The Diphthong reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Diphthong

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In phonetics, a diphthong is a vowel combination usually involving a quick but smooth movement from one vowel to another, often interpreted by listeners as a single vowel sound or phoneme. While "pure" vowels, or monophthongs, are said to have one target tongue position, diphthongs have a moving tongue. Pure vowels are represented in phonetic script by one symbol: English "seem" as [sim], for example. Diphthongs are represented by two symbols, for example English "same" as [seIm], where the two vowel symbols are intended to represent approximately the beginning and ending tongue positions.

Falling diphthongs are stressed on the first element; raising diphthongs on the second. In Closing diphthongs, the second element is closer than the first; in opening diphthongs, more opened. Some languages contrast short and long diphthongs.

The unstressed elements of the diphthongs may be transcribed as semivowels. However, when the whole diphthong is analysed as being one single phoneme, both elements are often transcribed as vowels.

Diphthongs in English:

Diphthongs in British English (RP):

The latter four diphthongs can also occur in Boston English.

Diphthongs in Spanish:

Some Diphthongs in French: Diphthongs in German: Some Diphthongs in Bernese German (a Swiss German dialect):

See also