Vowels are sounds that are made with the mouth open and without the tongue blocking the airflow.
Vowels differ in the height of the highest part of the tongue, how far forward the high part of the tongue is, and whether the lips are rounded or not—as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Vowels and their spelling for Australian languages


The usual sound of these vowels in Australian languages is as follows:

  • i as in English fit
  • u as in English put and foot
  • e as in English pet
  • o as in English port
  • a as in English hat, hut, or hot
  • Most Australian languages use only three different vowels to distinguish between words—i, a, and u. Then the sound of pet is spelled with i and the sound of port with o. In some languages there are short and long versions of the three basic vowels,; the long ones are spelled double:

  • ii as in English feed or beard
  • uu as in English food
  • aa as in English hard

  • There are usually no sliding vowels, called diphthongs, in Australian languages. The sliding vowel ou (as in English mouse) would rather be spelled as awu; and the sliding vowel sound of mice or light would be spelled as ayi (w and y are treated as consonants).

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