Why are vowels what they are?

vocal

As vocalAlso called vowel, a sound is called whose articulation, i.e. pronunciation, allows air to escape unhindered from the oral cavity, which is why the speaking apparatus does not narrow or close, as is the case with so-called consonants. Belong to the vowel letters of German a, e, i, O, u and the umlauts. Diphthongs(au, ei, ui) count to the vowels.

Concept and example

The term is derived from Latin vocalis [littera] off what to do with resounding [letter] translates. The translation makes it clear what it is about in principle: namely a letter that sounds and thus stands for a sound. It becomes clearer if we try out the whole thing using an example and illustrate it through a few language exercises. Let's consider the following vowel example.


The affectionate drinks the water.

In the example above the vowels and consonants were highlighted in color. If we now speak the sentence loudly and clearly and pay attention to what is happening in the mouth, we may notice differences between the individual sounds. As the air flows out of the speaker's mouth while speaking, it passes through the entire speech apparatus. This airflow will Phonation stream called.

If the above sentence is now spoken loudly and clearly, notices that the air with the vowels (a, e, i, o, u) can escape unhindered. So it is not hindered in escaping or pressed against certain parts of the oral cavity in order to generate the respective sound. This fact is called a vowel.

Vowel triangle to represent pronunciation

Vowels differ from consonants because of the free flow of air. However, the individual vowels can also be subdivided. It is about the position of the tongue and the opening of the mouth when speaking. One of the modes of representation is the so-called Vowel trapezoid.

However, the vowel trapezoid refers to all vowel sounds that are in the International Phonetic Alphabet(IPA) occurrence. Therefore, the simplified representation in the form of the vowel triangle, which only takes German sounds into account and was presented in 1781 by the German doctor Christoph Friedrich Hellwag in the course of his doctoral thesis, seems more suitable for this article. Below is an explanation.



The graphic above shows a possible representation of the vowel triangle. The basis of the representation is the position of the tongue. At the a the tongue lies deep, at the tips, so i, u, ü it is higher and when speaking of e, ö and O it moves somewhere in between. The sounds on the left are emphasized in the front of the mouth, the sounds on the right, in the back area.

The graph also shows how wide the mouth is open, when these vowels are spoken. At the a the mouth is wide open, whereas it is at i, ü and u is restricted by the lips. Here, too, move e, ö and O at an average of the two extreme points.

Vocal: closed, half-closed, half-open, open

Furthermore, the vowel can be divided into closed, half-closed, half-open and open. These adjectives mean the opening of the mouth when articulating the respective vowels. Let's take a look at some examples of the possibilities below.

As closed are the vows in which the mouth is most closed when pronouncing. The short [ɪ] in suffered or the short [ʊ] in Addiction. This is followed by the middle vowels, which can be divided into half-closed and half-open. Half closed is for example the long [eː] in pray, half open is the short [ɛ] in beds.

Relatively far open however, is the mouth in the following examples. The angle of the jaw is large, the position of the tongue is deep when articulating. The short [a] in lamb or Comb as well as the long [aː] in lame, came or train be cited.

Note: The above examples for the individual mouth positions are of course only a selection. There are an incredible number of possibilities, which cannot all be covered in this article. However, it is possible to feel for yourself what kind of vowel a word belongs to if it is spoken slowly and the pronunciation is compared with the above examples.

Vowels and consonants

The main difference between consonants and vowels is that air can escape freely when vowels are articulated, whereas it is hindered when consonants are spoken. The speaking apparatus narrows or closes when articulating consonants.

The letters belong to the consonant letters of German B., C., D., F., G, H, J, K, L., M., N, P., Q, R., S., ß, T, V, W., X, Zwho the vowel letters A., Ä, E., I., O, Ö, U, Ü and Y face.

Note: It is important to separate between vowel letters and vowels and between consonant letters and consonants. Vowels and consonants basically mean a type of sound, the other terms denote the actual equivalent of such sounds in the alphabet.

Vowels and diphtongs

A diphthong is a double sound of two vowels that follow one another and are within a syllable. This means that the vowels are connected when speaking and not separated. In German, the diphtongs are the most common ouch, egg, ai, eu, uh and ui common.

Phonically, the dipthongs can certainly be viewed as vowels, but are actually just a combination of two vowels. It is crucial that the successive vowels are within one syllable. If one vowel forms the end of one syllable, whereas the next one already belongs to the following one, this is not a diphthong, but a hiatus. An example.


The Feuit burns brightly.

In the example above, the focus should be on the fire. In this word there is a diphthong, but also a hiatus. The word consists of two syllables, which have been highlighted in color: namely from Feu and he. The first syllable combines the vowels e and u, which are spoken together: a dipthong - a twofold made up of two vowels.

The u the first syllable and that e the next are separated by the syllable, even if they clearly follow one another and are therefore not linguistically linked to one another. They collide, as it were, with each other: this circumstance is called hiatus, also hiatus.

Overview: The most important things at a glance
  • Vowels are sounds that, when articulated, allow the speaker to freely escape. The air flow is not hindered, as it is with the consonants.
  • The vowels in German are made up of the letters a, e, i, O, u as well as the umlauts Ä, ö and ü educated. Furthermore, the diphthongs can be counted among the vowels.