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Near-open central vowel

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Near-open central vowel
IPA Number324
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)ɐ
Unicode (hex)U+0250
Braille⠲ (braille pattern dots-256)⠁ (braille pattern dots-1)

The near-open central vowel, or near-low central vowel,[1] is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɐ⟩, a rotated lowercase double-story a.

In English this vowel is most typically transcribed with the symbol ⟨ʌ⟩, i.e. as if it were open-mid back. That pronunciation is still found in some dialects, but many speakers use a central vowel like [ɐ] or [ɜ]. To avoid the trap–strut merger, Standard Southern British English is moving away from the [ɐ] quality towards [ʌ] found in RP spoken in the first half of the 20th century (e.g. in Daniel Jones's speech).[2]

Much like ⟨ə⟩, ⟨ɐ⟩ is a versatile symbol that is not defined for roundedness[3] and that can be used for vowels that are near-open central,[4] near-open near-front,[5] near-open near-back,[6] open-mid central,[7] open central[8] or an (often unstressed) vowel with variable height, backness and/or roundedness that is produced in that general area.[9] For open central unrounded vowels transcribed with ⟨ɐ⟩, see open central unrounded vowel.

When the usual transcription of the near-open near-front and the near-open near-back variants is different from ⟨ɐ⟩, they are listed in near-open front unrounded vowel and open back unrounded vowel or open back rounded vowel, respectively.

The near-open central unrounded vowel is sometimes the only open vowel in a language[10] and then is typically transcribed with ⟨a⟩.


  • Its vowel height is near-open, also known as near-low, which means the tongue is positioned similarly to an open vowel, but is slightly more constricted – that is, the tongue is positioned similarly to a low vowel, but slightly higher.
  • Its vowel backness is central, which means the tongue is positioned halfway between a front vowel and a back vowel.
  • It is undefined for roundedness, which means that it can be either rounded or unrounded. In practice however, the unrounded variant is more common.


In the following list, ⟨ɐ⟩ is assumed to be unrounded. The rounded variant is transcribed as ⟨ɐ̹⟩. Some instances of the latter may actually be fully open.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Adyghe сэ / să [sɐ] 'I' Varies between near-open and open-mid [ɜ]. See Adyghe phonology
Bengali[11] পা / pa [pɐ] 'leg' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨a⟩. See Bengali phonology
Bulgarian[7] пара/para [pɐˈra] 'coin' Unstressed allophone of /ɤ/ and /a/.[7] May be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ə⟩. See Bulgarian phonology
Burmese[12] တ်/maat [mɐʔ] 'vertical' Allophone of /a/ in syllables closed by a glottal stop and when nasalized; realized as fully open [ä] in open oral syllables.[13]
Catalan Barcelona metropolitan area[14][15] emmagatzemar [ɐm(ː)ɐɣ̞ɐd͡z̺ɐˈmä] 'to store' Corresponds to [ə] in other Eastern dialects. See Catalan phonology
Chinese Cantonese[16] / sam1 [sɐ̝m˥] 'heart' Open-mid.[16] See Cantonese phonology
Shanghainese[17] [kɐʔ˦] 'to cut' Appears only in closed syllables; the exact height and backness is somewhat variable.[17]
Danish[18] fatter [ˈfætɐ] 'understands' Typically realized the same as /ɔ/, i.e. [ɒ̽]. Other possible realizations are [ɐ] and [ə̠].[18] See Danish phonology
Dinka Luanyjang[19] laŋ [lɐ́ŋ] 'berry' Short allophone of /a/; varies between near-open [ɐ] and open-mid [ɐ̝].[19]
Emilian Bulåggna [buˈlʌɲːɐ] 'Bologna' Centralized /a/.
English California[20] nut [nɐt] 'nut' See English phonology
Cockney[21][22] [nɐ̟ʔ] Near-front.[21]
East Anglian[23] [nɐʔ] Used in some places (e.g. Colchester) instead of the traditional [ʌ].[23]
New Zealand[24] [nɐʔt] Varies between near-open near-front [ɐ̟], near-open central [ɐ], open near-front [] and open central [ɐ̞].[24] See New Zealand English phonology
Received Pronunciation[2][4] Increasingly retracted to [ʌ] to avoid the trap-strut merger.[2] See English phonology
Inland Northern American[25] bet [bɐt] 'bet' Variation of /ɛ/ used in some places whose accents have undergone the Northern cities vowel shift.
Middle Class London[26] lot [lɐ̹ʔt] 'lot' Rounded; can be back [ɒ] instead.[26] See English phonology
Galician feita [ˈfejt̪ɐ] 'done' Realization of final unstressed /a/. See Galician phonology
German Standard[9][27] Oper [ˈoːpɐ] 'opera' The exact height, backness and roundedness is somewhere between [ä] and [ɔ], depending on the environment. Sometimes, an opening diphthong of the [əɐ̯]-type is used instead.[9] In Northern Standard German, the short [ä] is pronounced the same as [ɐ] when unstressed, rendering Opa 'grandpa' homophonous with Oper.[27] See Standard German phonology
Regional northern accents[28] kommen [ˈkʰɐmən] 'to come' Varies between central [ɐ] and back [ɑ]; corresponds to an open-mid rounded [ɔ] in Standard German.[28] See Standard German phonology
Greek Modern Standard[10] ακακία / akaa [ɐkɐˈc̠i.ɐ] 'acacia' Most often transcribed in IPA with ⟨a⟩. See Modern Greek phonology
Hausa[29] [example needed] Possible allophone of /a/, which can be as close as [ə] and as open as [ä].[29]
Hindustani[30] दस/دَس/das [ˈd̪ɐs] 'ten' Common realization of /ə/.[30] See Hindustani phonology
Korean[31] 하나 / hana [hɐnɐ] 'one' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨a⟩. See Korean phonology
Kumzari[5] گپ / gap [ɡɐ̟p] 'large' Near-front.[5]
Limburgish Maastrichtian[32] väöl [vɐ̹ːl] 'much' Rounded; contrasts with the open-mid [ɞː] in words with Accent 2 ([ɐ̹ː] itself is always toneless).[33] It may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɶː⟩, as it is a phonological front vowel.
Venlo dialect[34] aan [ˈɐːn] 'on' Corresponds to [] in other dialects.
Lithuanian kas [kɐs̪] 'what' See Lithuanian phonology
Luxembourgish[6] Kanner [ˈkʰɑnɐ̠] 'children' Near-back.[35] See Luxembourgish phonology
Malayalam പത്ത് [pɐt̪ːɨ̆] 'ten' See Malayalam phonology
Mapudungun[36] ka [ˈkɐ̝ʐɘ̝] 'green' Open-mid;[36] often transcribed in IPA with ⟨a⟩.
Norwegian Østfold dialect[37] bada [ˈbɐ̹̂ːdɐ] 'to bathe' The example word illustrates both the rounded [ɐ̹] and the unrounded [ɐ].
Piedmontese Eastern Piedmont pauta [ˈpɑwtɐ] 'mud' Common realization of final unstressed /a/.
Portuguese[38][39] aja [ˈäʒɐ] 'act' (subj.) Closer [ɐ̝] in European Portuguese than in Brazilian Portuguese ([ɐ]).[38][39] See Portuguese phonology
Punjabi[40] ਖੰਡ / کھنڈ [ˈkʰɐ̌ɳɖᵊ] 'sugar' Common realization of /ə/, the inherent vowel of Punjabi. See Punjabi phonology
ਪਊਆ / پوّا [pɐwːä] 'metric half pint' Can occur as realization of tense /i/ or /u/ in some contexts followed by a geminate semi-vowel.
Romanian Moldavian dialects[41] bărbat [bɐrˈbat] 'man' Corresponds to [ə] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
Russian Standard Moscow[42] голова / golova [ɡəɫ̪ɐˈvä] 'head' Corresponds to [ʌ] in standard Saint Petersburg pronunciation;[42] occurs mostly immediately before stressed syllables. See Russian phonology
Sabiny[43] [example needed] Contrasts overshort unrounded and overshort rounded near-open central vowels.[44]
Ukrainian[45] слива / slyva [ˈslɪwɐ] 'plum' See Ukrainian phonology
Vietnamese[46] chếch [cɐ̆jk̚] 'askance' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ə̆⟩. See Vietnamese phonology
Xumi[47][48] [tsʰɐ˦] 'salt' Near-open [ɐ] in Lower Xumi, open-mid [ɐ̝] in Upper Xumi. The latter phone may be transcribed with ⟨ɜ⟩. The example word is from Lower Xumi.[48][49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ While the International Phonetic Association prefers the terms "close" and "open" for vowel height, many linguists use "high" and "low".
  2. ^ a b c Cruttenden (2014), p. 122.
  3. ^ International Phonetic Association (1999), p. 166.
  4. ^ a b Roca & Johnson (1999), p. 186.
  5. ^ a b c Anonby (2011), p. 378.
  6. ^ a b Gilles & Trouvain (2013), pp. 68, 70.
  7. ^ a b c Ternes & Vladimirova-Buhtz (1999), p. 56.
  8. ^ Cox & Fletcher (2017), pp. 64–65.
  9. ^ a b c Krech et al. (2009), p. 86.
  10. ^ a b Arvaniti (2007), p. 25.
  11. ^ Khan (2010), p. 222.
  12. ^ Watkins (2001), p. 293.
  13. ^ Watkins (2001), pp. 292–293.
  14. ^ Rafel (1999), p. 14.
  15. ^ Harrison (1997), pp. 2.
  16. ^ a b Zee (1999), p. 59.
  17. ^ a b Chen & Gussenhoven (2015), p. 328.
  18. ^ a b Basbøll (2005), p. 58.
  19. ^ a b Remijsen & Manyang (2009), pp. 117, 119.
  20. ^ Ladefoged (1999), p. 42.
  21. ^ a b Wells (1982), p. 305.
  22. ^ Hughes & Trudgill (1979), p. 35.
  23. ^ a b Trudgill (2004), p. 167.
  24. ^ a b Bauer et al. (2007), p. 98.
  25. ^ Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (1997), A National Map of the Regional Dialects of American English, Department of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania, retrieved March 15, 2013
  26. ^ a b Altendorf & Watt (2004:188). The authors differentiate between symbols [ɒ̟] and [ɒ̈]; the former denotes a more back vowel.
  27. ^ a b Rathcke & Mooshammer (2020), pp. 48–50.
  28. ^ a b Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015), p. 64.
  29. ^ a b Schuh & Yalwa (1999), pp. 90–91.
  30. ^ a b Ohala (1999), p. 102.
  31. ^ Lee (1999), p. 121.
  32. ^ Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), pp. 158–159, 162.
  33. ^ Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), pp. 159, 161–162, 164.
  34. ^ Peeters (1951), p. 39.
  35. ^ Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 70.
  36. ^ a b Sadowsky et al. (2013), p. 92.
  37. ^ Jahr (1990:92)
  38. ^ a b Cruz-Ferreira (1995), p. 91.
  39. ^ a b Barbosa & Albano (2004), p. 229.
  40. ^ Bhardwaj, Mangat Rai (2016). "Chapter 4: Tone and Related Phenomena in Panjabi". Panjabi: A Comprehensive Grammar (in English and Punjabi). Abingdon: Routledge. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-315-76080-3.
  41. ^ Pop (1938), p. 29.
  42. ^ a b Yanushevskaya & Bunčić (2015), p. 225.
  43. ^ "UPSID 4)S". Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  44. ^ "UPSID SEBEI". Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  45. ^ Danyenko & Vakulenko (1995), p. 4.
  46. ^ Hoang (1965), p. 24.
  47. ^ Chirkova & Chen (2013), pp. 369–370.
  48. ^ a b Chirkova, Chen & Kocjančič Antolík (2013), pp. 388–389.
  49. ^ Chirkova & Chen (2013), p. 369.


External links[edit]