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Revision as of 13:20, 4 December 2018 by Ghoti (talk | contribs) (Rising triphthongs)
IPA vowels
æ ɑː
trap father - start
dress face square
ɪ ɪə
kit fleece near
ɒ əʊ ɔː
lot goat taught
ʊ ʊə
foot goose mature
juː jʊə
cute cure
ʌ ə ɜː
strut comma nurse
price mouth choice
IPA consonants
Normal sound: /b, d, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, z/
 ʃ  ŋ
show church sing
ʒ  j 
usual judge you
θ ð s
think that see
IPA Stress
ˈ Primary stress
hotel /həʊˈtel/
ˌ Secondary stress
IPA Syllabification
. nitrate /ˈnaɪ.treɪt/, night-rate /ˈnaɪt.reɪt/

A triphthong is a long sound which is comprised of three combined vowel sounds in a single syllable. Some speakers break triphthongs into two syllables, a diphthong and a schwa.


A dot signals syllable boundary.

  • /aʊə/: hour /aʊər/ and also /ˈaʊ.ər/. Compare with power, always /ˈpaʊ.ər/.
  • /aɪə/: fire /faɪər/ and also /ˈfaɪ.ər/. Compare with liar, always /ˈlaɪ.ər/.
  • /jʊə/: cure /kjʊər/ and also /ˈkjuː.ər/. Compare with fewer, always /ˈfjuː.ər/.

The following words are almost always heard as disyllables:

  • /eɪə/: player /ˈpleɪ.ər/ could be pronounced /pleɪər/
  • /ɔɪə/: royal /ˈrɔɪ.əl/ could be pronounced /rɔɪəl/
  • /əʊə/: lower /ˈloʊ.ər/ could be pronounced /loʊər/

Rising triphthongs

A rising triphthong begins with a semivowel [j] or [w]. In English rising triphthongs are normally analyzed as sequences of two phonemes. There are many rising triphthongs in English, as /j/ and /w/ can combine with many diphthongs.

  • /jəʊ/: yoga
  • /jɪə/: year
  • /jʊə/: cure
  • /waɪ/: quite
  • /waʊ/: wow
  • /weə/: square
  • /weɪ/: way
  • /wəʊ/: quote
  • /wɪə/: weird


Linguist John Wells thinks there are no triphthongs in English, and in all cases there are two syllables.[1] This means that the difference between liar /ˈlaɪ.ər/[2] and lyre /laɪər/[3] does not exist: many people agree that these two words are homophones. Note that Wells considers cure /kjʊər/ to be a monosyllable, but not a triphthong, because /j/ is a semivowel and not a vowel.


  1. John Wells's phonetic blog, triphthongs, anyone?
  2. "liar". Unabridged. Random House, Inc.
  3. "lyre". Unabridged. Random House, Inc.

See also

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