vowel, vowel sound (noun)
a speech sound made with the vocal tract open
a letter of the alphabet standing for a spoken vowel
A sound produced by the vocal cords with relatively little restriction of the oral cavity, forming the prominent sound of a syllable.
A letter representing the sound of vowel; in English, the vowels are a, e, i, o and u, and sometimes y.
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as an English ah! or oh, pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh, where there is a constriction or closure at some point along the vocal tract. A vowel is also understood to be syllabic: an equivalent open but non-syllabic sound is called a semivowel In all oral languages, vowels form the nucleus or peak of syllables, whereas consonants form the onset and coda. However, some languages also allow other sounds to form the nucleus of a syllable, such as the syllabic l in the English word table, or the r in Serbo-Croatian vrt "garden". There is a conflict between the phonetic definition of "vowel" and the phonological definition. The approximants [j] and [w] illustrate this conflict: both are produced without much of a constriction in the vocal tract, but they occur on the edge of syllables, such as at the beginning of the English words "yet" and "wet". The American linguist Kenneth Pike suggested the terms "vocoid" for a phonetic vowel and "vowel" for a phonological vowel, so using this terminology, and are classified as vocoids but not vowels. However, Maddieson and Emmory demonstrated from a range of languages that semivowels are produced with a narrower constriction of the vocal tract than vowels, and so may be considered consonants on that basis.
A vowel is a syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of speech sounds, the other being the consonant. Vowels vary in quality, in loudness and also in quantity (length). They are usually voiced and are closely involved in prosodic variation such as tone, intonation and stress. The word vowel comes from the Latin word vocalis, meaning "vocal" (i.e. relating to the voice). In English, the word vowel is commonly used to refer both to vowel sounds and to the written symbols that represent them (a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y).
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