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 got 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 students 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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    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
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    Hmmmmmmmmmm... I wonder what that word might be ;-) – Gnubie Jul 18 '16 at 10:43
  • By the way, while internet is a common noun, the Internet is a proper noun, so it should be capitalised. The same is true for the Web. – Carl Smith Apr 12 '17 at 14:33
  • The English word "rng" (which means a ring without identity) contains no vowels. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rng_(algebra). – Zuriel Sep 8 '19 at 12:12

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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    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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    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
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    This is useful, although I find it exceedingly silly to say that "y" is not a "vowel letter" in wyrm and myrrh. – herisson Jun 15 '17 at 17:39
  • @AndrewVit In Worcestershire they say ['wʊstəʃə]. Is the FOOT vowel to be deemed not a vowel? So is "cookbooks" vowelless? – Rosie F Nov 20 '19 at 9:54

It is true that almost all English words have at least one vowel sound. The only exception (other than Hmmm, zzz, etc.) that I know is rng. A rng is an algebraic structure satisfying the same properties as a ring, without assuming the existence of a multiplicative identity. In short, a rng is like a ring without i (the identity element); which hopefully explains its vowelless spelling.

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  • The best pronunciation I can come up with for "rng" is [ɹəŋ]. English phonology requires an utterance to consist of syllables, a syllable to have a nucleus, and that nucleus to be some sort of vowel. Any exception must cheat in some way, e.g. by the supposed word being not a word but some paralinguistic representation of some noise (e.g. Barrie's Mmm), or by its pronunciation being deemed vowelless by some analysis where the NURSE vowel and/or the COMMA vowel are not deemed to be vowels (as in Wikipedia's examples quoted by shinynewbike). – Rosie F Nov 20 '19 at 9:50

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