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A Handbook of the English Language by Latham

Diphthongs with the semivowel y


116. I believe that in the fact of each mute appearing in a four-fold form (i.e., sharp, or flat, lene, or aspirate), lies the essential character of the mutes as opposed to the liquids.

s. 117. Y and w.--These sounds, respectively intermediate to [gamma] and i (the ee in _feet_), and to v and u (oo in _book_), form a transition from the vowels to the consonants.

s. 118. The French word _roi_, and the English words _oil_, _house_, are specimens of a fresh class of articulations; viz., of _compound vowel_ sounds or diphthongs. The diphthong oi is the vowel o + the semivowel y. The diphthongal sound in _roi_ is the vowel o + the semivowel w. In _roi_ the semivowel element precedes, in _oil_ it follows.

s. 119. The words quoted indicate the nature of the diphthongal system.

1. Diphthongs with the semivowel w, a) _preceding_, as in the French word _roi_, b) _following_, as in the English word _new_.

2. Diphthongs with the semivowel y, a) _preceding_, as is common in the languages of the Lithuanic and Slavonic stocks, b) _following_, as in the word _oil_.

3. Triphthongs with a semivowel both _preceding_ and _following_.

The diphthongs in English are four; ow as in _house_, ew as in _new_, oi as in _oil_, i as in _bite_, _fight_.

justify;">s. 120. _Chest_, _jest_.--Here we have _compound consonantal_ sounds. The ch in _chest_ = t + sh; the j in _jest_ = d + zh. I believe that in these combinations one or both the elements, viz., t and sh, d and zh, are modified; but I am unable to state the exact nature of this modification.

s. 121. Ng.--The sound of the ng in _sing_, _king_, _throng_, when at the end of a word, or of _singer_, _ringing_, &c., in the middle of a word, is not the natural sound of the combination n and g, each letter retaining its natural power and sound; but a simple single sound, for which the combination ng is a conventional mode of expression.

s. 122. Compared with a in _fate_, and the o in _note_, a in _father_, and the aw in _bawl_, are _broad_; the vowels of _note_ and _fate_ being _slender_.

s. 123. In _fat_, the vowel is, according to common parlance, _short_; in _fate_, it is _long_. Here we have the introduction of two fresh terms. For the words _long_ and _short_, I substitute _independent_ and _dependent_. If from the word _fate_ I separate the final consonantal sound, the syllable fa remains. In this syllable the a has precisely the sound that it had before. It remains unaltered. The removal of the consonant has in nowise modified its sound or power. It is not so, however, with the vowel in the word _fat_. If from this I remove the consonant following, and so leave the a at the end of the syllable, instead of in the middle, I must do one of two things: I must sound it either as the a in _fate_, or else as the a in _father_. Its (so-called) short sound it cannot retain, unless it be supported by a consonant following. For this reason it is _dependent_. The same is the case with all the so-called short sounds, viz., the e in _bed_, i in _fit_, u in _bull_, o in _not_, u in _but_.

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