Highest and lowest vowel density

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Mr. Gray
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Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby Mr. Gray » Fri Oct 19, 2012 1:37 am UTC

An entirely useless but nonetheless amusing question: in the English language, which words have the highest and lowest ratio of vowels to consonants? For sake of an interesting question, let's ignore words that are contain no vowels or nothing but vowels. The best I've encountered so far are "aerie", which has a vowel-consonant ratio of 4:1, and "strengths", with a ratio of 1:8. Are there any English words that match or exceed these extremes?

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ThirdParty
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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby ThirdParty » Fri Oct 19, 2012 6:28 am UTC

Does "y" count as a consonant even when used as a vowel? If so, "rhythmlessly" is 1:11.

Are proper names accepted? If so, "Aeolia" is 5:1.

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steewi
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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby steewi » Fri Oct 19, 2012 6:53 am UTC

Spelling or phonologically?

Phonologically, the densest you usually get is something like "strengths", which is /strɛŋθs/ CCCVCCC (where C is a consonant and V is a vowel).

In terms of vowel:consonant ration (and assuming that we are not counting words composed entirely of vowels), the best you're going to get would probably be a two or three syllable word with lots of diphthong. Aeolia /eɪˈoʊliʌ/ is pretty good, but as a proper noun, I'm loathe to accept it.

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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby ThirdParty » Fri Oct 19, 2012 3:37 pm UTC

steewi wrote:Phonologically, the densest you usually get is something like "strengths", which is /strɛŋθs/
Depending on how you analyze syllabic consonants, that might be improvable to "strengtheners" (/strɛŋθn̩r̩s/).

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Qaanol
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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby Qaanol » Fri Oct 19, 2012 5:36 pm UTC

How about “tsktskings”?

As in, “The children had received so many tsktskings that they no longer heeded such mundane chidings.”
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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby dudiobugtron » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:31 pm UTC

ThirdParty wrote:Are proper names accepted? If so, "Aeolia" is 5:1.

How 'proper' do proper names have to be. For example, you could call your child something like, "Leoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeo" and win the contest pretty quickly.

For that matter, how 'proper' do the words have to be? Any word like "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah" can have as many vowels as the authour chooses.

edit: also see:
http://www.fun-with-words.com/word_vowels.html
for some place names and words from other languages which have only one consonant).
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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby ThirdParty » Fri Oct 19, 2012 8:05 pm UTC

Qaanol wrote:How about “tsktskings”?
Good one. I had considered "mmhmmings", but even though it had an excellent vowel-width-to-consonant-width ratio, it turned that the number of consonants in it wasn't any greater than "strengths".
dudiobugtron wrote:
ThirdParty wrote:Are proper names accepted? If so, "Aeolia" is 5:1.
How 'proper' do proper names have to be. For example, you could call your child something like, "Leoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeo" and win the contest pretty quickly.
I've been assuming we're limited to, at most, proper names which are found within standard English dictionaries. Otherwise the name hardly counts as an English word.

Actually, that goes for non-names too. One can't just make up a word and use it in a plausible-sounding sentence like "The philanthropist was well-practiced in the art of eupoeia". It has to be in a dictionary somewhere.

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Sir Novelty Fashion
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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby Sir Novelty Fashion » Sat Oct 20, 2012 3:49 am UTC

Does "euoauae" count?
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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby dudiobugtron » Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:53 am UTC

ThirdParty wrote:I've been assuming we're limited to, at most, proper names which are found within standard English dictionaries. Otherwise the name hardly counts as an English word.

Actually, that goes for non-names too. One can't just make up a word and use it in a plausible-sounding sentence like "The philanthropist was well-practiced in the art of eupoeia". It has to be in a dictionary somewhere.


Does Urban dictionary count? ;)
Or this?
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/aaaaaaah
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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby UniqueScreenname » Sat Oct 27, 2012 12:43 pm UTC

I know this is about English, but in Italian the word "aiuole" have every vowel in the Italian language. It means flowerbeds.
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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby Dark Avorian » Sat Nov 17, 2012 7:02 pm UTC

Sequoia also does that.
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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby UniqueScreenname » Tue Nov 20, 2012 9:35 pm UTC

Huh, so it does.
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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby DR6 » Sat Jan 12, 2013 10:01 pm UTC

UniqueScreenname wrote:I know this is about English, but in Italian the word "aiuole" have every vowel in the Italian language. It means flowerbeds.

In Spanish, "murciélago" does the same thing. It means "bat".

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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby Popup » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:00 pm UTC

Again, depending on how you define 'vowel', vs, 'consonant', but cwm looks like it's all consonants. And you find it in most dictionaries. (It's from Welsh and means 'valley'.)

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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby drego642 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:52 pm UTC

Of course, in Welsh, the letter, "w" is actually a vowel.

I'm not sure if we're only looking for single words, but in English, "sixth street" deserves a mention. It only has a consonant density of 4:1, but the grouping of /ksθstr/ right in the middle is a fairly uncomfortable cluster for many speakers.

Spoilers for more dirty, slightly off-topic breaking of focus on the English language:
Spoiler:
On the topic of uncomfortable consonant clusters, the Slavic languages of course deserve a mention or two as well. I'm looking at you, Polish poet Jan Brzechwa, whose tongue-twister poem, Chrząszcz opens with the line: "W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie".
Transliterated in IPA: [fʂt͡ʂɛbʐɛʂɨɲɛ xʂɔɰ̃ʂt͡ʂ bʐmi ftʂt͡ɕiɲɛ]

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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby goofy » Sat Jun 08, 2013 1:25 pm UTC

drego642 wrote:Of course, in Welsh, the letter, "w" is actually a vowel.


It also represents a consonant, as in words like wyn and gwaith.

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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby eSOANEM » Sat Jun 08, 2013 4:04 pm UTC

Well, [w] is just a non-syllabic [u] so you could analyse that as a vowel too.
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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby beojan » Sun Jun 09, 2013 12:31 pm UTC

Following the rules from the original post (i.e. words with only consonants (my, shy, by, etc (always counting y as a consonant)), and only vowels (a, I) are excluded), I took the SCOWL wordlist, British and American spellings, level 95 (insane), all variants, sorted by consonant:vowel ratio, then ran through the list from each end until I hit a word in the OED.

Highest vowel density (6 vowels : 1 consonant)
ouabaio which is, according to the OED, an arrow poison from certain East African trees.

"ouabaio, n.". OED Online. March 2013. Oxford University Press. 9 June 2013 <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/133309?redirectedFrom=ouabaio>.


Highest consonant density (11 consonants : 1 vowel)
psychorhythm which is, according to the OED, "a periodically varying mental condition"

"psycho-, comb. form". OED Online. March 2013. Oxford University Press. 9 June 2013 <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/153865?redirectedFrom=psychorhythm>.

Including words not in the OED, the highest consonant density was Psychichthys's with twelve consonants to one vowel.

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Re: Highest and lowest vowel density

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Jun 09, 2013 5:30 pm UTC

Counting <y> as a consonant in those words is stupid, though.
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