How Many Vowels Are There In The English Language?

Discussion in 'Evolution of Language' started by Ken Anderson, Oct 3, 2017.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    A discussion (complaint, actually) on another thread led me to examine the use of vowels in the English language, and particularly the fact that American English seems to use fewer of them than are seen in British English.

    In my response, I said that the use of vowels in written English is not an accent, and I still hold that this is true, but the spelling is the representation of a vowel so there might be something to it.

    A few years ago, Slate published an article on the use of vowels in the English language that is interesting, although it doesn't precisely cover the subject that I was looking for. The point made in the Slate article is that there are more vowels than AEIOU and sometimes Y, at least in the spoken word.

    As for the spelling, if you've ever looked through documents from the American Colonial period on up, you'll see an evolution of spelling. Since they were largely British, it should be no surprise that Americans used just as many vowels as the British do at first but, over the years they seem to have invented their own way of spelling things, whether from laziness, education or other reasons.
     
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  2. Holly Saunders

    Holly Saunders Veteran Member
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    ..it's something we learned a lot about in school...the difference between British English language and the American...and also to some extent, the Canadian and Australian...the different spellings of course, and the different pronunciations of the same or similar words..


    for example taken from the article...

    Depending on your dialect, you might also have vowels in some of BOUGHT, BAUD, BUTTE, BOUY (like BOOEY but as a single syllable), BART, BORE, BEAR, or BALM that are different from any of the first fourteen vowels


    The word Bouy in British English has in fact less vowels than the American English in the pronunciation ...as well as the obvious written form.
    We pronounce it BOY, so with a single syllable .... so even in sound, it has at most 2 Vowels, if we're to include the Y...but just one if not... whereas... the American version orally and visually with the inclusion of the Y has a minimum of 4... and depending on the dialect could sound as though it had even more... ''Booeey''


    With constant changing and evolution of language it will always remain a fascinating subject...
     
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  3. Patsy Faye

    Patsy Faye Veteran Member
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    Prefer the US spelling that's for sure
    How foreigners learn our language is a mystery to me, so confusing
    I was always top of the class for spelling, but when I got out - went me own way :rolleyes:
     
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  4. Ted Richards

    Ted Richards Active Member
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    When we immigrated to Canada we found we had to write, and sometimes pronounce, a lot more vowels. It's closer to British English and then there is the French influence.........

    Phrases are different too. Americans called it a vent window or a wind wing in the car. Canadians call it a no draft or that little window. Fortunately modern cars no longer have that little window.
     
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  5. Jeff Tracy

    Jeff Tracy Well-Known Member
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    Doncha just love 'em ............. aeiouaeiouaeiou
    .
    [​IMG]
     
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  6. Patsy Faye

    Patsy Faye Veteran Member
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    I vowel not to get upset in the future - :p
     
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  7. Jeff Tracy

    Jeff Tracy Well-Known Member
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    [​IMG]
     
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  8. Jeff Tracy

    Jeff Tracy Well-Known Member
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    [​IMG]
     
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  9. Ted Richards

    Ted Richards Active Member
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    Things we learned while teaching our kids to read:

    -OUGH has 5 distinct sounds in American English; off as in cough, uff as in rough, o as in dough, you as in through, oww as in bough. Not sure if the sounds are different in British English.
     
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  10. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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    It's probably those Englishters' fault. :D
     
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  11. Ted Richards

    Ted Richards Active Member
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    We will have to ask our British members to enlighten us as to how we come to have so many vowels in British English. I suspect we will ultimately blame it on the French. At various times they occupied Britain and French was the language of the court and nobles. At other times the English occupied lands in France. At any rate the two languages became intertwined early on and now there are many words in English adopted from French.
     
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  12. Jeff Tracy

    Jeff Tracy Well-Known Member
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    We have a as in father; ā as in fate; ă as in fat. Then there's ē as in meet; ĕ as in met. We even have a sound called the schwa (ə) in the final vowel of soda. Some in linguistics believe (and I am one) that there is also a stressed schwa (^) as in under. Then there's ī as in might; and i as in mitt. We have ó (a long o, for lack of symbols on my keyboard) as in pope; and ò (a short o) as in pop. And there's ū as in use; and ù (a short u) as in us. Not to forget the long oo as in food, and the short oo as in good.
    But in English we don't rely on accent marks (called diacritics), we rely on the use of a "silent e" to show whether a vowel is long (sit versus site). This "silent e" can also show up alongside another vowel, as in meet versus mete. But sometimes, this "silent e" doesn't even make the vowel long, as in gone.
    Foreign learners of English complain about the spelling of English, and they're right. We'd be better off using diacritics, like they do in Danish.
     
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  13. Patsy Faye

    Patsy Faye Veteran Member
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    Yep, its nothing to do with the amount of vowels, which is 5 :rolleyes:
    Its the spelling that causes problems, which is why I prefer the US for spelling, or of course the Cockney way
    ...... :cool: :p
     
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