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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 vowel with ambiguous rounding [ʊ] (rounding may be specified as rounded/protruded with ⟨u̽⟩ or ⟨ʊ̹⟩, unrounded with ⟨ɯ̽⟩ or ⟨ʊ̜⟩, and compressed with ⟨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.)
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)
Other 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 ⟨ʊ̟⟩ for a near-close back rounded vowel.