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Vowels

Vowels are speech sounds that (a) do not involve an obstruction or near obstruction to an egressive airflow through the oral cavity (thus unlike obstruent consonants) and (b) constitute a syllabic nucleus (thus unlike sonorant consonants). However, this description combines phonetic characteristics (Part 1) with phonological ones (Part 2). Therefore, some researchers prefer to use the term vocoid (as opposed to contoid) for the purely phonetic definition and vowel for the phonological one. Thus, [j] would be a vocoid, but not a vowel, while syllabic nasals would arguably be contoids phonetically (as they involve a complete obstruction in the oral cavity) pbut phonologically vowels. In this entry, however, we retain the traditional term vowel to cover speech sounds that meet both points (a) and ...

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