Old English: ēo, ēa

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Hungarian - Transylvania

From what I know, "eo" and "ea" in Old English are diphthongs.
That means that there is a smooth shift when pronouncing each vowel and, thus, the two belong in a single syllable (e.g. loud), as opposed to the case of a hiatus (e.g. naive).

But, in the same time, I've seen that both have a long variant as well, often noted "ēo" and "ēa". What puzzled me, though, is how one could pronounce these two in a long manner but still retain the character of a diphthong.
And then I actually heard the two long diphthongs being pronounced in YouTube tutorials, and it seems people do pronounce them long, but they transform them into a hiatus in the process.

To be more specific, I've heard the word "ġeþēod", for example, pronounced as "ġe-þē-od" (in 3 syllables), instead of "ġe-þēod" (in 2 syllables, as it should be if the "ēo" were a diphthong and not a hiatus).
So, what is the explanation for this?
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Simply that the speaker is not a native speaker of Old English, and is not perfect in all the nuances. (And we don't know exactly what beginning and ending points the diphthongs had, anyway.) Not many languages have long diphthongs: Thai and Icelandic do, Ancient Greek did. So it takes effort for the rest of us to get them right.


    Senior Member
    Some English dialects have allophonic long diphthongs (conditioned by the following consonant): if you listen to how write and ride are pronounced in e.g. American English, you'll hear the difference in length.


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    That's true, but that's not under conscious control, so we can't easily use those to help us make the necessary distinction. An English-speaker would find it difficult to swap the sounds in write and ride, or to use ride to make the correct sound in Ancient Greek.
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