Manners of articulation Obstruent Plosive (occlusive) Affricate Fricative Sibilant Sonorant Nasal Flap/Tap Approximant Liquid Vowel Semivowel Lateral Trill Airstreams Pulmonic Ejective Implosive Click Alliteration Assonance Consonance See also: Place of articulation This page contains phonetic information in IPA, which may not display correctly in some browsers. [Help]
In phonetics and phonology, a semivowel (or glide) is a sound, such as English /w/ or /j/ ("y"), that is phonetically similar to a vowel sound but functions as the syllable boundary rather than as the nucleus of a syllable.
Semivowels form a subclass of approximants. Although "semivowel" and "approximant" are sometimes treated as synonymous, most authors agree that not all approximants are semivowels, although the exact details may vary from author to author. For example, Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996) don't consider the labiodental approximant [ʋ] to be a semivowel, while Martínez-Celdrán (:2004) proposes that it should be considered one.
In the International Phonetic Alphabet, the diacritic attached to non-syllabic vowels is [ ̯ ] (U+032F ̯ combining inverted breve below). Additionally, there is "the established classification" and separate symbols for four semivowels that correspond to the four close cardinal vowel sounds:
Element of diphthong
Monophthong (syllabic) [j] (palatal approximant) [i̯] [i] (close front unrounded vowel) [ɥ] (labio-palatal approximant) [y̯] [y] (close front rounded vowel) [ɰ] (velar approximant) [ɯ̯] [ɯ] (close back unrounded vowel) [w] (labiovelar approximant) [u̯] [u] (close back rounded vowel)
In addition, some authors consider the rhotic approximants [ɹ], [ɻ] to be semivowels corresponding to R-colored vowels such as [ɚ]. As mentioned above, the labiodental approximant [ʋ] is considered a semivowel in some treatments, but not others. Central semivowels, such as Korean [ȷ̈], are uncommon.
Contrast with vowels
Semivowels, by definition, contrast with vowels by being non-syllabic. In addition, they are usually shorter than vowels. In languages as diverse as Amharic, Yoruba, and Zuni, semivowels are produced with a narrower constriction in the vocal tract than their corresponding vowels. Nevertheless, semivowels may be phonemically equivalent with vowels. For example, the English word fly can be considered either as an open syllable ending in a diphthong /flai̯/, or as a closed syllable ending in a consonant /flaj/.
It is unusual for a language to contrast a semivowel and a diphthong containing an equivalent vowel, however, Romanian contrasts the diphthong /e̯a/ with /ja/, a perceptually similar approximant–vowel sequence. The diphthong is analyzed as a single segment while the approximant–vowel sequence is analysed as two separate segments. In addition to phonological justifications for the distinction (such as the diphthong alternating with /e/ in singular–plural pairs), there are phonetic differences between the pair:
- /ja/ has a greater duration than /e̯a/
- The transition between the two elements is longer and faster for /ja/ than /e̯a/ with the former having a higher F2 onset (i.e. greater constriction of the articulators).
Although a phonological parallel exists between /o̯a/ and /wa/, the production and perception of phonetic contrasts between the two is much weaker, likely due to a lower lexical load for /wa/ (which is limited largely to loanwords from French) and a difficulty in maintaining contrasts between two back rounded glides in comparison to front ones.
Contrast with fricatives/spirant approximants
According to the standard definitions, semivowels (such as [j]) contrast with fricatives (such as [ʝ]) in that fricatives produce turbulence, while semivowels do not. In discussing Spanish, Martínez-Celdrán suggests setting up a third category of "spirant approximant", contrasting both with semivowel approximants and with fricatives. Though the spirant approximant is more constricted (having a lower F2 amplitude), longer, and unspecified for rounding (e.g. viuda [ˈbjuða] 'widow' vs ayuda [aˈʝʷuða] 'help'), the distributional overlap is limited. The spirant approximant can only appear in the syllable onset (including word-initially, where the semivowel never appears). The two overlap in distribution after /l/ and /n/: enyesar [ẽ̞ɲɟʝe̞ˈsaɾ] ('to plaster') aniego [ãnje̞ɣo̞] ('flood') and, although there is dialectal and ideolectal variation, speakers may also exhibit other near-minimal pairs like abyecto ('abject') vs abierto ('opened'). One potential minimal pair (depending on dialect) is ya visto [(ɟ)ʝaˈβisto̞] ('I have already seen') vs y ha visto [jaˈβisto̞] ('and he has seen'). Again, this is not present in all dialects. Other dialects differ in either merging the two or in enhancing the contrast by moving the former to another place of articulation (e.g. [ʒ]).
- ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:322)
- ^ a b Crystal (2003:413)
- ^ a b Martínez-Celdrán (2004:9)
- ^ Meyer (2005:101)
- ^ a b c Ladefoged (Maddieson:323)
- ^ a b Martínez-Celdrán (2004:8)
- ^ The International Phonetic Alphabet in Unicode, UCL Division of Psychology & Language Sciences, http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/ipa-unicode.htm
- ^ Cohen (1971:51)
- ^ Chitoran (2002:212–214)
- ^ Chitoran (2002:221)
- ^ Martínez-Celdrán (2004:6)
- ^ Martínez-Celdrán (2004:208)
- ^ Trager (1942:222)
- ^ Saporta (1956:288)
- ^ Bowen & Stockwell (1955:236)
- Bowen, J. Donald; Stockwell, Robert P. (1955), "The Phonemic Interpretation of Semivowels in Spanish", Language (Linguistic Society of America) 31 (2): 236–240, doi:10.2307/411039, JSTOR 411039
- Chitoran, Ioana (2002), "A perception-production study of Romanian diphthongs and glide-vowel sequences", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 32 (2): 203–222, doi:10.1017/S0025100302001044
- Crystal, David (2003), A dictionary of linguistics & phonetics (fifth ed.), Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 0631226648, http://books.google.com/books?id=bSxjt1irqh4C&dq
- Cohen, Antonie (1971), The phonemes of English: a phonemic study of the vowels and consonants of standard English (third ed.), Springer, ISBN 9024706394, http://books.google.com/books?id=0x-9bpGEPbAC
- Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19814-8.
- Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio (2004), "Problems in the Classification of Approximants", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (2): 201–210, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001732, http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:2fr2LMKFsqUJ:www.ub.edu/labfon/Approximants-2.pdf+%22%22Problems+in+the+Classification+of+Approximants%22&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESibzuU6YMcCsi9-uBKTbBha93gQpQPyKpbuAyzfHgg0mAxVcsNxvKBzMVoFwiKsS4l0TotK5_lQiZeXmuUhytTftY26rTwjHM1xgoydjcda5cqvTFiEpbAXrEoRtE8egCYotioE&sig=AHIEtbQdk4V0uyuQ4a-fzj-Ra3KOlm2fhA
- Meyer, Paul Georg (2005), Synchronic English Linguistics: An Introduction (third ed.), Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, ISBN 3823361910, http://books.google.com/books?id=I2hXL8WClNUC
- Saporta, Sol (1956), "A Note on Spanish Semivowels", Language (Linguistic Society of America) 32 (2): 287–290, doi:10.2307/411006, JSTOR 411006
- Trager, George (1942), "The Phonemic Treatment of Semivowels", Language (Linguistic Society of America) 18 (3): 220–223, doi:10.2307/409556, JSTOR 409556
- Ohala, John; Lorentz, James, "The story of [w]: An exercise in the phonetic explanation for sound patterns", in Whistler, Kenneth; Chiarelloet; van Vahn, Robert Jr., Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistic Society, pp. 577–599
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Semivowel — Sem i*vow el, n. (Phon.) (a) A sound intermediate between a vowel and a consonant, or partaking of the nature of both, as in the English w and y. (b) The sign or letter representing such a sound. [1913 Webster] … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
semivowel — [sem′i vou΄əl] n. Phonet. a vowel like sound occurring in consonantal positions in the same syllable with a true vowel, characterized by brief duration and rapid change from one position of articulation to another [the English glides (w) and (y)… … English World dictionary
semivowel — noun Date: 1530 1. a speech sound (as y, w, or r) that has the articulation of a vowel but that is shorter in duration and is treated as a consonant in syllabication 2. a letter representing a semivowel … New Collegiate Dictionary
semivowel — noun a) A sound in speech which has some qualities of a consonant and some qualities of a vowel b) A letter which represents a semivowel sound, such as w or y in English. Syn: glide, semiconsonant … Wiktionary
semivowel — /sem ee vow euhl/, n. Phonet. a speech sound of vowel quality used as a consonant, as /w/ in wet or /y/ in yet. [1520 30; SEMI + VOWEL; r. semivocal < L semivocalis half vowel] * * * … Universalium
semivowel — sem|i|vow|el [ semi,vauəl ] noun count LINGUISTICS a speech sound that sounds like a vowel but is a consonant, for example w … Usage of the words and phrases in modern English
semivowel — n. speech sound which has the articulation of a vowel but is treated as a consonant (Phonetics) … English contemporary dictionary
semivowel — noun a speech sound intermediate between a vowel and a consonant, e.g. w or y … English new terms dictionary
semivowel — semi·vowel … English syllables
semivowel — sem•i•vow•el [[t]ˈsɛm ɪˌvaʊ əl[/t]] n. phn a speech sound of vowel quality used as a consonant, as (w) in wet or (y) in yet[/ex] • Etymology: 1520–30 … From formal English to slang