Everything to do with phonetics. Please note: comments not signed with your genuine name may be removed. Thursday, 10 December triphthongs, anyone? I mentioned that in LPD I treat them as varisyllabic. Some authors describe the English vowel system as including not only diphthongs but also triphthongs. Peter Roach English Phonetics and Phonology, 4th ed.
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When there is no contrastive vowel sequence in the language, the diacritic may be omitted. If two vowels next to each other belong to two different syllables hiatus , meaning that they do not form a diphthong, they can be transcribed with two vowel symbols with a period in between.
The non-syllabic diacritic is used only when necessary. Note that "falling" and "rising" in this context do not refer to vowel height ; for that, the terms "opening" and "closing" are used instead. See below. The less prominent component in the diphthong may also be transcribed as an approximant , thus [aj] in eye and [ja] in yard.
Semivowels and approximants are not equivalent in all treatments, and in the English and Italian languages, among others, many phoneticians do not consider rising combinations to be diphthongs, but rather sequences of approximant and vowel.
There are many languages such as Romanian that contrast one or more rising diphthongs with similar sequences of a glide and a vowel in their phonetic inventory  see semivowel for examples.
Closing, opening, and centering[ edit ] Vowel diagram illustrating closing diphthongs of Belgian Standard Dutch , from Verhoeven Vowel diagram illustrating centering diphthongs of the Dutch dialect of Orsmaal-Gussenhoven , from Peters In closing diphthongs, the second element is more close than the first e.
A third, rare type of diphthong that is neither opening nor closing is height-harmonic diphthongs, with both elements at the same vowel height. Diphthongs may contrast in how far they open or close.
Does English really have triphthongs?
I am trying to discover whether words like pliers as pronounced in the south of England contain actual triphthongs, and the homophonic playas was chosen to illustrate the apparent paradox of what seem like a pair of identical two-syllable words where at least one is claimed to possess a triphthong in English. To illustrate this, I chose two exact homophones by pairing the word playas with the typical southern English pronunciation of pliers, where a triphthong is alleged to occur. I first verified with native speakers of southern English that they indeed say these two words identically. Although playa derives from the Spanish word for beach, it does not usually mean that in English.