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Is H a vowel?

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589222.  Fri Jul 24, 2009 4:06 pm Reply with quote

Ultimately, saying "letter such-and-such is a vowel" doesn't actually mean a great deal.

It's true enough to say that "in English, the letters A, E, I, O, and U usually represent a vowel sound", but they don't always - in particular, <e> is often silent. But for sure, the sounds usually associated with those letters are vowel sounds.

There are some words in which <y> represents a vowel sound, and it's possible to argue that the same is true of <w> (in "cow", for instance). We don't usually argue thus in English, but in Welsh it is usual to say that "W is a vowel", just as in Czech it is usual to say that "R is a vowel".

As for the letter <h>, the question is a rather different one. Whether we consider the sound /h/ to be a consonant sound or a vowel sound is really a matter of definition, and it can be argued either way. See post 563781, in which I do precisely that.

590470.  Tue Jul 28, 2009 1:50 am Reply with quote

The only one that I remember was A,E.I, O U and sometimes y.

The difference in the english language was a vowel was open sound while a consonant was a closed sound

Here's a fun little website

I can't quite agree with everything on the page. It list Bar as a word that ends in a vowel...but in America we pronounce the R.

590473.  Tue Jul 28, 2009 2:19 am Reply with quote

Makes me wonder if ll is a vowel in spanish (pronounced similarly to y in player (I suppose it's really a diphthong indicator).

I find it interesting how a y sound can be introduced between english words - as in "see or hear" -> seeyor hear)

590482.  Tue Jul 28, 2009 2:36 am Reply with quote

Dang it Posital, now I'm having flashbacks to my high school Spanish classes!

590536.  Tue Jul 28, 2009 5:33 am Reply with quote

Under the Byzantinely exacting rules of the Welsh system of alliterative poetry called cynghanedd (for which the rule books can run to hundreds of pages), the letter H is classed as nothing other than an exhalation, and therefore is treated as neither a vowel nor a consonant.

In other words, for the rules of alliteration or rhyme it is ignored completely (though it is pronounced exactly as in English).

591097.  Tue Jul 28, 2009 2:45 pm Reply with quote

mckeonj wrote:
Is H a vowel, or a consonant?
I need to know, for a word game I am developing, in which a word must be made from a set of letters generated randomly from a set of 20 consonants and 6 vowels. The word need not be an existing word, but it should be pronounceable, and defined if challenged.
It must be 20+6, because the letter generator is two dice, or tesserae; one a cube of 6 faces, the other an icosahedron of 20 faces.
The possible candidates for vowelhood are H and Y.

I don't think you need worry whether the extra letter you chose is technically a vowel or not.

As you are intending participants to make up words with the letters they generate, the most important issue (as you say) is whether it seems pronounceable in English. On that basis, 'Y' must be by far the better choice as it is regularly pronounced as though it is 'I'. Indeed, many English words were once spelt with a 'Y' though they now use other vowels in its place.

I think I'm correct in saying that all the common English words that do not possess a vowel in their spelling, do include 'Y' to provide the vowel sound.
Examples: spry, fly, rhythm, lynch, etc.

591102.  Tue Jul 28, 2009 2:51 pm Reply with quote

Romantic languages call Y - a greek I.

591285.  Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:03 am Reply with quote

Unromantic languages never call the next day.

601304.  Wed Aug 19, 2009 1:44 pm Reply with quote

Worth a note is the difficulty our neighbours across the channel have with this sound. I taught English to 6th formers in Finistere last year and was amazed by their ability to drop the English 'h' sound when it's needed, and to add it in when it's not.

"For breakfast I 'ad happle juice" for example.

601371.  Wed Aug 19, 2009 3:30 pm Reply with quote

I'm not too surprised that non-native speakers should do that, considering there are plenty of indigenous ones who do it.

Welcome Ellie, by the way. :)

601486.  Wed Aug 19, 2009 7:58 pm Reply with quote

Never mind the question - what on Earth is this word game you're developing?

Welcome Ellie, by the way. :)

Hellie surely?

601628.  Thu Aug 20, 2009 8:41 am Reply with quote

samivel wrote:
Welcome Ellie, by the way. :)

Thank you very much! ...and I may have to nick that for a signature post, bobwilson. ;)

612801.  Mon Sep 14, 2009 12:03 pm Reply with quote

"ll" in Spanish is not a vowel. It makes a hard "y" sound as in "yes" not a soft "y" sound as in "rhyme."

"I Griega" is how "Y" is pronounced in Spanish (Greek I). However they never use it as a vowel, in fact it is normally used only in foreign words, or native American words (Yucatan).

In the US, school children are taught a vowel song. In it, they list the vowels as "A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y." Nevermind that many of us pronounce "R" as a vowel.

612808.  Mon Sep 14, 2009 12:16 pm Reply with quote

Traditionally, the sound of <ll> in Castilian Spanish was /ʎ/ - much the same as the sound in the middle of million. But that pronunciation is by now unusual outside Spain, and even within Spain it's becoming confined to the north east.

So yes, /j/ (i.e. the sound of English <y>) is by now the more common way to pronounce it. (Except in the Rio de la Plata region, where it's often /ʒ/.)

I don't think it's right to say that <y> never represents a vowel sound in Spanish, though. Muy and hay are pronounced exactly the same as would be mui and hai.

612839.  Mon Sep 14, 2009 1:43 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
I don't think it's right to say that <y> never represents a vowel sound in Spanish, though. Muy and hay are pronounced exactly the same as would be mui and hai.

Good point. I will point this out to my Spanish-speaking friends next time they pan the English language for having confusing rules. "And sometimes y" is one of their favorites.


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