7

English has a lot of pangrams, which are short sentences that use every letter of the alphabet at least once. This website has several examples. But is there a similar thing that is designed to use (almost) every phoneme of the English language?

I know it would be nearly impossible to come up with something that uses all of them (and it is mostly likely going to be a paragraph, and not a sentence, given the amount of phonemes), but still, my question remains: is there such a thing? (And what is it called?)

4

The following three mnemonics (the first devised by my father in the 1940s and the second and third devised by me in the 1970s) almost do the trick requested.

  1. "We will aim them at some high, far bow--joy long told--full soon. (Cue.)"
  2. Puff thought "Sash--choke! Hey!!"
  3. Woman lawyer(ing).

The first contains all of the vowel phonemes (including the diphthongs) of the dialect of English my father spoke, while the second contains all of the voiceless consonants of that same dialect. Each but the last of the consonants in the second mnemonic has a voiced counterpart (b, v, edth [with thanks to AmI for catching my error], d, z, zh, j, g) while the last (h) can be usefully paired with the glottal stop as its "voiced" counterpart. The third mnemonic contains all of the remaining consonants (w, m, n, l, y, r, ng).

Note also that in all three mnemonics the exemplified phonemes appear in order--from front to back--with regard to their place of articulation.

  • 1
    Nice, but 'theta' names the unvoiced counterpart. The voiced one is named 'edth'. – AmI Apr 18 '17 at 20:43
  • Very nice. Do you have a scientific paper in (which those are presented) that I can read? Thanks! – TomCho Apr 19 '17 at 5:29
  • Sorry, TomCho. I've never published these mnemonics, though I've used them in my teaching over the last 40+ years. – H Stephen Straight Apr 19 '17 at 22:23
2

There's a sentence which was used by British singers and contains all the (British) English vowels:

Who would know aught of art must learn and then take his ease.

Some people might object that take and know are diphthongs, and this sentence doesn't include the other diphthongs bough, buy, boy. But maybe singers were supposed to make the vowels of take and know monophthongs.

  • Thanks for the great practical mnemonic, though the claim that "of", "must", and "learn" contain three different vowels deserves discussion; the first two may simply be the unstressed versus the stressed phonetic realization of the central ("schwa") vowel, while the third might be treated as a syllabic-r phonetic realization of a phonemic schwa+r sequence (parallel to those in pier, pair, par, pore, poor). As for diphthongs, many American linguists transcribe all four tense close vowels as diphthongs, which would add "ease" (iy) and "who" (uw) to "take" (ey) and "know" (ow). – H Stephen Straight Apr 19 '17 at 23:09

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