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General statements on vowel sequences
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Some general statements on the combinatorial possibilities of the vowels can be made. Listing and commenting on them is the topic off this section.

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The following general statements on the combinatorial possibilities of the vowels can be formulated:

  • The High Vowel Constraint makes itself felt in the following constraints on sequences of three or four vowels:
    • when a long and a short vowel combine, the short vowel is a glide.
    • when a long vowel combines with two short vowels, the short vowels are glides.
    • when a short vowel and a centring diphthong combine, the short vowel is a glide.
    • when three short vowels combine, two of them are glides.
  • The two outer vowels in a sequence of three are glides.
  • In general, when a sequence of two vowels is not a diphthong, one is front, the other one is back.

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The combinations of three or four vowels are sometimes called triphthongs in the literature. Because this is not a very clear term, analytical descriptions for these combinations are used here.

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When a glide is inserted between two vowels, for example between a close vowel and schwa, the demand of phonological contrast is not at issue, because the sequence vowel + glide + vowel is not underlying. It is just the other way around. If the left-hand vowel is front, it triggers the insertion of a front glide, if it is back, it enforces the insertion of a back glide, as in seeën/se:+ən/[se:jən]seas and dowen/do:+ən/[do:wən]pigeons(see also the resolution of vocalic hiatus in general).

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