A nasal vowel is a vowel that is produced with a lowering of the velum so that air escapes both through nose as well as the mouth. By contrast, oral vowels are ordinary vowels without this nasalisation.
In most languages, vowels that are adjacent to nasal consonants are produced partially or fully with a lowered velum in a natural process of assimilation and are therefore technically nasal, though few speakers would notice. This is the case in English: vowels preceding nasal consonants are nasalized, but there is no phonemic distinction between nasal and oral vowels (and all vowels are considered phonemically oral). However, the word "huh" is generally pronounced with a nasal vowel.
In French and Portuguese, by contrast, nasal vowels are phonemes distinct from oral vowels, since words that differ mainly in the nasal or oral quality of a vowel exist. For example, the French words beau /bo/ "beautiful" and bon /bõ/ "good" differ only in that the former is oral and the latter is nasal. (To be more precise, the vowel in bon is slightly more open, leading many dictionaries to transcribe it as /ɔ̃/.)
Other articles related to "nasal vowel, nasal vowels, vowel, nasal, vowels":
... Languages that use phonemic nasal vowels include, among others Austro-Bavarian Breton Bengali Cherokee Choctaw Elfdalian French (see French phonology#Nasal vowels) Gbe languages Gheg Albanian ... Paicî (an unusually large number of nasal vowels) Polish (most dialects, including Kashubian) Portuguese Punjabi Tamil (modern colloquial Tamil only literal Tamil uses oral-vowel plus nasal-stop ...
... t/ are aspirated, as syllable onsets (at the beginning of a word, between vowels, or before /r/), and unreleased, as syllable codas (at the end of a word or before a consonant other ... B In a C or CC syllable onset before an oral vowel, /b/ is pronounced as a plain voiced stop at the beginning of a phonological word, and as either or as a prenasalized voiced stop ... coda, /b/ is pronounced before /h/ regardless of the following vowel's nasality, and optionally also as before the oral allophones of the other voiced obstruents, /d ...
... used in Taa orthography, where it represents the glottalized or creaky vowel ... Finnish and other languages with phonemic long vowels for ~ ... In English, as a result of the Great Vowel Shift, the vowel of ⟨ai⟩ has shifted from this value to /eɪ/ as in pain and rain while in French, a different change, monophthongization, has occurred ...
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“Brute animals have the vowel sounds; man only can utter consonants.”
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge (17721834)