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The most important thing about diphthongs in English is that they are not simply two vowels that go together, but one long vowel where the pronunciation changes from the beginning to the end. To be more precise, the pronunciation changes a bit at the end. Long vowels have the same sound at the beginning and at the end, diphthongs change at the end:
- long vowel: = /ɑ ɑ ɑ / - diphthong: = / ɑ ɑ ɪ /But the change in pronunciation at the end is very little, so more exactly, what we pronounce is:
The same thing counts for triphthongs, only that we have not one change of sound at the end, but two.
- triphthong: = / ɑ ɑ ɪ ə /
But in modern English, both in America and Britain, triphthongs are changing into diphthongs, with only one last change:
NOTE: Some people go one step farther and change them into one single long vowel, so both triphthongs can be pronounced: . For people who pronounce triphthongs like this, the pair of words "far - fire" or "tar - tower" sound exactly the same; don't do this if your pronunciation of English is not as fluent and precise as that of a native speaker (or else it might be too confusing).
This is the table with modern diphthongs and triphthongs:
In all these examples with R, AmE pronounces the R and BrE doesn't, but both of them present the same change in the vowel before the R. So this letter, silent or not, is marking a change in the previous vowel.
* the diphthong in PHONE sounds different in American English. The first part of the diphthong does not sound like , it sounds , which is very similar to this combination: . The rest of the diphthongs and triphthongs are pretty much the same in both varieties of English.
Remember that diphthongs in English are not "
vowel+vowel", but one long vowel with a little change at the end.