An Acoustic and Perceptual Study of Triphthongs in Educated Singapore English

Lim Siew Siew

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 2004


The monophthongs and diphthongs in Singapore English (SgE) have been extensively explored over the years. However, despite the focus on the vowels of SgE, there has not been any study devoted to the exploration on triphthongs.

This Academic Exercise thus hopes to break new ground by exploring if young educated Singaporeans use the five English triphthongs /eɪə, aɪə, ɔɪə, aʊə, əʊə/ in both read and conversational speech. In addition, it seeks to find out whether morphology and/or orthography of the words could have an influence on the pronunciation. With respect to the first research aim, it is hypothesised that Singapore English (SgE) speakers do not use these triphthongs at all, as they would probably insert a glide consonant /j/ or /w/ before the final element /ə/ in what would be triphthongs.

Data used for the investigation include read speech from ten SgE speakers and five British speakers, as well as, the conversational speech of another twenty-six SgE speakers. Results generally supported the research hypothesis. Evidence from the speech data in this study revealed that SgE speakers indeed did not use the two triphthongs /aɪə, ɔɪə/ in read speech and four triphthongs /aɪə, ɔɪə, aʊə, əʊə/ in conversational speech. They tended to pronounce what would be triphthongs (single phonemes) in British English (BrE) as two syllables, inserting a glide consonant /j/ or /w/ in the onset of the second syllable. As these insertions were employed consistently, there was no evidence that morphology and orthography had any influence on pronunciation.