Unit 1.1


Semivowels

Sounds and letters

The letters and w, and the digraph wh represent sounds that can be considered semivowels. Their sound is phonetically similar to a vowel sound, but they function as a syllable boundary. The first is articulated as a palatal consonant, whereas the others as labio-velars.

The semivowels are:

UppercaseLowercasePhonetics
Yy /j/
Ww/w/
WHwh/ʍ/

y: yes, you, young;
w: weather, window;
wh: what, wheel, why.

The palatal consonant is pronounced with the middle part of the tongue raised against the hard palate (which is the middle part of the roof of the mouth).

  • y: voiced, vocal cords vibrate during the articulation of the semivowel;

To pronounce the labialized velar, the back part of the tongue is raised toward the soft palate while rounding the lips.

  • w: voiced, vocal cords vibrate during the articulation of the semivowel;
  • wh: voiceless, vocal cords do not vibrate during the articulation of the diagraph.

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