Mid central vowel

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Mid central vowel#Mid-central unrounded vowel
IPA number 322
Entity (decimal) ə
Unicode (hex) U+0259
Kirshenbaum @
Braille ⠢ (braille pattern dots-26)
IPA vowel chart
Front Near-​front Central Near-​back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg
Paired vowels are: unrounded • rounded
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The mid central vowel (also known as schwa) is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ə, a rotated lowercase letter e. The same symbol may be used for both the unrounded and the rounded forms of the mid central vowel, although there exist certain other notations that may be used to represent either variant specifically.

Mid central unrounded vowel[edit]

The mid central unrounded vowel is frequently written with the symbol [ə]. However, this symbol may not specifically represent an unrounded vowel, and it is frequently used for almost any unstressed obscure vowel. If precision is desired, the symbol for the close-mid central unrounded vowel may be used with a lowering diacritic, [ɘ̞]. Another possibility is using the symbol for the open-mid central unrounded vowel with a raising diacritic, [ɜ̝].



Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Adyghe зы About this sound [zəː]  'one'
Albanian është [ˈəʃtə] 'is'
Armenian ընկեր [əŋˈkɛɹ] 'friend'
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic sətwa [sətwɐ] 'winter' Most speakers. Usually raised to [ɪ] in some Tyari dialects.
Catalan Eastern Catalan amb [əm(b)] 'with' See Catalan phonology
Dutch beter [ˈbeːtər] 'better' See Dutch phonology
English Most dialects Tina [ˈtʰiːnə] 'Tina' Reduced vowel. See English phonology
Cultivated Australian bird [bəːd] 'bird' Higher for other speakers.
Cultivated New Zealand Rounded for other speakers.
Cultivated South African[1] May be transcribed /ɜː/. Other varieties use a higher, more front and rounded vowel [øː ~ ø̈ː].
Received Pronunciation[3] Often transcribed /ɜː/. It is sulcalized, which means the tongue is grooved like in [ɹ]. 'Upper Crust RP' speakers pronounce a near-open vowel [ɐː], but for some other speakers it may actually be open-mid [ɜː]. This vowel corresponds to rhotacized [ɝ] in rhotic dialects.
Indian[4] bust [bəst] 'bust' May be lower. Some Indian varieties merge /ʌ/ and /ə/ like Welsh English.
Wales[5] May also be further back; it corresponds to [ʌ] in other dialects.
Yorkshire[6] Middle class pronunciation. Other speakers use [ʊ]. Corresponds to [ʌ] in other dialects.
German Chemnitz dialect[7] Wonne [ˈʋɞ̝n̪ə] 'bliss' See Chemnitz German phonology
Standard[8] bitte [ˈbɪtə] 'please' Unstressed allophone of /ɛ/. See German phonology
Hindustani दस/دَس [ˈd̪əs] 'ten' See Hindustani phonology
Kabardian щы About this sound [ɕəː]  'three'
Kashubian jãzëk [jãzək] 'language'
Luxembourgish[9] dënn [dən] 'thin' Often realized with slight lip rounding.
Malay Melayu [məlaju] 'Malay'
Marathi करा [əkˈra] 'eleven' See Marathi phonology.
Macedonian к’смет [ˈkəs̪mɛt̪] 'luck' (archaic) Not considered a vowel phoneme. See Macedonian phonology
Palauan tilobęd [tilobəd] 'came'
Pashto غوښه [ˈɣwəʂa] 'meat' See Pashto dialects
Piedmontese përché [pər'ke] 'why/because' May be realized as [a] or [ɑ] instead, depending on the variety.
Portuguese European[10] pagar [pɜ̝ˈɣaɾ] 'to pay' Often corresponds to a near-open vowel [ɐ] in Brazilian Portuguese.[11] Across dialects, among most Brazilian speakers, may be further lowered to an open vowel in certain positions. See Portuguese phonology
Some speakers[12] conviver [kũviˈveə̯ɾ] 'to coexist' Primarily in Portugal, but also stereotyped as a characteristic of the dialect of Rio de Janeiro (where [ə] for /ɐ/ is also dominant).[13] See Portuguese phonology
Punjabi ਅਮਨ [əmən] 'peace'
Romanian măr [mər] 'apple' See Romanian phonology
Russian это About this sound [ˈɛt̪ə]  'this' See Russian phonology
Swedish be [bəˈɡoː] 'to commit' Unstressed allophone of /ɛ/, see Swedish phonology
Welsh Cymru About this sound [ˈkəmrɨ]  'Wales' See Welsh phonology
West Frisian gewoan [ɡəˈʋoə̯n] 'normal'

Mid central rounded vowel[edit]

Mid central rounded vowel

Languages may have a mid central rounded vowel (a rounded [ə]), distinct from both the close-mid and open-mid vowels. However, since no language is known to distinguish all three, there is no separate IPA symbol for the mid vowel, and the symbol [ɵ] for the close-mid central rounded vowel is generally used instead. If precision is desired, the lowering diacritic can be used: [ɵ̞]. This vowel can also be represented by adding the more rounded diacritic to the schwa symbol, or by combining the raising diacritic with the open-mid central rounded vowel symbol, although it is rare to use such symbols.



Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Dutch Standard Belgian[14] neus About this sound [nɵ̞ːs]  'nose' Usually transcribed /øː/; in the Netherlands it's often a diphthong [ɵʉ]. See Dutch phonology
Southern[15] hut [ɦɵ̞t] 'hut' Corresponds to [ɵ] in standard Netherlandic Dutch and [ʊ̈] in standard Belgian Dutch.
French[16] je [ʒɵ̞] 'I' This may be more front for a number of speakers. See French phonology
German Chemnitz dialect[7] Wonne [ˈʋɞ̝n̪ə] 'bliss' See Chemnitz German phonology
Irish Munster[17] scoil [skө̠˕lʲ] 'school' Somewhat retracted;[17] allophone of /ɔ/ between a broad and a slender consonant.[17] See Irish phonology
Limburgish Weert dialect[18] [blɵ̞ts] 'bump' Somewhat fronted.[18]
Russian[19][20] тётя [ˈtʲɵ̞tʲə] 'aunt' Allophone of /o/ in the environment of palatalized consonants. See Russian phonology
Swedish Central Standard[21] dum [d̪ɵ̞mː] 'dumb' Pronounced with compressed lips, more closely transcribed [ɵ̞ᵝ] or [ɘ̞ᵝ]. See Swedish phonology
West Frisian skowe [ˈskoːwə̹] 'to shove'

See also[edit]



  • Barbosa, Plínio A.; Albano, Eleonora C. (2004), "Brazilian Portuguese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (2): 227–232, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001756 
  • Collins, Beverley; Mees, Inger M. (2003), The Phonetics of English and Dutch, Fifth Revised Edition, ISBN 9004103406 
  • Crosswhite, Katherine Margaret (2000), "Vowel Reduction in Russian: A Unified Account of Standard, Dialectal, and 'Dissimilative' Patterns", University of Rochester Working Papers in the Language Sciences 1 (1): 107–172 
  • Cruz-Ferreira, Madalena (1995), "European Portuguese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 25 (2): 90–94, doi:10.1017/S0025100300005223 
  • Engstrand, Olle (1999), "Swedish", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the usage of the International Phonetic Alphabet., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 140, ISBN 0-521-63751-1 
  • Fougeron, Cecile; Smith, Caroline L (1993), "French", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 23 (2): 73–76, doi:10.1017/S0025100300004874 
  • Gilles, Peter; Trouvain, Jürgen (2013), "Luxembourgish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 43 (1): 67–74, doi:10.1017/S0025100312000278 
  • Heijmans, Linda; Gussenhoven, Carlos (1998), "The Dutch dialect of Weert", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 28: 107–112, doi:10.1017/S0025100300006307 
  • Jones, Daniel; Ward, Dennis (1969), The Phonetics of Russian, Cambridge University Press 
  • Khan, Sameer ud Dowla; Weise, Constanze (2013), "Upper Saxon (Chemnitz dialect)", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 43 (2): 231–241, doi:10.1017/S0025100313000145 
  • Kohler, Klaus J. (1999), "German", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 86–89, ISBN 0-521-65236-7 
  • Lass, Roger (2002), "South African English", in Mesthrie, Rajend, Language in South Africa, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521791052 
  • Lodge, Ken (2009), A Critical Introduction to Phonetics, ISBN 978-0-8264-8873-2 
  • Mangold, Max (2005), Das Aussprachewörterbuch, Duden, ISBN 9783411040667 
  • Ó Sé, Diarmuid (2000), Gaeilge Chorca Dhuibhne (in Irish), Dublin: Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann, ISBN 0-946452-97-0 
  • Roach, Peter (2004), "British English: Received Pronunciation", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (2): 239–245, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001768 
  • Sailaja, Pingali (2009), Indian English, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd, pp. 17–38, ISBN 978 0 7486 2594 9 
  • Stoddart, Jana; Upton, Clive; Widdowson, J.D.A. (1999), "Sheffield dialect in the 1990s: revisiting the concept of NORMs", Urban Voices, London: Arnold, pp. 72–89 
  • Verhoeven, Jo (2005), "Belgian Standard Dutch", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 35 (2): 245, doi:10.1017/S0025100305002173 
  • Wells, J.C. (1982), Accents of English, 2: The British Isles, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press