Definition of triphthong – a union of three vowels (letters or sounds) pronounced in one syllable (as in fire). English doesn’t really have triphthongs because no phonemic sequence of three vowel sounds occupies the same syllable in English. As with. There are three triphthongs that are generally agreed upon in American English: / aʊə/ (“ah-oo-uh”), /aɪə/ (“ah-ih-uh”), and /jʊə/ (“ee-oo-uh”). These always.

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By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie PolicyPrivacy Policyand our Terms of Service. It appears that quite a enflish people have misunderstood this question.

I am trying to discover whether words like pliers as pronounced in the south of England contain actual triphthongs, and the homophonic playas was chosen to illustrate the apparent paradox of what seem like a pair of identical two-syllable words where at least one is claimed to possess a triphthong in English.

To illustrate this, I chose triphthngs exact homophones by pairing the word playas with the typical southern English pronunciation of plierswhere a triphthong is alleged to occur. I first verified with native speakers of southern English that they indeed say these two words identically. Although playa derives from the Spanish word for beach, it does not usually mean that in English. The English word playa used here is a technical one having per the OED a primary sense of:.

A flat silt- or sand-covered area, free of vegetation and usu. The nonsense jingle was provided to make clear both the sense and the pronunciation of playa as discussed in the original post below. Supposedly pliers has a triphthong in it there in RP. But since playas sounds the same as pliersit must also have one, too.

Triphthongs and smoothing – English Pronunciation

If playas had a triphthong, it would have only one syllable, but my instincts tell me it has two. Which means that the RP pronunciation of pliers also needs to have two syllables and no triphthong, despite some sources saying otherwise. Pack instead some jambalaya. Englksh waited ten hours for other answers to appear, then presented my own findings. I do not pretend that mine is the only possible answer, and would like to hear what others have to say in their own answers.


As with a diphthong, all components of a triphthong must occur in the same syllable. Some authors entlish the English vowel system as including not only diphthongs but also triphthongs. Peter Roach English Phonetics and Phonology, 4th ed. The most complex English sounds of the vowel type are the triphthongs. They can be rather difficult to pronounce, and very difficult to recognise.

A triphthong is a glide from one vowel to another and then to a third, all produced rapidly and without interruption. If liar has a triphthong, surely trying must have triphthojgs.

Given that, do we have triphthongs in English? I treat the items we are discussing as basically sequences of a fnglish vowel plus a weak vowel.

As Janus mentions in a comment, there may be English dialects in which certain phonemes have allophones that can produce a tautosyllabic triphthong.

However, this is not phonemic, only phonetic, because there are no minimal pairs to prove an actual phonemic distinction. As it is a Spanish word, Spanish phonetical rules should apply, and the semi-vowel, yot j would separate the “ai” dipthong from the final “a”. Regarding English triphthongs two examples immediately occur to me: Gayle a girls’s name and squirrel the rodent.

Only the first half of the word the posited first syllable is the same. So I don’t see these as comparable at all. In “Playas”, the third sound of the supposed triphthong is not a schwa so it’s far more present in the pronunciation and it’s therefore much more difficult to imagine this word as monosyllabic.

I’m not sure I would find myself arguing that “fire” is a two-syllable word in English. Essentially we are talking about the effect of the schwa to confuse the boundary between triphthongs and a 2-syllable distinction. Why strip it of that power?

English teacher, Spanish learner and speaker for 15 years, living in Mexico. By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of serviceprivacy policy and cookie policyand that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies. Home Questions Tags Users Unanswered. Does English really have triphthongs?

The English word playa used here is a technical one having per triphyhongs OED a primary sense of: Does the word playa have a triphthong in it, or two diphthongs, or what?


This reminds me of a discussion about George R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. Some American asked whether Arya had two syllables like bar ya or three syllables like aria. And somebody from the U. Is that anything like a trikini?

HotLicks I have utterly no idea what you mean. I quite agree with Prof. English definitely has no triphthongs.

Triphthong – Wikipedia

Part of the definition of a polyphthong is that it is tautosyllabicwhich no triphthong is in English, at least not phonemically. I don’t think standard BrE or AmE has triphthongs, but the chart here shows some that are close where liquids or glides are quasi vocalic.

Martin 1, 1 6 8. Spanish phonetic rules do not apply to English words, even if they are Spanish in origin. When English borrows words from any source, an attempt is made to retain their pronuciation. That over time the words become accepted as English with English pronunciation rules is not doubted.

For instance, the dual pronuviation of “garage”. I don’t doubt that English phenomes are used, but loan words are usually pronounced as closely as the use of eenglish phenomes allow.

So even when you pronounce the word as closely as the use of the English phonemes allow, you don’t get a semi-vowel between the syllables. Robert Hunt 11 2. Could you please describe the triphthongs in these two words? Taylor Feb 8 at What IPA symbol would you choose as the vowel sound in “playas” then?

This could be a variation in accent. As such these words would rhyme with “lass”, “pass”, “grass”. Although the stress deviates the sound is equivalent. Sign up or log in Sign up using Google. Sign up using Facebook. Sign up using Englidh and Password. Post as a guest Name.

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