The English alphabet has 5 vowels – a, e, i, o and u. Some may argue that y is a vowel (e.g. in the word “rhythm”) and it’s true that the number of ‘vowel sounds’ surpasses 5; think about how many vowel sounds are in these sentences that you’ve just read…
Following from my first post, this post looks at some if the languages around the world where a whole sentence can be made entirely if vowels and, in one instance, where no vowel appears at all.
A e u o æ ø i æ å
This sentence, as bizarre as it may seem from the outset, is a grammatically correct utterance in a dialect* of Danish known as Jutlandish. Word for word, it means “I am out on the island in the river.” To assist with the pronunciation, the vowels sound a little something like as they fall in these English words:
a – far
e – elephant
u – put
o – oh
æ – ash
ø – flew (with less emphasis on the ‘w’… think of the word peu in French!)
i – flee
å – aw
So that roughly comes out to something like “ah eh uh oh a eu ee a aw.” (Okay, maybe not the best transcription, but give it a go!)
Å i åa ä e ö
Moving a little further north into Sweden, but still sticking with all-vowel sentences, this phrase comes from a dialect from the province of Värmland (known as Värmländska).
The phrase means “And in the creek, there is an island” and it was coined by Swedish poet Gustaf Fröding. Again, the pronunciation is something similar to “aw ee aw-a air eh eu.”
Note the similarity in the words used in both Jutlandish and Värmländska. This moves more into the area of contact linguistics and how languages evolved and developed.
Aì a ù a é i ae?
The final sentence is, again, European, but this is a little trickier to pin down. The language this comes from Bergamasque, which is in a group of languages in the Eastern Lombard dialects** of Lombardy: a northern region of Italy. It means “Are you going to see the bees, too?”
Whether or not this would be a sentence you’d say ALL the time in Northern Italy, I’m not sure. Still, it’s an interesting utterance! See if you can figure out how to pronounce it…
* I’ve named Jutlandish as a dialect here, but I know some refer to it as a different language entirely due to certain grammatical differences, such as its treatment of the definite article (separate entity vs. suffix)
** Similar to the above, whether or not Bergamasque is a true dialect of Italian is a matter of contention. Apparently Bergamasque is not mutually intelligible with Italian, and it’s closer to Catalan and Occitan than it is to Italian