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A near-close vowel or a near-high vowel is any in a class of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a near-close vowel is that the tongue is positioned similarly to a close vowel, but slightly less constricted. Near-close vowels are sometimes described as lax variants of the fully close vowels.
The near-close vowels that have dedicated symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet are:
- near-close near-front unrounded vowel [ɪ]
- near-close near-front compressed vowel [ʏ]
- near-close near-back rounded vowel [ʊ]
There also are close vowels that don't have dedicated symbols in the IPA:
- near-close near-front protruded vowel [ʏʷ] (ʏ̫)
- near-close central unrounded vowel [ɪ̈] (ᵻ)
- near-close central compressed vowel [ʏ̈]
- near-close central protruded vowel [ʊ̈] (ᵿ)
- near-close near-back unrounded vowel [ɯ̽] or [ʊ̜]
- near-close near-back compressed vowel [ʊᵝ]
(IPA letters for rounded vowels are ambiguous as to whether the rounding is protrusion or compression. However, transcription of the world's languages tends to pattern as above.)
Other near-close vowels can be indicated with diacritics of relative articulation applied to letters for neighboring vowels, such as ⟨i̞⟩, ⟨e̝⟩ or ⟨ɪ̟⟩ for a near-close front unrounded vowel, or ⟨u̞⟩, ⟨o̝⟩ or ⟨ʊ̠⟩ for a near-close back rounded vowel.