I was recently thinking to myself, though I cant remember why, about the letter 'w' and its sound both alone and in conjunstion with other letters. It was then that I came to the conclusion that w is infact a vowel, or at least a semi-vowel or sub-vowel (and I do notmean in refference to the word 'cwm'). A vowel is defined as any sound produed with an open vocal tract, and when pronouncing lower case 'w' I could concience of no other sound being created than a "oo-uh" A combination of two vowels.

I then moved on to thinking about words containing 'w':

Why - oo-ie

When - oo-eh-n

well- oo-e-ll

(the oo as created by a 'w' is a fast sound and is not held as would be expected by looking at the phoenetic words.)

Hence I concluded that 'w' is not infact a conssonant but is a vowel along with AEIO and U. I have similar thought on the letter 'y'.

Tell me what you think

Chris Ovenden
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The problem with any category is that once you have established it you will always find something that doesn't quite fit. The Letters W and Y both have something of a vowel and something of a consonant about them. Fittingly they are known as semi-vowels.
Well, I have heard that Y is a vowel. I'm not so sure about W. Like other consonants, W can't produce a sound on its own; it needs to be next to a vowel in order to be pronounced. Of course, there are exceptions, like S and Z. But all vowels can be pronounced without any consonants. W clearly cannot.

The W sound isn't actually the "oo" sound, though. It's the sound that's created when you transition from an "oo" sound to another vowel, by moving the lips a certain way (similar to B, P, and M, but without placing the lips together). Try it. Even in words without a W, like Spanish agua, there's a W sound that occurs between the U and the A. If pronounced quickly, the U can sound like a W, making the word sound like it could be spelled agwa. So the W and the U or "oo" sound are very closely related.

To me, W is a special consonant that can only be created when preceded and followed by a vowel (like the short, almost silent "oo" in the word what), unlike other consonants that can occur with either a preceding or a following vowel.
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I don't know why this is in the controversial section!

Categories are man-made (OK, letters are too!); as soon as we set them up we find things that don't fit. The letters W and Y have characteristics of both vowels and consonants; that's why they are sometimes known as semi-vowels.
Sorry about the repetition above, the first time it didn't seem to have been posted.
Agreed. I didn't see your post until after I posted mine. But yeah, there isn't much to debate about here.
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W: I am addressing the nature of the consonance/vowel controversy in the teaching of poetry. In most cases, assonance has a tendency to slow a line down. Try to say Poe's ". . . weary, way-worn wanderer . . ." fast. So often, assonance holds the tone and holds the sound. Consonnance and alliteration tend to kick the sound away and move quickly to the next.

In this context, w works much more as a vowel. Sometimes h does too. That's why the three letters in why all seem equal candidates for the same job.

Also, there is a quiet in vowels as if they want to be absent and leave space open in words (except maybe i: it seems complicit in the speed of, say, itty bitty; I'm still working on i).

Anyway, thanks for the exposition.

>> Well, I have heard that Y is a vowel. <<

The reason you have heard that "y" is a vowel, is because it sometimes functions completely as a vowel: for example in the word easy /izi/ , it is simply pronounced /i/. In words such as "yet", it functions as a semivowel: /jEt/. "w" (except for perhaps words of Welsh origin) always functions as a semivowel.
There is a lot of confusion here.

First, we can say that when writing the symbol <y> may function as a vowel, as in words such as 'my'. <w> does not have this function in writing in English, although it does in Welsh.

When the sounds /j/ (the IPA symbol for the sound of <y> in yam) and /w/ are analysed phonetically (that is the way they are formed) it is difficult to think of them as other than short /i/ and /u/ respectively - they are formed without any obstruction of the vocal tract - which is the essence of a vowel.

When /j/ and /w/ are analysed phonologically (that is as part of continuous speech) they function as consonants, if we allow a rather loose definition of a consonant as a sound that only occurs in speech with a vowel.

So 'w' and 'y' are a bit tricky and that is why they are sometimes referred to as "semi-vowels", though it would be just as valid to call them "semi-consonants".
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