What Is Diphthong In Phonectics And Phonology

Diphthong is the name given to the combination of a vowel sound and a semivocal sound emitted in a single effort of voice. The diphthong differs from the hiatus in that the latter consists of two vowels and is not pronounced in the same syllable. [ 1 ]

When the vowel precedes the semivowel it is called decreasing diphthong . In the Portuguese language we have the following decreasing diphthongs.

  • eite / ˈl ej .ti / ( PB ) / ˈl ɐj .tɨ / ( PE )
  • ai/ ajc aj /
  • ói/ ˈd ɔj /
  • oi/ ˈf oj /
  • uidata / c uj .ˈda.du /
  • iu/ ˈv iw /
  • euem ew /
  • éu/ ˈc ɛw /
  • auawm aw /
  • or/ ˈs ow / (in many dialects it is not pronounced as diphthong, but as a vowel: / ˈs o /)

In many Brazilian dialects, due to the phonation of the phoneme / l / at the end of a syllable, the following cases are also considered to be decreasing diphthongs. Ex.:

  • fun il/fu.ˈn iw /
  • eltro / f ew .tɾu /
  • el/ ˈm ɛw /
  • alawm aw /
  • olɔw /
  • olgiven I / O w .da.du /
  • az ul/ aˈz uw /

Diphthongs can be called nasal diphthongs if the vowel they contain is a nasal vowel.

  • ae/ m ɐj /
  • ns/ w OJ /
  • will be/ n ɐw /

When the semivowel precedes the vowel it is called increasing diphthong . According to the conventions of the Portuguese language only diphthongs are considered stable diphthongs whose first element is the semivowel / w /, and when they are preceded by the sounds / k / or / ɡ /. Ex.:

  • ag uardar / aɡ wa ʀˈdaʀ / (PB) / ɐɡ  ɾˈdaɾ / (PE)
  • ig ual / iˈɡ wa w / (PB) / iˈɡ wa l /
  • waterup / k wa zi / (PB) / k wa zɨ / (EP)
  • waternt / k wa tu /

The other cases that in writing are usually represented by «i» + vowel or «u» plus vowel (or, in European Portuguese, «e» + vowel or «o» + vowel), are usually considered as hiatuses .

In the case of diphthongs formed by u + i preceded by g or q, writing does not make it possible to know whether it is a growing diphthong or a decreasing diphthong, and there may be ambiguity. For example, the 3rd person of the present tense of the verb arguir, (he) argui (formerly written argüi , with decreasing diphthong), is written in the same way as the 1st person of the past tense, (eu) argui (formerly argüi , with increasing diphthong) . This last form can only take an accent ( arguí ) if, instead of diphthong, there is a gap between U and I, because the orthographic rules establish that in these cases the I only takes accent if it does not form diphthong with the previous vowel. So Switzerlandit has an accent (U and I do not form diphthong, but hiatus), but sausage does not (since U and I form diphthong).

Note: qu “in: it is not a vowel encounter , as the U is not pronounced. Therefore, it is a digraph and not a diphthong.

Diphthongs can also be classified as open and closed *

Diphthongs are open when constituted by open vowels, and closed, by closed or nasal vowels.

Reviewing concepts

As for the timbre, the vowels can be: open , closed and reduced .

The timbre is the result of the position of the tongue in the oral cavity at the moment of the emission of sounds:

  • with the tongue in the low position, the open timbrevowels are produced : [a, é, ó];
  • with the elevation of the tongue, the closed timbrevowels are produced : [ê, ô, i, u];
  • in the reduced ones, the timbre is almost canceled. In Portuguese, they are considered semi-vowels [ iand u ].

Diphthong is the meeting of two tones: a vowel and a semi-vowel:

  • Open diphthongIt is said that the diphthong is opened when a vowel of open timbre is joined to a semivowel or vice versa:
  • Closed diphthong When a closed timbre vowel is joined to a semi-vowel, it is said that there is a closed diphthong: (oral): (nasal):


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