Shwa Lesson 3: Long Vowels

In Lesson 1, you learned the short vowels. Now we're going to learn the English long vowels, which are sequences of two short vowels. In Shwa for English, we always write the second vowel as a semivowel, the consonant form of the vowel.

In English, we have some vowel sounds that start with one short vowel, then move up and forward to the i vowel (which we spell as semivowel y when used this way). For example, in the word boy, you start to say o as in bought, but then you end up saying y. Likewise, in the word by, you start to say a as in balm, but then you move to y. In fact, if you think about it, when you say the word bay, you start to say e as in bet (actually, a little higher) before continuing to y, and even in the word bee, you start to say i as in bit and then hold it. So all four sounds end in a y:

The short vertical line in the green and gray vowels is called the Long Mark. It's an abbreviation of the y letter that ends the other two long vowels shown. But it doesn't always replace a y - it replaces whichever semivowel matches the preceding vowel. So after a u , for instance, it would replace a w .

We also have some vowel sounds that start with one short vowel, then move up and back to the u vowel (which we spell as semivowel w when used this way). For example, in the word how, you start to say a as in ha, but then you end up saying w. Likewise, in the word hoe, you start to say o as in haul (actually, a little higher), but then you move to w. The word who is pronounced by holding the u sound. And the word you is pronounced starting from y and moving to w. So all four sounds end in a w:

Note that the fuchsia vowel, unlike all the others, has semivowels both before and after the main vowel.

Here's a quiz on just these long vowels:

   

In the USA, Canada, Scotland and Ireland, we have vowels that move towards the purple vowel in the center of the mouth. These vowels end in the semivowel.

In England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, this r at the end of long vowels is pronounced as a movement down towards the olive vowel from the British chart, and we use the semivowel. The same seven vowels are spelled        in those dialects.

Here's a quiz on just the r-vowels:

   

Wrapping it all up, here's a color vowel chart for all 24 vowels of the American dialect:

For each word at left, find a word with the same vowel in the columns above, and check the button below it. Don't worry that there are other choices in the same column - just pick the column with the one that matches.

bit
butte
bird
bet
boot
beard
but
boat
bared
bat
rabbit
buyer
pot
boy
bard
bought
bite
bower
book
bait
bored
bout
beat
boor




bought bit bat but

Congratulations! We're almost done.


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