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In phonetics, a dipthong (Greek δίφθογγος, "diphthongos", literally with two sounds) is a vowel combination usually involving a quick but smooth movement from one vowel to another, often interpreted by listeners as a single vowel sound or phoneme. While "pure" vowels, or monophthongs, are said to have one target tongue position, diphthongs have a moving tongue. Pure vowels are represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet by one symbol: English "seem" as [], for example. Diphthongs are represented by two symbols, for example English "same" as [seɪm], where the two vowel symbols are intended to represent approximately the beginning and ending tongue positions.

Falling diphthongs are stressed on the first element; rising diphthongs on the second. In Closing diphthongs, the second element is closer than the first; in opening diphthongs, more opened. Some languages contrast short and long diphthongs.

The unstressed elements of the diphthongs may be transcribed as semivowels. However, when the whole diphthong is analysed as being one single phoneme, both elements are often transcribed as vowels.

Diphthongs in English:

  • [aʊ] as in house
  • [aɪ] as in kite
  • [eɪ] as in same
  • [juː] as in few (This is phonemically analyzed as a sequence of a semivowel and a monophthong.)
  • [oʊ] as in hope
  • [oɪ] as in join

(see International Phonetic Alphabet for English for more)

Diphthongs in British English (RP):

  • [əʊ] as in hope
  • [aʊ] as in house
  • [aɪ] as in kite
  • [eɪ] as in same
  • [juː] as in few (This is phonemically analyzed as a sequence of a semivowel and a monophthong.)
  • [oɪ] as in join
  • [ɪə] as in fear
  • [ɛə] as in hair
  • [ʊə] as in poor
  • [ɔə] as in more

The latter four diphthongs also occur in Boston English.

Diphthongs in Spanish:

  • [ja] as in comedia
  • [je] as in tierra
  • [jo] as in dio
  • [ju] as in ciudad
  • [wa] as in guante
  • [we] as in fuego
  • [wi] as in pingino
  • [wo] as in ambiguo
  • [aj] as in hay
  • [ej] as in rey
  • [oj] as in hoy
  • [uj] as in muy
  • [aw] as in Jauja
  • [ew] as in feudo

Some Diphthongs in French:

  • [wa] as in roi
  • [wi] as in oui
  • [ɥi] as in huit
  • [jɛ̃] as in bien
  • [jɛ] as in Arige

Diphthongs in Finnish

  • [ai] as in laiva
  • [ei] as in keinu
  • [oi] as in poika
  • [ui] as in uida
  • [yi] as in lyijy
  • [i] as in iti
  • [i] as in isin
  • [ie] as in kieli
  • [au] as in lauha
  • [eu] as in leuto
  • [iu] as in viulu
  • [ou] as in koulu
  • [ey] as in leyhy
  • [iy] as in siistiyty
  • [y] as in tysi
  • [y] as in lyt
  • [uo] as in suo
  • [y] as in y

Diphthongs in German:

  • [aɪ] as in Reich
  • [aʊ] as in Maus
  • [ɔʏ] as in neu

Diphthongs in Northern Sami

  • [e] as in leat
  • [ie] as in giella
  • [oa] as in boahtit
  • [uo] as in vuodjat

Some Diphthongs in Bernese German (a Swiss German dialect):

  • [iə] as in Bier 'beer'
  • [yə] as in Fess 'feet'
  • [uə] as in Schue 'shoes'
  • [ow] as in Stou 'holdup'
  • [aw] as in Stau 'stable'
  • [aːw] as in Staau 'steel'
  • [æw] as in Wut 'world'
  • [æːw] as in wut 'elects'
  • [ʊw] as in tschud 'guilty'

In Italian a vowel combination can be a dittongo (en. diphthong) or a iato (en. hiatus).

  • paùra, faìna are not diphthongs.
  • zaino, fuori, Europa are diphthongs.
  • fuoco, fiume are rising diphthongs.
  • faida, feudo are falling diphthongs.

See also

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