Mid central vowel

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Mid central 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
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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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.

While the Handbook of the International Phonetic Association does not define the roundedness of [ə],[1] it is more often unrounded than rounded. The phonetician Jane Setter describes the pronunciation of the unrounded variant as follows: "[ə] is a sound which can be produced by basically relaxing the articulators in the oral cavity and vocalising."[2] To produce the rounded variant, all that needs to be done in addition to that is to round the lips.

Some languages, such as Danish[3] and Luxembourgish,[4] have a mid central vowel that is variably rounded. In some other languages, things are more complicated, as the change in rounding is accompanied with the change in height and/or backness. For instance, in Dutch, the unrounded allophone of /ə/ is mid central unrounded [ə], but its word-final rounded allophone is close-mid near-front rounded [ʏ̞], practically the same as the main allophone of /ʏ/.[5]

The symbol ⟨ə⟩ is often used for any unstressed obscure vowel, regardless of its precise quality. For instance, the English vowel transcribed ⟨ə⟩ is a central unrounded vowel that can be close-mid [ɘ], mid [ə] or open-mid [ɜ], depending on the environment.[6]

Mid central unrounded vowel[edit]

The mid central unrounded vowel is frequently written with the symbol [ə]. If greater 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
Bulgarian[7] пара [ˈparə] 'steam' Possible realization of unstressed /ɤ/ and /a/ in post-stressed syllables.[7] See Bulgarian phonology
Catalan Eastern Catalan[8] amb [əm(b)] 'with' Reduced vowel. It can be raised, lowered, advanced, retracted or rounded.[9] See Catalan phonology
Some Western accents[10]
Central Valencian[11] poc [ˈpɒ̝kːə] 'little' Vocalic release found in final consonants. It may vary in quality.
Danish Standard[12][13] hoppe [ˈhɒ̜̽b̥ə] 'mare' Sometimes realized as rounded [ɵ̞].[3] See Danish phonology
Dutch Standard[5] renner [ˈrɛnər] 'runner' The backness varies between near-front and central, whereas the height varies between close-mid and open-mid. Many speakers feel that this vowel is simply an unstressed allophone of /ʏ/.[5] See Dutch phonology
English Most dialects[6][14] Tina [ˈtʰiːnə] 'Tina' Reduced vowel; varies in height between close-mid and open-mid. Word-final /ə/ can be as low as [ɐ].[6][14] See English phonology
Cultivated South African[15] bird [bəːd] 'bird' May be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɜː⟩. Other South African varieties use a higher, more front and rounded vowel [øː~ ø̈ː]. See South African English phonology
Received Pronunciation[17] Often transcribed in IPA with ⟨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[18] bust [bəst] 'bust' May be lower. Some Indian varieties merge /ʌ/ and /ə/ like Welsh English.
Wales[19] May also be further back; it corresponds to /ʌ/ in other dialects.
Yorkshire[20] Middle class pronunciation. Other speakers use [ʊ]. Corresponds to /ʌ/ in other dialects.
Estonian[21] kõrv [kərv] 'ear' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɤ⟩; can be mid back [ɤ̞] or close back [ɯ] instead, depending on the speaker.[21] See Estonian phonology
Faroese[22] vildi [ˈvɪltə] 'wanted' Unstressed allophone of certain short vowels.[22] See Faroese phonology
Garhwali Standard[23]
[citation check needed]
कूड़ा [kuɽə] 'houses'
German Standard[24][25] bitte [ˈbɪtə] 'please' Also described as close-mid [ɘ].[26] See Standard German phonology
Inuit West Greenlandic[27] [example needed] Allophone of /i/ before and especially between uvulars.[27] See Inuit phonology
Kensiu[28] [təh] 'to be bald'
Limburgish[29][30][31] besjeemp [bəˈʃeːmp] 'embarrassed' Occurs only in unstressed syllables.[32][33][34] The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect.
Luxembourgish[4] dënn [d̥ən] 'thin' More often realized as slightly rounded [ɵ̞].[4] See Luxembourgish phonology
Norwegian Standard Eastern[35] sterkeste [²stæɾkəstə] 'the strongest' Also described as close-mid [ɘ];[36] occurs only in unstressed syllables. Some dialects (e.g. Trondheimsk) lack this sound.[37] See Norwegian phonology
Plautdietsch[38] bediedt [bəˈdit] 'means' The example word is from the Canadian Old Colony variety, in which the vowel is somewhat fronted [ə̟].[38]
Portuguese European[39] pagar [pəˈɣäɾ] 'to pay' Often corresponds to a near-open [ɐ] in Brazilian Portuguese.[40] See Portuguese phonology
São Paulo[41] cama [ˈkəmɐ] 'bed' Shorter nasal resonance or complete oral vowel in São Paulo and Southern Brazil, while nasal vowel in many other Portuguese dialects.
Some speakers[42] conviver [kũviˈveə̯ɾ] 'to coexist'
Sema[43] akütsü [ɐ˩ kə t͡sɨ̞] 'black' Possible word-medial allophone of /ɨ/.[43]
Vastese[44] [example needed]

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
Cipu Tirisino dialect[45] [orthographic
form needed
[dò̞sɵ̞̀nũ̂] "swim!" Allophone of /o/ in casual speech that occurs when the next syllable contains one of the close vowels /i, u/.[45]
Danish Standard[3] hoppe [ˈhɒ̜̽b̥ɵ̞] 'mare' Possible realization of /ə/.[3] See Danish phonology
Dutch Standard Belgian[46] neus [nɵ̞ːs] 'nose' Also described as close-mid near-front [ø̠ː]; usually transcribed in IPA with ⟨øː⟩. Diphthongized to [ø̠ʏ̯] in the Standard Northern accent.[47][48] See Dutch phonology
English New England English[49] most [mɵ̞st] 'most' Some speakers. Diphthongized to [ɵ̞ə̯] before /n, t, d/; many speakers tend to merge it with /oʊ/.[49] See English phonology
French[50] je [ʒɵ̞] 'I' Only somewhat rounded;[50] may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɵ⟩ or ⟨ə⟩. May be more front for a number of speakers. See French phonology
German Chemnitz dialect[51] Wonne [ˈʋɞ̝n̪ə] 'bliss' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɞ⟩.[51] See Chemnitz dialect phonology
Irish Munster[52] scoil [skɞ̝lʲ] 'school' Allophone of /ɔ/ between a broad and a slender consonant.[52] See Irish phonology
Luxembourgish[4] dënn [d̥ɵ̞n] 'thin' Slightly rounded; less often realized as unrounded [ə].[4] See Luxembourgish phonology
Plautdietsch Canadian Old Colony[53] butzt [bɵ̞t͡st] 'bumps' Mid-centralized from [ʊ], to which it corresponds in other dialects.[53]
Romanian[54] chemin de fer [ʃɵ̞ˌme̞n̪ d̪ɵ̞ ˈfe̞r] 'chemin de fer' Found only in loanwords.[54] See Romanian phonology
Swedish Central Standard[55] full About this sound [fɵ̞lː]  'full' Pronounced with compressed lips, more closely transcribed [ɵ̞ᵝ] or [ɘ̞ᵝ]. See Swedish phonology

See also[edit]


  1. ^ International Phonetic Association (1999), p. 167.
  2. ^ "A World of Englishes: Is /ə/ "real"?". Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d Basbøll (2005), p. 143.
  4. ^ a b c d e Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 70.
  5. ^ a b c Collins & Mees (2003), p. 129.
  6. ^ a b c Wells (2008), p. XXV.
  7. ^ a b Ternes & Vladimirova-Buhtz (1999), p. 56.
  8. ^ Recasens (1996), pp. 59–60, 104–105.
  9. ^ Recasens (1996), p. 106.
  10. ^ Recasens (1996), p. 98.
  11. ^ Saborit (2009), p. 11.
  12. ^ Allan, Holmes & Lundskær-Nielsen (2011), p. 2.
  13. ^ Basbøll (2005), pp. 57, 143.
  14. ^ a b Gimson (2014), p. 138.
  15. ^ Lass (2002), p. 116.
  16. ^ Lodge (2009), p. 168.
  17. ^ Roach (2004), p. 242.
  18. ^ Sailaja (2009), pp. 24–25.
  19. ^ Wells (1982a), pp. 380–381.
  20. ^ Stoddart, Upton & Widdowson (1999), pp. 74, 76.
  21. ^ a b Asu & Teras (2009), pp. 368–369.
  22. ^ a b Árnason (2011), pp. 89, 94.
  23. ^ Chandola, Anoop Chandra (1963-01-01). "Animal Commands of Garhwali and their Linguistic Implications". WORD. 19 (2): 203–207. doi:10.1080/00437956.1963.11659795. ISSN 0043-7956. 
  24. ^ Kohler (1999), p. 87.
  25. ^ Mangold (2005), p. 37.
  26. ^ "John Wells's phonetic blog: ɘ". Retrieved 28 January 2016. 
  27. ^ a b Fortescue (1990), p. 317.
  28. ^ Bishop (1996), p. 230.
  29. ^ Peters (2006), pp. 118–119.
  30. ^ Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), pp. 157, 159.
  31. ^ Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), pp. 108, 110.
  32. ^ Peters (2006), p. 118.
  33. ^ Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), p. 157.
  34. ^ Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), p. 108.
  35. ^ Vanvik (1979), pp. 13, 20.
  36. ^ Popperwell (2010), p. 16, 31–32.
  37. ^ Vanvik (1979), p. 21.
  38. ^ a b Cox, Driedger & Tucker (2013), p. 224.
  39. ^ Cruz-Ferreira (1995), p. 91.
  40. ^ Barbosa & Albano (2004), p. 229.
  41. ^ Produção da Fala. Marchal, Alain & Reis, César. p. 169.
  42. ^ Lista das marcas dialetais e ouros fenómenos de variação (fonética e fonológica) identificados nas amostras do Arquivo Dialetal do CLUP (Portuguese)
  43. ^ a b Teo (2012), p. 369.
  44. ^ "Vastesi Language - Vastesi in the World". Vastesi in the World. Retrieved 21 November 2016. 
  45. ^ a b McGill (2014), pp. 308–309.
  46. ^ Verhoeven (2005), p. 245.
  47. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 133–135.
  48. ^ Gussenhoven (1992), p. 47.
  49. ^ a b Wells (1982b), p. 525.
  50. ^ a b Fougeron & Smith (1993), p. 73.
  51. ^ a b Khan & Weise (2013), p. 236.
  52. ^ a b Ó Sé (2000), p. ?.
  53. ^ a b Cox, Driedger & Tucker (2013), pp. 224–225.
  54. ^ a b Romanian Academy (2005), p. ?.
  55. ^ Engstrand (1999), p. 140.


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