Phonetics - Unit Three - Lesson No. 17

English Diphthongs

The concept of diphthongs is somehow similar to double articulation in consonant, in that the articulation of a diphthong starts in a certain place and ends in another one. Diphthongs are sounds which consists of a movement or glide from one vowel to another. A vowel which remains constant and does not glide is called a pure vowel.

             Figure(1): Received pronunciation diphthongs

BBC pronunciation has eight diphthongs which are described below:

1. /ɪə/

The starting point of this diphthong is a little closer than /ɪ/ in bit or bin. Example words include /bɪəd, fɪəs/ for beard and fierce respectively. 

2. /eə/

This diphthong begins with the same vowel sound as the /e/ of get, men. Example words include /keən, skeəs/ for cairn and scarce respectively. 

3. /ʊə/

This diphthong has a starting point slightly closer than ʊ in put, pull. Many speakers pronounce this diphthong as ɔː instead. Examples of this diphthong include /mʊəd, tʊə/ for moored and tour respectively. 

4. /eɪ/

The starting point is the same as the /e/ of get and men. Examples of this diphthong include /peɪd, peɪn, feɪs/ for paidpain and face respectively. 

5. /aɪ/

This diphthong begins with an open vowel which is between front and back and it is quite similar to the ʌ of the words cut and bun. Examples of this diphthong include /taɪd, taɪm, naɪs/ for tidetime and nice respectively. 

6. /ɔɪ/

The first part of this diphthong has the same quality as ɔː in ought or born. Examples of this diphthong include /vɔɪd, lɔɪn, vɔɪs/ for voidloin and voice respectively. 

7. /əʊ/

The vowel position for the beginning of this is the same as for the schwa /ə/. The lips may be slightly rounded in anticipation of the glide towards ʊ, for which there is quite noticeable lip-rounding. Examples of this diphthong include /ləʊd, həʊm, məʊst/ for loadhome and most respectively. 

8. /aʊ/

This diphthong begins with a vowel similar to . Since this is an open vowel, a glide to ʊ would necessitate a large movement. Yet this movement is not completed in English. The lips are slightly rounded. Examples of this diphthong include /laʊd, haʊs/ for loud and house respectively. 

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