Diction : Introduction To Pure Vowel Sound

A vowel is the sound made without any obstruction to the airflow from the lungs to the mouth. A vowel can also be defined as a free sound.          There are twenty vowel sounds of the English language which are divided into twelve pure vowels or monothongs and eight impure vowels or dipthong.

Vowels are speech sounds  pronounced so there are no “obstacles” to airstream (unlike the way consonants are pronounced, for example). This post lists English vowels (21 in this case, although some sources list 22), both monophthongs and diphthongs. They are grouped into the long and short ones. There is also a vowel diagram showing vowels at their approximate positions.

The vowel sound of the English language are listed below. The newer IPA notation was used. The English vowels with examples (O’Connor, first edition 1973) IPA (O’Connor)

1 i: see, unique, feel
2 ɪ wit, mystic, little
3 e set, meant, bet
4 æ pat, cash, bad
5 ɑ: half, part, father
6 ɒ not, what, cost
7 ɔ: port, caught, all
8 ʊ wood, could,
9 u: you, music, rude
10 ʌ bus, come, but
11 ɜ: beard, word, fur
12 ə alone, butter
13 eɪ lady, make
14 əʊ go, home
15 aɪ my, time
16 ɑʊ now, round
17 ɔɪ boy, noise
18 ɪə here, beard
19 ɛə fair, scarce
20 ɔə more, board
21 ʊə pure, your Gimson (Introduction 90) sorts

English vowels into three groups: short, long “relatively pure” and long “diphthongal glides, with prominent 1st element”. Short and long monophthongs in English short ɪ e æ ɒ ʊ ʌ ə long i: u: ɑ: ɔ: ɜ: Vowel diagram is used to provide details about the sounds involved. The phoneme /i:/ often has the quality of a diphthong (O’Connor 154), which depends on the accent. The arrow on the diagram marks the approximate final location of the sound in diphthongal realisation.

The phoneme /ɪ/ is short and monophthongal. The phoneme /e/ is “in RP … generally realised … as a short, front vowel between cardinals [e] and [ɛ]” (O’Connor 156), while /æ/ is also a short vowel, but between cardinal [ɛ] and [a], it is usually realised as a monophthong.

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