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Fictional Linguistics: Six Million Forms of Communication and Counting...
Lesson I.B.2: Diphthongs

Before I give you your assignment, there's one more aspect of vowels we need to consider: DIPHTHONGS. These are pairs of vowels, pronounced together - to the point that they almost sound like one vowel! For example, the common English pronoun "I" is a diphthong. If you pronounce it very SLO-O-O-W-L-Y, you can hear the two separate vowels that make up the sound: "AAA-III" or, in phonetic transcription, /a/ and /i/. This particular diphthong is usually considered to be the vowel /a/ plus either the vowel /i/ or the glide /j/, so it can be transcribed as either /ai/ or /aj/.
Other common English diphthongs:
Diphthong in IPA Combination of these vowels Common English spelling(s) Example words
/aj/ /a/ and /i/ or /j/ "i", "ie", "ei", etc. eye, fight, blind
/oj/ /o/ and /i/ or /j/ "oi", "oy", etc. boy, boil
/aw/ /a/ and /w/ or /u/ "ou", "ow" house, frown, cow

Non-English diphthongs:
Diphthong in IPA Combination of these vowels Languages it's found in Example words
/&@/ /&/ and /@/ Spelled "ea" in Old English OE words: geardagum, sceathena, ofteah. Some Modern English dialects preserve this sound, and its OE spelling, in the marvelous expression "Yeah". What it sounds like: say /&/ in "cat", and slide from that to the Schwa sound /@/.
/eo/ /e/ and /o/ spelled "eo" in Old English OE Beowulf is the best known example. Try also meodosetla or theodcyninga. Yes, all my OE examples come from the "Beowulf" poem. :-) What it sounds like: /e/ and /o/ said quickly one after another, of course...
/ui/ /u/ and /i/ I think this is used in Tolkien's Elvish languages There is an English example: "ruin" if you say it as one syllable, and if you don't make it rhyme with "rune".
/@i/ /@/, the Schwa sound, followed by /i/ Shakespearean English and some dialects of Modern English No specific examples...but you can hear it in the speech of parts of England. Typing this lesson from the library and not having my notes with me, I can't remember which parts. :-( However, this diphthong is, in those dialects, a variation on /aj/ and can be heard in words like "I" and "might".
/@U/ /@/, the Schwa sound, followed by /U/ Same as above Same as above...this one is a variation on /aw/ and in certain dialects, is heard in "outcast" or "about".

Other diphthongs are of course possible...just pick two vowels off the chart in the previous lesson, say them one after another, and repeat until you run them together so quickly they sound as one!

Syllabus Previous Lesson Beginning of Lesson Next Lesson Assignments Textbook Readings
Syllabus Lesson 1.A.4 Beginning of Lesson 1 Worksheet: Lesson I.B Textbook readings: How to Create a Language Sounds and The Language Construction Kit - Vowels
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