digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences























In phonetics and phonology, a semivowel (or glide) is a sound, such as English /w/ or /j/, that is phonetically similar to a vowel sound but functions as the syllable boundary rather than as the nucleus of a syllable.[1]


Semivowels form a subclass of approximants.[2][3] Although "semivowel" and "approximant" are sometimes treated as synonymous,[4] 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,[5] while Martínez-Celdrán (2004) proposes that it should be considered one.[6]

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, the diacritic attached to non-syllabic vowel letters is U+032F  ̯ combining inverted breve below. Additionally, there are dedicated symbols for four semivowels that correspond to the four close cardinal vowel sounds:[3]

Semivowel (non-syllabic) Vowel (syllabic)
[j] (palatal approximant) [i] (close front unrounded vowel)
[ɥ] (labio-palatal approximant) [y] (close front rounded vowel)
[ɰ] (velar approximant) [ɯ] (close back unrounded vowel)
[w] (labiovelar approximant) [u] (close back rounded vowel)

The pharyngeal approximant [ʕ̞] is also equivalent to the semivowel articulation of the open back unrounded vowel [ɑ̯].[5]

In addition, some authors[5][6] 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. A central semivowel, [ ȷ̈ ] (also written [ ɉ ]), is uncommon. The semivowel corresponding to the close mid front unrounded vowel,[clarification needed] here provisionally defined as "semipalatal semilateral" approximant, is currently attested only[dubious ] in some varieties of Venetian as an allophone of the lateral consonant /l/ and can also be reduced to zero.[citation needed]

Contrast with vowels[edit]

Semivowels, by definition, contrast with vowels by being non-syllabic. In addition, they are usually shorter than vowels.[2] In languages as diverse as Amharic, Yoruba, and Zuni, semivowels are produced with a narrower constriction in the vocal tract than their corresponding vowels.[5] 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 [flaɪ̯], or as a closed syllable ending in a consonant [flaj].[7]

It is unusual for a language to contrast a semivowel and a diphthong containing an equivalent vowel,[citation needed] 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:[8]

  • /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.[9]

Contrast with fricatives/spirant approximants[edit]

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.[10] 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'),[11] 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 [ẽɲɟʝeˈsaɾ] ('to plaster') aniego [ãnjeɣo] ('flood')[12] and, although there is dialectal and ideolectal variation, speakers may also exhibit other near-minimal pairs like abyecto ('abject') vs abierto ('opened').[13] One potential minimal pair (depending on dialect) is ya visto [(ɟ)ʝaˈβisto] ('I have already seen') vs y ha visto [jaˈβisto] ('and he has seen').[14] 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]).

See also[edit]



Further reading[edit]

  • Ohala, John; Lorentz, James, "The story of [w]: An exercise in the phonetic explanation for sound patterns", in Whistler, Kenneth; Chiarelloet, Chris; van Vahn, Robert Jr., Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistic Society, pp. 577–599 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semivowel — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
312 videos foundNext > 

Pronunciation of the semivowel / ɥ / as in "huit"

The / ɥ / sound ("ué") is one of three French semivowels. It has the vocalic qualities of a vowel but does not form a separate syllable. The / ɥ / is usually...

Ancient Greek Lesson 8 Semivowel Consonants

In this lesson, I'll be covering the semivowel consonants in the ancient Greek language. Hope it helps! Please leave comments, questions or suggestions if yo...

Latin Lesson 8 - Semivowel Consonants

Learn how to say common words in Latin, like: VVA (grape), and IVSTITIA (justice) in this cool language lesson taught by an expert of the Latin language. I h...

How to Pronounce Semi-Vowel

Learn how to say Semi-Vowel correctly with EmmaSaying's "how do you pronounce" free tutorials. Definition of semivowel (oxford dictionary): noun (phonetics) ...

How to Pronounce Semivowel

Learn how to say Semivowel correctly with emmasaying's "how do you pronounce" free tutorials. Definition of semivowel (oxford dictionary): noun (phonetics) a...

Elocution - Semi-vowel - W

Practising the sound, some words and sentences using 'W' sound.



How to Pronounce Semi Vowel

Can we reach 1 Like? Watch video to the end :) semivowel /ˈsɛmiˌvaʊəl/ [sem-ee-vou-uhl] noun, Phonetics. a speech sound of vowel quality used as a consonant,...

How to Pronounce Semivowels

Learn how to say Semivowels correctly with EmmaSaying's "how do you pronounce" free tutorials. Definition of semivowel (oxford dictionary): noun (phonetics) ...

How to Pronounce Semivowels

Can we reach 1 Like? Watch video to the end :) Video by http://www.PronounceDaily.com semivowel /ˈsɛmiˌvaʊəl/ [sem-ee-vou-uhl] noun, Phonetics. a speech soun...

312 videos foundNext > 

We're sorry, but there's no news about "Semivowel" right now.


Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Talk About Semivowel

You can talk about Semivowel with people all over the world in our discussions.

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!