OK class, The letter Y can be regarded as both a vowel and a consonant. In terms of sound, a vowel is ‘a speech sound which is produced by comparatively open configuration of the vocal tract, with vibration of the vocal cords but without audible friction…’, while a consonant is ‘a basic speech sound in which the breath is at least partly obstructed’. The letter Y can be used to represent different sounds in different words, and can therefore fit either definition. In myth or hymn it’s clearly a vowel, and also in words such as my, where it stands for a diphthong (a combination of two vowel sounds). On the other hand, in a word like beyond there is an obstacle to the breath which can be heard between two vowels, and the same sound begins words like young and yes. (This consonant sound, like that of the letter W, is sometimes called a ‘semivowel’ because it is made in a similar way to a vowel, but functions in contrast to vowels when used in words.) Whether the letter Y is a vowel or a consonant is therefore rather an arbitrary decision. The letter is probably more often used as a vowel, but in this role it’s often interchangeable with the letter I. However, the consonant sound is not consistently represented in English spelling by any other letter, and perhaps for this reason Y tends traditionally to be counted among the consonants.
Okay class I’ll be your substitute teacher while Steeever is out on sick leave. I’m going to find all the girls and have a one on one meeting with you while I study your Biology. Then I will proceed to Physics you into having Physical Education with you. I will then finish the lesson by shooting my Chemistry all over your English face.
etownegeatgmaildotcom….. I think that what must have actually happened was the staff at oxford dictionary saw my explanation and cut and pasted it onto the dictionary website, or something like that….
This is how I understand it from my linguistics classes in college.
“Y” is not a vowel. It is a symbol, and the sounds it represents will be either a vowel or a consonant, which depends on the word itself. This is because English’s spelling system is based on a system that used to actually make sense before the vowels all shifted around. A lack of a unified spelling reform leads to confusion like this nowadays.
In words like “yay” ([jɛɪ] or [jɛi]) and “your” ([joɹ]) and “yucca” ([jə.kə] or [ju.kə]) the letter “y” represents the /j/ sound, which is a consonant. It’s a palatal glide, also known as a semi-vowel or an approximate. In words like “beyond” it actually will separate the two vowels, leading to a transcription like [bi.jand] if someone were to transcribe it.
By contrast, in words like “berry” ([bɛɹ.i]) it represents the vowel /i/.
Then there are words like “spy” ([spaɪ] or [spai]) where it will actually represent two vowels working in conjunction with each other, aka diphthongs. In words like “day” ([dɛɪ] or [dɛi]) it will represent one half of a dipthong if you don’t want to count the “ay” in the word as a digraph (and you probably shouldn’t).