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Are there any words that use w as a vowel?

“Cwm” (a steep-walled semicircular basin in a mountain, sometimes containing a lake; a cirque) and “crwth” (an ancient Celtic musical instrument), both from the Welsh, use w as a vowel – standing for the same sound that oo stands for in boom and booth. “Crwth” is also spelled “crowd.”

However, in words like “low” and “bow,” one can make a good case that the letter w represents a vowel. Both of these words end with one or another of the diphthongs of modern English. In each case, the second part of the diphthong is represented by w.

By the way, l, m, n, and r may also sometimes represent vowels; that is, in English there are vowels that are routinely represented by these letters. They show up at the ends of the words “bottle,” “bottom,” “button,” and “butter.”

2 Comments

  1. Xu -  August 4, 2016 - 6:52 am

    No, they aren’t even syllabic consonants in those words. Those words have vowels doing ‘vowely’ things. bOtt-Om, for example.

    A syllabic consonant would be the ‘l’ in Carl… Car-L. Some people say Carl as one syllable; some say it as two.

    Reply
  2. Nate Vaughn Blair -  July 17, 2016 - 9:26 am

    ““Crwth” is also spelled “crowd.”” No, crowd is the Welsh word after having been loaned into English. It’s not a word in Welsh.

    “In each case, the second part of the diphthong is represented by w.” Questionable, but definitely does not make /w/ a vowel. At most, it makes it a semivowel. Also, would you contend that the a in “goat” is there to represent “the second part of the diphthong?”

    “By the way, l, m, n, and r may also sometimes represent vowels.” No, the phrase you are looking for is “syllabic consonants.”

    Reply

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