View table of contents for this book View table of contents for LinguaLinksLibrary Go to LinguaLinks home page

What is an ambiguous segment?



An ambiguous segment is a phone that may or may not function as the nucleus of a syllable.


An ambiguous segment may also be described as functioning as either a vowel or a consonant, depending on its position in a syllable.


Here is a table that gives a description of some kinds of ambiguous segments with examples of each:


Ambiguous segment


Intervocalic glides and close vowels

[i], [u], [j], [w]

Mid vowels (if there are no corresponding close vowels found in the same context)

[e], [o]

Voiceless segments

[h], [Q8], [E8]

Nasals/nasalized segments

[n], [n`], [®â]


[l], [l`]

Velar and bilabial voiced fricatives

[Ä] (which may correspond to [&u0268;]); [B] (which may correspond to [u])

Retroflexed vowels and approximates

[eÕ], [&u0279;]

Nonexamples (Close vowels in certain environments)
  • Close vowels (for example, [i] and [w]) are not usually considered ambiguous in the following environments:

    • Between two consonants
    • Between a consonant and a word boundary
    • When they are stressed
    • When they bear tone

  • Context for this page:

    Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]

    Page content last modified: 5 January 2004

    © 2004 SIL International