A monophthong (Greek monóphthongos[1] from mónos "single" and phthóngos "sound") is a pure vowel sound, one whose articulation at both beginning and end is relatively fixed, and which does not glide up or down towards a new position of articulation.

The opposite is a diphthong, where the vowel quality changes within the same syllable, and hiatus, where two vowels are next to each other in different syllables.


Sound changes

The conversion of monophthongs to diphthongs (diphthongization) or of diphthongs to monophthongs (monophthongization), is a major element of language change and is likely the cause of further changes.


Some sounds that may be perceived by native speakers as monophthongs in English are, in fact, diphthongs; the vowel sound in pay — pronounced ˈpeɪ is an example of this.

Some dialects of English make monophthongs out of former diphthongs. For instance, Southern American English tends to alter the diphthong /aɪ/ as in eye to an [aː] somewhere between /ɑ/ and /æ/.

On the other hand, former monophthongs have become diphthongs in American English. For instance, the /ɪ/ in words like pin changes to [ɪə] in some American dialects.


Historically, some languages treat vowel sounds that were formerly diphthongs as monophthongs.  Such is the case in Sanskrit, in whose grammar the sounds now realised as /e/ and /o/ are conceptually ai and au, and are written that way in the Devanagari and related alphabets.  The sounds /ai/ and /au/ exist in Sanskrit, but are written as if they were āi and āu, with long initial vowels.

Similar processes of the creation of new monophthongs from old diphthongs are preserved in the traditional spellings of languages as diverse as French and Modern Greek.

See also


  1. ^ μονόφθογγος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at Perseus Project

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Monophthong — Mon oph*thong, n. [Gr. ? with one sound; mo nos alone + ? sound, voice.] 1. A single uncompounded vowel sound. [1913 Webster] 2. A combination of two written vowels pronounced as one; a digraph. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • monophthong — [män′əf thôŋ΄] n. [< Gr monophthongos, of or with one sound < monos, single (see MONO ) + phthongos, a sound, voice] a simple vowel sound during the utterance of which the vocal organs remain in a relatively unchanging position, as (ä),… …   English World dictionary

  • Monophthong — Ein Monophthong (v. griech. monos „allein“ und phthóngos „Laut“) ist ein einfacher Vokal ohne Veränderung der Qualität (z. B. u , a ) im Gegensatz zu Diphthongen (z. B. au , ei ). Monophthonge können hinsichtlich ihrer Quantität… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • monophthong —   n. single vowel sound.    ♦ monophthongal, a.    ♦ monophthongize, v.t. pronounce as monophthong …   Dictionary of difficult words

  • monophthong — noun Etymology: Late Greek monophthongos single vowel, from Greek mon + phthongos sound Date: 1616 a vowel sound that throughout its duration has a single constant articulatory position • monophthongal adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Monophthong — См. monottongo …   Пятиязычный словарь лингвистических терминов

  • monophthong — См. monottongo …   Пятиязычный словарь лингвистических терминов

  • monophthong — monophthongal /mon euhf thawng geuhl, thong /, adj. /mon euhf thawng , thong /, n. Phonet. a vowel retaining the same quality throughout its duration. Cf. diphthong. [1610 20; < Gk monóphthongos equiv. to mono MONO + phthóngos sound] * * * …   Universalium

  • monophthong — noun A vowel (in the sense of a sound rather than a letter of the alphabet) that has the same sound throughout its pronunciation, such as the short vowels in pap , pep , pip , pop and pup , as opposed to a diphthong (eg, /aɪ/, the vowel in pipe ) …   Wiktionary

  • Monophthong — Mo|no|phthọng auch: Mo|noph|thọng 〈m. 1; Sprachw.〉 einfacher Vokal; Ggs Diphthong; → Lexikon der Sprachlehre [zu grch. monophthongos „eintönig“] * * * Mo|no|ph|thọng, der; [e]s, e [griech. monóphthoggos, eigtl. = allein tönend, zu: phthóggos …   Universal-Lexikon

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