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
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Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Chinese Shanghainese[1] [kɜʔ4] 'to reform' Allophone of /ə/ in syllables closed by a glottal stop; may be as open as [ɐ] for some speakers.[2]
Catalan Northwestern Marieta [mɐɾɪ̝ˈë̞t̪ɛ̈] 'little Mary' Possible word-final allophone of unstressed /a/. See Catalan phonology
Cotabato Manobo[3] [bätɜʔ] 'child' Allophone of /a/ before glottal consonants; may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʌ⟩.[3]
Dinka Luanyjang[4] laŋ [lɜ́ŋ] 'berry' Short allophone of /a/.[4]
Dutch[5] grappig [ˈχɾɑpɜχ] 'funny' Possible realization of /ə/.[5] See Dutch phonology
English Received Pronunciation[6] 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's actually mid ([ɜ̝ː]). This vowel corresponds to rhotacized [ɝ] in rhotic dialects.
Norfolk[7] bet [bɜ̟ʔ] 'bet' Somewhat fronted,[7] corresponds to /ɛ/ in other dialects.
Great Lakes region [bɜ̟ˀt] Corresponds to /ɛ/ in other dialects, may be near-open central [ɐ] instead. See Northern Cities Vowel Shift
Ohio[8] 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.[6][8]
Most of Texas[8]
Northern Welsh[9] Some speakers.[9] Corresponds to [ə] (or a further back vowel) in other Welsh dialects.[10]
Scottish[11] [bɜ̠st] Somewhat retracted; may be more back [ʌ] instead.
German Chemnitz dialect[12] passe [ˈpɜsə] 'I pass' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʌ⟩. See Chemnitz dialect phonology
Jebero[13] [ˈkɘnmɜʔ] 'indigenous person' Allophone of /a/ in closed syllables.[13]
Kaingang[14] [ˈɾɜ] 'mark' Varies between central [ɜ] and back [ʌ].[15]
Kalagan Kaagan[16] [mɜˈt̪äs] 'tall' Allophone of /a/; may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʌ⟩.[16]
Kallahan[17] [example needed]
Ladin Some dialects Urtijëi About this sound [uχt̪iˈʒɜj]  'Urtijëi'
Mapudungun[18] füta [ˈfɘtɜ] 'elderly person' Unstressed allophone of /ɐ/.[18]
Northern Tiwa Taos dialect [ʔɜ̃̄mˈpʊ̄i̯ˌwæ̀ˑʔɪ̄nã̄] 'his friends' Allophone of /æ/ and /ɑ/. See Taos phonology
Paicî [mbʷɜ̄] 'remainder'
Romanian Standard[19] măr [mɜ̠r] 'apple' Somewhat retracted;[19] also described as mid [ə]. See Romanian phonology
Transylvanian dialects[20] a [aˈʂɜ] 'such' Corresponds to [ä] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
Sama Sibutu[21] [ˈsäpɜw] 'roof' Allophone of /a/; may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʌ⟩.[21]
Vietnamese Southern bên [ˀɓɜːn˧˥] 'side' Allophone of /e/ before /t, n/. See Vietnamese phonology
Xumi Upper[22] [Rbɜ] 'pot, pan'
Yiddish Standard[23] ענלעך [ˈɛnlɜχ] 'similar' Unstressed vowel.[23] See Yiddish phonology


  1. ^ Chen & Gussenhoven (2015:328)
  2. ^ Chen & Gussenhoven (2015:328, 330)
  3. ^ a b Kerr (1988), pp. 110, 113.
  4. ^ a b Remijsen & Manyang (2009:117, 119)
  5. ^ a b Collins & Mees (2003), p. 129.
  6. ^ a b Ladefoged (1993:82)
  7. ^ a b Lodge (2009:168)
  8. ^ a b c Thomas (2001:27–28)
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Wells (1982:380–381)
  11. ^ Lodge (2009:167)
  12. ^ Khan & Weise (2013:236)
  13. ^ a b Valenzuela & Gussenhoven (2013:101)
  14. ^ Jolkesky (2009:676–677, 682)
  15. ^ Jolkesky (2009:676, 682)
  16. ^ a b Wendel & Wendel (1978:198)
  17. ^ Santiago (2010:1, 8–10)
  18. ^ a b Sadowsky et al. (2013:92)
  19. ^ a b Sarlin (2014:18)
  20. ^ Pop (1938:30)
  21. ^ a b Allison (1979:82)
  22. ^ Chirkova, Chen & Kocjančič Antolík (2013:388)
  23. ^ a b Kleine (2003:263)