theory of open and closed vowels

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by eleve, Jul 10, 2007.

  1. eleve

    eleve Senior Member

    What is the main difference between open and closed vowels? On what basis are they classified? Thanks in advance..
  2. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
  3. suzzzenn Senior Member

    New York
    USA English
    Vowel height is an excellent answer.

    In a different context it could also refer to syllabic structure. Closed vowels are followed by a consonant and open vowels are not followed by a consonant.

  4. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    I am really afraid that you're mixing up a few things.
    Open and closed vowels have nothing to do with open and closed syllables: there is absolutely no relation between the quality of the vowel (open / closed) and its occurence in a closed or open syllable. Open vowels can be found back in closed syllables and vice versa.


  5. suzzzenn Senior Member

    New York
    USA English
    I don't think I am. I have heard this usage in my lingusitics classes. Of course, I have also heard open and closed syllables which can mean the same thing. For example, A professor lecturing us on Etruscan writing systems frequently used the terms open and closed vowels. Etruscans marked closed vowels/syllables with a punctuation mark. It was also used by one of my professors while analyzing the structure of Native American languages. We were trying to determine if tone played a role in whether or not a syllable was open or closed and searched for evidence of open and closed vowels in a text we were analyzing.

    You are right the open and closed syllables can mean the same thing and is probably a clearer way of explaining it.
  6. Maroseika Moderator

    The only difference between open and closed vowels is the level of the tongue raise - higher for closed vowels, and lower for open.
    This is one of the criteria of the so-called "physiological classification" of the vowels.
  7. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    That is definitely not true in Portuguese, although there may be other languages where the rule works (French?)

    In Portuguese, the following are eight different words, with different meaning and pronunciation:

    gos-to (close) vs. gos-to (open)
    pô-de (close) vs. po-de (open)
    es-te (close) vs. es-te (open)
    le-mos (close) vs. Le-mos (open)
  8. tom_in_bahia Senior Member

    Teixeira de Freitas, BA, Brasil
    South Florida/Phoenix-Tucson/the Adirondacks. Native of North American English
    Outsider, a Brazilian friend of mine who teaches linguistics wanted to help me with my open and closed e so she had me say:
    pé de ipê

    (Ipê tree - é is open e and ê is closed e for those who dont speak Portuguese).

    I never had problems with the open and closed o.
  9. demalaga Member

    España castellano
    I have the idea that vowels are more open or closed depending on how open or closed is your mouth when pronouncing them.I think the more closed vowel is the "i".THis fact has nothing to do with a syllable being opened or closed.
  10. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    It has to do with the height of the tongue, not the openness of the mouth. "I" and "u" are equally closed. The most open vowel (in Spanish) is "a".
  11. J.F. de TROYES Senior Member

    The wikipedia article agrees with you on how to definite more or less open / closed vowels :

  12. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Well, perhaps it's a matter of perspective:

    Tongue low, mouth open; tongue high, mouth closed. Makes sense...
  13. modus.irrealis Senior Member

    English, Canada
    Just to add, although a google search seems to suggest both close and closed are used frequently, I think close is the standard term (it's the one used in the IPA chart e.g.), and I've always taken it as referring either to the space between the tongue and the roof of the mouth being close (= narrow) or the tongue itself being close (= not far).

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