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Subject: Re: OE and AE = diphtong?
From: Christina Thiele <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:TYPO-L Discussion of Type and Typographic Design <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 19 Aug 1998 00:02:24 -0400

text/plain (42 lines)

Edward Burke writes:
> Christina,
> As far as I am aware, the diphthong is used only in relation to vowels. It
> would appear that a digraph - from what you cite with regard to the
> definition - would apply to any combination of vowels and or consonants.

Well ... I suppose.

I just find it odd to see `diphthong' refer to written graphemes
(redundant phrasing, I know, but I want to be very clear). I do recall
learning in English class (somewhere back in public school ... euh,
Canadian `public' school, I mean) about diphthongs -- and it was quite
clear this was referring only to the sounds of certain vowel
combinations), so the word was already in use in regular classes, not
just university linguistics classes. I don't think I heard `digraph'
till I was in university -- an Old English class, probably ;-)

> Diphthongs are used to describe, in particular, combinations of the vowels
> 'ae' and 'oe' as found in Old English names such as Aelfric and Caedmon.
> Diphthongs are still referred to as such today in words such as amoeba,
> manoeuvre, anapaest and anaethesist. Hence my original query: " it out
> of fashion to refer to the ligatured vowel letters 'ae' and 'oe' as
> diphthongs nowadays?" - Apparantly it is (sniff - another nail in the
> coffin). Thanks for taking time to research. :-)
> Ed Burke.

Well ... seems to me that it's actually better to see a divergence:
reserving `diphthong' for a combining of vowel sounds, and `digraph'
for a merged grapheme. The two activities are so completely different,
have such different fields of reference, that keeping the spoken
separate from the written makes for clearer description -- and
discussion ... on occasion ;-) Just don't ask me to pronounce a
digraph or spell a diphthong ;-))

> ...


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