I learned that vowels are often nasalized before nasals (Nasalization). It means that the velum is lowered when the vowel is produced in the mouth and most of the air comes out through nose. For example, the [a] in the word "man" is nasalized because it comes before the nasal [n]. We mark nasalization by a tilde over the nasalized vowel.

"Man" = [mãn]

I didn't find any information about diphthongs nasalization and I wonder if they are nasalized before nasals.

For example, the diphthong [aɪ] comes before a nasal in the word "mine". Is it nasalized? If it is, how should I represent it?

[mãɪ̃n] or [maɪ̃n]?

Which vowel between the two vowels of a diphthong is nasalized? And where should the tilde go?

There are some disagreements in the comments. I believe most people here confused my question with "spelling", which is not my concern. This is IPA transcription, not spelling. French has nasalized vowels in "spelling" so that's completely different.

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    The n is different between man and mankind but I'm not sure the a is. If oral and nasalised vowels behave the same, why would there be a different symbol in IPA for English? (I've never seen tildes in IPA, but that may simply laziness or difficulty in adding them.)
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 11:55
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    Please note that you asked this question on another stack: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/37204/…
    – livresque
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 12:16
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    It's already been answered on Linguistics SE Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 13:26
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    @DecapitatedSoul There’s an answer There, but it hasn’t been answered, so to speak. Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 17:06
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    @DecapitatedSoul They probably felt they ought to, given their respondent’s rep. But the fact that felt they had to ask here shows it hasn’t been. How do you mark (the very real, uncontroversial and well-established) nasalisation here? Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 18:57

1 Answer 1


For the question as to how to represent nasalized diphthongs in IPA, Portuguese offers the answer. This Wikipedia article says:

Portuguese also allows nasal diphthongs that contrast with their oral counterparts, like the pair mau /ˈmaw/ "bad" and mão /ˈmɐ̃w̃/ "hand".

So in Portuguese, you put the nasalization diacritic on both elements of the diphthong.

In comments, Araucaria pointed out that a tilde over both elements of the diphthong: [a͠ɪ], would be better notation for a nasalized [aɪ] in IPA. However, this doesn't seem to be the standard ... possibly because of typogrphical considerations when IPA for Portuguese was first introduced, although it's not hard to do using Unicode today. And if you want an extremely narrow transcription, you might want to let your choice of symbols depend on how far into the diphthong the nasalization starts.

  • Thanks Peter Shor for your answer!
    – user387044
    Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 12:51
  • As for the question of whether English nasalizes diphthongs, I think so. That is, I think I can feel a slight nasalization when I compare my pronunciations of faint and fate, timed and tide, don't and dote, etc. Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 13:13
  • This article has a short note: "æ ɪ → e i / _ŋ; some speakers (esp. in southern regions) may also have pin-pen and “a single phoneme in contrast to the nasal diphthong [ãɪ̃] of the U.S. Northeast” (though the article doesn’t specify what this is; maybe it’s just plain ã)" /// They've also transcribed it with a tilde over both vowels. Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 13:36
  • Portuguese even has nasal triphthongs and more, great example from this blog "The word têm has the superficially improbable pronunciation ˈtɐ̃ĩ̯ɐ̃ĩ̯." Sorry if this is off-topic here, but it supports your answer of the nasal tilde for each IPA vowel.
    – livresque
    Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 17:00
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    @DecapitatedSoul: Since many southern speakers use [a] for the phoneme /aɪ/, I think that it most likely is indeed plain [ã]. Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 14:04

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