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Lesson Transcript

Hi everyone.
Welcome to The Ultimate Greek Pronunciation Guide.
In this lesson, we'll cover diphthongs in Greek.
This particular lesson will be all about hearing different vowels sounds pronounced closely together, so it's important that you listen carefully. Okay, let's begin.
Diphthong' means *two* *sounds*. It's the term used to describe two vowel sounds that are pronounced closely together in the same syllable.
"Take the English word 'they' for example.
It's not pronounced 'pa-in', but 'pain'.
Or the word 'foul'. It's not 'fo-ul', but 'foul'."
Notice the difference? You can think of it like gliding from one vowel to the next very quickly. So diphthongs begin one way and end in another.
Greek diphthongs can be split into two categories. Closing diphthongs, and opening diphthongs.
Don't worry! If you watched our lesson about Greek vowels and you've been studying them properly up until this point, you should be able to reproduce all of the sounds that you're about to hear.
One important thing to clarify, though, is that diphthongs are not the same as double vowel combinations which we saw in lesson 3 on vowels, so diphthongs shouldn't be confused with them.
Let's take an in-depth look at closing diphthongs in Greek. Some words using them are...
When you see these two vowels together, they're pronounced...
αϊ (slowly)"
When the accent mark is on the first letter, again, the pronunciation is the same but with more stress on the first letter.
άι (slowly)"
What about this diphthong? Again the letters may be different, but it still sounds exactly the same.
αη (slowly)"
If you paid close attention, you probably noticed that all of these diphthongs start with an open vowel and end with a more closed vowel. That's why we consider them as 'closing' diphthongs.
The same closing sound process can be heard in the next example.
οϊ (slowly)"
When the accent is on the first letter, it sounds the same as before, but with more stress on the first letter.
όι (slowly)"
The last closing diphthong we shall see sounds exactly like the previous one. And that is...
όη (slowly)"
Okay. Now let's move on to the opening diphthongs. As you can probably guess, here we'll see the opposite sound process happening. We'll glide from a closed vowel to a more open one within the same syllable. Some common words that use these diphthongs are...
Did you notice the pattern with opening diphthongs? The first sound will always be one of these "i" (as in see) sounds, while the second can be any vowel sound.
Let's have a look at some of the possible 'opening diphthong combinations' one by one. The first one is...
"ια (or ιά)
ια (slowly)"
This sound will be the same for all of the following...
"υα (or υά)
εια (or ειά)
οια (or οιά)"
As we can see, spelling doesn't impact the pronunciation so long as the first resulting sound is an "i" (ee) sound and doesn't contain an accent. The accent could be on the last vowel sound or none of the two, and the pronunciation will still be the same. You see, if the first "i" is accented, then the two vowels would be split into two different syllables, and thus, it would no longer be considered a diphthong.
Listen to an example where the accent is on the first vowel.
καμία (slowly)"
Notice how the vowel sounds are separated? If the accent is on the first vowel, it's no longer a diphthong.
Okay. Let's continue with more opening diphthongs.
ιε (or ιέ)
This sound will be the same for all of the following...
"ειε (or ειέ)
οιε (or οιέ)"
The next pair is...
ιο (or ιό)
All of the following are pronounced the same way...
The last example is...
ιου (or ιού)
The following is pronounced the same way...
οιου (or οιού)
When it comes to opening diphthongs, something important to keep in mind is that they sometimes affect the pronunciation of the consonant *before* them, resulting in a forced palatalization.
There are five cases of forced palatalization here. In the first you will notice the addition of a sound very similar to the English Y in the word "yard" between the consonant and the opening diphthong. For example...
Did you hear that additional sound? Let's hear the words again slowly...
"ζευγάρια (slowly)
παιδιού (slowly)"
This usually happens when the preceding consonant is one of these...
In the second case we hear a slight hissing sound between the consonant and the diphthong. This usually happens with these consonants...
Let's hear some examples...
πιες (slowly)
καρφιά (slowly)"
In the third case we have the palatalization of the L sound, which results in a sound similar to the 'gli' in the tagliatelle pasta. The tongue is flatter than the regular L because it's pronounced with the middle of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth.
πουλιά (slowly)"
Next we have the M sound. When it comes before an opening diphthong, we notice some nasalization between the two elements. It sounds as if an N sound is between the consonant and the diphthong. Listen to Stefania...
μια (slowly)"
Lastly we have the N sound. With an opening diphthong it sounds like an N plus Y sound. Exactly like the Spanish Ñ or similar to the N in the word 'new'.
νιάτα (slowly)"
There are also some exceptions where a word appears to have a diphthong, but the pronunciation is that of two vowels in separate syllables. In the following example, Stefania will pronounce it correctly at first and then she'll pronounce it the *wrong* way so that you can compare the two.
"λεξιλόγιο (correct)
λεξιλόγιο (wrong)
λεξιλόγιο (correct)
λεξιλόγιο (wrong)"
Unfortunately, there isn't a simple rule to explain when this happens. You must listen to native speakers carefully and learn through experience how to pronounce these diphthong-like exceptions correctly.
So how did you do? I hope you didn't find diphthongs too complicated. Remember, learning how to pronounce these vowel sounds properly is a really big part of perfecting your Greek pronunciation!
In this lesson, we covered diphthongs in Greek.
In the next lesson, we'll cover Greek assimilation processes.
Does your language have any letter combinations that are similar to the ones in Greek? Let us know in the comments.
See you in the next Ultimate Greek Pronunciation Guide lesson!


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Please to leave a comment.
😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

GreekPod101.com Verified
Friday at 06:30 PM
Pinned Comment
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Feel free to let us know if you have any questions.

GreekPod101.com Verified
Wednesday at 02:21 PM
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Hi J Black,

Thank you for pointing out the typos. I have corrected them. Please note that both μία and μια are correct forms and they can be used interchangeably.

Kind regards,


Team GreekPod101.com

J Black
Tuesday at 09:31 PM
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Η βύθιση του Τιτανικού ήταν μια μεγάλη τραγωδία.

I víthisi tu Titanikú ítan megáli tragodía.

Somebody there, please notice that the example for "mía" completely leaves out the word it's trying to demonstrate. Sad.

Also, while you've placed the accent on the I, both the regular and slow audio are very clearly pronouncing the final a as the strongest sound. Confusing.

GreekPod101.com Verified
Tuesday at 11:21 PM
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Hey Ray,

Don't forget to use our free dictionary https://www.greekpod101.com/greek-dictionary .

Have a nice day. ?

All the best,


Team GreekPod101.com

Tuesday at 07:21 AM
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Στεφανία, ευχαριστώ παρά πολύ!

Great explanations!

I will definitely learn points 1 and 2 and then add the others.

Thanks for the tip about Google.

GreekPod101.com Verified
Tuesday at 07:13 AM
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Hi Ray,

I see you've been overwhelmed by those tricky vowel combinations. I hope I can help you get some things clear.

To break things down, whenever you see a vowel combination, it all comes down to whether that combination is pronounced:

• as ONE sound or

• as TWO sounds, either in the same syllable (in that case we have a diphthong) or in two syllables (no diphthong, simply two vowel sounds, one after the other.)

There can never be a combination of 2 vowels pronounced like 3, like the όι example which you understood as ι ο+ι.

If you are not sure how to pronounce vowel combinations, you need to ask yourself the following:

1) Is this combination a special double vowel combination (pronounced as ONE vowel sound)? For this to be true, the combinations are:

αι = /e/

ει = /i/

οι = /i/

ου = /u/

and also the extremely rare υι = /i/

If these single vowel sounds need to be accented in written speech, then the accent mark will go over the second vowel:

αί, εί, οί, ού (there is no word with υί)

2) Is the combination αυ or ευ (also the accented αύ and εύ) that produce the /av/af/ and /ev/ef/ sounds?

3) When the above 1) and 2) combinations have the diaeresis mark ¨ over the second vowel, even if it is accented ΅ , then they are pronounced as two separate vowel VOWEL sounds. (ex. αϊ, εϊ, οϊ, οϋ etc.)

4) All other cases of vowel combinations are either diphthongs (closing or opening diphthongs) or just two vowels next to each other. The romanization we provide should help you distinguish those and if you ever have a doubt about a word you can type inside Google translate and press the listen button or you can check its romanization from the following dictionary:


For example: https://screencast.com/t/td6otDddZj

With practice and visual memorization, it will become easier to tell. The most important thing to start from, I think, is memorizing the combinations of points 1) and 2) above.

I hope I haven't confused you even more. Let me know if you have any more questions!

Happy studying,


Team GreekPod101.com

Monday at 04:52 PM
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Hi again, I reviewed the lessons on double vowels and diphthongs and I'm getting confused.

I think for now I need to memorize that αυ sounds like /av/ or /af/, αι sounds like ε, ει sounds like ι, οι sounds like ι, etc.

Then maybe later come back to learn about diphthongs?

Also, when I see όι, I'm not sure how to say it: is it ι ο+ι?

Suddenly things got very confused for me. I'm a very beginner.

GreekPod101.com Verified
Monday at 07:55 AM
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Hi Ray,

Yes, you are right. The αι in ναι and και are not diphthongs. That's because they produce single vowel sounds (=ε). They are just considered double vowel combinations.



Team GreekPod101.com

Monday at 07:29 AM
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Γεια σου,

The lesson says that these 2 combinations are diphthongs: αϊ and άι

Just wanted to double check:

αι in ναι and και is not a diphthong, right?