Semivowels /y/ and /w/

English has two semivowels, /j/ and /w/. The sound /j/ (usually represented in English as the letter ‘y’). This subsection looks at semivowels thought it is a good place to explore the two different types of /w/.

What makes a sound a semivowel is that it starts out as a consonant and then blends into the following vowel to make a diphthong.  

  1. Yes [jɛs]
  2. Yeast [jist]
  3. Reunion [ɹijunjən]
  4. Cute [kʰjut]
  5. Dispute [dɪspjut]
  6. Refute [ɹɪfjut]
  7. Deyolk [di joʊk]
  8. Yellow [jɛloʊ]
  9. Yearn [jɝn]
  10. She yearned to see her cute boyfriend at the reunion. [ ʃijɝnd ˈtʰu ˈsi ˈhɝ ˈkʰjut ˈbɔɪfɹɛnd ˈæt ðə ɹijunjən]
  11. She hated yellow so she deyolked the egg. [ʃiheɪɾəd jɛloʊ soʊ ʃi joʊkt ðiː ɛɡ]
  12. He hadn’t refuted the point of their dispute yet. [hihædn̩t ɹɪfjuɾəd ðə pʰɔɪnt əv ðɚ dɪspjut jɛt]

/W/ is both a semi-vowel and a co-articulated consonant.

/W/ is co-articulated which means is it that there is more than one point of articulation, in this case, two. They are the lips and the roof of the mouth (pallet). It is a fricative, because the air is not stopped, it is restricted by lifting your tongue near to the roof of your mouth at the same time you round your lips.

Some example word words are (don’t be fooled by the spelling).

  1. One [wʌn]
  2. When [wɛn]
  3. Wait [weɪt]
  4. Wonder [wʌndɚ]
  5. Twist [twɪst]
  6. Pickwick [pʰɪkwɪk]
  7. Dwell [dwɛɫ]
  8. Sweat [swɛt]
  9. Queen [kwin]

Some Example Sentences

 

  1. Pickwick wondered when he would wait in the dwelling. [pʰɪˌkwɪkwʌndɚd wɛn hi wʊd weɪt ɪn ðə dwɛlɪŋ]
  2. He wondered if he would be hung twisting in the wind. [hi wʌndɚd ɪf hi wʊd bi hʌŋ twɪstɪŋ ɪn ðə wɪnd]
  3. They will wait if you wish but they will wonder why. [ðeɪwɪɫ weɪt  ɪf ju wɪʃ bʌt ðeɪ wɪɫ wʌndɚ waɪ]
  4. I wish she were willing to tweet twice as much. [aɪwɪʃ ʃi wɝ wɪlɪŋ tʰu twit twaɪs æz mʌtʃ]