The letters y 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:
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.