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English Diphthongs and Triphthongs

REFERENCE 1

Diphthong
• Diphthong: Sounds which consist of a movement or glide from one vowel to another.
• Pure Vowel: A vowel which remains constant, it does not glide.
• Diphthongs have the same length as the long vowels.
• The first part (sound) is much longer and stronger than the second part.
• Example: aɪ in the words ‘eye’ and ‘ɪ ’ consists of the ‘a’ vowel, and only in about the last
quarter of the diphthong, does the glide to ‘ɪ’ becomes noticeable.

English has 8 diphthongs.


Centering diphthong:
1. three (3) ending in ‘ə’ : ɪə, eə, ʊə
Closing diphthong
2. three (3) ending in ‘ɪ’: eɪ, aɪ, ɔɪ
3. two (2) ending in ‘ʊ’: əʊ, aʊ

Examples:
• ɪə : beard, weird, fierce, ear, beer, tear
• eə: aired, cairn, scarce, bear, hair,
• ʊə: moored, tour, lure, sure, pure
• eɪ : paid, pain, face, shade, age, wait, taste, paper
• aɪ: tide, time, nice, buy, bike, pie, eye, kite, fine
• ɔɪ: void, loin, voice, oil, boil, coin, toy, Roy
• əʊ: load, home, most, bone, phone, boat, bowl
• aʊ: loud, gown, house, cow, bow, brow, grouse

Triphthongs

• A triphthong is a glide from one vowel to another and the to a third, all produced rapidly and
without interruption. For example, a careful pronunciation of the word ‘hour’ begins with a
vowel quality similar to ‘ɑ:’, goes on to ‘ʊ’ then ends in ‘ə’.
• It says /aʊə/
• Triphthong : 5 closing diphthongs with ‘ə’ added on the end.
– eɪ + ə = eɪə . as in layer, player
– aɪ + ə = aɪə. as in lire, fire
– ɔɪ + ə = ɔɪə, as in loyal, royal
– əʊ + ə = əuə, as in lower, mower
– aʊ + ə = auə, as in power, hour.
Conclusion
Everything is Connected

At this point you might be feeling that this is getting quite complicated, but remember: all of the
diphthongs and triphthongs are made from the monophthongs. For example, the diphthong ʌi, as
in the word ‘guy’, is made from the two monophthongs ʌ and i. So, once you learn the
monophthongs, the diphthongs and triphthongs are quite easy. Also, 4 of the monophthongs in
English are simply shorter versions of other monophthongs. For example, we have a: (long, as in
'are') and ʌ (short, as in 'up'), ɛː (long, as in 'air') and ɛ (short, as in 'egg'). So, once you learn the
long version, it’s easy to do the short version.

All the 24 vowel sounds are derived from only ten basic sounds. Every single word in English,
regardless of its spelling, is pronounced using some combination of these ten sounds.

These ten basic sounds are: ɑː əː æː ɛː iː ɪ ʊː ʊ ɔː ɒ

Reference 2
DIPHTHONGS
There are three kinds of diphthong in English: Rising, Rounding, and Centring (or centering).
Let’s begin by looking at the English Vowel Chart…

The Rising Diphthongs are /aɪ/, /eɪ/ and /ɔɪ/, and are called ”rising” because they entail a
movement of the mouth in which the tongue rises towards the Alveolar Ridge; each Rising
Diphthong therefore ends with a /ɪ/ sound – and in many cases it actually appears more like a /i/
sound:

I spy with my little eye… /aɪ spaɪ wɪð maɪ ‘litəɫ aɪ/ Try the wine /traɪ ðə waɪn/
I like guys sighing nicely /aɪ laɪk gaɪz ‘saɪʲɪŋ ‘naɪsli/ Sky high flight /skaɪ haɪ flaɪt/
A grey day /eɪ greɪ deɪ/ Say they named Grace Bacon /seɪ ðeɪ neɪmd greɪs ‘beɪkən/
Stay and play /steɪ ənd pleɪ/ Fate may change your ways /feɪt meɪ tʃeɪndʒ jɔ: weɪz/
The foil’s oily and spoiled /ðə fɔɪɫz ‘ɔɪli ənd spɔɪɫd/ Royal coinage /’rɔɪʲəl ‘kɔɪnɪdʒ/
Are you boys annoyed, or enjoying the noise? /ə ju bɔɪz ɑ’nɔɪd ɔʳɪn’dʒɔɪʲɪŋ ðə nɔɪz/

The Rounding Diphthongs are /aʊ/, /əʊ/ (and /ɒʊ/, actually a variant of /əʊ/) and are called
”rounding” because they entail a movement of the mouth in which the lips round together; each
Rounding Diphthong therefore ends with a /ʊ/ sound – and in many cases
it actually appears more like a /u/ sound:
How about shouting /haʊ ə’baʊt ‘ʃaʊtɪŋ/ Astounding no doubt /ə’staʊndɪŋ nəʊ daʊt/
I found out it’s allowed around town /aɪ faʊnd aʊt its ə’laʊd ə’raʊnd taʊn/
Wow, the house fell down without a sound! /waʊ ðə haʊs feɫ daʊn wɪ’ðaʊt ə saʊnd/
I don’t know what show to go to, though /aɪ dəʊnt nəʊ wɒt ʃəʊ tə gəʊ tu ðəʊ/
The mouldy overflow is cold and frozen /ðə ‘mɒʊɫdi ‘əʊvəfləʊ ɪz kɒʊɫd ənd ‘frəʊzən/
Those old boats float off the gold coast /ðəʊz ɒʊɫd bəʊts fləʊt ɒf ðə gɒʊɫd kəʊst/

The Centring (or centering) Diphthongs are /eə/, /ɪə/ and /ʊə/, and are called ”centering” because
they entail a movement of the mouth in which the tongue relaxes and moves towards the
”neutral” centre of the mouth; each Centering Diphthong therefore ends with a Schwa /ə/ sound:

Near here the idea is clearly revealed, I fear /nɪə hɪə ði aɪ’dɪəʳɪz ‘klɪəli rɪ’vɪəɫd aɪ fɪə/
I hear their beer is as clear as their tears /aɪ ‘hɪə ðeə ‘bɪəʳɪz əz ‘klɪəʳəz ðeə tɪəz/
We dare not care for the sincerely weird /wi deə nɒt keə fə ðə sɪn’sɪəli ‘wɪəd/
I hear there’s a cure and you’re wearing it /aɪ ‘hɪə ðeəz ə ‘kjʊəʳənd ‘jʊə ‘weərɪŋ ɪt/

TRIPHTHONGS

The diphthongs of English are well documented, and more examples can be found in many
places both online and on paper. But there is less certainty regarding triphthongs, with some
teachers tending to ignore them completely because they complicate matters and cause
awkwardness for learners. Many people prefer to regard triphthongs as simply diphthongs with
an added Schwa /ə/ – and to an extent this is a fair description.

However, like the many consonant clusters, triphthongs are a notable and common feature of
spoken English that are harder to produce than any of the diphthongs they emerge from, and I
believe it’s beneficial for anybody’s enunciation and articulacy to practise and exercise them
separately.

To an extent, a triphthong is simply one diphthong followed immediately by another, and in


English all triphthongs are centring (centering), in that they all end in Schwa /ə/:
/eɪə/: layer, player, say a.., we should play a.., it was the the day of.., I saw the way a..
/aɪə/: buyer / buy a.., fire, flyer, higher, liar, tire/tyre, wire, have I a.., why are.., try a..
/ɔɪə/ (often as /ɔɪəɫ/): oil, boil, foil, royal, soya, a boy and.., annoy a.., destroyer, lawyer
/aʊə/: coward, flower/flour, hour, our, power, sour, tower, now a.., how a.., allow a..
/əʊə/: lower, mower, rower, slower, go and.., show a.., follow a.., so a.., I know a…

It’s easy to see that a great many examples of these triphthongs actually occur between two
words; this is why some people treat most occurrences of a triphthong as no more than a
diphthong+/ə/. However, plenty of examples (some of which are included above) feature the
triphthong within a single word, and this is why I believe triphthongs should be treated as
important in their own right. Consider the following (strange but not impossible) utterances:
As the fire burned higher, the wire fell lower – Layers of flowers cut with a mower
Did you say he’s a liar, or a lawyer? – Soya flour is sour – The power is with the buyer
The cowards took an hour – the tired players were slower – It’s showing a tower of tyres

So in conclusion, I would say do practice these vowel sounds because the easier they become,
the easier will become a lot of other sounds featuring in English. Practise of diphthongs and
triphthongs can improve anyone’s enunciation exactly because they are awkward; getting better
at them makes tongue, lips and jaw more mobile, and the more mobile our tongue, jaw and lips
become, the less we mumble and stumble over sounds, and the clearer and easier becomes our
speech in general…