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cardinal vowels

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These recordings demonstrate the so-called cardinal vowels, as spoken by the phonetician Daniel Jones in 1956 (at age 75). These cardinal vowels can be regarded as "reference" vowels, for phonetic description and transcription. The cardinal vowels demarcate the articulatory vowel space. The concept of Cardinal Vowels was developed by the speaker of these recordings, Daniel Jones (1881-1967).
In Jones' publications, we can read how the reference vowel sounds should be produced (e.g. tongue positions, etc, see below). But vowels are spoken in order to be heard, and it is interesting to hear the reference vowel sounds from their primary source, i.e. Jones' mouth. In fact, this sound recording is not an arbitrary medium of the cardinal vowel idea (like books or manuscripts are), but it constitutes the very essence of it: the vowel sounds themselves.
Cardinal Vowels can only be learnt from a teacher who knows how to make them or from a gramophone record or tape record. It is for the purpose of making these vowels widely known that these (...) records have been prepared.
Daniel Jones (1956), in the accompanying booklet.
The recordings were probably made sometime between September and December 1956 (Collins, 1988, p.431 and p.470), when the speaker, Daniel Jones, was 75 years old. The demonstrations were released as a two-record set on the Linguaphone label in 1956 (78 rpm, with labels "Eng.252" to "Eng.255" on the four sides). There is an accompanying booklet, which a preface by Daniel Jones dated March 1956.

There are separate pages with some articulatory illustrations, and with copies of the accompanying booklet.


  • COLLINS, Beverly (1988). The early career of Daniel Jones. Dissertation, Utrecht University.
  • COLLINS, Beverly & MEES, Inger M. (1999) The Real Professor Higgins: The Life and Career of Daniel Jones. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-015124-3.
  • JONES, Daniel (1918/1967). An Outline of English Phonetics. Cambridge: Heffer. Ninth edition, 1967.

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16 Feb 2001