Monophthongization

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Sound change and alternation
Fortition
Dissimilation

Monophthongization is a sound change by which a diphthong becomes a monophthong, a type of vowel shift. In languages that have undergone monophthongization, digraphs that formerly represented diphthongs now represent monophthongs. The opposite of monophthongization is vowel breaking.

English[edit]

Some English sounds that may be perceived by native speakers as single vowels are in fact diphthongs; the vowel sound in pay — pronounced /ˈpeɪ/ — is an example of this. However, in some dialects (e.g. Scottish English) /eɪ/ is a monophthong [e].

Some dialects of English make monophthongs out of former diphthongs. For instance, Southern American English tends to realize the diphthong /aɪ/ as in eye as a long monophthong [äː].

In Received Pronunciation, when a diphthong is followed by schwa, the diphthong may change to a monophthong. For example, the citation form of the word our is /ˈaʊə/, but in speech it is often pronounced as [ɑə] or even as a monophthong [ɑː]. This process is sometimes called smoothing.

Sanskrit[edit]

In Sanskrit, the sounds pronounced as /e/ and /o/ are written as ai and au in Devanagari and related alphabets. The sounds /ai/ and /au/ exist in Sanskrit but are written as if they were āi and āu, with long initial vowels.

Greek[edit]

Greek underwent monophthongization at many points during its history. For instance, the diphthongs /ei ou/ monophthongized to /eː oː/ around the 5th century BC, and the diphthong /ai/ monophthongized to /eː/ in the Koine Greek period. For more information, see Ancient Greek phonology § Monophthongization and Koine Greek phonology.

French[edit]

French underwent monophthongization. Hence the digraph ai, which formerly represented a diphthong, represents the sound /ɛ/ or /e/ in Modern French.

Arabic[edit]

Classical Arabic has two diphthongs, /ai/ and /au/. In the majority of modern Arabic dialects, these diphthongs are realised as the long vowels /e/ and /o/, respectively. One notable exception is the Lebanese dialect, which preserves the original pronunciations.

See also[edit]