Near-close near-back vowel

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

The near-close near-back vowel, or near-high near-back vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some vocal languages. The IPA symbol for the near-close near-back rounded vowel 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, not Greek lowercase upsilon) is used.

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".

Some languages may have a near-close near-back unrounded vowel, which can be represented with ɯ̽ or ʊ̜ in the IPA.


IPA vowel chart
Front Near-​front Central Near-​back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg
Paired vowels are: unrounded • rounded
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IPA help • IPA key • chart • Loudspeaker.svg chart with audio • view


In the following transcriptions, an unrounded vowel is represented by the "less-rounded" diacritic [ʊ̜], and a back rounded vowel is represented by the "retracted" diacritic [ʊ̠]:

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Chinese Cantonese /hung4 [hʊŋ˨˩] 'red' Can be realized as [] instead. See Cantonese phonology
Mandarin /hóng [xʊŋ˧˥] See Mandarin phonology
Danish Standard[1] have [ˈhɛːʊ] 'garden' Assimilatory variant of [ʊ̯ə] (phonemically /ʋə/.)[1] May be realized the same as short [o].[1] See Danish phonology
English Australian[2] hook [hʊk] 'hook' Also described as close back [u].[3] See Australian English phonology
California[4] Unrounded, often pronounced with spread lips.[4]
Cockney[5] Sometimes fronted to [ʊ̈].[5]
Conservative RP Often lowered and centralized to [ɵ], or unrounded to [ɘ]. See English phonology
Northern English plus [plʊs] 'plus' Present in dialects without the foot-strut split.
Southern Irish
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 Standard[6][7] Stunde About this sound [ˈʃtʊndə]  'hour' See German phonology
Irish Munster[8] dubh [d̪ˠɰʊvˠ] 'black' Allophone of /ʊ/ between broad consonants.[8] See Irish phonology
Ulster[9] [example needed] Unrounded;[9] allophone of /ɪ/.[9]
Kaingang[10] [kʊˈtu] 'deaf' Atonic allophone of /u/ and /o/.[11]
Korean[12] 어른/eoreun [ɘːɾɯ̽n] 'seniors' Unrounded;[12] typically transcribed as ɯ. See Korean phonology
Luxembourgish[13] Sprooch [ʃpʀʊ̠ːχ] 'language' Fully back. May be transcribed /oː/.
Mongolian[14] ус [ʊs] 'water'
Norwegian Standard Eastern[15] ond [ʊn̪] 'bad' May be transcribed /u/. See Norwegian phonology
Portuguese European[16] pegar [pɯ̽ˈɣäɾ] 'to hold' Unrounded, unstressed vowel.[16] Most often transcribed as /ɨ/ or /ə/. See Portuguese phonology
Brazilian[17] bonito [bʊˈn̠ʲit̪ʊ̥] 'handsome' Corresponds to unstressed [u ~ o̞] in Brazil and /u/ in other national variants.
Punjabi ਪੁਦੀਨਾ [pʊˈd̪iːnäː] 'mint'
Russian[18] сухой About this sound [s̪ʊˈxo̞j]  'dry' Unstressed allophone of /u/. See Russian phonology
Shiwiar[19] [example needed] Allophone of /u/.[19]
Spanish Eastern Andalusian[20] tus [t̪ʊ̠ː] 'your' (pl.) Fully back. Corresponds to [u] in other dialects, but in these dialects they're distinct. See Spanish phonology
Swedish Central Standard[21] ort About this sound [ʊ̠ᵝʈː]  'locality' Retracted and exolabial (compressed). See Swedish phonology



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  • Basbøll, Hans (2005), The Phonology of Danish, ISBN 0-203-97876-5 
  • Cox, Felicity; Palethorpe, Sallyanne (2007), "Australian English" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association 37 (3): 341–350, doi:10.1017/S0025100307003192 
  • Cruz-Ferreira, Madalena (1995), "European Portuguese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 25 (2): 90–94, doi:10.1017/S0025100300005223 
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  • Gilles, Peter; Trouvain, Jürgen (2013), "Luxembourgish" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association 43 (1): 67–74, doi:10.1017/S0025100312000278 
  • Iivonen, Antti; Harnud, Huhe (2005), "Acoustical comparison of the monophthong systems in Finnish, Mongolian and Udmurt", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 35 (1): 59–71, doi:10.1017/S002510030500191X 
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