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An open vowel is a vowel sound in which the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth. Open vowels are sometimes also called low vowels in reference to the low position of the tongue.
In the context of the phonology of any particular language, a low vowel can be any vowel that is more open than a mid vowel. That is, open-mid vowels, near-open vowels, and open vowels can all be considered low vowels.
The open vowels with dedicated symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet are:
- open front unrounded vowel [a]
- open front rounded vowel [ɶ]
- open back unrounded vowel [ɑ]
- open back rounded vowel [ɒ]
There also are mid vowels that do not have dedicated symbols in the IPA:
There is not an unambiguous way of transcribing an open central rounded vowel. The diaeresis indicates centralization, so ⟨ä⟩ could mean near front and ⟨ɒ̈⟩ could mean near back. In practice, however, the diaeresis is assumed to mean actually central, while ⟨a̠⟩ and ⟨ɒ̟⟩ would be used for the latter articulations.
- This vowel is not known to occur as a phoneme distinct from /œ/ in any language.