Word Ways


Dana Richards


The vowel structure of a word is defined as its sequence of vowels, such as OIOU in obvious and conscious, or AE in pattern and amend. The only previous Word Ways studies of vowel structure focused upon finding as many of the 120 permutations of AEIOU as possible (see "Unsociable Housemaid Discourages Facetious Behavior" in November 1968, an "An AEIOUS Examination" in May (1979). In contrast, this article tackles the problems of (1) finding examples of all 216 types of vowel structure for words having three vowels among AEIOUY, and (2) finding examples of all 625 types of vowel structure for words having four vowels among AEIOU. (One ideally should look for all 1296 types with Y included as a vowel, but there are many holes in such a list even when Webster's Second and Webster's Thirds are both used.) As a lagnaippe, I also include lists of the 6 types of one-vowel and 36 two-vowel words, supplied by the editor; here, the commonest word for each type (as measured by Kucera and Fancis's million-word corpus) is given.