I came across something very peculiar in Colloquial Lithuanian the other day. In the book’s pronunciation section, while discussing dipthongs, they included “al el il ul ar er ir ur am em im um an en in un” as dipthongs.
I’ve never seen this phenomenon before, and it really puzzles me. I know that many languages look at nasal sounds in different ways (different from what a native English speaker, for example, would look at). And I know that “l” and “r” are not phonemic (ie, they are interchangable) in some languages. But I can’t figure out why they would be considered part of a dipthong. The book says “Dipthongs are sequences of two vowels which function as if they were one.” Fair enough a definition, I suppose. But it appears that the Lithuanian language considers l, r, m, and n to be consonants, with their sound similar to corresponding English sounds.
In addition to being puzzled over the l, r, m, and n included here . . . I am also curious about the choice of vowels which are included. Lithuanian has 12 vowels, four of them which are nasal. Wouldn’t any vowel placed before “n” or “m” become nasal? Why these four and none of the others? And what about “o” – there is only one “o” – when there are two “a”s and two “i”s, and three “e”s and three “u”s?
Maybe I will figure these out as I continue flirting with this strange language. I poked around a little on google trying to find something, but I did not find anywhere else that addressed the issue. If anyone has any answers on this, I’d love to hear them!