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View Diary: Origins of English: The Great Vowel Shift (148 comments)

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  •  a simple way to judge vowel height (18+ / 0-)

    is to place the back of your hand under your jaw as you say the different vowels and note it rises or falls.

    The highest front vowel is the long E sound which is often spelled i in many languages, think amigo.  The international phonetic alphabet symbol for it is i.

    the long I sound as in mice is actually a diphthong, combining ah plus the long e  ai  Try saying a long i without moving your tongue--you can't!  You will feel your hand under your jaw move up slightly as you say it as it moves to the high i sound (long e).  The long A is also slightly dipthongized as ei rising from the A to the i position.  The long O is slightly diphthongized as ou rising from the O to the higher u position.  The long E is a pure vowel, not dipthong-ized.

    The highest back vowel is u (as in tune or moon).

    You can position all the other vowels from those using the hand-to-jaw technique to determine if they are high, mid or low vowels.  For high vowels, your hand will be higher than for lower vowels.  

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