RE: Latin vowels?

From: Thomas Chan (
Date: Mon Sep 09 2002 - 13:27:10 EDT

On Mon, 9 Sep 2002, Marco Cimarosti wrote:

> Mark Davis wrote:
>> 4. List "Nonvowels" - ambiguous letters that are probably vowels:
>> U+0079 # (y) LATIN SMALL LETTER Y
> I would consider all these as vowels, although I know there is much room for
> errors:
> - Y is historically a vowel, and it still is mainly a vowel in all languages
> using it (including English and French: "système", "quickly"). In English
> and French, however, it can be a consonant (e.g., "yes"). In orthographies
> derived from English-based romanizations (e.g., Pinyin), it is always a
> consonant.

This vowel vs. consonant distinction is really unsatisfyingly simplistic.
It sounds like the (US) grade-school list of vowels: "a, e, i, o, U ...
and sometimes y". About Pinyin, some sources would disagree and set up a
zero initial, so that (initial) <y> is just a way to write <i> [i]
(clearly a vowel) occurring at the beginning of syllables. I know you
meant to give an example of <y> used as a glide or approximant (which
laymen would consider a "consonant"), and there are surely better
examples of it, but we can't always judge the origin or inspirations of
romanization systems, either (Pinyin comes up again--some people are still
unconvinced that it is free of Cyrillic or Albanian influences).

Thomas Chan

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