Open central unrounded vowel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Open central unrounded vowel
IPA number 304 415
Entity (decimal) a​̈
Unicode (hex) U+0061 U+0308
X-SAMPA a_" or a_- or A_" or 6_o

The open central unrounded vowel, or low central unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in many spoken languages. While the International Phonetic Alphabet officially has no dedicated letter for this sound between front [a] and back [ɑ], it is normally written ⟨a⟩. If precision is required, it can be specified by using diacritics, such as centralized ⟨ä⟩ or retracted ⟨⟩, but this is not common.

Acoustically, however, [a] is an extra-low central vowel.[1] It is more common to use plain [a] for an open central vowel and, if needed, [æ] (officially near-open front vowel) for an open front vowel. Alternatively, Sinologists may use the letter ⟨⟩ (small capital A). The IPA voted against officially adopting this symbol in 2011–2012.[2]

The Hamont dialect of Limburgish has been reported to contrast long open front, central and back unrounded vowels,[3] which is extremely unusual.

The IPA prefers terms "close" and "open" for vowels, and the name of the article follows this. However, some linguists prefer the terms "high" and "low".


IPA vowel chart
Front Near-​front Central Near-​back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg
i • y
ɨ • ʉ
ɯ • u
ɪ • ʏ
ɪ̈ • ʊ̈
ɯ̽ • ʊ
e • ø
ɘ • ɵ
ɤ • o
 • ø̞
ə • ɵ̞
ɤ̞ • 
ɛ • œ
ɜ • ɞ
ʌ • ɔ
æ • 
ɐ • ɞ̞
a • ɶ
ä • ɒ̈
ɑ • ɒ
Paired vowels are: unrounded • rounded
This table contains phonetic symbols, which may not display correctly in some browsers. [Help]

IPA help • IPA key • chart • Loudspeaker.svg chart with audio • view
  • Its vowel height is open, also known as low, which means the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth – that is, as low as possible in the mouth.
  • Its vowel backness is central, which means the tongue is positioned halfway between a front vowel and a back vowel. This often subsumes open (low) front vowels, because the tongue does not have as much flexibility in positioning as it does for the close (high) vowels; the difference between an open front vowel and an open back vowel is equal to the difference between a close front and a close central vowel, or a close central and a close back vowel.
  • It is unrounded, which means that the lips are not rounded.


Most languages have some form of an unrounded open vowel. Because the IPA uses ⟨a⟩ for both front and central unrounded open vowels, it is not always clear whether a particular language uses the former or the latter.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic kalu [kʰälu] 'bride' May be realized as [a] and [æ] in the Urmia, Nochiya and Jilu dialects. In the Tyari dialect, [ɑ] is usually used.
Bavarian Amstetten dialect[4] [example needed]
Bengali পা/pa [pä] 'leg' See Bengali phonology
Catalan[5] sac [s̠äk] 'sack' See Catalan phonology
Chinese Cantonese /saa1 [sä̝ː˥] 'sand' Somewhat raised. See Cantonese phonology
Mandarin /tā About this sound [tʰä˥]  'he' Varies between front and back. See Mandarin phonology
Czech[6][7][8] prach [präx] 'dust' See Czech phonology
Danish Standard[9][10] barn [ˈb̥äːˀn] 'child' Most often transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɑː⟩ - the way it is realized in the conservative variety.[11] See Danish phonology
Dutch Standard[12][13] zaal [zäːɫ] 'hall' Ranges from front to central;[14] in non-standard accents it may be back. See Dutch phonology
Amsterdam[15] bad [bät] 'bath' Also present in many other non-Randstad accents.[15] It corresponds to [ɑ] in Standard Dutch. See Dutch phonology
English Australian[17] car [kʰäː] 'car' See Australian English phonology
Cultivated South African[18] Some speakers. For other speakers, it is less front [ɑ̟ː][18][19] or, in Estuary English, even more back [ɑː].[19]
South African[21]
time [tʰäːm] 'time' Corresponds to the diphthong /aɪ/ in most dialects. General South African speakers may also monophthongize /aʊ/. See English phonology
Southern American[22]
General American[23] cot [kʰäʔt̚] 'cot' It may be more back [ɑ̟ ~ ɑ], especially for speakers with the cotcaught merger. See English phonology
Southern Michigan[24] See English phonology
Multicultural London[25] trap [t̠ɹ̝̊äʔp] 'trap' More front [ɛ ~ æ ~ a] for other Southeastern English speakers. See English phonology
Some speakers from Reading[19]
Northern England[26] [t̠ɹ̝̊äp] Notably prevalent in Yorkshire, mainly around the Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales. More front [æ ~ a] for some other speakers. See English phonology
Vancouver[27] [t̠ɹ̝̊äp̚] See Canadian Shift and English phonology
Younger speakers from Ontario[28]
Finnish[29] kana [ˈkänä] 'hen' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɑ⟩; also described as near-open back [ɑ̝].[30] See Finnish phonology
French[31] patte [pät̪] 'paw' See French phonology
Galician[32] macio [ˈmäθjo] 'soft' See Galician phonology
German Standard[33] Katze [ˈkʰät͡sə] 'cat' See German phonology
Hebrew[34] פח About this sound [päχ]   'garbage can' Hebrew vowels are not shown in the script, see Niqqud and Modern Hebrew phonology
Hindustani माता / ماتا [mata] 'mother' See Hindustani phonology
Hungarian[35] láb [läːb] 'leg' See Hungarian phonology
Icelandic[36][37][38][39] fara [ˈfäːrä] 'go' See Icelandic phonology
Italian[40] casa [ˈkäːzä] 'home' See Italian phonology
Japanese[41] ka About this sound [kä]   'mosquito' See Japanese phonology
Limburgish Hamont dialect[3] zaak [zäːk²] 'business' Contrasts with front [] and back [ɑː].[3] See Hamont dialect phonology
Lithuanian namas [ˈnäːmäs] 'house'
Malay api [äpi] 'fire'
Norwegian Sognamål[42] dag [däːɡ] 'day' See Norwegian phonology
Polish[43] kat About this sound [kät̪]  'executioner' See Polish phonology
Portuguese[44] vá [vä] 'go' See Portuguese phonology
Punjabi ਜਾ [d͡ʒäː] 'go!'
Romanian cal [käl] 'horse' See Romanian phonology
Russian там About this sound [t̪äm]  'there' See Russian phonology
Scottish Gaelic slat [slät] 'yard' See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Sema[45] ala [à̠là̠] 'path' Also described as near-open [ɐ].[46]
Serbo-Croatian[47] патка / patka [pâ̠t̪ka̠] 'female duck' See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Shiwiar[48] [example needed]
Slovak[49][50][51] a [ä] 'and' See Slovak phonology
Spanish[52] rata [ˈrät̪ä] 'rat' See Spanish phonology
Sorbian Lower[53] glažk [ɡläʂk] 'glass'
Upper[53][54] ale [ˈälɛ] 'but' See Upper Sorbian phonology
Swedish Central Standard[55] bank [bäŋk] 'bank' Also described as front [a].[56] See Swedish phonology
Turkish[57] at [ät̪] 'horse' Also described as back [ɑ].[58] See Turkish phonology
Vietnamese Hanoi xa [s̪äː] 'far' See Vietnamese phonology
West Frisian laad [ɫäːt] 'drawer'
Yoruba[59] [example needed]


  1. ^ Geoff Lindsey (2013) The vowel space, Speech Talk
  2. ^ Keating (2012), p. 245.
  3. ^ a b c Verhoeven (2007), p. 221.
  4. ^ Traunmüller (1982), cited in Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:290)
  5. ^ Carbonell & Llisterri (1992), p. 54.
  6. ^ Dankovičová (1999), p. 72.
  7. ^ Pavlík (2004), p. 94.
  8. ^ Šimáčková, Podlipský & Chládková (2012), p. 228.
  9. ^ Grønnum (1998), p. 100.
  10. ^ Basbøll (2005), p. 46.
  11. ^ Ladefoged & Johnson (2010), p. 227.
  12. ^ Gussenhoven (1992), p. 47.
  13. ^ Verhoeven (2005), p. 245.
  14. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), p. 104.
  15. ^ a b c d Collins & Mees (2003), p. 131.
  16. ^ Peters (2010), p. 241.
  17. ^ Cox & Palethorpe (2007), p. 344.
  18. ^ a b Lass (2002), pp. 116–117.
  19. ^ a b c d Altendorf & Watt (2004), p. 188.
  20. ^ Lodge (2009), p. 168.
  21. ^ Lass (2002), p. 117.
  22. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. ?.
  23. ^ Wells (1982), p. 476.
  24. ^ Hillenbrand (2003), p. 122.
  25. ^ Kerswill, Torgerson & Fox (2006), p. 30.
  26. ^ Boberg (2004), p. 361.
  27. ^ Esling & Warkentyne (1993), p. ?.
  28. ^ Boberg (2004), pp. 361–362.
  29. ^ Maddieson (1984), cited in Suomi, Toivanen & Ylitalo (2008:21)
  30. ^ Suomi, Toivanen & Ylitalo (2008), p. 21.
  31. ^ Fougeron & Smith (1993), p. 73.
  32. ^ Freixeiro Mato (2006), pp. 72–73.
  33. ^ Mangold (2005), p. 37.
  34. ^ Laufer (1999), p. 98.
  35. ^ Szende (1994), p. 92.
  36. ^ Árnason (2011), p. 60.
  37. ^ Einarsson (1945:10), cited in Gussmann (2011:73)
  38. ^ Haugen (1958), p. 65.
  39. ^ "Icelandic Phonetic Transcription.PDF - ptg_ice.pdf" (PDF). Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  40. ^ Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004), p. 119.
  41. ^ Okada (1991), p. 94.
  42. ^ Haugen (2004), p. 30.
  43. ^ Jassem (2003), p. 105.
  44. ^ Cruz-Ferreira (1995), p. 91.
  45. ^ Teo (2014:28)
  46. ^ Teo (2012:368)
  47. ^ Landau et al. (1999), p. 67.
  48. ^ Fast Mowitz (1975), p. 2.
  49. ^ Kráľ (1988), p. 54.
  50. ^ Pavlík (2004), pp. 94–95.
  51. ^ Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 375.
  52. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003), p. 256.
  53. ^ a b Stone (2002:600)
  54. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984:20)
  55. ^ Engstrand (1999), p. 140.
  56. ^ Thorén & Petterson (1992), p. 15.
  57. ^ Zimmer & Orgun (1999), p. 155.
  58. ^ Göksel & Kerslake (2005), p. 10.
  59. ^ Bamgboṣe (1969), p. 166.


Further reading[edit]