A vocal, also self-defined, is defined as a sound, in whose articulation, ie, the air, can escape unhindered from the mouth, which is why the speech apparatus does not narrow or close, as is the case with the so-called consonants. The German vowel letters include a, e, i, o, u and the umlauts. Diphthongs (au, ei, ui) belong to the vowels.
The term is derived from the Latin vocalis [littera], which can be translated with a sounding [letter]. The translation clarifies what is at stake: namely, a letter that sounds and thus stands for a sound. It is clearer if we try the example by means of an example and illustrate it by means of some language exercises. Consider the following vowel example.
The monkey drinks the water.
In the example above, the vowels and consonants were highlighted in color. If we speak the sentence loudly and clearly and pay attention to what happens in the oral cavity, we may notice differences between the individual sounds. While the air flows in speech from the mouth of the speaker, it passes through the whole speech apparatus. This air stream is called the phonation stream.
If the above theorem is now pronounced loud and clear, it is noticeable that the air can escape unhindered by the vowels (a, e, i, o, u). Thus, it is not hampered by escaping or pressed against certain parts of the oral cavity in order to produce the respective sound. This circumstance is called a vowel.
Vowel triangle to represent the pronunciation
Vowels therefore differ from the consonants due to the free airflow. However, the individual vowels can also be divided. This is about the position of the tongue and the opening of the mouth when speaking. One of the representations is the so-called vowel trapezoid.
However, the vowel trapezoid refers to all the vowels that occur in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For this reason, the simplified presentation in the form of the vocal triangle, which only takes German sounds into account and was presented by the German physician Christoph Friedrich Hellwag in the course of his doctoral thesis, appears to be more appropriate. Below is an explanation.
The vowel triangle shows where the individual vowels are spoken in the mouth and the position of the lips
The above graphic shows a possible representation of the vowel triangle. The basis of the representation is the position of the tongue. In the case of a, the tongue lies deep, at the apexes, that is, i, u, u, it is higher, and when speaking of e, e and o, it moves somewhere in between. The lutes on the left side are emphasized in the mouth, the lutes on the right, in the back.
The graph also shows how far the mouth is open when these vowels are spoken. In the case of a, the mouth is widely open, while it is confined by the lips at i, u, and u. Here, too, e, o, and o move at an average value of the two extreme points.
Vowel: closed, semi-closed, semi-open, open
Furthermore, the vowel can be divided into closed, semi-closed, semi-open and open. These adjectives refer to the opening of the mouth in the articulation of the respective suits. Here are some examples of the possibilities.
The self-sucking, in which the mouth is most strongly closed when pronounced, are designated as closed. Examples are the short [ɪ] in litt or the short [ʊ] in addiction. Then follow the middle vowels, which are divided into semi-closed and half-opened. For example, the long [eː] is half-open, half-open is the short [ɛ] in bed.
However, the mouth is relatively wide open in the following examples. The angle of the jaws is great, the position of the tongue is deep in the articulation. For example, the short [a] in lamb or comb, as well as the long [a] in lame, came or even lane can be mentioned.
Note: The above examples for the individual matches are, of course, only a selection. There are unlikelyly many possibilities, which can not be covered in this contribution. It is, however, possible to sense the kind of vowel of a word when it is spoken slowly and the pronunciation is compared with the above examples.
Vowels and consonants
The essential difference between consonants and vowels is that the air can escape freely in the articulation of vowels, where they are hindered in speaking the consonants. The speech apparatus narrows or closes itself thus in the articulation of consonants.
The letters B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R and S are the letters of consonant letters to which the vowel letters A, A, E, I, O, O, U, Ü and Y are juxtaposed.
Note: It is important to separate between vowel letters and vowels as well as consonant letters and consonants. Vowels and consonants mean, in principle, a kind of sound; the other terms denote the actual explanation of such sounds in the alphabet.
Vowels and diphtons
As diphthong, also Zwielaut, is called a double of two vowels, which stand in sequence and within a syllable. This means that the vowels are connected during speech and are not separated. In German the diphtons au, ei, ai, eu, äu and ui are especially common.
The diphthongs can be interpreted as vowels, but in reality they are merely a combination of two self-syllables. What is decisive here is that the successive vowels are within a syllable. If the one vowel forms the end of the one syllable, while the other next belongs to the following one, this is not a diphthong, but a hiatus. An example.
The fire is burning.
In the above example, the focus should be on the fire. In this word there is a diphthong, but also a hiatus. The word consists of two syllables, which was highlighted in color, namely from Feu and Er. In the first syllable is the combination of the vowels e and u, which are spoken together: a dipthong – a twist of two self-syllables.
The u of the first syllable and the e of the next are separated by the syllable, even if they are unambiguously consecutive and thus are not linguistically connected. They consequently collide with certainty: this circumstance is called Hiatus, also Hiat.
Overview: The most important overview
Vowels are called lutes, in the articulation of which the speaker lets the air stream escape freely. The air flow is thus not hindered, as is the case with the consonants.
The vowels in German are formed by the letters a, e, i, o, u as well as by the umlauts ä, ö and ü. Furthermore, the diphthongs can be counted as vowels.