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On Friday, June 24, 2005, at 04:36 , Joe wrote:

> Henrik Theiling wrote:
>
>> Hi!
>>
>> Joe <[log in to unmask]> writes:
>>
>>> # 1 wrote:
>>>
>>>
>>>> In my dictionnary (a French dictionnary), at the word "triphtong"
>>>> (triphtongue) it says the normal stuff: a vowel that changes two
>>>> times but they give as example the english word "fire"

The description of a triphthong is correct, but the example is not a good 
one - because......

[snip]
>>> It's a triphthong in my British dialect.  [fAi@].  In American
>>> English, I believe it's more like [fAjr=].  Also, see 'hour' [aU@],
>>> IME.
>>>
>>
>> Doesn't it need to be one syllable to be a triphthong?

It most certainly does.

>> I never
>> thought Japanese 'blue/green' = 'aoi' was a triphthong, but it fact
>> three monophthongs.

I agree.

>>  I'd say that 'fire' and 'hour' should be two
>> syllables, no?  I perceive them as:
>>
>>    hour   [aU@]  /aU).@/   not /a_U_@/   (no CXS for a triphthong...)
>>    fire   [fAi@] /fAi).@/  not /fA_i_@/
>>

'hour' and 'fire' probably are disyllabic for you.

> I'd describe them both as monosyllables, at least the way I say them.

..and they are obviously monosyllables for Jo.

The simple fact that there is quite a bit of variation in the 
pronunciation of these words, even in Britain let alone the rest of the 
anglophone word.

As monosyllables they are pronounced either with a triphthong /aU@/ and 
/faI@/ or, in those areas where /r/ is trilled, as /aUr/ and /faIr/. One 
also comes across the pronunciations [A:] and [fA:].

As disyllables they may be /aU).@/ and /faI).@/ as given above. In the 
Cardiff & Newport areas of south-east Wales they are ['@u).w@] and 
['f@I).j@] - I believe similar pronunciations where the second syllable 
clearly begins with a semi-vowel or approximant occur elsewhere.

I have no doubt there are other variants in Britain.

I say English _fire_ is a bad example of a triphthong because:
(a) the word does not contain a triphthong in all anglophone 
pronunciations;
(b) those that do pronounce a triphthong, do not pronounce the more 
typical type of triphthong.

The triphthong, when used, in _fire_ is a falling one; the vowel is /a/ 
(or some similar low, central vowel) then the tongue glides towards [I] 
before moving to the central [@] position. Triphthongs more typically IMO 
begin are a combo of rising diphthong & falling diphthongs and better 
examples are Italian words like: _suoi_ "his/ her" (masc.pl.) and _miei_ 
"my" (masc.pl.)

Ray
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