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What is a Diphthong?

What exactly are Diphthongs?

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All about Diphthongs

• They are also known as gliding vowels.
• They are pairs of vowels which sounds are in a gliding and continuous motion.
• They are also considered as merged vowels. When separated, they are viewed as 2 monophthongs.
• They have 2 parts: the nucleus and the off-glide. The nucleus forms the sound’s center and it is the most stressed vowel among the pair. On the other hand, the off-glide refers to the other vowel which can flow into or from the vowel which is considered as the nucleus.
• Example of a diphthong: the “ou” in the word mouse. It is composed of 2 unique vowels and a person is able to pronounce the word in one continuous motion without any break between the 2 vowels.
• They are present in several languages but they are actually not that many
• The English language has 3 main diphthongs. These diphthongs are called phonemic diphthongs. They are oy, aw and ai. They are often seen as separated vowels and they are very common among literary works.
• Example of a diphthong in the English language: the “i” in the word ride would be ai if transcribed phonetically. If you listen carefully when someone says the word ride, you would be able to realize that the person pronouncing two vowels. We may write the vowel i alone but don’t let this confuse you. Just like the word “boy” which has the oy diphthong and the word “how” which has aw, diphthongs can be very deceiving when they are not phonetically transcribed.
• There are also other diphthongs in the English language aside from the main ones. They are the ou in the word phone and ei in the word fame.
• The Received Pronunciation dialect of English can add 5 more diphthongs to the list.
• The Finnish language has almost 20 diphthongs.

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