Diphthong (definition)

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A diphthong is a complex vowel that is considered a single sound despite two distinct tongue movements. These movements happen across a narrow enough part of the vowel space with enough speed that they are perceived as part of a single sound. The English word eye is a good example of a diphthongal vowel. The sound consists of two parts: /a/ (as in the first sound in father) followed by an /ɪ/ (as in the vowel in bit). The diphthong in eye is written as [aɪ] or [aj]; though, there are differing views on whether diphthongs are written as vowel-glide sequences or VV pairings.

The diphthongs of English include:

  1. [aɪ] as in eye,
  2. [ɪə] as in dear,
  3. [eɪ] as in care,
  4. [ɔɪ] as in joy
  5. [əʊ] as in own, and
  6. [aʊ] as in town.

For more information on the diphthongs included in the Gaelic phoneme inventory see Sounds of Scottish Gaelic.

See Also

External Links


  • Ladefoged, D. (2010) A Course in Phonetics. 6th Edition. Wadsworth Publishing.