Questions about vowels in English.

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36
votes
3answers
11k views

What is the plural form of “zero”?

I tried looking on Google, but there are some fairly contradictory results. I thought I'd ask you guys so we could get an authoritative answer on the subject!
33
votes
9answers
8k views

How are 'marry', 'merry', and 'Mary' pronounced differently?

The way I pronounce these words is the same. Similarly for other words like these: I pronounce ferry and fairy the same, carrot and caret. Yet, dictionaries show different pronunciations for these ...
21
votes
2answers
2k views

Why do written English vowels differ from other Latin-based orthographies?

Written English vowels differ from other Latin-based orthographies. Consider what the written vowels in the romance languages represent. Also, for example, consider this simple comparision between a ...
19
votes
6answers
21k views

When is “Y” a vowel?

Today's XKCD got me thinking about when the letter Y is considered to be a vowel. I understand (perhaps incorrectly) that in words like bicycle and why it is a vowel. What about the word voyeur (as ...
17
votes
4answers
2k views

New Zealand pronunciation of “women” vs “woman”

I have read in a number of places that the NZ pronunciation of "women" must be rather peculiar. Quoting from just one such place: For some years I've noted the tendency of Kiwis to pronounce ...
15
votes
4answers
3k views

Pronunciation of “er” in “farmer” vs. “earth”

I'm confused about the difference in pronouncing "er" in words such as "farmer" and "earth". I hear them the same, but they have different phonetic symbols. Is there any difference in pronouncing "er" ...
14
votes
2answers
3k views

Why did 'y' disappear as an internal vowel in English spelling?

Why did the character 'y' disappear in favor of 'i' in English spelling? I've often noticed this replacement when merchants try to sell or advertise something as archaic or old-timey, writing wife as ...
14
votes
1answer
614 views

Is the pronunciation of the letters “Y” and “I” supposed to be identical?

My son and I were reciting the Spanish alphabet recently. "Y" is i griega, which means "Greek i." This got me thinking about the English letter Y and its function in our alphabet. All of the words ...
11
votes
3answers
4k views

Why doesn't “ninth” have an “e”, like “ninety”?

Is it just because "ninth" has only one syllable? That wouldn't make sense, though, because saying "NINE-ith" wouldn't be worse than saying "NINE-e-tee". If we were used to "nineth", we would have ...
10
votes
2answers
2k views

Are there any other English syllables without vowels, besides “thm”?

As far as I knew*, all English syllables have a vowel sound and all of them are spelled accordingly, except for "thm" as in rhythm and algorithm. Are there any others? And are there any etymological ...
9
votes
1answer
414 views

How is “gone” pronounced?

I'm a native Spanish speaker who's trying to grasp some of the subtleties of (American) English pronunciation. I think the sounds that give me the most trouble are the triplet of low back vowels: /ɑ/, ...
8
votes
2answers
24k views

Is “imbedded” a valid spelling of the word “embedded”?

I have seen this used on our marketing materials: The technology imbedded in this solution will help improve productivity. I was going to flag it as a spelling error, however Googling provided ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

Is the 'w' in 'cow' a vowel or a consonant?

Is the w in cow a vowel or a consonant? Assuming it is considered a vowel, would it likewise be so in how? I learned that the vowels are "a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y." If w can be a vowel, what ...
8
votes
4answers
3k views

Pronunciation of vowel in vague as [æ] instead of [eɪ]

I have a friend who pronounces the vowel in plague, vague, and bagel as [æ] instead of the standard [eɪ] (so plague rhymes with flag, for instance). Interestingly, he apparently can't tell the ...
7
votes
3answers
12k views

Is it “flotation” or “floatation”?

Is the difference between flotation and floatation a US/UK difference or something else? I think I did see floatation in some physics book.
7
votes
2answers
552 views

Where did “sorry” get its vowel sound?

Sorry has two pronunciations in my dictionary: ˈsärē and ˈsôrē. The first is the one I am interested in because, as someone pointed out to me, the or pattern in English is nearly always pronounced as ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Online rhyme dictionary/rhyming resource that lists rhymes by vowel sound (assonance)

Anyone know of an online rhyming dictionary or rhyme resource that lists rhymes by vowel sound (assonance)? RhymeZone.com doesn't have such an option.
6
votes
1answer
403 views

Sound changes of “wild” and “wilderness”

I'm having a heated a discussion with a friend and we cannot really get on the same level. In the original pronunciation of the word wild, the "i" was the short sound that we have in the word ...
6
votes
2answers
590 views

Last names that are English words with an extra 'e'

I noticed that there are a lot of last names that have an 'e' at the end. The pronunciation usually isn't changed from that of the base word. Poole Steele Browne Clarke Why do English words not ...
6
votes
1answer
2k views

Variations in the pronunciation of “ea”

Perhaps this is more of a Linguistics question, so I apologize if this is not posted in the right place. Why is it that these words in English sound so different? earth   = /ɜrθ/     “urth” hearth ...
5
votes
2answers
4k views

Any rule for pronouncing “e”?

I hear three different sounds for the letter e in precious, bean, and Peru. Is there a rule that covers the different pronunciations that a written letter e can represent in speech?
5
votes
7answers
1k views

The + vowel sound

I've been told that when "the" is proceeded by a vowel sound, like "apple" or "hour", it's pronounced as "thee" and not as "thu". But after listening to a couple of songs, I noticed that sometimes ...
5
votes
1answer
1k views

What do the letters ï and ô mean? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the distinction between “role” and “rôle” [with a circumflex]? What is the significance of the “ô” character in “rôle” in this work? What is the standard rule ...
4
votes
4answers
42k views

How Many Diphthongs Are There In English?

I was talking to a person who said that there were only two. I think she said that the "ou" in house is one of the two. I told her that the way the letter "i" is pronounced is a diphthong, and she ...
4
votes
2answers
11k views

Longest English word without a vowel sound

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 ...
4
votes
2answers
262 views

Is there such a thing as an unvoiced vowel?

I can't think of any and google has not been helpful.
4
votes
1answer
2k views

Name for words with same consonant sounds but different vowel sounds

Is there a name for words with the same consonant sounds, but different vowel sounds? For example: talk, take sit, site taught, tote bough, bow My son has been mixing up these sets of words. I'd ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

Distinctive features of English diphthongs

I am looking for a table of distinctive features for English dipthongs along the lines of that available for other vowels here. I don't trust my purely book learned linguistic skills to produce an ...
4
votes
0answers
66 views

Why do you write “receive” with “ei” but “retrieve” with “ie”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Why is it true that “I before E, except after C”? Both words are similar in pronunciation but different in spelling. Why is it that receive is written with ei but ...
3
votes
5answers
49k views

How do we differentiate long vowels from short vowels in English

I was finding a school for my toddler. I saw this new theory called long vowels and short vowels The teacher talk about apple, which she read something like "eiple" and the hat, which she claims use ...
3
votes
4answers
2k views

Why is “go” spelled with the same vowel as “do” and “to” since it is pronounced differently?

These two-letter words ending in -o are pronounced with the vowel /oʊ/: bo, go ho, jo, lo, no, so, and yo whereas do and to are pronounced with the vowel /uː/. Is there an explanation for the ...
3
votes
1answer
576 views

Pronunciation of “Nevada” [closed]

People in the state of Nevada insist that it should be pronounced /nəˈvædə/ (with the vowel of TRAP)—this "issue" always comes up during campaigns—while much of the country typically pronounces it ...
3
votes
2answers
278 views

Why do “able” and “haste” have long a's?

(There are others, such as table, paste, and baste.) The rule I've heard is that a vowel is made long when succeeded by a consonant and then another vowel. Some words treat double consonants as a ...
3
votes
2answers
872 views

Why was it necessary to divide alphabets into vowels and consonants?

This may be an extremely simple question. I know pretty much what do we do when we see any vowel but I am curious why were these two classes created in the first place. I beg pardon for another ...
3
votes
2answers
79 views

Is there a name/term for “multiplied vowels”?

For example if somebody is saying: "Ooooooh myyyyyyy Gooooood" or if they realize something and go "Ooooooh!" or Darth Vader's "NOOOOOOO!", usually all of these extra vowels aren't included in the ...
3
votes
1answer
868 views

Participle of “center/centre” in UK English — “centring”? Seriously?

As an American, I was never shocked to see the word "center" spelled as "centre." It didn't bother me at all. Honestly. But then I saw the participle of it spelled as "centring" as opposed to ...
3
votes
1answer
170 views

What is modifying the “i” in Thumbelina and Carolina to alter its pronuciation?

While helping my daughter read (she is 5) we encountered two names in a story, Thumbelina and Carolina. The way I've come to pronounce the last four letters of "Thumbelina" is "LEE NAH" and the same ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

Why is it 'speaking'/'speech' instead of 'speeking'/'speech' or 'speaking'/'speach'?

Why is it speaking/speech instead of speeking/speech or speaking/speach?
2
votes
5answers
814 views

Can we call something a “word” if it doesn't have a vowel? [closed]

It seems self-evident to me, but in the heat of a Scrabble game (no surprise), my opponent claimed that "sh" was a word. I think it's a diphthong, but the printed dictionary definition of "word" ...
2
votes
1answer
4k views

What exactly is the “schwa” sound?

What exactly is the "schwa" sound? As a non-native speaker, I hear this sound as not being a pure and clean sound. I mean I know that every vowel sound may vary depending on whether the syllable is ...
2
votes
2answers
469 views

Can vowels be combined in English without forming diphthongs?

Usually all combinations of vowels in English function as diphthongs. Are there any combinations of vowels in English that do not function as diphthongs? if there are no such examples - I would be ...
2
votes
2answers
644 views

The pronunciation of “ate”

I was talking to some friends and I said "I ate (/et/) chocolate yesterday...". Then my friend corrected me: "you ate (/eit/) chocolate...". I repeated my sentence with the /eit/ pronunciation and we ...
2
votes
2answers
745 views

Pronunciation of “catch”

I was curious about the different pronunciations of the word catch; more specifically, the difference between /kætʃ/ and /kɛtʃ/. The Oxford dictionary lists both pronunciations as correct; is this ...
2
votes
2answers
381 views

Pronunciation of Bank, Tank, etc.: Bay-nk, Ray-nk or Baen-k or Raen-k?

What is the standard US pronunciation for words such as the following: Bank Rank At least in my dialect of US English (Inland Northern), the following seem like close transcriptions: Bank: ...
2
votes
3answers
620 views

French speaker here — How to pronounce “r” and “l”?

I'm a French speaker and actually I have some problems with the sounds l , r and o in lawyer. Do you have any advice for me on how to place the tongue and so on?
2
votes
2answers
624 views

how to pronounce 'Uriel'? [closed]

I have a student whose name is 'Uriel' and I'm just wondering how I should pronounce it!
2
votes
1answer
702 views

difference between American and British /ӕ/ sound

When I presented British /ӕ/ sound to three Korean English-familiar persons online - they are doing answering English-related questions activities [case 1; case 2], and asked what sound it’s like /ӕ/ ...
2
votes
2answers
193 views

“Vowels have no attack”

What is the linguistic meaning of this sentence? Vowels are always voiced, and have no attack of their own.
2
votes
2answers
5k views

Are W and Y vowels? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicates: When is “Y” a vowel? Is the 'w' in 'cow' a vowel or a consonant? Are W and Y vowels? I learned it depends on the conditions. But I don't ...
2
votes
1answer
179 views

Waiteen for waiting

While it's reasonably common for people to drop the g in words such as waiting, hating, and dating, I seem to be stumbling upon a number of Americans additionally drawing out the final syllable of ...