Vowel length

In linguistics, vowel length is the perceived duration of a vowel sound. Often the chroneme, or the "longness", acts like a consonant, and may have arisen from one etymologically, such as in Australian English. While not distinctive in most other dialects of English, vowel length is an important phonemic factor in many other languages, for instance in Arabic, Finnish, Fijian, Kannada, Japanese, Old English, Scottish Gaelic and Vietnamese. It plays a phonetic role in the majority of dialects of British English and is said to be phonemic in a few other dialects, such as Australian English, South African English and New Zealand English. It also plays a lesser phonetic role in Cantonese, unlike other varieties of Chinese.

Many languages do not distinguish vowel length phonemically. Those that do usually distinguish between short vowels and long vowels. A very few languages distinguish three phonemic vowel lengths, such as Luiseño and Mixe. However, some languages with two vowel lengths also have words in which long vowels appear adjacent to other short or long vowels of the same type: Japanese hōō "phoenix" or Ancient Greek ἀάατος [a.áː.a.tos][1] "inviolable". Some languages that do not ordinarily have phonemic vowel length but permit vowel hiatus may similarly exhibit sequences of identical vowel phonemes that yield phonetically long vowels, such as Georgian გააადვილებ [ɡa.a.ad.vil.eb] "you will facilitate it".

IPA vowel length
◌ː ◌ˑ ◌̆
IPA number503 or 504 or 505
Entity (decimal)ː​ˑ​̆
Unicode (hex)U+02D0 or U+02D1 or U+0306

Related features

Stress is often reinforced by allophonic vowel length, especially when it is lexical. For example, French long vowels are always in stressed syllables. Finnish, a language with two phonemic lengths, indicates the stress by adding allophonic length, which gives four distinctive lengths and five physical lengths: short and long stressed vowels, short and long unstressed vowels, and a half-long vowel, which is a short vowel found in a syllable immediately preceded by a stressed short vowel: i-so.

Among the languages with distinctive vowel length, there are some in which it may occur only in stressed syllables, such as in Alemannic German, Scottish Gaelic and Egyptian Arabic. In languages such as Czech, Finnish, some Irish dialects and Classical Latin, vowel length is distinctive also in unstressed syllables.

In some languages, vowel length is sometimes better analyzed as a sequence of two identical vowels. In Finnic languages, such as Finnish, the simplest example follows from consonant gradation: haka → haan. In some cases, it is caused by a following chroneme, which is etymologically a consonant: jää "ice" ← Proto-Uralic *jäŋe. In non-initial syllables, it is ambiguous if long vowels are vowel clusters; poems written in the Kalevala meter often syllabicate between the vowels, and an (etymologically original) intervocalic -h- is seen in that and some modern dialects (taivaan vs. taivahan "of the sky"). Morphological treatment of diphthongs is essentially similar to long vowels. Some old Finnish long vowels have developed into diphthongs, but successive layers of borrowing have introduced the same long vowels again so the diphthong and the long vowel now again contrast (nuotti "musical note" vs. nootti "diplomatic note").

In Japanese, most long vowels are the results of the phonetic change of diphthongs; au and ou became ō, iu became , eu became , and now ei is becoming ē. The change also occurred after the loss of intervocalic phoneme /h/. For example, modern Kyōto (Kyoto) has undergone a shift: /kjauto/ → /kjoːto/. Another example is shōnen (boy): /seuneɴ/ → /sjoːneɴ/ [ɕoːneɴ].

Phonemic vowel length

Many languages make a phonemic distinction between long and short vowels: Arabic, Sanskrit, Japanese, Biblical Hebrew, Scottish Gaelic, Finnish, Hungarian, Kannada, etc.

Long vowels may or may not be analyzed as separate phonemes. In Latin and Hungarian, long vowels are analyzed as separate phonemes from short vowels, which doubles the number of vowel phonemes.

Latin vowels
  Front Central Back
short long short long short long
High /ɪ/ /iː/   /ʊ/ /uː/
Mid /ɛ/ /eː/   /ɔ/ /oː/
Low   /a/ /aː/  

Vowel length contrasts with more than two phonemic levels are rare, and several hypothesized cases of three-level vowel length can be analysed without postulating this typologically unusual configuration.[2] Estonian has three distinctive lengths, but the third is suprasegmental, as it has developed from the allophonic variation caused by now-deleted grammatical markers. For example, half-long 'aa' in saada comes from the agglutination *saata+ka "send+(imperative)", and the overlong 'aa' in saada comes from *saa+ta "get+(infinitive)". As for languages that have three lengths, independent of vowel quality or syllable structure, these include Dinka, Mixe, Yavapai and Wichita. An example from Mixe is [poʃ] "guava", [poˑʃ] "spider", [poːʃ] "knot". In Dinka the longest vowels are three moras long, and so are best analyzed as overlong /oːː/ etc.

Four-way distinctions have been claimed, but these are actually long-short distinctions on adjacent syllables. For example, in kiKamba, there is [ko.ko.na], [kóó.ma̋], [ko.óma̋], [nétónubáné.éetɛ̂] "hit", "dry", "bite", "we have chosen for everyone and are still choosing".

In English

The vowels of Received Pronunciation are commonly divided into short and long phonemes. The short vowels are /ɪ/ (as in kit), /ʊ/ (as in foot), /ɛ/ (as in dress), /ʌ/ (as in strut), /æ/ (as in trap), /ɒ/ (as in lot), and /ə/ (as in the first syllable of ago and in the second of sofa). The long vowels are /iː/ (as in fleece), /uː/ (as in goose), /ɜː/ (as in nurse), /ɔː/ as in north and thought, and /ɑː/ (as in father and start). While a different degree of length is present, there are also differences in the quality (lax vs tense) of these vowels. In General American, only tenseness is usually distinguished and vowels are transcribed without the length mark.

Allophonic vowel length

In most varieties of English, for instance Received Pronunciation and General American, there is allophonic variation in vowel length: vowels are shortened before fortis consonants but have full length in all other contexts (i.e. word-finally, before lenis consonants, nasals and /l/).[3] The process is known as pre-fortis clipping. Thus the vowel in bad /bæd/ is of normal length but the vowel in bat /bæt/ is shortened. Also compare neat /niːt/ with need /niːd/. The clipping effect can result in phonologically long vowels becoming shorter than phonologically short vowels when they occur in pre-fortis position.

Contrastive vowel length

In Australian English, there is contrastive vowel length in closed syllables between long and short /e æ a/ and sometimes /ɪ/. The following can be minimal pairs of length for many speakers:

[bɪd] bid vs [bɪːd] beard
[feɹi] ferry vs [feːɹi] fairy
[mænɪŋ] Manning the last name vs [mæːnɪŋ] manning

"Long" and "short" vowels in orthography

In English orthography, letters representing vowels in words of the form CVC and CVCe are traditionally called "long" and "short". A vowel letter is called "long" if it's pronounced the same as in the letter's name and "short" otherwise[4]. This is commonly used for educational purposes when teaching children how to read; however, this system does not cover all vowels of English and the terminology is not linguistic. In phonetic transcription, "long" vowels may be marked with a macron; for example, /ā/ may be used to transcribe IPA /eɪ/. This is sometimes used in dictionaries, most notably in Merriam-Webster[5] (see Pronunciation respelling for English for more).

The phonetic values of "long" and "short" vowels are represented in the table below:

Letter "short" "long" example
A a /æ/ /eɪ/ mat / mate
E e /ɛ/ /iː/ pet / Pete
I i /ɪ/ /aɪ/ twin / twine
O o /ɒ/ /oʊ/ not / note
U u /ʌ/ /juː/ cub / cube


Vowel length may often be traced to assimilation. In Australian English, the second element [ə] of a diphthong [eə] has assimilated to the preceding vowel, giving the pronunciation of bared as [beːd], creating a contrast with the short vowel in bed [bed].

Another common source is the vocalization of a consonant such as the voiced velar fricative [ɣ] or voiced palatal fricative, e.g. Finnish illative case, or even an approximant, as the English 'r'. A historically-important example is the laryngeal theory, which states that long vowels in the Indo-European languages were formed from short vowels, followed by any one of the several "laryngeal" sounds of Proto-Indo-European (conventionally written h1, h2 and h3). When a laryngeal sound followed a vowel, it was later lost in most Indo-European languages, and the preceding vowel became long. However, Proto-Indo-European had long vowels of other origins as well, usually as the result of older sound changes, such as Szemerényi's law and Stang's law.

Vowel length may also have arisen as an allophonic quality of a single vowel phoneme, which may have then become split in two phonemes. For example, the Australian English phoneme /æː/ was created by the incomplete application of a rule extending /æ/ before certain voiced consonants, a phenomenon known as the bad–lad split. An alternative pathway to the phonemicization of allophonic vowel length is the shift of a vowel of a formerly-different quality to become the short counterpart of a vowel pair. That too is exemplified by Australian English, whose contrast between /a/ (as in duck) and /aː/ (as in dark) was brought about by a lowering of the earlier /ʌ/.

Estonian, a Finnic language, has a rare phenomenon in which allophonic length variation has become phonemic after the deletion of the suffixes causing the allophony. Estonian had already inherited two vowel lengths from Proto-Finnic, but a third one was then introduced. For example, the Finnic imperative marker *-k caused the preceding vowels to be articulated shorter. After the deletion of the marker, the allophonic length became phonemic, as shown in the example above.

Notations in the Latin alphabet


In the International Phonetic Alphabet the sign ː (not a colon, but two triangles facing each other in an hourglass shape; Unicode U+02D0) is used for both vowel and consonant length. This may be doubled for an extra-long sound, or the top half (ˑ) used to indicate a sound is "half long". A breve is used to mark an extra-short vowel or consonant.

Estonian has a three-way phonemic contrast:

saada [saːːda] "to get" (overlong)
saada [saːda] "send!" (long)
sada [sada] "hundred" (short)

Although not phonemic, the distinction can also be illustrated in certain accents of English:

bead [biːd]
beat [biˑt]
bid [bɪˑd]
bit [bɪt]


Additional letters

  • Vowel doubling, used consistently in Estonian, Finnish, Somali, Lombard and in closed syllables in Dutch, Afrikaans, and West Frisian. Example: Finnish tuuli /ˈtuːli/ 'wind' vs. tuli /ˈtuli/ 'fire'.
    • Estonian also has a rare "overlong" vowel length but does not distinguish it from the normal long vowel in writing, as they are distinguishable by context; see the example below.
  • Consonant doubling after short vowels is very common in Swedish and other Germanic languages, including English. The system is somewhat inconsistent, especially in loanwords, around consonant clusters and with word-final nasal consonants. Examples:
Consistent use: byta /²byːta/ 'to change' vs bytta /²bʏtːa/ 'tub' and koma /²koːma/ 'coma' vs komma /²kɔmɑː/ 'to come'
Inconsistent use: fält /ˈfɛlt/ 'a field' and kam /ˈkamː/ 'a comb' (but the verb 'to comb' is kamma)
  • Classical Milanese orthography uses consonant doubling in closed short syllables, e.g., lenguagg 'language' and pubblegh 'public'.[7]
  • ie is used to mark the long /iː/ sound in German because of to the preservation and the generalization of a historic ie spelling, which originally represented the sound /iə̯/. In Low German, a following e letter lengthens other vowels as well, e.g., in the name Kues /kuːs/.
  • A following h is frequently used in German and older Swedish spelling, e.g., German Zahn [tsaːn] 'tooth'.
  • In Czech, the additional letter ů is used for the long U sound, and the character is known as a kroužek, e.g., kůň "horse". (It actually developed from the ligature "uo", which noted the diphthong /uo/ until it shifted to /uː/.)

Other signs

  • Colon, ⟨꞉⟩, from Americanist phonetic notation, and used in orthographies based on it. The triangular color ⟨ː⟩ in the International Phonetic Alphabet derives from this.
  • Middot or half-colon, ⟨ꞏ⟩, a more common variant in the Americanist tradition, also used in language orthographies.
  • Saltillo (straight apostrophe), used in Miꞌkmaq, as evidenced by the name itself. This is the convention of the Listuguj orthography (Miꞌgmaq), and a common substitution for the acute accent (Míkmaq) of the Francis-Smith orthography.

No distinction

Some languages make no distinction in writing. This is particularly the case with ancient languages such as Latin and Old English. Modern edited texts often use macrons with long vowels, however. Australian English does not distinguish the vowels /æ/ from /æː/ in spelling, with words like 'span' or 'can' having different pronunciations depending on meaning.

Notations in other writing systems

In non-Latin writing systems, a variety of mechanisms have also evolved.

  • In abjads derived from the Aramaic alphabet, notably Arabic and Hebrew, long vowels are written with consonant letters (mostly approximant consonant letters) in a process called mater lectionis e.g. in Modern Arabic the long vowel /aː/ is represented by the letter ا (Alif), the vowels /uː/ and /oː/ are represented by و (wāw), and the vowels /iː/ and /eː/ are represented by ي (yāʼ), while short vowels are typically omitted entirely. Most of these scripts also have optional diacritics that can be used to mark short vowels when needed.
  • In South-Asian abugidas, such as Devanagari or the Thai alphabet, there are different vowel signs for short and long vowels.
  • Ancient Greek also had distinct vowel signs, but only for some long vowels; the vowel letters η (eta) and ω (omega) originally represented long forms of the vowels represented by the letters ε (epsilon, literally "bare e") and ο (omicron – literally "small o", by contrast with omega or "large o"). The other vowel letters of Ancient Greek, α (alpha), ι (iota) and υ (upsilon), could represent either short or long vowel phones.
  • In the Japanese hiragana syllabary, long vowels are usually indicated by adding a vowel character after. For vowels /aː/, /iː/, and /uː/, the corresponding independent vowel is added. Thus: (a), おかあさん, "okaasan", mother; (i), にいがた "Niigata", city in northern Japan (usually 新潟, in kanji); (u), りゅう "ryuu" (usu. ), dragon. The mid-vowels /eː/ and /oː/ may be written with (e) (rare) (ねえさん (姉さん), neesan, "elder sister") and (o) [おおきい (usu 大きい), ookii, big], or with (i) (めいれい (命令), "meirei", command/order) and (u) (おうさま (王様), ousama, "king") depending on etymological, morphological, and historic grounds.
    • Most long vowels in the katakana syllabary are written with a special bar symbol (vertical in vertical writing), called a chōon, as in メーカー mēkā "maker" instead of メカ meka "mecha". However, some long vowels are written with additional vowel characters, as with hiragana, with the distinction being orthographically significant.
  • In the Korean Hangul alphabet, vowel length is not distinguished in normal writing. Some dictionaries use a double dot, ⟨:⟩, for example 무: "Daikon radish".
  • In the Classic Maya script, also based on syllabic characters, long vowels in monosyllabic roots were generally written with word-final syllabic signs ending in the vowel -i rather than an echo-vowel. Hence, chaach "basket", with a long vowel, was written as cha-chi (compare chan "sky", with a short vowel, written as cha-na). If the nucleus of the syllable was itself i, however, the word-final vowel for indicating length was -a: tziik- "to count; to honour, to sanctify" was written as tzi-ka (compare sitz' "appetite", written as si-tz'i).

See also


  1. ^ Liddell, H. G., and R. Scott (1996). A Greek-English Lexicon (revised 9th ed. with supplement). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p.1
  2. ^ Odden, David (2011). The Representation of Vowel Length. In Marc van Oostendorp, Colin J. Ewen, Elizabeth Hume, & Keren Rice (eds.) The Blackwell Companion to Phonology. Wiley-Blackwell, 465-490.
  3. ^ Collins, Beverley; Mees, Inger (2013). Practical Phonetics and Phonology (3rd ed.). Routledge. p. 58. ISBN 9780415506496.
  4. ^ "Part 3: Reading: Foundational Skills". www.mheonline.com. McGraw-Hill Education. Retrieved 2018-10-24.
  5. ^ "Guide to Pronunciation" (PDF). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  6. ^ "OB-UGRIC LANGUAGES: CONCEPTUAL STRUCTURES, LEXICON, CONSTRUCTIONS, CATEGORIES TRANSLITERATION TABLES FOR NORTHERN MANSI : Counterparts of Cyrillic, FUT Counterparts of Cyrillic, FUT Cyrillic, FUT and IPA characters and IPA characters and IPA characters for Northern Mansi" (PDF). Babel.gwi.uni-muenchen.de. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  7. ^ Carlo Porta on the Italian Wikisource

External links

Bahnar language

The Bahnar language is a Central Bahnaric language. It has nine vowel qualities and phonemic vowel length.

Bengali phonology

The Bengali phonology is, like that of its neighbouring Eastern Indo-Aryan languages, characterised by a wide variety of diphthongs and inherent back vowel (both /o/ and /ɔ/), and the /ɔ/ is inherited from Sanskrit, instead of the schwa used by almost all other branches of the Indo-Aryan language family.

Bernese German phonology

This article is about the phonology of Bernese German. It deals with current phonology and phonetics, including geographical variants. Like other High Alemannic varieties, it has a two-way contrast in plosives and fricatives that is not based on voicing, but on length. The absence of voice in plosives and fricatives is typical for all High German varieties, but many of them have no two-way contrast due to general lenition.

Double acute accent

The double acute accent ( ˝ ) is a diacritic mark of the Latin script. It is used primarily in written Hungarian, and consequently is sometimes referred to by typographers as Hungarumlaut. The signs formed with a regular umlaut are letters in their own right in the Hungarian alphabet—for instance, they are separate letters for the purpose of collation. Letters with the double acute, however, are considered variants of their equivalents with the umlaut, being thought of as having both an umlaut and an acute accent.


In phonetics and phonology, gemination (), or consonant lengthening, is an articulation of a consonant for a longer period of time than that of a single instance of the same type of consonant. It is distinct from stress. Gemination literally means "twinning" and comes from the same Latin root as "Gemini".

Consonant length is a distinctive feature in certain languages, such as Arabic, Berber, Maltese, Catalan, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Classical Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu. Other languages, such as the English language, do not have phonemic consonant geminates. Vowel length is distinctive in more languages than consonant length is.Consonant gemination and vowel length are two different phenomena in languages like Arabic, Japanese, Finnish and Estonian; however, in languages like Italian, Norwegian and Swedish, vowel length and consonant length are interdependent.


Hiriq (Hebrew: חִירִיק ḥiriq IPA: [χiˈʁik]) is a Hebrew niqqud vowel sign represented by a single dot ⟨ ִ ⟩ underneath the letter. In Modern Hebrew, it indicates the phoneme /i/ which is similar to the "ee" sound in the English word deep and is transliterated with "i". In Yiddish, it indicates the phoneme /ɪ/ which is the same as the "i" sound in the English word skip and is transliterated with "i".

I with macron (Cyrillic)

I with macron (Ӣ ӣ; italics: Ӣ ӣ) is a letter of the Cyrillic script. In the Tajik language, it represents a stressed close front unrounded vowel /i/ at the end of a word. In the Kildin Sami language on the Kola Peninsula and the Mansi language in western Siberia, it represents long /iː/. In those languages, vowel length is distinctive, and the macron marks the long version of vowels.

I with macron is also used in the Aleut language (Bering dialect). It is the sixteenth letter of the modern Aleut alphabet.

Icelandic phonology

Unlike many languages, Icelandic has only very minor dialectal differences in sounds. The language has both monophthongs and diphthongs, and many consonants can be voiced or unvoiced.

Icelandic has an aspiration contrast between plosives, rather than a voicing contrast, similar to Standard Chinese. Preaspirated voiceless stops are also common. However, fricative and sonorant consonant phonemes exhibit regular contrasts in voice, including in nasals (rare in the world's languages). Additionally, length is contrastive for consonants, but not vowels. In Icelandic, the main stress is always on the first syllable.


Kamatz or qamatz (Hebrew: קָמַץ, IPA: [kaˈmats]) is a Hebrew niqqud (vowel) sign represented by two perpendicular lines (looking like an uppercase T) ⟨ ָ ⟩ underneath a letter. In modern Hebrew (Sephardi/Israeli), it usually indicates the phoneme /a/ which is close to the "a" sound in the English word far and is transliterated as a . In these cases, its sound is identical to the sound of pataḥ  in modern Hebrew. In a minority of cases it indicates the phoneme /o/, equal to the sound of ḥolam.

Kunza language

Kunza a.k.a. Cunza, also known as Likanantaí, Lipe, Ulipe, or Atacameño, is an extinct language isolate once spoken in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile and southern Perú (specifically in Peine, Socaire (Salar de Atacama), and Caspana) by the Lickan-antay people, who have since shifted to Spanish.

The last Kunza speaker was found in 1949, although some have been found since according to anthropologists. There are 2,000 Atacameños (W. Adelaar).

Kaufman (1990) found a proposed connection between Kunza and the likewise unclassified Kapixaná to be plausible; however, when that language was more fully described in 2004, it turned out to be an isolate.

Kunza contains a typical 5-vowel inventory: /a, e, i, o, u/. All vowels have long counterparts, and Kunza displays contrastive vowel length.

Macedonian phonology

This article discusses the phonological system of Standard Macedonian (unless otherwise noted) based on the Prilep-Bitola dialect. For discussion of other dialects, see Macedonian dialects. Macedonian possesses five vowels, one semivowel, three liquid consonants, three nasal stops, three pairs of fricatives, two pairs of affricates, a non-paired voiceless fricative, nine pairs of voiced and unvoiced consonants and four pairs of stops.

Macron (diacritic)

A macron () is a diacritical mark: it is a straight bar (¯) placed above a letter, usually a vowel. Its name derives from Greek, Modern μακρόν (makrón), meaning 'long', since it was originally used to mark long or heavy syllables in Greco-Roman metrics. It now more often marks a long vowel. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, the macron is used to indicate a mid-tone; the sign for a long vowel is instead a modified triangular colon ⟨ː⟩.

The opposite is the breve ⟨˘⟩, which marks a short or light syllable or a short vowel.

Modern Hebrew phonology

Modern Hebrew is phonetically simpler than Biblical Hebrew and has fewer phonemes, but it is phonologically more complex. It has 25 to 27 consonants and 5 to 10 vowels, depending on the speaker and the analysis.

Hebrew has been used primarily for liturgical, literary, and scholarly purposes for most of the past two millennia. As a consequence, its pronunciation was strongly influenced by the vernacular of individual Jewish communities. With the revival of Hebrew as a native language, and especially with the establishment of Israel, the pronunciation of the modern language rapidly coalesced.

The two main accents of modern Hebrew are Oriental and Non-Oriental. Oriental Hebrew was chosen as the preferred accent for Israel by the Academy of the Hebrew Language, but has since declined in popularity. The description in this article follows the language as it is pronounced by native Israeli speakers of the younger generations.

Nahuatl orthography

Historically Nahuatl has been written with greatly differing orthographies because no institution has governed its spelling. This is still true for the classical dialect (Classical Nahuatl) which is a dead language documented in many historical sources and literature, but spelling of the modern dialects of Nahuatl is governed by the Mexican Secretaría de Educación Publica (federal education ministry), although they do have some difficulties in implementing their orthographic standards in the Nahuatl communities.

This article describes and compares some of the different transcription systems of the Nahuatl phonological system that have been used.

Naueti language

Naueti (also written as Nauoti, Nauete and Nauweti but ultimately from Naueti nau eti 'now') is an Austronesian language spoken by 15,045 (census 2010) in the subdistricts of Uato-Lari, Uatucarbau and Baguia in southeastern East Timor. 1,062 Naueti are living in Baguia.

It is closely related to Waima'a, Kairui and Midiki, three other Austronesian languages spoken on Timor. The Australian linguist Geoffrey Hull coined the acronym Kawaimina to refer to them as a dialect continuum but it is preferable to understand them as separate languages. The Dutch linguist Aone Van Engelenhoven applies the label Eastern Extra-Ramelaic languages.

Structurally, it is a highly isolating Malayo-Polynesian language. However, its vocabulary is to some extent Papuan, due to contact with Makasae, which surrounds and cohabits with Naueti. There exist at least two dialects of Naueti, the Uatolari and the Uatocarbau-Baguia Naueti, the latter being distinguishable through some vocabulary but also through the [g] allophone of /w/ before rounded vowels (e.g. /wono/ 'war' is pronounced [wono] in Uatolari but [gono] in Uatocarbau and Baguia).

Just like its low-level related languages, Naueti has aspirated stops and voiceless sonorants but shows preglottalized phonemes instead of ejectives and has no preglottalized counterpart of Waima'a and Midiki /s'/. In contrast, Naueti has a voiceless rhotic that is missing in the other inventories.

The vowel system is straightforward with vowels /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/. There is no distinctive vowel length, as vowel sequences are heterosyllabic. Stress generally falls on the penultimate syllable, with very few native exceptions. Loanwords preserve their original stress.


Pataḥ (Hebrew: פַּתַח pataḥ, IPA: [paˈtaħ], Biblical Hebrew: paṯaḥ ) is a Hebrew niqqud vowel sign represented by a horizontal line ⟨ אַ ⟩ underneath a letter. In modern Hebrew, it indicates the phoneme /a/ which is close to the "a" sound in the English word far and is transliterated as an a.

In Modern Hebrew, a pataḥ makes the same sound as a qamatz, as does the ḥaṭaf pataḥ (Hebrew: חֲטַף פַּתַח IPA: [ħaˈtaf paˈtaħ], "reduced pataḥ"). The reduced (or ḥaṭaf) niqqud exist for pataḥ, qamatz, and segol which contain a shva next to it.

Scottish vowel length rule

The Scottish vowel length rule (also known as Aitken's law after A. J. Aitken, the Scottish linguist who formulated it) describes how vowel length in Scots, Scottish English, and, to some extent, Mid-Ulster English is conditioned by the phonetic environment of the target vowel.

Certain vowels are long before /r/, voiced fricatives or a morpheme boundary. Also, vowels in word-final open syllables are long.


Segol (Hebrew: סֶגּוֹל IPA: [sɛˈɡol]) is a Hebrew niqqud vowel sign that is represented by three dots forming an upside down equilateral triangle "ֶ ". As such, it resembles an upside down therefore sign (a because sign) underneath a letter. In modern Hebrew, it indicates the phoneme /e/ which is similar to "e" in the English word sound in sell and is transliterated as an e.

In Modern Hebrew, segol does the Hataf Segol (Hebrew: חֲטַף סֶגּוֹל IPA: [ħaˈtaf sɛˈɡol], "Reduced Segol"). The reduced (or ħataf) niqqud exist for segol, patah, and kamatz which contain a shva next to it.

Stress (linguistics)

In linguistics, and particularly phonology, stress or accent is relative emphasis or prominence given to a certain syllable in a word, or to a certain word in a phrase or sentence. This emphasis is typically caused by such properties as increased loudness and vowel length, full articulation of the vowel, and changes in pitch. The terms stress and accent are often used synonymously in this context, but they are sometimes distinguished. For example, when emphasis is produced through pitch alone, it is called pitch accent, and when produced through length alone, it is called quantitative accent. When caused by a combination of various intensified properties, it is called stress accent or dynamic accent; English uses what is called variable stress accent.

Since stress can be realised through a wide range of phonetic properties, such as loudness, vowel length, and pitch, which are also used for other linguistic functions, it is difficult to define stress solely phonetically.

The stress placed on syllables within words is called word stress or lexical stress. Some languages have fixed stress, meaning that the stress on virtually any multisyllable word falls on a particular syllable, such as the penultimate (e.g. Polish) or the first. Other languages, like English and Russian, have variable stress, where the position of stress in a word is not predictable in that way. Sometimes more than one level of stress, such as primary stress and secondary stress, may be identified. However, some languages, such as French and Mandarin, are sometimes analyzed as lacking lexical stress entirely.

The stress placed on words within sentences is called sentence stress or prosodic stress. This is one of the three components of prosody, along with rhythm and intonation. It includes phrasal stress (the default emphasis of certain words within phrases or clauses), and contrastive stress (used to highlight an item − a word, or occasionally just part of a word − that is given particular focus).


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