Near-close near-back rounded vowel

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Near-close near-back rounded vowel
IPA number 321
Entity (decimal) ʊ
Unicode (hex) U+028A
Kirshenbaum U
Braille ⠷ (braille pattern dots-12356)

The near-close near-back rounded vowel, or near-high near-back rounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some vocal languages. The IPA symbol that represents this sound is ⟨ʊ⟩. It is informally called "horseshoe u". Prior to 1989, there was an alternate IPA symbol for this sound, ⟨ɷ⟩, called "closed omega"; use of this symbol is no longer sanctioned by the IPA.[1] In Americanist phonetic notation, the symbol ⟨⟩ (a small capital U) is used.

The Handbook of the International Phonetic Association defines [ʊ] as a mid-centralized (lowered and centralized) close back rounded vowel,[2] therefore, an alternative transcription of this vowel is ⟨⟩ (a symbol equivalent to a more complex ⟨ü̞⟩). However, some languages, such as Korean[3] and Swedish[4] have the near-close back rounded vowel, which differs from its near-back counterpart in that it is a lowered, but not centralized close back rounded vowel, transcribed in the IPA as ⟨ʊ̠⟩, ⟨⟩ or ⟨⟩ (this article uses ⟨ʊ̠⟩).

The IPA prefers the 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".

A few languages also have the near-close near-back unrounded vowel (which does not have a separate IPA symbol) in their inventory.

Near-close near-back protruded vowel[edit]

The near-close near-back protruded vowel is typically transcribed in IPA simply as ⟨ʊ⟩, and that is the convention used in this article. As there is no dedicated diacritic for protrusion in the IPA, symbol for the near-close near-back rounded vowel with an old diacritic for labialization, ⟨  ̫⟩, can be used as an ad hoc symbol ⟨ʊ̫⟩ for the near-close near-back protruded vowel. Another possible transcription is ⟨ʊʷ⟩ or ⟨ɯ̽ʷ⟩ (a near-close near-back vowel modified by endolabialization), but this could be misread as a diphthong.

The near-close back protruded vowel, found e.g. in Korean, can be transcribed ⟨u̞ʷ⟩, ⟨ɯ̞ʷ⟩ or ⟨u̫˕⟩.


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
Arabic Tunisian kuntrātū [kʊntrɑːtuː] 'contract' See Arabic phonology
Assamese চৰ [ʊsɔɹ] 'near'
Bulgarian[5] абатство [ɐˈbat̪s̪t̪vʊ̠] 'abbey' Fully back; possible realization of unstressed /u/ and /ɔ/ in post-stressed syllables.[5] See Bulgarian phonology
Chinese Cantonese /hung4 [hʊŋ˨˩] 'red' Can be realized as [o] instead. See Cantonese phonology
Mandarin /hóng [xʊŋ˧˥] Varies between close and mid. See Mandarin phonology
Shanghainese[6] [example needed] [kʊ¹] 'melon' Height varies between close and close-mid; contrasts with a close to close-mid back compressed vowel.[6]
Danish Standard[7][8] kone [ˈkʰʊ̠ːnə] 'wife' Fully back;[7][8] also described as close-mid [].[9][10] Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨⟩. The vowel transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʊ⟩ is pronounced similarly to (or the same as) the short /o/.[11] See Danish phonology
Dutch Orsmaal-Gussenhoven dialect[12] ug [ʊx] 'you' See Orsmaal-Gussenhoven dialect phonology
English Australian[13][14] hook [hʊk] 'hook' Also described as close back [u].[15] See Australian English phonology
Northern English[14][16]
Welsh[17][18] In Cardiff, it is advanced and lowered to [ɵ], often also with unrounding to [ɘ].[19]
Cockney[20] [ʊʔk] Sometimes fronted to [ʊ̈].[20]
Conservative Received Pronunciation[14] [hʊʔk] Often lowered and advanced to [ɵ], or unrounded to [ɘ]. See English phonology
Multicultural London[21] May be front [ʏ] instead.[21]
New Zealand[22] May be close-mid [ʊ̞] instead; it is unrounded and advanced to [ɪ̈ ~ ɘ] in some lexical items.[23]
Some Estuary speakers[25] Often advanced to [ʊ̈ ~ ʏ], or advanced and lowered to [ɵ ~ ø̠].[25]
Faroese hvalur [kvɛalʊɹ] 'whale' See Faroese phonology
French Quebec foule [fʊl] 'crowd' Allophone of /u/ in closed syllables. See Quebec French phonology
German Standard[26][27][28] Stunde About this sound [ˈʃtʊndə] 'hour' Described variously as near-back[26][27] and back.[28] See German phonology
Chemnitz dialect[29] Schurf [ʃʊˤːf] 'blight' Pharyngealized; may be realized as [ʊːɒ̯] instead.[29] See Chemnitz dialect phonology
Southern Bernese [example needed] Corresponds to [ɔu̯] in the city of Bern. See Bernese German phonology
Hindustani गुलाब/گلاب [gʊˈläːb] 'rose' See Hindustani phonology
Hungarian[30] ujj [ʊjː] 'finger' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨u⟩. See Hungarian phonology
Irish Munster[31] dubh [d̪ˠɰʊvˠ] 'black' Allophone of /ʊ/ between broad consonants.[31] See Irish phonology
Kaingang[32] [kʊˈtu] 'deaf' Atonic allophone of /u/ and /o/.[33]
Korean[3] 구리/guri [kʊ̠ɾi] 'copper' Fully back;[3] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨u⟩. See Korean phonology
Limburgish Weert dialect[34] [example needed] Used only by older speakers.[34]
Luxembourgish[35] Sprooch [ʃpʀʊ̠ːχ] 'language' Fully back;[35] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨⟩. Also described as close-mid [].[36] See Luxembourgish phonology
Malay burung [buˈrʊŋ] 'bird' Allophone of /u/ in closed final syllables of root morphemes.
Mongolian[37] ус [ʊs] 'water'
Piedmontese Torton-a [tʊrˈtʊŋa] 'Tortona'
Polish[38] tu [t̪ʊ] 'here' Very rare realization of /u/.[39] See Polish phonology
Portuguese Brazilian[40] pulo [ˈpulʊ] 'leap' Reduction and neutralization of unstressed /u, o, ɔ/; can be voiceless. See Portuguese phonology
Punjabi ਪੁਦੀਨਾ [pʊˈd̪iːnäː] 'mint'
Russian[41] сухой About this sound [s̪ʊˈxʷo̞j] 'dry' Unstressed allophone of /u/. See Russian phonology
Shiwiar[42] [example needed] Allophone of /u/.[42]
Slovak[43][44][45] ruka [ˈrʊkä] 'arm' Backness varies between back and near-back.[43] See Slovak phonology
Spanish Eastern Andalusian[46] tus [t̪ʊ̠ː] 'your' (pl.) Fully back. Corresponds to [u] in other dialects, but in these dialects they're distinct. See Spanish phonology
Turkish[47] buzlu [buz̪ˈl̠ʊ] 'icy' Allophone of /u/ described variously as "word-final"[47] and "occurring in final open syllable of a phrase".[48] See Turkish phonology
Yoruba[49] [example needed] Near-back or fully back; typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ũ⟩. It is nasalized, and may be close [ũ̟ ~ ũ] instead.[49]

Near-close near-back compressed vowel[edit]

Near-close near-back compressed vowel

Some languages, such as Norwegian, are found with a near-close near-back vowel that has a distinct type of rounding, called compressed or exolabial.

There is no dedicated diacritic for compression in the IPA. However, the compression of the lips can be shown with the letter ⟨β̞⟩ as ⟨ɯ̽͡β̞⟩ (simultaneous [ɯ̽] and labial compression) or ⟨ɯ̽ᵝ⟩ ([ɯ̽] modified with labial compression). The spread-lip diacritic ⟨  ͍ ⟩ may also be used with a rounded vowel letter ⟨ʊ͍⟩ as an ad hoc symbol, though technically 'spread' means unrounded.

Only the Shanghainese dialect is known to contrast this with the more typical protruded (endolabial) near-close near-back vowel, although the height of both of these vowels varies from close to close-mid.[6]

The near-close back compressed vowel, found e.g. in Swedish, can be transcribed ⟨ɯ̞͡β̞⟩, ⟨ɯ̞ᵝ⟩ or ⟨u͍˕⟩.



Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Chinese Shanghainese[6] [example needed] [tɯ̽ᵝ¹] 'capital' Height varies between close and close-mid; contrasts with a close to close-mid back protruded vowel.[6]
Norwegian Standard Eastern[50] ond [ɯ̽ᵝn̻ː] 'bad' May be transcribed in IPA with ⟨u⟩. See Norwegian phonology
Swedish Central Standard[4] ort About this sound [ɯ̞ᵝʈː] 'locality' Fully back.[4] See Swedish phonology