Open back unrounded vowel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Open back unrounded vowel
IPA number 305
Entity (decimal) ɑ
Unicode (hex) U+0251
Kirshenbaum A

The open back unrounded vowel, or low back unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ɑ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is A. The letter ɑ is called script a because it lacks the extra hook on top of a printed letter a, which corresponds to a different vowel, the open front unrounded vowel. Script a, which has its linear stroke on the bottom right, should not be confused with turned script a, ɒ, which has its linear stroke on the top left and corresponds to a rounded version of this vowel, the open back rounded vowel.

The IPA prefers terms "close" and "open" for vowels, and the name of the article follows this. However, a large number of linguists, perhaps a majority, prefer the terms "high" and "low".


IPA vowel chart
Front Near-​front Central Near-​back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg
Paired vowels are: unrounded • rounded
This table contains phonetic symbols, which may not display correctly in some browsers. [Help]

IPA help • IPA key • chart • Loudspeaker.svg chart with audio • view
  • Its vowel height is open, also known as low, which means the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth – that is, as low as possible in the mouth.
  • Its vowel backness is back, which means the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
  • It is unrounded, which means that the lips are not rounded.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Angor ape [ɑpe] 'father'
Arabic Standard[1] طويل [tˤɑˈwiːl] 'tall' Allophone of long and short /a/ near emphatic consonants. See Arabic phonology
Armenian Eastern[2] հաց [hɑt͡sʰ] 'bread'
Dutch Standard Netherlandic[3] bad [bɑt] 'bath' Backness varies among dialects; in standard Netherlandic Dutch it's fully back. It corresponds to [ɐ̠] in standard Belgian Dutch. See Dutch phonology
Some dialects maar [mɑːr] 'but' Present for example in dialects of Amsterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven. It corresponds to [äː] in both standard Belgian and standard Netherlandic Dutch.
The Hague nauw [nɑː] 'narrow' Corresponds to [ʌu] in standard Dutch.
English Many dialects spa [spɑː] 'spa' See English phonology
General American[4] hot [hɑt] 'hot' May be more front [ɑ̟ ~ ä], especially in accents without the cot-caught merger. See English phonology
Cardiff[5] [hɑ̝̈t] Somewhat raised and fronted. It contrasts with [ʌː ~ o̞ː] and [].
Norfolk[6] Somewhat raised and fronted. It contrasts with [ɔː] and [äː].
South African[7]
bath [bɑ̟ːθ] 'bath' Typically more front than cardinal [ɑ]. It may be as front as [äː] in some Cultivated South African and southern English speakers. See English phonology
Received Pronunciation[8]
Southern English
Cockney[9] [bɑːθ] Fully back. According to Beaken (1971) it's a 'vigorous, informal' pronunciation. It can be more front [ɑ̟ː] instead.
South African[10]
Fully back. Broad varieties usually produce a rounded vowel [ɒː ~ ɔː] instead, while Cultivated SAE prefers a more front vowel [ɑ̟ː ~ äː].
Finnish kana [ˈkɑnɑ] 'hen' See Finnish phonology
French Quebec pâte [pɑːt] 'paste' See Quebec French phonology.
Georgian[11] გუდ [ɡudɑ] 'leather bag'
German Some dialects Tag [tʰɑːk] 'day' In other dialects it's more front. See German phonology.
Luxembourgish[12] Kapp [kʰɑ̝pʰ] 'head' Fully back and raised.
Navajo ashkii [ɑʃkɪː] 'boy' See Navajo phonology
Norwegian[13] Fredrikstad hat [hɑːt] 'hate' Central [äː] in Standard Eastern Norwegian. See Norwegian phonology
Plautdietsch Gott [ɡɑ̽t] 'God'
Russian[14] палка [ˈpɑɫkə] 'stick' Occurs only both before /ɫ/ and after an unpalatalized consonant. See Russian phonology
Swedish Central Standard[15] jаg [jɑ̝ːɡ] 'I' Fully back and raised. See Swedish phonology
Ukrainian вона [wɔˈnɑ] 'she' See Ukrainian phonology
West Frisian lang [ɫɑŋ] 'long'

See also[edit]



  • Coupland, Nikolas (1990), English in Wales: Diversity, Conflict, and Change, ISBN 1-85359-032-0 
  • Dum-Tragut, Jasmine (2009), Armenian: Modern Eastern Armenian, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company 
  • 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. 140–142, 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 
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos (1992), "Dutch", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 22 (2): 45–47, doi:10.1017/S002510030000459X 
  • Jones, Daniel; Ward, Dennis (1969), The Phonetics of Russian, Cambridge University Press 
  • 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, pp. 167–169, ISBN 978-0-8264-8873-2 
  • Mannell, R.; Cox, F.; Harrington, J. (2009), An Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology, Macquarie University 
  • Roach, Peter (2004), "British English: Received Pronunciation", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (2): 239–245, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001768 
  • Shosted, Ryan K.; Chikovani, Vakhtang (2006), "Standard Georgian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 36 (2): 255–264, doi:10.1017/S0025100306002659 
  • Thelwall, Robin; Sa'Adeddin, M. Akram (1990), "Arabic", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 20 (2): 37–39, doi:10.1017/S0025100300004266 
  • Vanvik, Arne (1979), Norsk fonetik, Oslo: Universitetet i Oslo, ISBN 82-990584-0-6 
  • Wells, J.C. (1982). Accents of English 2: The British Isles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.