Open back unrounded vowel

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Open back unrounded vowel
IPA number 305
Entity (decimal) ɑ
Unicode (hex) U+0251
Kirshenbaum A
Braille ⠡ (braille pattern dots-16)

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.

Limburgish dialect of Hamont has been reported to contrast open front, central and back unrounded vowels,[1] which is extremely unusual.

The IPA prefers terms "close" and "open" for vowels, and the name of the article follows this. However, a large number of linguists,[who?] 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. Note that unrounded back vowels tend to be centralized, which means that they're in fact near-back.
  • It is unrounded, which means that the lips are not rounded.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Angor ape [ɑpe] 'father'
Arabic Standard[2] طويل [tˤɑˈwiːl] 'tall' Allophone of long and short /a/ near emphatic consonants. See Arabic phonology
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic baba [bɑːba] 'father' Used mostly in the Tyari dialects. Corresponds to [a] and [ä] in other varieties.
Armenian Eastern[2] հաց [hɑt͡sʰ] 'bread'
Dutch Amsterdam[3] aap [ɑːp] 'monkey' Corresponds to [ ~ äː] in standard Dutch.
Southern Randstad[5] bad [bɑt] 'bath' Backness varies among dialects; in southern Randstad[6] and standard Netherlandic Dutch[7] it is fully back.[6][7] In addition to being fully back,[6] it is raised to [ɑ̝] in Leiden and Rotterdam,[6] sometimes with lip rounding [ɒ̝].[6] In standard Belgian Dutch it is raised and fronted to [ɑ̝̈].[8] See Dutch phonology
The Hague[9] nauw [nɑː] 'narrow' Corresponds to [ʌu] in standard Dutch.
English Many dialects spa [spɑː] 'spa' See English phonology
Cardiff[10] hot [hɑ̝̈t] 'hot' Somewhat raised and fronted.
General American[12] [hɑt] May be more front [ɑ̟ ~ ä], especially in accents without the cot-caught merger. See English phonology
Cockney[13] bath [bɑːθ] 'bath' Fully back. According to Beaken (1971) it is a 'vigorous, informal' pronunciation. It can be more front [ɑ̟ː] instead.
South African[14]
Fully back. Broad varieties usually produce a rounded vowel [ɒː ~ ɔː] instead, while Cultivated SAE prefers a more front vowel [ɑ̟ː ~ äː].
South African[15]
[bɑ̟ːθ] 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[16]
Southern English
Non-local Dublin[17] back [bɑq] 'back' Allophone of /æ/ before velars for some speakers.[17]
Finnish kana [ˈkɑnɑ] 'hen' See Finnish phonology
French Quebec pâte [pɑːt] 'paste' See Quebec French phonology.
Georgian[18] გუდ [ɡudɑ] 'leather bag'
German Some dialects Tag [tʰɑːk] 'day' In other dialects it is more front. See German phonology.
Limburgish Hamont dialect[1] [tɑːnt²] 'tooth' Contrasts short and long versions[1] and with [a], [] and [äː].[1] See Phonology of the Hamont-Achel dialect of Limburgish
Hasselt dialect[19] [mɑ̟ːl] 'time' Somewhat fronted.[19][20] These dialects contrast long and short versions of this vowel.[19][20]
Weert dialect[20] [lɑ̟ːŋk] 'tall'
Maastrichtian[21] bats [bɑ̝̈ts] 'buttock' Somewhat raised and fronted.[21]
Luxembourgish[22] Kapp [kʰɑ̝pʰ] 'head' Fully back and raised.
Navajo ashkii [ɑʃkɪː] 'boy' See Navajo phonology
Norwegian Fredrikstad[23] hat [hɑːt] 'hate' Corresponds to [ ~ äː] in Standard Eastern Norwegian. See Norwegian phonology
Plautdietsch Gott [ɡɑ̽t] 'God'
Russian[25] палка [ˈpɑɫkə] 'stick' Occurs only both before /ɫ/ and after an unpalatalized consonant. See Russian phonology
Swedish Some dialects jаg [jɑːɡ] 'I' Weakly rounded [ɒ̜ː] in Central Standard Swedish.[26] See Swedish phonology
Ukrainian мати [ˈmɑtɪ] 'mother' See Ukrainian phonology
West Frisian lang [ɫɑŋ] 'long'

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Verhoeven (2007), p. 221.
  2. ^ a b Thelwall & Sa'Adeddin (1990), p. 39.
  3. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 78, 104 and 133.
  4. ^ a b Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 104 and 133.
  5. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 96 and 131.
  6. ^ a b c d e Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 131.
  7. ^ a b c Gussenhoven (1992), p. 47.
  8. ^ a b Verhoeven (2005), p. 245.
  9. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), p. 136.
  10. ^ Coupland (1990), p. 95.
  11. ^ Lodge (2009), p. 168.
  12. ^ Mannell, Cox & Harrington (2009).
  13. ^ Wells (1982), p. 305.
  14. ^ Lass (2002), p. 117.
  15. ^ Lass (2002), p. 116-117.
  16. ^ Roach (2004), p. 242.
  17. ^ a b "Glossary". Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  18. ^ Shosted & Chikovani (2006), pp. 261–262.
  19. ^ a b c Peters (2006), p. 119.
  20. ^ a b c Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), p. 110.
  21. ^ a b Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), p. 159.
  22. ^ Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 70.
  23. ^ a b Vanvik (1979), p. 16.
  24. ^ Vanvik (1979), p. 17.
  25. ^ Jones & Ward (1969), p. 50.
  26. ^ Engstrand (1999), p. 141.


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