1. Vowel Sounds Introduction

Unlike with consonants, which we will be looking at in another part of this course, the tongue does not cause a significant obstruction, so the air flows more freely. The position of the tongue and the shape of the lips are very important. 


We will look at creating each vowel sound individually in a moment, but first let’s look at how we can group sets of vowels.


Firstly, we have the monophthongs. These are vowel sounds with a single auditory quality and articulation. You will hear that some are short and some are long. The colon mark (:) indicates a long vowel sound. This is very important - remember this as it will help you to effectively read transcriptions later on in the course. 

The monophthongs are:

/i:/ as in meet (in some dialects, this is a diphthong, but for simplification we will keep it categorised as a monophthong)

/ɪ/ as in lip

/ʊ/ as un foot

/u:/ as in boot (in some dialects, this is a diphthong but for simplification we will keep it categorised as a monophthong)

/e/ as in met

/ə/ as in better (the last syllable)

/ɜ:/ as in word

/ɔː/ as in more

/æ/ as in map

/ʌ/ as in love

/a:/ as in bar

/ɒ/ as in hot



Then we have the diphthongs.  These are vowel sounds which include a change in auditory quality and articulation.

These are the vowel sounds that my students really seem to struggle with as many of them are very different to the sounds in their own language. 


/ɪə/ as in here

/eɪ/ as in face

/ʊə/ as in jury

/ɔɪ/ as in toy

/əʊ/ as in no

/eə/ as in hair

/aɪ/ as in my

/aʊ/ as in now