How Many Vowels In The English Language?

In my last post I explained how I’d made a spur of the moment decision to change my degree programme.  The transfer itself was fairly straight forward, just a couple of hundred emails back and forth between tutors, student support, my new department and my old one and Hey Presto! I was back to being a fresher. Then came getting access to coursework, handbooks and assessment details. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end.

I made the huge mistake of trying to work through the weeks I’d missed by reading the lecture notes and watching Powerpoint presentations, eager to get stuck in, catch up and prove what an outstanding student I was. Except, when it came to making head or tail of this:


and this:


This utter gobbledegook  shows the phonology of sounds. All I could think was, “What on earth have I let myself in for?” I was dreading the lecture to come and almost wished I’d stayed in archaeology.

Despite feeling apprehensive, I went to sit at the front (as I always do) of the massive lecture theatre. I’d been to my first history lecture the day before and knew there would be about three hundred students in the class. My plan was to record the lecture and just sit and listen without taking notes, not expecting to understand a word that was said, but miraculously it was far easier than I anticipated. Everything fell into place and made perfect sense. Slowly, my fear of the module dissipated and I began to enjoy it. At one point the lecturer asked a question and I was the only one to put up my hand, and I answered correctly.

Then he asked, “How many vowels in the English language?” It was a trick question of course. Someone shouted from the back “Five.” He gave a little laugh and shook his head. “Six” another called. Again he shook his head. Eventually he gave in and told us the answer, “More than sixteen, nearer twenty.” Of course if he’d asked how many vowel sounds are there in the English language it might have given the game away.

I’m slowly finding my way around such things as plosives, fricatives, alveolar and bilabial sounds, but rather than being intimidated by these unfamiliar words I’m enjoying the journey.

I’ve also found an easier to read version of the International Phonetic Alphabet – now all I have to do is memorise these signs for transcription.

International Phonetic Alphabet Transcription signs

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter


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