A Complete Guide to the 12 Vowel Sounds and 8 Diphthongs of the English Language

A Complete Guide to the 12 Vowel Sounds and 8 Diphthongs of the English Language

Introduction

Phonetics is a component of linguistics that deals with speech sounds. English has 26 letters of the alphabet which represents 44 sounds.

Among 44 sounds, there are 12 Pure Vowels (monophthongs), 8 Diphthongs, and 24 Consonant Sounds.

In this post, you will learn the 12 Pure Vowel sounds and 8 Diphthongs with descriptions along with their symbols.

 
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The English Phonetics

A Complete Guide to the 12 Vowel Sounds and 8 Diphthongs of the English Language

What is a Vowel?

  • A vowel is a voiced sound. This sound is produced without a noise component.
  • The air which is coming from the lungs without any restrictions is called vowel.
  • There are 20 vowel sounds in the English language. In that, there are 12 monophthongs and 8 diphthongs.

The tongue positions of the English (pure vowels) monophthongs:

A Complete Guide to the 12 Vowel Sounds and 8 Diphthongs of the English Language

The 12 Vowel Sounds:


/i:/

Description:

  • The front of the tongue is raised.
  • It is raised to a height slightly below and behind the close position.

Spellings:

ee – tree / tri:/, cheese / tʃi:z/, canteen / kænti:n/
e - be / bi:/, these / ði:z/.
ie – field / fi:ld/, piece / pi:s/
ea – tea / ti:/, sea / si:/, leaf / li:f/

>> Click here to watch the video on the /i:/ sound.

/ɪ/

Description:

  • A part of the tongue nearer to the Centre than to the front is raised.
  • It is raised just above the half-close position.

Spellings:

ɪ – sit / sɪt/, with / wɪð/
e – become / bɪk˄m/,
y – city / sɪtɪ/, sympathy / sɪmpəɵɪ/
a – village / vɪlɪdƷ/, private / praɪvɪt/, cabbage / kæbɪdƷ/
ie – cities / sɪtɪs/, ladies / leɪdɪs/

>> Click here to watch the video on the /ɪ/ sound.


/ʊ/

Description:

  • A part of the tongue nearer to the center than to the back is raised.
  • It is raised just above the half-close position.

Spellings:

u – put / pʊt/, full / fʊl/
o – wolf / wʊlf/, woman / wʊmən/
oo – nook / nʊk/, foot / fʊt/, good / gʊd/
ou – could / kʊd/, courier / kʊriə/

>> Click here to watch the video on the /ʊ/ sound.

/u:/

Description:

  • The back of the tongue is raised.
  • It is raised nearly to the close position.

Spellings:

oo – soon / su:n/, food / fu:d/
o – do / du:/, who / wu:/
ou – soup / su:p/, through / ɵru:/
u –rude / ru:d/, june / dƷu:n/
ew – chew / tʃu:/, jew / dƷu:/
ui – juice / dƷu:z/
ue – blue / blu:/, true / tru:/
oe – shoe / ʃu:/

>> Click here to watch the video on the /u:/ sound.


/e/

Description:

  • The front of the tongue is raised.
  • It is raised to a position between half - close and half-open.

Spellings:

e – bed / bed /, went / went /
ea – head / hed/, breath / breɵ/
ie – friend / frend /
a – any / enɪ/, many / menɪ /

>> Click here to watch the video on the /e/ sound.


/ǝ/

Description:

  • The central part of the tongue is raised.
  • It is raised (a) to a point between half close and half-open in non – final positions, (b) to open or half-open position. When the vowel occurs final.

Spellings:

a – about / ǝbǝʊt/, woman / vumǝn/
ar – particularly / pǝtIkjulǝlɪ/, forward / fɔ:wǝd/
e – pavement / peɪvmǝnt/, gentleman / dƷentlmǝn/
er – modern / mɒdǝn/, mother/ m˄ðǝ/
i – possible / pɒsǝbl/, horrible / hɒrǝbl/
o – method / meɵǝd/
or – doctor / dɒktǝ/
ou – famous / feɪmǝs/
u – column / kɒlǝm/
oar – cupboard / k˄bǝd/
our – colour / k˄lǝ/
ure – figure/ fɪgǝ/

>> Click here to watch the video on the /ǝ/ sound.


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/3:/

Description:

  • The center of the tongue is raised.
  • It is raised to a point between half - close and half-open position.

Spelling:

ir – bird / b3:d/, girl / g3:l/
er – her / h3:/, serve / s3:v/
ear - heard / h3:d/, earth / 3:ɵ/
or – word / w3:d/, work / w3:k/
our – journey / dƷ3:nI/, courtesy / k3:təsɪ/

>> Click here to watch the video on the /3:/ sound.


/ɔ:/

Description:

  • The back of the tongue is raised.
  • It is raised between the half-open and half-close positions.

Spelling:

or – born / bɔ:n/, cord / kɔ:d/
aw – saw / sɔ:/, yawn / jɔ:n/
au – fault / fɔ:lt/, cause / kɔ:s/
ou – bought / bɔ:t/, ought /ɔ :t/
a - all / ɔ:l/, talk / tɔ:k/

>> Click here to watch the video on the /ɔ:/ sound.


/æ/

Description:

  • The front of the tongue is raised.
  • It is raised just below the half-open position.

Spellings:

a – pat / pæt /, hand / hænd /, lamp / læmp /
ai – plaid / plæd /

Example:

bad / bæd /
bat / bæt /
sacks / sæks /
bag / bæg /
back / bæk /

>> Click here to watch the video on the /æ/ sound.

/˄/

Description:

  • The Centre of the tongue is raised.
  • It is raised just above the fully open position.

Spellings:

u – sun / s˄n /, cut / k˄t /
o – come / k˄m/, front / fr˄nt/
ou – country / k˄ntrɪ/, couple / k˄pl/
oo – blood / bl˄d/, flood / fɪ˄d/
oe – does / d˄z/

>> Click here to watch the video on the /˄/ sound.


/a:/

Description:

  • A part of the tongue between the Centre and the back is raised.
  • It is raised to the open position.

Spellings:

a – pass / pa:s/, branch / bra:ntʃ/
ar – part / pa:t/, car/ ka:/
ear – heart / ha:t/, hearth/ ha:ɵ/
er – clerk / kla:k/, sergeant / sa:dƷənt/

>> Click here to watch the video on the /a:/ sound.


/ɒ/

Description:

  • The back of the tongue is raised.
  • It is in a fully open position.

Spelling:

o – hot / hɒt /, dog / dɒg/
a – watch / wɒtʃ/, what / wɒt/
ou – cough / kɒf/,
ow – knowledge / nɒlɪdƷ/
au – because / bɪkɒs/

>> Click here to watch the video on the /ɒ/ sound.

The 8 English diphthongs

A diphthong is a vowel sound with a deliberate glide. It is represented in phonetic transcription by a sequence of two elements (Symbols). The first element shows the position of the organs of speech at the beginning of the glide. The glide terminates on the second element.

A diphthong consists of a single syllable. That is, the vowel glide must be performed within one syllable. You must remember that the length and stress are concentrated on the first element of a diphthong. The second element is made less prominent.


/IƏ/

Description:

  • The glide begins from /ɪ/ and moves towards /ə/
  • The lips are neutral.

Spellings:

eer – deer / dɪə/
ear – dear / dɪə/, fear / fɪə/
ere – here / hɪə/
eir – weired / wɪəd/
ier – fierce / fɪəs/
ea – idea / aɪdɪə/

Example:

ear / ɪə/
feared / fɪəd /
severe / sɪvɪə /

>> Click here to watch the video on the /IƏ/ sound.


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/ʊə/

Description:

  • The glide begins from /ʊ/ and moves towards /ə/.
  • The lips are weakly rounded at the beginning of the glide and become neutrally spread.

Spellings:

oor – poor / pʊə/
ure – pure / pjʊə/, sure / ʃuə/
ur – curious / kjʊərɪəs/, during / dʊərɪŋ/
our – tour / tʊə/
ewer – fewer / fjʊə/

Examples:

sure / ʃʊə /
fluent / flʊənt /
tourist / tʊərɪst /

>> Click here to watch the video on the /ʊə/ sound.

/eə/

Description:

  • The glide begins in the half-open from the position /e/ and moves in the direction of /ə/.
  • The lips are neutral.

Spellings:

are – care / keə/, rare / reə/
air – fair / feə/, chair / tʃeə/
ear – bear / beə/, wear / weə/
ere – here / heə/, there / ðeə/
eir – their / ðeə/, heir / heə/

Example:

air / eə /
hair / heə /
rare / reə /

>> Click here to watch the video on the /eə/ sound.


/eɪ/

Descriptions:

  • The glide begins from /e/ slightly below the half-close position and moves in the directions of /ɪ/
  • The lips are spread.

Spellings:

a – late / leɪt/, game / geɪm/
ay – day / deɪ/, may / meɪ/
ai – aim / eɪm/, waist / weɪst/
ei – eight / eɪt/, vein / vein/
ey – they / ðeɪ/
ea – great / greɪt/, break / breɪk/

>> Click here to watch the video on the /eɪ/ sound.


/ɔɪ/

Descriptions:

  • The glide begins from /Ɔ:/ slightly below the half-close position and moves in the direction of /ɪ/
  • The lips are spread.

Spellings:

oy – boy / bɔɪ/, joy / dƷɔɪ/
oi – voice / vɔɪs/, point / pɔɪnt/

Example:

oil / ɔɪl /
coin / kɔɪn /
annoy / ənɔɪ /
ointment / ɔɪntmənt /
join / dƷɔɪn /
destroy / destrɔɪ /

>> Click here to watch the video on the /ɔɪ/ sound.


/aɪ/

Description:

  • The glide begins from just above the open position /a:/ and moves towards /I/.
  • The lips are spread.

Spelling:

i – five / faɪv/, mine / maɪn/, file / faɪl/
u – buy / baɪ/, guy / gaɪ/
ie – tie / taɪ/, die / daɪ/
y – fly / flaɪ/

Example:

right / raɪt /
lie / laɪ /
fly / flaɪ /

>> Click here to watch the video on the /aɪ/ sound.


/əʊ/

Description:

  • The glide begins at a central position / ə/ between half close and half-open. It then moves in the direction of /ʊ /
  • The lips are neutral for the first element and sounded for the second.

Spellings:

o – so / səʊ/, old / əʊld/, home / həʊm/
oa – road / rəʊd/, soap / səʊp/
oe – toe / təʊ/, foe / fəʊ/
ou – soul / səʊl/, though / ðəʊ /
ow – know / nəʊ/, blow / bləʊ/

Example:

old / əʊld /
go / gəʊ /
nose / nəʊz /

>> Click here to watch the video on the /əʊ/ sound.

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/aʊ/

Description:

  • The glide begins at a point between the back and front open position /a:/ and moves towards /ʊ/.
  • The lips change from a neutrally open to a weakly sounded position.

Spellings:

our – house / haʊs/
ow – cow / kaʊ/, brown / braʊn/

Example:

owl / aʊl /
loud / laʊd /
allow / əlaʊ /

>> Click here to watch the video on the /aʊ/ sound.


Conclusion

Hope that this learning material on Vowel sounds and Diphthongs is helpful in improving your pronunciation. You need to practice these sounds in your day-to-day conversations regularly to get good fluency and proper pronunciation.
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