Open-mid central unrounded vowel

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Open-mid central unrounded vowel
IPA number 326
Entity (decimal) ɜ
Unicode (hex) U+025C
Kirshenbaum V"
Braille ⠲ (braille pattern dots-256) ⠜ (braille pattern dots-345)

The open-mid central unrounded vowel, or low-mid central 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 ⟨ɜ⟩. The IPA symbol is not the digit ⟨3⟩ or the Cyrillic small letter Ze (з; the latter arose from the Greek letter zeta, Ζ ζ). The symbol is instead a reversed Latinized variant of the lowercase epsilon, ɛ. The value was specified only in 1993; until then, it had been transcribed ⟨ɛ̈⟩.

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
i • y
ɨ • ʉ
ɯ • u
ɪ • ʏ
ɪ̈ • ʊ̈
ɯ̽ • ʊ
e • ø
ɘ • ɵ
ɤ • o
 • ø̞
ə • ɵ̞
ɤ̞ • 
ɛ • œ
ɜ • ɞ
ʌ • ɔ
æ • 
ɐ • ɞ̞
a • ɶ
ä • ɒ̈
ɑ • ɒ
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


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans Standard[1] lig [lɜχ] 'light' Also described as mid [ə],[2] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ə⟩. See Afrikaans phonology
Chinese Cantonese[3] / sam1 [sɜm˥] 'heart' Most often transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɐ⟩. See Cantonese phonology
Shanghainese[4] [kɜʔ4] "to reform" Allophone of /ə/ in syllables closed by a glottal stop; may be as open as [ɐ] for some speakers.[5]
Cotabato Manobo[6] [bätɜʔ] "child" Allophone of /a/ before glottal consonants; may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʌ⟩.[6]
Dinka Luanyjang[7] [orthographic
form needed
[lɜ́ŋ] "berry" Short allophone of /a/.[7]
Dutch[8] grappig [ˈχɾɑpɜχ] "funny" Possible realization of /ə/.[8] See Dutch phonology
English Received Pronunciation[9] bird [bɜːd] "bird" Sulcalized (the tongue is grooved like in [ɹ]). "Upper Crust RP" speakers pronounce a more open vowel [ɐː], but for most other speakers it is actually mid ([ɜ̝ː]). This vowel corresponds to rhotacized [ɝ] in rhotic dialects.
Norfolk[10] bet [bɜ̟ʔ] "bet" Somewhat fronted,[10] corresponds to /ɛ/ in other dialects.
Ohio[11] bust [bɜst] "bust" The most common realization of the vowel transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʌ⟩ in American English. Nevertheless, it is not a standard pronunciation throughout the whole country.[9][11]
Most of Texas[11]
Northern Welsh[12] Some speakers.[12] Corresponds to [ə] (or a further back vowel) in other Welsh dialects.[13]
Scottish[14] [bɜ̠st] Somewhat retracted; may be more back [ʌ] instead.
German Chemnitz dialect[15] passe [ˈpɜsə] "[I] pass" Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʌ⟩. See Chemnitz dialect phonology
Many speakers[16] herrlich [ˈhɜːlɪç] "fantastic" Common alternative to the diphthong [ɛɐ̯].[16] See Standard German phonology
Hausa[17] [example needed] Possible allophone of /a/, which can be as close as [ə] and as open as [ä].[17]
Jebero[18] [ˈkɘnmɜʔ] "indigenous person" Allophone of /a/ in closed syllables.[18]
Kaingang[19] [ˈɾɜ] "mark" Varies between central [ɜ] and back [ʌ].[20]
Kalagan Kaagan[21] [mɜˈt̪äs] "tall" Allophone of /a/; may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʌ⟩.[21]
Kallahan[22] [example needed]
Li'o Ke'o[23] [mɜre] "dark" Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ə⟩.[23]
Mapudungun[24] füta [ˈfɘtɜ] "elderly person" Unstressed allophone of /ɐ/.[24]
Romanian Standard[25] măr [mɜ̠r] "apple" Somewhat retracted;[25] also described as mid [ə]. See Romanian phonology
Transylvanian dialects[26] a [aˈʂɜ] "such" Corresponds to [ä] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
Sama Sibutu[27] [ˈsäpɜw] "roof" Allophone of /a/; may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʌ⟩.[27]
Temne[28] pȧs [pɜ́s] "brew" Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʌ⟩.[28]
Xumi Upper[29] [Rbɜ] "pot, pan"
Yiddish Standard[30] ענלעך [ˈɛnlɜχ] "similar" Unstressed vowel.[30] See Yiddish phonology


  1. ^ Wissing (2012), p. 711.
  2. ^ Wissing (2016), section "The rounded and unrounded mid-central vowels".
  3. ^ Zee (1999), p. 59.
  4. ^ Chen & Gussenhoven (2015), p. 328.
  5. ^ Chen & Gussenhoven (2015), pp. 328, 330.
  6. ^ a b Kerr (1988), pp. 110, 113.
  7. ^ a b Remijsen & Manyang (2009:117, 119)
  8. ^ a b Collins & Mees (2003), p. 129.
  9. ^ a b Ladefoged (1993:82)
  10. ^ a b Lodge (2009:168)
  11. ^ a b c Thomas (2001:27–28)
  12. ^ a b Tench, Paul (1990). "The Pronunciation of English in Abercrave". In Coupland, Nikolas. English in Wales: Diversity, Conflict, and Change. Multilingual Matters. ISBN 9781853590313. 
  13. ^ Wells (1982:380–381)
  14. ^ Lodge (2009:167)
  15. ^ Khan & Weise (2013:236)
  16. ^ a b Template:Harvcolxt
  17. ^ a b Schuh & Yalwa (1999:90–91)
  18. ^ a b Valenzuela & Gussenhoven (2013:101)
  19. ^ Jolkesky (2009:676–677, 682)
  20. ^ Jolkesky (2009:676, 682)
  21. ^ a b Wendel & Wendel (1978:198)
  22. ^ Santiago (2010:1, 8–10)
  23. ^ a b Baird (2002), p. 94.
  24. ^ a b Sadowsky et al. (2013:92)
  25. ^ a b Sarlin (2014:18)
  26. ^ Pop (1938:30)
  27. ^ a b Allison (1979:82)
  28. ^ a b Kanu & Tucker (2010:249)
  29. ^ Chirkova, Chen & Kocjančič Antolík (2013:388)
  30. ^ a b Kleine (2003:263)