Are diphthongs vowels

German diphthongs

What is a diphthong?

A diphthong is a double sound (also twilight, two-sound etc.) in which, phonetically speaking, two vowels (vowels) merge into one sound and thus belong to one syllable.

diphthongExample (separation according to spoken syllables)
ouchAus-ter, Bau-er, Baum
aiHain, Sai-te, orphan
eggCelebrate, travel, shine
uhMooring, buildings, buyers
euFire, friends, people
oi *Broiler

* mostly classified as a dialect

Regional diphthongs

Especially in southern Germany (mainly in Bavarian) there are additional diphthongs that do not exist in standard German.


Foreign language diphtongs in German

In German there are both original (and partly also extinct) and imported diphthongs that occur exclusively in foreign words. However, their number is so large, and of course they are still productive, that they evade a systematic approach.

In addition, the pronunciation follows the pronunciation in the country of origin, so a systematics is hardly possible in this regard.

aiBrumaire, weakness, mail, portrait, trainer
euEuphoria, exporter, feature section
ouOuija, patrol
oyFoyer, impose
uiSponge cake, grapefruit, guillotine

Articulatory diphthongs

Some long sounds change into double sounds, but have no graphic equivalent (bear, sea, clock, only), but are at most supplemented by stretching sounds. In spoken language they can be understood as diphthongs.

Diphthong vs. Hiat

The hiat is to be distinguished from the diphthong, in which two consecutive vowels do not merge and consequently each belong to a separate syllable. The distinction is not made on the basis of the graphemes, but requires lexical knowledge.

Examples of hiate:

Diphthongs and Spelling

While a hiat can be separated without any problems (see examples above), this is not allowed with the diphthong, since it belongs to a syllable.

Furthermore, diphthongs cannot follow ck, no tz and no identical double consonants (mm, nn, ss etc.), since these appear after short sounds, but the vowel quantity of the diphthongs corresponds to that of long sounds.

In-depth literature

At this point, only a rough and also simplified overview of diphthongs has been deliberately given. Anyone who wants to or has to deal with the topic in more detail will find an exhaustive treatise in the inexpensive one Linguistics. An introduction. by Heidrun Pelz.