Let's look at the vowel and consonant sounds in the British English phonetic chart, shall we?
This is the British English IPA chart. It contains forty-four of the IPA symbols. Each symbol represents a distinct sound.
The chart is divided up into three main sections.
The top half of the chart shows the vowel sounds. There are 20 vowel sounds on the chart.
The bottom section of the chart shows the consonant sounds. There are 24 consonant sounds on the chart.
The top half of the chart, the vowel sounds, is further divided into two sections.
The left section consists of the pure vowel sounds, or monophthongs.
The right section consists of the diphthongs, or gliding vowels.
Now we will take a look at the three different sections in turn.
The top of the chart contains all of the twenty vowel sounds in British English.
The left-hand side of the vowels consists of twelve monophthongs and the right-hand side of the chart consists of eight diphthongs.
Monophthong or diphthong, a vowel is a sound which is produced with the whole vocal tract open so that there is no obstruction to the passage of air from the lungs and out of the nose and mouth.
There are five letters in the English alphabet representing vowels. These letters are...
a, e, i, o, u
So there are four times as many symbols on the British English IPA chart representing vowel sounds as there are vowel letters in the English alphabet.
There are twelve monophthongs and eight diphthongs.
The twenty vowel sounds form the peaks of syllables in spoken words.
But what is a syllable?
A syllable is a unit in a sequence of sounds made when speaking.
For example, in the word dog we have one syllable, dog. Dog is a monosyllable. It is a monosyllabic word.
Other words with two syllables are disyllabic like the word English. En glish
Trisyllabic words have three syllables. Syllable is a trisyllabic word. Sy lla ble
Polysyllabic words have more than three syllables, but polysyllabic can also refer to any word with more than one syllable. Polysyllabic is a polysyllabic word. It has five syllables. Po lly sy lla bic
You can see that all syllables contain a vowel sound supported by consonants.
Most syllables have an onset which consists of one or more consonants. English allows some multiconsonant onsets. Your language may not.
The onset is followed by the nucleus. The nucleus is normally made up of the vowel, and the nucleus forms the peak of the syllable.
The smallest possible syllable consists only of the nucleus. The monosyllabic words eye and ear both have only a nucleus. eye /ɑɪ/ ear /ɪə/
The nucleus can be followed by a coda -- this literally means tail.
A nucleus that is not followed by a coda is called an open or free syllable.
vowel, consonant vowel, consonant consonant vowel...
A nucleus that is followed by a coda is called a closed or checked syllable.
vowel consonant, consonant vowel consonant, consonant vowel consonant consonant...
English allows both closed and open syllables. Your own language probably does, too.
Though all syllables contain a vowel as their nucleus, the vowel may be a monophthong or a diphthong.
Remember that the monophthongs are the pure vowels and they are found in the top left part of the chart.
The word bed is monosyllabic because it contains just one syllable. It also has an onset, a nucleus and a coda.
The onset is the consonant sound /b/. The nucleus is the monophthong vowel /e/. The coda is the consonant sound /d/.
As I said earlier, the diphthongs are found in the top right part of the chart.
The word bike is monosyllabic because it contains only one syllable. It has an onset, a nucleus and a coda.
The onset is the consonant sound /b/. The nucleus is the diphthong vowel /ɑɪ/. The coda is the consonant sound /k/.
The word boy is monosyllabic because it contains only one syllable. It has an onset and a nucleus, but it does not have a coda.
The onset is the consonant sound /b/. The nucleus is the diphthong vowel /ɔɪ/. There is no coda.
More about diphthongs
Pure vowels, or monophthongs, found in the top left of the chart, are produced with the teeth, lips and tongue in the same position from the start of the sound to its finish.
When we produce the diphthong sound, however, the tongue moves between the start and the end of the sound.
The word diphthong comes from the Greek and means two sounds or tones. Diphthongs are also known as gliding vowels.
A diphthong is a vowel sound that starts with the teeth, lips and tongue in the position needed to produce one vowel sound and ends with the teeth, lips and tongue in the position needed to produce another vowel sound.
The twenty-four consonant sounds are found in the bottom half of the chart.
A consonant is a basic speech sound in which the breath is at least partially obstructed by the teeth, lips or tongue.