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Thread: Number of phonemes (vowels, consonants) by language in Europe

  1. #1
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    Post Number of phonemes (vowels, consonants) by language in Europe



    I have searched the web for a list of phonemes by language, but couldn't find any. Therefore I thought it would be useful to compile one from scratch.

    Of course the number of phonemes will vary within a same language depending on the regional varieties (especially for English, which is spoken in so many countries) and local dialects (mostly in the Old World). The information below is based on the standard version of each language in Europe.

    Here is what I found using Wikipedia pages for the phonology in each language.

    I have listed semi-consonants like /j/ and /w/ as consonants.

    Since some languages regard diphthongs (and even triphthongs) as distinct phonemes and others don't, to simplify the comparison I didn't count any diphthongs in the total of vowels and phonemes. Diphthongs are listed separately and do not include diphthongs starting with semi-consonants like /ja/ and /wo/.


    Language
    Vowels
    (+Diphthongs)
    Consonants
    Total Phonemes
    Albanian 7 0 30 37
    Basque 5 (+1) 1 24 29 (+1)
    Catalan 8 6 25 (+3) 32 (+3)
    Czech 10 3 24 (+3) 37 (+3)
    Danish 32 0 20 52
    Dutch 13 (+3) 9 19 (+4) 36 (+4)
    English 12 13 24 36
    Finnish 16 18 14 (+4) 30 (+4)
    French 17 4 20 (+2) 37 (+2)
    German 17 3 25 45
    Hungarian 14 0 27 41
    Icelandic 16 11 16 (+6) 32 (+6)
    Irish Gaelic 11 5 ? 33 44
    Italian 7 6 23 30
    Norwegian 19 6 23 (+2) 42 (+2)
    Polish 6 0 31 37
    Portuguese 14 9 23 37
    Romanian 7 20 22 29
    Russian 5 (+1) 15 34 39 (+1)
    Serbo-Croatian 5 (1) 25 30
    Slovak 10 4 29 39
    Spanish (Castilian) 5 6 19 (+1) 24 (+1)
    Swedish 17 4 18 35

    For the sake of comparison, here are a few major non-European languages.

    Language
    Vowels
    (+Diphthongs)
    Consonants
    Total Phonemes
    Arabic 6 2 28 34
    Chinese (Mandarin) 9 6 26 35
    Hausa 10 4 24 34
    Hindustani 11 4 30 (+7) 41 (+7)
    Persian 6 11 26 32
    Japanese 5 2 17 22
    Turkish 8 0 23 31

    Numbers in brackets indicate vowels or consonants found only in dialects or loan words.

    Note that American English has between 4 and 6 vowels less than British English (Received Pronunciation). Brazilian Portuguese has 3 vowels less than European Portuguese.


    Top 5 for vowels

    1. Danish : 32
    2. Norwegian : 19
    3. French, German, Swedish : 17
    4. Finnish, Icelandic : 16
    5. Dutch : 13 + 3


    Top 5 for vowels + diphthongs

    1. Finnish : 34
    2. Danish : 32
    3. Icelandic, Romanian : 27
    4. Dutch, English, Norwegian : 25
    5. Portuguese : 23


    Top 5 for consonants

    1. Russian : 34
    2. Irish Gaelic : 33
    3. Polish : 31
    4. Albanian : 30
    5. Slovak : 29


    Top 5 for total phonemes including diphthongs

    1. Russian : 55
    2. Danish, Finnish : 52
    3. Norwegian : 50
    4. Dutch, English, Irish Gaelic, Romanian : 49
    5. German : 48
    Last edited by Maciamo; 05-05-14 at 11:39.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    I have searched the web for a list of phonemes by language, but couldn't find any. Therefore I thought it would be useful to compile one from scratch.

    Of course the number of phonemes will vary within a same language depending on the regional varieties (especially for English, which is spoken in so many countries) and local dialects (mostly in the Old World). The information below is based on the standard version of each language in Europe.

    Here is what I found using Wikipedia pages for the phonology in each language.

    I have listed semi-consonants like /j/ and /w/ as consonants.

    Since some languages regard diphthongs (and even triphthongs) as distinct phonemes and others don't, to simplify the comparison I didn't count any diphthongs in the total of vowels and phonemes. Diphthongs are listed separately and do not include diphthongs starting with semi-consonants like /ja/ and /wo/.


    Language
    Vowels
    (+Diphthongs)
    Consonants
    Total Phonemes
    Albanian 7 30 37
    Czech 10 3 24 (+3) 37 (+3)
    Danish 32 0 20 52
    Dutch 13 (+3) 9 19 (+4) 36 (+4)
    English 12 13 24 36
    Finnish 16 18 14 (+4) 30 (+4)
    French 17 0 20 37
    German 17 3 25 45
    Hungarian 14 0 27 41
    Irish Gaelic 11 33 44
    Italian 7 23 30
    Norwegian 19 6 23 (+2) 42 (+2)
    Polish 6 31 37
    Portuguese 14 9 23 37
    Romanian 7 20 22 29
    Russian 5 (+1) 34 39 (+1)
    Serbo-Croatian 5 (1) 25 30
    Slovak 10 4 29 39
    Spanish (Castilian) 5 6 19 (+1) 24 (+1)
    Swedish 17 4 18 35

    Numbers in brackets indicate vowels or consonants not native to the language but often used in words borrowed from other languages.

    Note that American English has between 4 and 6 vowels less than British English (Received Pronunciation). Brazilian Portuguese has 3 vowels less than European Portuguese.
    This is a list of dipthongs in Italian.
    http://www.italianlanguageguide.com/...diphthongs.asp

    There are also these consonant or consonant/vowel combinations: gli, gn


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  3. #3
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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    very uneasy to compare phonologies and phonetics of different languages:
    some vocal sounds are true diphtongs, other only a bunch of vowels of different syllabs arrived in contact
    some varieties of sounds are phonetically stable but nevertheless have no role in phonology (meaning understanding)
    some consonnants are in fact (gaelic by instance) combinaisons of stop+vowel, more or less on the way to affricated consonnants, when other are true affricated consonnants:
    sometimes the ture phonologic criteria is marked by the group consonnant+vowel or vowel+consonnant: phonologically we ought to take in account the length of vowels in certain languages : in breton v:+soft c = v:+hard c # v+soft c = v+hard c (it is to say, according to environment, the PHONETICAL QUALITY of the consonnant can change but it is its PHONOLOGICAL QUALITY which influence the preceding vowel length (eventually quality coming to help length)
    so, a good idea, but uneasy conlusions to draw from it

    by the way, the Oïl dialects of french have very often more diphtongs than the standard french (for Occitan, everyone knows that yet I suppose)

    tête:S /tè.t/<> /taét//tèIt//ta:t/ - oiseaux :S /wa'zo/ <> /wé'zèw//wé'zjaw//o'zaw//o'zja//o'zèa//o'zéo/ - genou: S /zhë'nu//zhnu/ <> /zhnwé//zhnèj//zhnëj//zhnöj//zhnoj//zhnolj/
    haie: S /è./ <> /èI//èj//éI//aj//oj/

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    I have searched the web for a list of phonemes by language, but couldn't find any. Therefore I thought it would be useful to compile one from scratch.

    Of course the number of phonemes will vary within a same language depending on the regional varieties (especially for English, which is spoken in so many countries) and local dialects (mostly in the Old World). The information below is based on the standard version of each language in Europe.

    Here is what I found using Wikipedia pages for the phonology in each language.

    I have listed semi-consonants like /j/ and /w/ as consonants.

    Since some languages regard diphthongs (and even triphthongs) as distinct phonemes and others don't, to simplify the comparison I didn't count any diphthongs in the total of vowels and phonemes. Diphthongs are listed separately and do not include diphthongs starting with semi-consonants like /ja/ and /wo/.


    Language
    Vowels
    (+Diphthongs)
    Consonants
    Total Phonemes
    Albanian 7 0 30 37
    Gheg and Tosk are treated differently when studied, you need to mention the varieties. Do this for other languages too. I think you need to add some more vowels. (14-19 vowel phonemes for Gheg for example)

    EDIT: I see you mentioned you only included standard languages. Never-mind then, don't add the above.

    The most common dipthongs are: ie, ye, ua, ai, ei, oi, au, eu.

    Off topic, since you're the admin, do you know why I keep logging out?

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    32 vowels in Danish, 33 consonants in Irish... I think that the guys who listed the phonemes included all the possible dialectal and allophonic variations - same for Norwegian, Russian, etc. And I'm still trying to find 17 vowels in French...

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