In linguistics, vowel length is the perceived duration of a vowel sound. Often the chroneme, or the "longness", acts like a consonant, and may have arisen from one etymologically, such as in Australian English. While not distinctive in most other dialects of English, vowel length is an important phonemic factor in many other languages, for instance in Finnish, Fijian, Japanese, Old English, and Vietnamese. It plays a phonetic role in the majority of dialects of English English, and is said to be phonemic in a few other dialects, such as Australian English and New Zealand English. It also plays a lesser phonetic role in Cantonese, which is exceptional among the spoken variants of Chinese.
Many languages do not distinguish vowel length phonemically, and those that do usually distinguish between short vowels and long vowels. There are very few languages that distinguish three phonemic vowel lengths, for instance Luiseño and Mixe. However, some languages with two vowel lengths also have words where long vowels appear adjacent to other short or long vowels of the same type, e.g. Japanese hōō "phoenix", Estonian jäääär "ice edge", or Ancient Greek ἀάατος "inviolable". Some languages that do not ordinarily have phonemic vowel length but do permit vowel hiatus may similarly exhibit sequences of identical vowel phonemes that yield phonetically long vowels, such as Georgian გააადვილებ "you will facilitate it".
Famous quotes containing the words vowel and/or length:
“Brute animals have the vowel sounds; man only can utter consonants.”
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge (17721834)
“I have seen some whose consciences, owing undoubtedly to former indulgence, had grown to be as irritable as spoilt children, and at length gave them no peace. They did not know when to swallow their cud, and their lives of course yielded no milk.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)