Why w and y are not vowels? [Was: Re: Latin vowels?]

From: Dan Kogai (dankogai@dan.co.jp)
Date: Mon Sep 09 2002 - 16:11:24 EDT

On Tuesday, Sep 10, 2002, at 01:56 Asia/Tokyo,
<jarkko.hietaniemi@nokia.com> wrote:

>> glides, and GOK what else. Of course, Mark was only differentiating
>> between "vowels" and "non-vowels," but that may not make things much
>> easier; I still wouldn't know where to put English "y".
> Off-hand, it seems that in English "y" mostly* is [j] if in initial
> position,
> otherwise it's either [i] or [ai]. So it's either one consonant, or
> one or two
> vowels...

Or diphthong...

As all English users know (with certain degrees of pain), you can't
tell how you pronounce a given letter until you see the whole word or
even the whole sentence. In that sense I doubt how relevant
to categorize alphabets between vowels and consonants -- unless you are
playing Wheel of Fortune (I would love to tantalize the TV director by
saying "It's bogus that I can't buy a 'Y'!" :).

And how about an 'e', a letter that most would believe 100% vowel? See
"Cate" vs. "Cat". That particular 'e' is not a vowel; it is not even
pronounced! It's a modifier that turns the previous vowel into
diphthong. And how about an 'h' in "hour"?

And how about an 'i' for "Linux"? A vowel ? or a diphthong?

I am no linguist but so far as I see, such languages are rather rare
that a given "letter" in that particular language is definitively and
unambiguously classified as a vowel or a consonant (one great rarity is
Korean). For most cases we can only tell 'vowelish' or

[Da][n] [Ko][ga][i], 5 Japanese Syllables, 3 English Syllables

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