel
Near-close near-front unrounded vowel
Open front unrounded vowel
Near-close near-back rounded vowel
ɔɪ Open-mid back rounded vowel
Close front unrounded vowel
ʊɚ/ʊə Near-close near-back rounded vowel
boor 9
ɛɚ/ɛə/eɚ Open-mid front unrounded vowel
fair 10


It is the vowels that differ most from region to region.

Where symbols appear in pairs, the first corresponds to American English, General American accent; the second corresponds to British English, Received Pronunciation.

  1. American English lacks this sound; words with this sound are pronounced with /ɑ/ or /ɔ/.
  2. Many dialects of North American English do not have this vowel. See Cot-caught merger.
  3. The North American variation of this sound is a rhotic vowel.
  4. Many speakers of North American English do not distinguish between these two unstressed vowels. For them, roses and Rosa's are pronounced the same, and the symbol usually used is schwa /ə/.
  5. This sound is often transcribed with /i/ or with /ɪ/.
  6. The diphthongs /eɪ/ and /oʊ/ are monophthongal for many General American speakers, as /eː/ and /oː/.
  7. The letter <U> can represent either /u/ or the iotated vowel /ju/. In BRP, if this iotated vowel /ju/ occurs after /t/, /d/, /s/ or /z/, it often triggers palatalization of the preceding consonant, turning it to /ʨ/, /ʥ/, /ɕ/ and /ʑ/ respectively, as in tune, during, sugar, and azure. In American English, palatalization does not generally happen unless the /ju/ is followed by r, with the result that /(t, d,s, z)jur/ turn to /tʃɚ/, /dʒɚ/, /ʃɚ/ and /ʒɚ/ respectively, as in nature, verdure, sure, and treasure.
  8. Vowel length plays a phonetic role in the majority of English dialects, and is said to be phonemic in a few dialects, such as Australian English and New Zealand English. In certain dialects of the modern English language, for instance General American, there is allophonic vowel length: vowel phonemes are realized as long vowel allophones before voiced consonant phonemes in the coda of a syllable. Before the Great Vowel Shift, vowel length was phonemically contrastive.
  9. This sound only occurs in non-rhotic accents. In some accents, this sound may be, instead of /ʊə/, /ɔ:/. See pour-poor merger.
  10. This sound only occurs in non-rhotic accents. In some accents, the schwa offglide of /ɛə/ may be dropped, monophthising and lengthening the sound to /ɛ:/.

See also

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