AskDefine | Define triphthong

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  1. A monosyllabic vowel combination usually involving a quick but smooth movement from one vowel to another that passes over a third one.

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Extensive Definition

In phonetics, a triphthong (from Greek τρίφθογγος, "triphthongos", literally "with three sounds," or "with three tones") is a monosyllabic vowel combination involving a quick but smooth movement of the tongue from one vowel quality to another that passes over a third. While "pure" vowels, or monophthongs, are said to have one target tongue position, diphthongs have two, and triphthongs three.


Monosyllabic triphthongs stressed on the first element in Bernese German (a Swiss German dialect) and in Latvian:
  • [iə̯w] as in Gieu 'boy'
  • [yə̯w] as in Gfüeu 'feeling'
  • [uə̯w] as in Schueu 'school'
  • [yə̯j] as in Müej 'trouble'
In Latvian:
  • [iea] as in tie [ˈtiea] 'they'
  • [uoa] as in ko [ˈkuoa] 'what'
Monosyllabic triphthongs stressed on the second element in Spanish:
  • [wei̯] as in buey 'ox'
  • [wai̯] as in Uruguay
  • [jai̯] as in cambiáis ('you change')
  • [jei̯] as in cambiéis ('that you may change')
and in Standard Mandarin Chinese:
  • [u̯ai̯] as in 快 kuài 'fast'
  • [u̯ei̯] as in 回 huéi (pinyin spelling: huì) 'return'
  • [i̯aʊ̯] as in 票 piào 'ticket'
  • [i̯oʊ̯] as in 六 liòu (pinyin spelling: liù) 'six'
or in Romanian:
  • [jaw] as in iau 'I take'
  • [e̯aw] as in rîdeau 'they were laughing'
and in Vietnamese:
  • [ɨə̯ɪ̯] as in tươi 'fresh'
  • [ɨə̯ʊ̯] as in rượu 'alcohol'
  • [iə̯ʊ̯] as in tiêu 'pepper'
  • [uə̯ɪ̯] as in "nuôi 'to nourish'
  • [ui̯ʊ̯] as in khuỵu 'to fall on one's knees'
Monosyllabic triphthongs stressed on the third element in Romanian (semivocalic phonemes marked with reversed circumflex accents):
  • [e̯o̯a] as in pleoape 'eyelids'
  • [i̯o̯a] as in creioane'' 'pencils'
The following British Received Pronunciation vowel sequences are sometimes analyzed as triphthongs stressed on the first element (they are also analyzed as disyllabic sequences of a diphthong and a monophthong):
  • [aʊ̯ə] as in hour
  • [aɪ̯ə] as in fire
  • [eɪ̯ə] as in player
  • [ɔɪ̯ə] as in loyal, royal
  • [əʊ̯ə] as in lower
triphthong in Breton: Triftongenn
triphthong in German: Triphthong
triphthong in Spanish: Triptongo
triphthong in Esperanto: Triftongo
triphthong in French: Triphtongue
triphthong in Norwegian: Triftong
triphthong in Romanian: Triftong
triphthong in Finnish: Triftongi
triphthong in Swedish: Triftong
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