The Difference Between Vowels and Diphthongs

Vowels and diphthongs are examples of different linguistic elements that we use daily, whether we realize it or not. Other elements you might have heard of could include digraphs, monographs, or phonemes. Each of these different elements plays a crucial role in language and the composition of our speech.

Today, we’ll focus on vowels and diphthongs, which are two linguistic elements that go hand-in-hand.

Describing the Vowel

The English language has five different vowels, with a more rarely considered sixth. These are a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y. The rest of the letters of the alphabet are considered consonants.

Vowels are what we refer to as speech sounds. These letters can make up the more prominent sounds in some words, but they can be silent in other words. What separates the vowels from the consonants is that they can be produced without any friction, meaning you can make these sounds without controlling your vocal tracts. They also only produce one sound in their syllable.

Vowels are a fundamental concept that we all learn at a very young age, whether in school or from our parents. They also happen to be among the first sounds a child can quickly produce without any direct teaching. However, diphthongs are a less well-known concept. If you are interested in helping your children or students develop their language skills and knowledge, then perhaps you’ll want to take a look at some of these apps.

What Are Diphthongs?

While vowels are letters that produce a single sound, diphthongs make two vowel sounds in a single syllable. You would typically break up syllables between two vowel sounds, but diphthongs instead have two sounds without that break. Examples of diphthongs would be words like “boy” or “owl,” which are single-syllable words with two vowel sounds.

As a parent, you may have encountered a scenario such as this when teaching your child to read. Generally, you would break up the words into syllables so that your child can read them slowly. Some words, however, will seem like they should have more syllables when they do not. These words might have been diphthongs (i.e., words that contain vowel sounds that are not separated).

Composition Of Diphthongs

Diphthongs are easier to spot in their pronunciation. They also go by the term of gliding vowels, as diphthongs have two core parts – the nucleus and the off-glide. 

The nucleus is the core sound that is more exaggerated or stressed when spoken. The off-glide is not stressed and merely flows from the nucleus. Pronunciation is the core difference between the vowel and diphthong.

Concluding Thoughts

Vowels and diphthongs are similar in that they are both vowel sounds. The difference lies in the sound’s pronunciation. The vowel is a singular sound per syllable. However, the diphthong produces two vowel sounds in a syllable without breaking the syllable.

If you are interested in developing your language and communication skills, look at some of these apps.

Choose your Reaction!