The letter "Y"... vowel or consonant?

When we stick to the letter in question, what immediately occurs to us is that it became part of our alphabet as soon as the new orthographic agreement was established. However, the objective that is evident in this article is to point out about some more aspects to it. related, by the way quite recurrent by some users of the linguistic system: it would be just a consonant? Or in some cases would it work either as a vowel or as a consonant?

In order to give vent to such questioning, it should be noted that, from a phonetic-phonological point of view, the consonant it is only articulated through a current of air coming from the lungs, which, upon reaching the oral cavity, finds obstacles. What happens differently with the vowel, since such an obstacle is not identified, as the passage of air occurs freely. Another noteworthy aspect is that the consonant must be accompanied by a vowel to form syllables; the vowel does not, since it subsists on its own. This fact is perfectly observable in ca – de – a – do.

Through these assumptions, we have enough elements to verify that, in the case of phonology (part of responsible grammar for studying the phonemes of a language) and when it comes to phonemes (obviously we are referring to sound), the y represents a vowel, since it was translated from the Greek alphabet as “i”, remaining with this same sound in the words in which it is used, as in the case of yoga. Separated the syllables of this word we have: i – o – ga, a fact that allows us to verify that it is a vowel. Already in layout, Portuguese word originating from English layout, it represents a semivowel.

Now we have concrete subsidies to show that it is not the letters that qualify like vowels, consonants or semivowels, but the sound they present is that they receive such denominations.

By Vânia Duarte
Graduated in Letters
Brazil School Team

Grammar - Brazil School

Source: Brazil School -
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