Unit 1.1

Semivowels

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Introduction

The letters and w, and the digraph wh represent sounds that can be considered semivowels, that is, vowels with a bit of constriction.

Form

Normally, in vowels the air is simply released by the mouth. Semivowels are vowels with a small amount of constriction and consonants in form, which do not occupy the centres of syllables.

The semivowels are:

Uppercase Lowercase Phonetics
Y y  /j/
W w /w/
WH wh /ʍ/

Example

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

Use

Y is a palatal letter, so it 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;

W and wh are labialized velar letters, which need to be pronounced when the back part of the tongue is raised towards 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.

Exercises

External link to Semivowels exercises (1152).



More exercises

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