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I am not an English student, by discipline I am physicist, so am asking this question in innocence.

I searched Google for the longest word without a vowel sound and I get these results:

The longest common word without any of the five vowels is RHYTHMS, but there are longer rare words: SYMPHYSY, NYMPHLY, GYPSYRY, GYPSYFY

However, English student don't agree, they say there is an \i-sound\ and \schwa\ in the word RHYTHM.

I am confused, what should I believe, the internet or my English university students?

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1  
It is more logical to allow y as an English vowel when it does the same job as the traditional 5 - thus in sky, but not in yell. In the odd loan-word from Welsh, w is a seventh vowel (eg cwm). There is not always one syllable for every vowel in a word, but it is extremely rare for there to be a syllable without a corresponding vowel; I'd say rhythm is a very strange word. –  Edwin Ashworth Dec 29 '12 at 17:30

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

All the words you mention have vowel sounds. I can think of no English word that doesn't have vowel sounds, except something like Mmm.

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3  
So for the longest such word, just repeatedly add an m :) –  Hugo Nov 15 '11 at 8:39
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@Barrie England: Mmm hmm. ;-) –  Randolf Richardson Nov 15 '11 at 8:59
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My dictionary has the word: phpht –  GEdgar Nov 15 '11 at 16:48
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@GEdgar: Oh. Wiktionary. Yeah, I'm gonna start entering 'words' there myself. –  Mitch Dec 8 '12 at 18:03
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@GEdgar: I think they spelled it wrong. –  Mitch Dec 8 '12 at 18:54

Debatable but there is a list on Wikipedia which seems to classify these based on dialect

Rhotic dialects, such as in Canada and the United States, have many words such as bird, learn, girl, church, worst, which some phoneticians analyze as having no vowels, only a syllabic consonant, [ɹ̩]. However, others analyze these words instead as having a rhotic vowel, [ɝ]. The difference may be partially one of dialect.

There are a few such words which are disyllabic, like cursor, curtain, and turtle: [ˈkɹ̩sɹ̩], [ˈkɹ̩tn̩] and [ˈtɹ̩tl̩] (or [ˈkɝːsɚ], [ˈkɝːtən], and [ˈtɝːtəl]), and even a few which are trisyllabic, such as purpler [ˈpɹ̩.pl̩.ɹ̩], hurdler [ˈhɹ̩.dl̩.ɹ̩], burglar [ˈbɹ̩.ɡl̩.ɹ̩], gurgler [ˈɡɹ̩.ɡl̩.ɹ̩], certainer [ˈsɹ̩.tn̩.ɹ̩], and Ur-turtle [ˈɹ̩.tɹ̩.tl̩]. The words wyrm and myrrh contain neither a vowel letter nor a vowel sound in these dialects: [ˈwɹ̩m], [ˈmɹ̩] (or [ˈwɝːm], [ˈmɝː]).

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5  
Why was this downvoted? It's exactly answering this question. If you disagree with the "some phoneticians", take it up with them. :-) –  ShreevatsaR Nov 15 '11 at 9:12
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I think certain pronunciations of Worcestershire would fall into this category. –  Andrew Vit Nov 15 '11 at 9:48
    
If you look at this and this question, you will see that in some American dialects (not all), the consonants 'l', 'r', and 'n' can take the place of vowels in some words. To expand on the wikipedia quote, from the answers to the questions it seems clear that some Americans use [ɹ̩] and some [ɝ], so these are not two IPA symbols for the same sound, but two IPA symbols for different sounds that represent the same phoneme. –  Peter Shor Nov 15 '11 at 13:31

protected by Community Dec 30 '12 at 22:48

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