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)
“What though the traveler tell us of the ruins of Egypt, are we so sick or idle that we must sacrifice our America and today to some mans ill-remembered and indolent story? Carnac and Luxor are but names, or if their skeletons remain, still more desert sand and at length a wave of the Mediterranean Sea are needed to wash away the filth that attaches to their grandeur. Carnac! Carnac! here is Carnac for me. I behold the columns of a larger
and purer temple.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)