Voiceless vowels in English

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Apr 8 17:59:08 UTC 2008

At 10:43 AM -0700 4/8/08, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>I recall learning that we don't have voiceless vowels in English.
>Two words have recently come to my attention, though, that seem to:
>Chicago and hilarious.
>The first "i" in Chicago seems to vary between voiceless and
>nonexistent (onset = [shk]). In hilarious, the first "i" in hilarious
>seems to range from +/- voiceless [I] to+/- schwa.
>I can understand that the [I] in Chicago goes voiceless because of the
>voiceless environment.
>In hilarious, it seems the environment inducing this is the unstressed
>syllable [hI]. Hibachi and Hidalgo seem to work the same. Perhaps this
>is because the voicing of the vowel is permitted to be delayed to the
>next consonant.
>Is there a general rule for devoiced vowels in English?
You're not counting the "h" in "aha" or (the second one) in "uh-huh"
as voiceless vowels, I take it?


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