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. In Americanist phonetic notation, the symbol (a small capital U) is used.

Handbook of the International Phonetic Association defines [ʊ] as a mid-centralized (lowered and centralized) close back rounded vowel,[1] therefore, an alternative transcription of this vowel is (a symbol equivalent to a more complex ü̞). However, some languages, such as Korean[2] and Swedish[3] 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
Paired vowels are: unrounded • rounded
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Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Bulgarian[4] абатство [ɐˈbat̪s̪t̪vʊ̠] 'abbey' Fully back; possible realization of unstressed /u/ and /ɔ/ in post-stressed syllables.[4] See Bulgarian phonology
Chinese Cantonese /hung4 [hʊŋ˨˩] 'red' Can be realized as [] instead. See Cantonese phonology
Mandarin /hóng [xʊŋ˧˥] See Mandarin phonology
Shanghainese[5] [kʊ¹] 'melon' Height varies between close and close-mid; contrasts with a close to close-mid back compressed vowel.[5]
Danish Standard[6] have [ˈhɛːʊ] 'garden' Assimilatory variant of [ʊ̯ə] (phonemically /ʋə/.)[6] May be realized the same as short [o].[6] See Danish phonology
Dutch Orsmaal-Gussenhoven dialect[7] ug [ʊx] 'you' See Orsmaal-Gussenhoven dialect phonology
English Australian[8] hook [hʊk] 'hook' Also described as close back [u].[9] See Australian English phonology
Cockney[10] [ʊʔk] Sometimes fronted to [ʊ̈].[10]
Conservative RP [hʊʔk] Often lowered and centralized to [ɵ], or unrounded to [ɘ]. See English phonology
Multicultural London[11] May be front [ʏ] instead.[11]
New Zealand[12] May be close-mid [ʊ̞] instead; it is unrounded and centralized to [ɪ̈ ~ ɘ] in some lexical items.[13]
Hindustani गुलाब/گلاب [gʊˈläːb] 'rose' See Hindustani phonology
Faroese hvalur [kvɛalʊɹ] 'whale'
French Quebec foule [fʊl] 'crowd' Allophone of /u/ in closed syllables. See Quebec French phonology
German Chemnitz dialect[14] Schurf [ʃʊˤːf] 'blight' Pharyngealized; may be realized as [ʊːɒ̯] instead.[14] See Chemnitz dialect phonology
Southern Bernese [example needed] Corresponds to [ɔu̯] in the city of Bern. See Bernese German phonology
Standard[15][16] Stunde About this sound [ˈʃtʊndə]  'hour' See German phonology
Irish Munster[17] dubh [d̪ˠɰʊvˠ] 'black' Allophone of /ʊ/ between broad consonants.[17] See Irish phonology
Kaingang[18] [kʊˈtu] 'deaf' Atonic allophone of /u/ and /o/.[19]
Korean[2] 구리 /guri [kʊ̠ɾi] 'copper' Fully back;[2] typically transcribed in IPA as u. See Korean phonology
Limburgish Weert dialect[20] [example needed] Used only by older speakers.[20]
Luxembourgish[21] Sprooch [ʃpʀʊ̠ːχ] 'language' Fully back;[21] typically transcribed in IPA as . Also described as close-mid [].[22] See Luxembourgish phonology
Mongolian[23] ус [ʊs] 'water'
Piedmontese Torton-a [tʊrˈtʊŋa] 'Tortona'
Portuguese Brazilian[24] pulo [ˈpulʊ] 'leap' Reduction and neutralization of unstressed /o/, /ɔ/ and /u/. Can be unvoiced.
Punjabi ਪੁਦੀਨਾ [pʊˈd̪iːnäː] 'mint'
Russian[25] сухой About this sound [s̪ʊˈxo̞j]  'dry' Unstressed allophone of /u/. See Russian phonology
Shiwiar[26] [example needed] Allophone of /u/.[26]
Slovak[27][28][29] ruka [ˈrʊkä] 'arm' Backness varies between back and near-back.[27] See Slovak phonology
Spanish Eastern Andalusian[30] tus [t̪ʊ̠ː] 'your' (pl.) Fully back. Corresponds to [u] in other dialects, but in these dialects they're distinct. See Spanish phonology
Turkish[31] buzlu [buz̪ˈl̠ʊ] 'icy' Allophone of /u/ described variously as "word-final"[31] and "occurring in final open syllable of a phrase".[32] See Turkish phonology
Yoruba[33] [example needed] Near-back or fully back; typically transcribed in IPA as ũ. It is nasalized, and may be close [ũ̟ ~ ũ] instead.[33]

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. No language is known to contrast this with the more typical protruded (endolabial) near-close near-back vowel.

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.

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[5] [tɯ̽ᵝ¹] 'capital' Height varies between close and close-mid; contrasts with a close to close-mid back protruded vowel.[5]
Norwegian Standard Eastern[34] ond [ɯ̽ᵝn̻ː] 'bad' May be transcribed /u/. See Norwegian phonology
Swedish Central Standard[3] ort About this sound [ɯ̞ᵝʈː]  'locality' Fully back.[3] See Swedish phonology