Is "w" really a vowel?

In elementary school, my teacher taught me the vowel song which states that “A, E, I, O, and U are the vowels and sometimes Y and W.” I understand how Y could be a vowel for words like “fly” and “why” but I can’t think of any examples in which W would be used as a vowel. Is “w” really used as a vowel, or is that song just messed up?

I’ve never in my life heard that “W” can be a vowel. That’s not to say that your teacher was incorrect. It would be helpful to know the timeframe and location that your teacher told you this.

The Master Speaks

When will you learn that all important questions have already been answered by Cecil??? :wink:

Look at it another way: I can’t think of any words where W is used as anything other than a vowel. Say a word with a W in it very slowly, and think about what exactly your mouth is doing as you’re saying it. When you hit the W, your mouth is making a vowel shape.

Cecil’s article mentions the word “cwm”, which is Welsh. I think the Welsh language is full of such usage of the w-as-vowel; or at least that’s the impression I got from a co-worker of mine, who is an Welshman. :smiley:

The welsh have to use w as a vowel, the hawiians snuck over and stole most of them so they had to make due with w=)

w = double u :smack:

Well, the confusion arises when describing the function of the letter. In the case of English, it represents a glide/semi-vowel. In the case of Welsh, its function is to represent /u/ (close back rounded) or /U/ (almost fully close back vowel). The form is considered a consonant, because the traditional idea of a vowel’s phonetic representation is a, e, i, o, or u. When the sound of W is described in English, it’s a semi vowel. In Welsh it’s described as /u/ or /U/.

In other languages, W represents anything from /v/ (as in victory), /w/ as in “water”, to /u/ as in “cwm”

In Hawai’ian, the situation of W is more complex than it seems. It does not always represent /v/, sometimes it represents /w/:

  1. after i and e like V -
  2. after o and u like W
  3. after a and initially like either W or V