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The mid central vowel (also known as schwa) is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ə⟩, a rotated lowercase letter e.

Mid central vowel
ə
IPA Number322
Encoding
Entity (decimal)ə
Unicode (hex)U+0259
X-SAMPA@
Braille⠢ (braille pattern dots-26)
Audio sample

While the Handbook of the International Phonetic Association does not define the roundedness of [ə],[1] it is more often unrounded than rounded. The phonetician Jane Setter describes the pronunciation of the unrounded variant as follows: "[ə] is a sound which can be produced by basically relaxing the articulators in the oral cavity and vocalising."[2] To produce the rounded variant, all that needs to be done in addition to that is to round the lips.

Afrikaans contrasts unrounded and rounded mid central vowels; the latter is usually transcribed with ⟨œ⟩. The contrast is not very stable, and many speakers use an unrounded vowel in both cases.[3]

Some languages, such as Danish[4] and Luxembourgish,[5] have a mid central vowel that is variably rounded. In some other languages, things are more complicated, as the change in rounding is accompanied with the change in height and/or backness. For instance, in Dutch, the unrounded allophone of /ə/ is mid central unrounded [ə], but its word-final rounded allophone is close-mid front rounded [ø̜], close to the main allophone of /ʏ/.[6]

The symbol ⟨ə⟩ is often used for any unstressed obscure vowel, regardless of its precise quality. For instance, the English vowel transcribed ⟨ə⟩ is a central unrounded vowel that can be close-mid [ɘ], mid [ə] or open-mid [ɜ], depending on the environment.[7]

Contents

Mid central unrounded vowelEdit

The mid central unrounded vowel is frequently written with the symbol [ə]. If greater precision is desired, the symbol for the close-mid central unrounded vowel may be used with a lowering diacritic, [ɘ̞]. Another possibility is using the symbol for the open-mid central unrounded vowel with a raising diacritic, [ɜ̝].

FeaturesEdit

OccurrenceEdit

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans Standard[3] lig [ləχ] 'light' Also described as open-mid [ɜ].[8] See Afrikaans phonology
Many speakers[3] lug 'air' Many speakers merge /œ/ with /ə/, even in formal speech.[3] See Afrikaans phonology
Catalan Eastern Catalan[9] amb [əm(b)] 'with' Reduced vowel. The exact height, backness and rounding are variable.[10] See Catalan phonology
Some Western accents[11]
Chinese Mandarin[12] / gēn  [kən˥]  'root' See Standard Chinese phonology
Danish Standard[13][14] hoppe [ˈhʌ̹b̥ə] 'mare' Sometimes realized as rounded [ə̹].[4] See Danish phonology
Dutch Standard[6] renner [ˈrɛnər] 'runner' The backness varies between near-front and central, whereas the height varies between close-mid and open-mid. Many speakers feel that this vowel is simply an unstressed allophone of /ʏ/.[6] See Dutch phonology
English Most dialects[7][15] Tina [ˈtʰiːnə] 'Tina' Reduced vowel; varies in height between close-mid and open-mid. Word-final /ə/ can be as low as [ɐ].[7][15] See English phonology
Cultivated South African[16] bird [bɜ̝ːd] 'bird' May be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɜː⟩. Other South African varieties use a higher, more front and rounded vowel [øː~ ø̈ː]. See South African English phonology
Norfolk[17]
Received Pronunciation[18] Often transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɜː⟩. It is sulcalized, which means the tongue is grooved like in [ɹ]. 'Upper Crust RP' speakers pronounce a near-open vowel [ɐː], but for some other speakers it may actually be open-mid [ɜː]. This vowel corresponds to rhotacized [ɝ] in rhotic dialects.
Geordie[19] bust [bəst] 'bust' Spoken by some middle class speakers, mostly female; other speakers use [ʊ]. Corresponds to /ɜ/ or /ʌ/ in other dialects.
Indian[20] May be lower. Some Indian varieties merge /ɜ/ or /ʌ/ with /ə/ like Welsh English.
Wales[21] May also be further back; it corresponds to /ɜ/ or /ʌ/ in other dialects.
Yorkshire[22] Middle class pronunciation. Other speakers use [ʊ]. Corresponds to /ɜ/ or /ʌ/ in other dialects.
German Standard[23] Beschlag  [b̥əˈʃläːk]  'fitting' See Standard German phonology
Southern German accents[24] oder [ˈoːdə] 'or' Used instead of [ɐ].[24] See Standard German phonology
Kensiu[25] [təh] 'to be bald' Contrasts with a rhotacized close-mid [ɚ̝].[25]
Luxembourgish[5] dënn [d̥ən] 'thin' More often realized as slightly rounded [ə̹].[5] See Luxembourgish phonology
Norwegian Many dialects[26] sterkeste [²stæɾkəstə] 'the strongest' Occurs only in unstressed syllables. The example word is from Urban East Norwegian. Some dialects (e.g. Trondheimsk) lack this sound.[27] See Norwegian phonology
Plautdietsch[28] bediedt [bəˈdit] 'means' The example word is from the Canadian Old Colony variety, in which the vowel is somewhat fronted [ə̟].[28]
Serbo-Croatian[29] vrt [ʋə̂rt̪] 'garden' [ər] is a possible phonetic realization of the syllabic trill /r̩/ when it occurs between consonants.[29] See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Swedish Southern[30] vante [²väntə] 'mitten' Corresponds to a slightly retracted front vowel [ɛ̠] in Central Standard Swedish.[30] See Swedish phonology

Mid central rounded vowelEdit

Mid central rounded vowel
ɵ̞
ə̹
ɞ̝
Audio sample

Languages may have a mid central rounded vowel (a rounded [ə]), distinct from both the close-mid and open-mid vowels. However, since no language is known to distinguish all three, there is no separate IPA symbol for the mid vowel, and the symbol [ɵ] for the close-mid central rounded vowel is generally used instead. If precision is desired, the lowering diacritic can be used: [ɵ̞]. This vowel can also be represented by adding the more rounded diacritic to the schwa symbol, or by combining the raising diacritic with the open-mid central rounded vowel symbol, although it is rare to use such symbols.

FeaturesEdit

OccurrenceEdit

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans Standard[3] lug [lɞ̝χ] 'air' Also described as open-mid [ɞ],[8] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨œ⟩. Many speakers merge /œ/ and /ə/, even in formal speech.[3] See Afrikaans phonology
Danish Standard[4] hoppe [ˈhʌ̹b̥ə̹] 'mare' Possible realization of /ə/.[4] See Danish phonology
Dutch Southern[31] hut [ɦɵ̞t] 'hut' Found in certain accents, e.g. in Bruges. Close-mid [ɵ] in Standard Dutch.[31] See Dutch phonology
French[32][33] je [ʒə̹] 'I' Only somewhat rounded;[32] may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ə⟩ or ⟨ɵ⟩. Also described as close-mid [ɵ].[34] May be more front for a number of speakers. See French phonology
German Chemnitz dialect[35] Wonne [ˈv̞ɞ̝nə] 'bliss' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɞ⟩.[35]
Irish Munster[36] scoil [skɞ̝lʲ] 'school' Allophone of /ɔ/ between a broad and a slender consonant.[36] See Irish phonology
Luxembourgish[5] dënn [d̥ə̹n] 'thin' Only slightly rounded; less often realized as unrounded [ə̜].[5] See Luxembourgish phonology
Norwegian Urban East[37] nøtt [nɞ̝tː] 'nut' Also described as open-mid front [œʷ];[26][38] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨œ⟩ or ⟨ø⟩. See Norwegian phonology
Plautdietsch Canadian Old Colony[39] butzt [bɵ̞t͡st] 'bumps' Mid-centralized from [ʊ], to which it corresponds in other dialects.[39]
Swedish Central Standard[40][41] full  [fɵ̞lː] 'full' Pronounced with compressed lips, more closely transcribed [ɵ̞ᵝ] or [ɘ̞ᵝ]. Less often described as close-mid [ø̈].[42] See Swedish phonology

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ International Phonetic Association (1999), p. 167.
  2. ^ "A World of Englishes: Is /ə/ "real"?". Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Wissing (2016), section "The rounded and unrounded mid-central vowels".
  4. ^ a b c d Basbøll (2005), p. 143.
  5. ^ a b c d e Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 70.
  6. ^ a b c Collins & Mees (2003), p. 129.
  7. ^ a b c Wells (2008), p. XXV.
  8. ^ a b Wissing (2012), p. 711.
  9. ^ Recasens (1996), pp. 59–60, 104–105.
  10. ^ Recasens (1996), p. 106.
  11. ^ Recasens (1996), p. 98.
  12. ^ Lee & Zee (2003), p. 110.
  13. ^ Allan, Holmes & Lundskær-Nielsen (2011), p. 2.
  14. ^ Basbøll (2005), pp. 57, 143.
  15. ^ a b Gimson (2014), p. 138.
  16. ^ Lass (2002), p. 116.
  17. ^ Lodge (2009), p. 168.
  18. ^ Roach (2004), p. 242.
  19. ^ Watt & Allen (2003), p. 268.
  20. ^ Sailaja (2009), pp. 24–25.
  21. ^ Wells (1982), pp. 380–381.
  22. ^ Stoddart, Upton & Widdowson (1999), pp. 74, 76.
  23. ^ Krech et al. (2009), p. 69.
  24. ^ a b Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015), p. 40.
  25. ^ a b Bishop (1996), p. 230.
  26. ^ a b Vanvik (1979), pp. 13, 20.
  27. ^ Vanvik (1979), p. 21.
  28. ^ a b Cox, Driedger & Tucker (2013), p. 224.
  29. ^ a b Landau et al. (1999), p. 67.
  30. ^ a b Riad (2014), p. 22.
  31. ^ a b Collins & Mees (2003:128, 131). The source describes the Standard Dutch vowel as front-central [ɵ̟], but more sources (e.g. van Heuven & Genet (2002) and Verhoeven (2005)) describe it as central [ɵ]. As far as the lowered varieties of this vowel are concerned, Collins and Mees do not describe their exact backness.
  32. ^ a b Fougeron & Smith (1993), p. 73.
  33. ^ Lodge (2009), p. 84.
  34. ^ "english speech services | Le FOOT vowel". Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  35. ^ a b Khan & Weise (2013), p. 236.
  36. ^ a b Ó Sé (2000), p. ?.
  37. ^ Kristoffersen (2000), pp. 16-17.
  38. ^ Kvifte & Gude-Husken (2005), p. 2.
  39. ^ a b Cox, Driedger & Tucker (2013), pp. 224–225.
  40. ^ Engstrand (1999), p. 140.
  41. ^ Rosenqvist (2007), p. 9.
  42. ^ Andersson (2002), p. 272.

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit