Does English really have triphthongs?
EDIT/TDLR: It appears that quite a few people have misunderstood this question. In a nutshell, it is asking why many sources, even scholarly ones, claim that the /aɪə/ sequence is a triphthong despite syllabic evidence to the contrary.
I am trying to discover whether words like pliers as pronounced in the south of England contain actual triphthongs, and the homophonic playas was chosen to illustrate the apparent paradox of what seem like a pair of identical two-syllable words where at least one is claimed to possess a triphthong in English.
To illustrate this, I chose two exact homophones by pairing the word playas with the typical southern English pronunciation of pliers, where a triphthong is alleged to occur. I first verified with native speakers of southern English that they indeed say these two words identically.
Note that by playa, I do not mean eye-dialect for the AAVE slang expression /ˈpleɪə/ (although that too would have worked for triphthong demonstrations). I instead mean the technical term playa used in geology and limnology, pronounced /ˈplaɪə/. Although playa derives from the Spanish word for beach, it does not (usually) mean that in English. The English word playa used here is a technical one having per the OED a primary sense of:
A flat silt- or sand-covered area, free of vegetation and usu. salty, that lies at the bottom of a desert basin and after rain becomes a temporary lake.
For example, the annual Burning Man festival famously takes place in a playa of the Black Rock Desert outside Reno, Nevada. The nonsense jingle was provided to make clear both the sense and the pronunciation of playa as discussed in the original post below.
¡Vamos a la playa!
Does the word playa have a triphthong in it, or two diphthongs, or what?
I’m thinking that playas and the RP pronunciation of pliers are homophones. Supposedly pliers has a triphthong in it there in RP. But since playas sounds the same as pliers, it must also have one, too.
That doesn’t seem right to me. If playas had a triphthong, it would have only one syllable, but my instincts tell me it has two. Which means that the RP pronunciation of pliers also needs to have two syllables and no triphthong, despite some sources saying otherwise.
What’s going on here: is playas/pliers a one-syllable word with a triphthong, or is it a two-syllable word with something else in each syllable?
If playas/pliers contains a triphthong instead of two different syllables, that would seem to mean that this verse wouldn’t be rhyming trochaic tetrameter anymore then:
If you think you’d like to try a
Frolic in the dusty playa,
Best to bring your own papaya,
Sacred to the Sioux and Maya.
Furnace winds are quick to dry a
Man who can’t himself deny a
Chug from flasks of Stolichnaya.
Pack instead some jambalaya.
That doggerel wouldn’t have eight syllables per line anymore if playas and pliers are homophones with a triphthong and only a single syllable in them, since that would mean that you lose a syllable when try and a appear next to each other.
It doesn’t sound like that’s what’s happening to me. I don’t hear just one syllable there.