Sue Watson Education Expert Sue Watson is a developmental support counselor who has worked in public education since , specializing in developmental services, behavioral work, and special education. The words "boy," "because," "raw," and even "out" are examples of words that contain diphthongs. Diphthongs can be composed of one or two vowels. They are meant to serve as pronunciation guides, but you really only need to know them if you are looking up one of the words in a dictionary and wonder what these strange markings mean. The sound symbols can give you a simple way to distinguish between the eight diphthongs. A much simpler way to understand the basic pronunciations of the diphthongs, though, is to look at the example words in each of the eight diphthongs.
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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.
Diphthongs: The Sliding Vowels
Spanish diphthongs, triphthongs and hiatos (A2)