Diphthongs are sounds that contain two sounds within one syllable. If you were to clap for each syllable while you say these words, the diphthong would be part of just one clap. Let’s discuss a uniquely British English diphthong, the “ear” diphthong. To make the /ɪə/ sound, you will need to know how to make the separate sounds of /ɪ/ as in “fish” and “pin” ,and /ə/, the schwa sound, shortly after each other. In a diphthong, the sound slides from the one sound, in this case the /ɪ/ to the /ə/. You may notice that your mouth closes slightly and your lips move slightly forward as the vowel sound changes.
The “ear” diphthong (/ɪə/) is commonly heard in British English. In contrast, very few American dialects use this sound at all. For example, note how these words with the the ɪə diphthong are pronounced as “r-controlled vowels” in American English:
Ear /ɪə/ in British English. /ɪr/ in American English
Near /nɪə/ in British English /nɪr/ in American English
Here /hɪə/ in British English /hɪr/ in American English
For more on diphthongs, check out these articles:
- Introduction To Diphthongs
- /ɔɪ/ (Choice/Voice/Noise)
- /eɪ/ (Face/Make/Cake)
- /aɪ/ (Rice/Die/Bike)
- /oʊ/ (No, Low,Go)
- /aʊ/ (Out/Cow/South)
- /eə/ (Bear, Square, Mare) (British English)
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