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What makes a vowel a vowel?

So... I was thinking a few days ago about orthography. I was thinking that it is supposedly really difficult for native Hawaiian speakers and native Japanese speakers and native Chinese speakers (and probably others) to pronounce words which have more than one consonant sound in a row. And, native English speakers often have much trouble with Eastern European names that are "just about all consonants". However, it's not inherently difficult for any native speakers of any languages (to my knowledge) to pronounce words with multiple vowel sounds in a row.

pseudo-linguistics followsCollapse )