Semi-vowels

Semi-Voyelles

Semi-vowels, aka semi-consonants, are sounds pronounced somewhere between vowels and consonants. (Très logique, n’est-ce pas ?) They’re created by partially obstructing the passage of air through the mouth, and can also be called glides or approximants.

French has three semi-vowels, each of which corresponds phonetically to a normal, "pure" vowel:

  Semi-vowel Corresponding vowel
1. [j] [i]
2. [w] [u]
3. [ɥ] [y]

Characteristics of a semi-vowel

  • Phonetically equivalent to a pure vowel
  • Creates a diphthong with the vowel it precedes or follows
  • Cannot be a syllable on its own

See IPA – vowels for details on how to pronounce and spell these sounds.

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French semi-vowels
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