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20 May 2006


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Actually, there is a reason for calling them long and short! A phonetician calls them tense/lax vowels, and tense vowels typically last longer than lax vowels. I can't remember the relative durations any longer and I can't find it with a quick search, but the short/long distinction is not totally random.

Oh, you don't allow HTML in your comments. Here's a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vowel#Tenseness.2Fchecked_vowels_vs._free_vowels

Geekily yours,


Oh, and I bet you find reading to be pretty different with #2. I certainly have.


You are totally right about the so-called short /o/. I had never really thought about the long-short thing until I read your post, and I didn't think it all the way through. Short a, e, and i are lax/checked vowels, and short u occupies an ambiguous middle ground. "Short o" is actually a tense/free vowel rendered phonetically as /a/.

The difference in vowel duration is tiny, since I think a vowel lasts on average 300 milliseconds. It's not a difference you can really hear, but I thought you might get a kick out of hearing that it's not *completely* random either.


Hi erin,

We have been kind of teaching our kids to read from very early on...nothing stressful or pushy, just making use of the environment...recognising names when we write in the sand etc. Our eldest is now 3 and half, and can read about 35 words. We'vve used a but of phonics, but mainly just shown her the words and she recognises them. it hasnt been much hard work, really. As British Sign Language interpreter myself, I taught her to fingerspell from a very early age. She could sign things before she knew how to speak the words. Really helped, I think, with communication frustration. Ive realised that by supporting words with fingerspelling helps the child to read the words as its not all page-related. Letters can be learnt much more easily if they are supported with other visual means - such as using fingerspelling (signs). Just my observation....
Ive noted this thread is a few days old now,....so am not expecting much in the way of reply... happy Feast of Ascension. ;o) James

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