Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Near-close near-back rounded vowel

The near-close near-back rounded vowel, or near-high near-back rounded vowel,[1] is a type of vowel sound, used in some vocal languages. The IPA symbol that represents this sound is ⟨ʊ⟩. It is informally called "horseshoe u". Prior to 1989, there was an alternate IPA symbol for this sound, ⟨ɷ⟩, called "closed omega"; use of this symbol is no longer sanctioned by the IPA.[2] In Americanist phonetic notation, the symbol ⟨⟩ (a small capital U) is used. Sometimes, especially in broad transcription, this vowel is transcribed with a simpler symbol ⟨u⟩, which technically represents the close back rounded vowel.

Near-close near-back rounded vowel
IPA number 321
Entity (decimal) ʊ
Unicode (hex) U+028A
Kirshenbaum U
Braille ⠷ (braille pattern dots-12356)

The Handbook of the International Phonetic Association defines [ʊ] as a mid-centralized (lowered and centralized) close back rounded vowel,[3] therefore, an alternative transcription of this vowel is ⟨⟩ (a symbol equivalent to a more complex ⟨ü̞⟩). The symbol ⟨ʊ⟩ is often also used to transcribe the close-mid near-back rounded vowel, which is a slightly lower vowel, though it still fits the definition of a mid-centralized [u]. It occurs in some dialects of English (such as General American and Geordie)[4][5] as well as some other languages (such as Maastrichtian Limburgish).[6] It can be transcribed with the symbol ⟨ʊ̞⟩ (a lowered ⟨ʊ⟩) in narrow transcription. Certain sources[7] may even use ⟨ʊ⟩ for the close-mid back rounded vowel, but that is rare. For the close-mid (near-)back rounded vowel that is not usually transcribed with the symbol ⟨ʊ⟩ (or ⟨u⟩), see close-mid back rounded vowel.

For the fully central equivalents of these vowels, see near-close central rounded vowel and close-mid central rounded vowel.

Some languages, such as Bengali[8] and Korean[9] have the near-close back rounded vowel, which differs from its near-back counterpart in that it is a lowered, but not centralized close back rounded vowel, transcribed in the IPA as ⟨ʊ̠⟩, ⟨⟩ or ⟨⟩.

There is even one language (Palula) that contrasts a long near-close back rounded vowel with a short close-mid near-back rounded vowel, but they tend to be transcribed simply as /uː/ and /u/.[10]

A few languages also have the near-close near-back unrounded vowel (which does not have a separate IPA symbol) in their inventory.


Near-close near-back protruded vowelEdit

The near-close near-back protruded vowel is typically transcribed in IPA simply as ⟨ʊ⟩, and that is the convention used in this article. As there is no dedicated diacritic for protrusion in the IPA, symbol for the near-close near-back rounded vowel with an old diacritic for labialization, ⟨  ̫⟩, can be used as an ad hoc symbol ⟨ʊ̫⟩ for the near-close near-back protruded vowel. Another possible transcription is ⟨ʊʷ⟩ or ⟨ɯ̽ʷ⟩ (a near-close near-back vowel modified by endolabialization), but this could be misread as a diphthong.

The close-mid near-back protruded vowel can be transcribed ⟨ʊ̞ʷ⟩ or ⟨ʊ̫˕⟩, whereas the near-close back protruded vowel can be transcribed ⟨u̞ʷ⟩, ⟨ɯ̞ʷ⟩ or ⟨u̫˕⟩.


IPA: Vowels
Front Near-front Central Near-back Back

Paired vowels are: unrounded • rounded


Note: Because back rounded vowels are assumed to have protrusion, and few descriptions cover the distinction, some of the following may actually have compression.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans Standard[11] Botha [ˈbʊ̞ˑta] 'Botha' Close-mid. Allophone of /ʊə/ in less stressed words, in stressed syllables of polysyllabic words and word-finally when unstressed. In the second case, it is in free variation with the diphthongal realization [ʊə̯ ~ ʊ̯ə ~ ʊə].[11] See Afrikaans phonology
Assamese[12] [orthographic
form needed
[pʊ̞t] 'to bury' Close-mid;[12] also described as open [ɒ].[13]
Bengali[8] তুমি [ˈt̪u̞ˌmiː] 'you' Back;[8] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨u⟩. See Bengali phonology
Bulgarian[14] абатство [ɐˈbat̪s̪t̪vo̝] 'abbey' Back; possible realization of unstressed /u/ and /ɔ/ in post-stressed syllables.[14] See Bulgarian phonology
Burmese[15] [orthographic
form needed
[mʊʔ] 'smooth' Allophone of /u/ in syllables closed by a glottal stop and when nasalized.[15]
Chinese Mandarin[16] / hóng   [xʊŋ˥] 'red' Back; height varies between mid and close depending on the speaker. See Standard Chinese phonology
Shanghainese[17] [kʊ¹] 'melon' The height varies between close and close-mid; contrasts with a close to close-mid back compressed vowel.[17]
Danish Standard[18][19] kone [ˈkʰo̝ːnə] 'wife' Back;[18][19] also described as close-mid [].[20][21] Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨⟩. The Danish vowel transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʊ⟩ is pronounced similarly to (or the same as) the short /o/.[22] See Danish phonology
Dutch Some speakers[23] hok [ɦʊk] 'den' Contrasts with /ɔ/ in certain words, but many speakers have only one vowel /ɔ/.[23] See Dutch phonology
English Australian[24][25] hook [hʊk] 'hook' Also described as close back [u].[26] See Australian English phonology
Welsh[28][29] In Cardiff, it is advanced and lowered to [ɵ], often also with unrounding to [ɘ].[30]
Cockney[31] [ʊʔk] Sometimes fronted to [ʊ̈].[31]
Conservative Received Pronunciation[25] [hʊʔk] Often lowered and advanced to [ɵ], or unrounded to [ɘ]. See English phonology
Multicultural London[32] May be front [ʏ] instead.[32]
New Zealand[33] The height varies between near-close and close-mid; it is unrounded and advanced to [ɪ̈ ~ ɘ] in some lexical items.[34] See New Zealand English phonology
Some Estuary speakers[36] Often advanced to [ʊ̈ ~ ʏ], or advanced and lowered to [ɵ ~ ʏ̞].[36]
General American[4] [hʊ̞k] Close-mid.[4][5][37]
Southern Michigan[37]
Northern England[25][38] [ʊk]
Faroese[39] gult [kʊl̥t] 'yellow' See Faroese phonology
French Quebec[40] foule [fʊl] 'crowd' Allophone of /u/ in closed syllables.[40] See Quebec French phonology
Galician[41][42] bebo [ˈbe̞β̞ʊ] 'I drink' Unstressed allophone of /u/ and /o/.[41][42] See Galician phonology
Gayo[43] wuk [ˈwʊk̚] 'hair' Possible allophone of /u/ and /o/; in both cases the backness varies between back and near-back.[43]
German Standard[44][45][46] Stunde   [ˈʃtʊndə] 'hour' The quality has been variously described as near-close near-back [ʊ],[44] near-close back [ʊ̠][45] and close-mid near-back [ʊ̞].[46] For some speakers, it may be as high as [u].[47] See Standard German phonology
Chemnitz dialect[48] Schurf [ʃʊˤːf] 'blight' Pharyngealized; may be realized as [ʊːɒ̯] instead.[48] See Chemnitz dialect phonology
Some Swiss dialects[49][50] Hùng [hʊŋː] 'dog' The example word is from the Bernese dialect.
Hindustani[51] गुलाब/گلاب [gʊˈläːb] 'rose' See Hindustani phonology
Hungarian[52] ujj [ʊjː] 'finger' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨u⟩. See Hungarian phonology
Irish Munster[53] dubh [d̪ˠʊvˠ] 'black' Allophone of /ʊ/ between broad consonants.[53] See Irish phonology
Italian Central-Southern accents[54] ombra ['o̝mbrä] 'shade' Back; local realization of /o/.[54] See Italian phonology
Kaingang[55] [kʊˈtu] 'deaf' Atonic allophone of /u/ and /o/.[56]
Korean[9] 구리 / guri [ku̞ɾi] 'copper' Back;[9] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨u⟩. See Korean phonology
Limburgish Maastrichtian[6] póp [pʊ̞p] 'doll' Close-mid.[6]
Weert dialect[57] [example needed] Used only by older speakers.[57]
Li'o Ke'o[58] [peru̞ ʔbäʔi] 'a shell' Back;[58] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨u⟩.
Low German[59] mutt / moet [mʊt] '(he) must'
Luxembourgish[60] Sprooch [ʃpʀo̝ːχ] 'language' Back, may be as high as [] for some speakers.[60] Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨⟩. See Luxembourgish phonology
Mongolian[61] ус [ʊs] 'water'
Northern Paiute Mono Lake dialect[62] hudziba [hu̞d͡zibɐ] 'bird' Back;[62] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨u⟩.
Norwegian Urban East[63][64] ond [u̞nː] 'evil' Back;[63][64] also described as close [u].[65] Its type of rounding is more often said to be compressed[66][67] than protruded.[64] See Norwegian phonology
Sognamål[68] spytt [spʊ̞t] 'spit' Close-mid back.[68] See Norwegian phonology
Palula[10] [orthographic
form needed
[ˈt̪ʰú̞u̞ɳi̠] 'pillar' Realization of /uː/ and /u/. Near-close back [u̞ː] in the former case, close-mid near-back [ʊ̞] in the latter.[10]
Pashayi Lower Darai Nur dialect[69] صُر [sʊ̞r] 'sun' Close-mid.[69]
Portuguese Brazilian[70] pulo [ˈpulʊ] 'leap' Reduction and neutralization of unstressed /u, o, ɔ/; can be voiceless. See Portuguese phonology
Russian[71] сухой   [s̪ʊˈxʷo̞j] 'dry' Unstressed allophone of /u/.[71] See Russian phonology
Sandawe[72] dtu [tʊ̂] 'come out' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨u⟩.
Saterland Frisian[73] Roop [ʀo̝ːp] 'rope' Phonetic realization of /oː/ and /ʊ/. Near-close back [o̝ː] in the former case, close-mid near-back [ʊ̞] in the latter. Phonetically, the latter is nearly identical to /ɔː/ ([o̟ː]).[73]
Shiwiar[74] [example needed] Allophone of /u/.[74]
Sinhalese[75] [example needed] [ɦʊ̜ŋɡak] 'much' Only weakly rounded;[76] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨u⟩.
Slovak[77][78] ruka [ˈrʊkä] 'arm' Backness varies between back [ʊ̠] and near-back [ʊ].[77] See Slovak phonology
Sotho[79] potso [pʼʊ̠t͡sʼɔ] 'query' Back; contrasts close, near-close and close-mid back rounded vowels.[79] See Sotho phonology
Spanish Eastern Andalusian[80] tus [t̪ʊ̠ː] 'your' (pl.) Back. Corresponds to [u] in other dialects, but in these dialects they are distinct. See Spanish phonology
Tamambo[81] culi [xʊli̞] 'to clear land' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨u⟩.
Temne[82] put [pú̞t] 'burst' Back;[82] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨u⟩.
Tera[83] zuri [zʊri̞] 'fried' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨u⟩.
Turkish[84] buzlu [buz̪ˈl̠ʊ] 'icy' Allophone of /u/ described variously as "word-final"[84] and "occurring in final open syllable of a phrase".[85] See Turkish phonology
Ukrainian[86] Мусій [mʊˈsij] 'Musiy' (name) See Ukrainian phonology
Yoruba[87] [example needed] Near-back or back; typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ũ⟩. It is nasalized, and may be close [ũ̟ ~ ũ] instead.[87]

Near-close near-back compressed vowelEdit

Near-close near-back compressed vowel

Some languages, such as Norwegian, are found with a near-close near-back vowel that has a distinct type of rounding, called compressed or exolabial.

There is no dedicated diacritic for compression in the IPA. However, the compression of the lips can be shown with the letter ⟨β̞⟩ as ⟨ɯ̽͡β̞⟩ (simultaneous [ɯ̽] and labial compression) or ⟨ɯ̽ᵝ⟩ ([ɯ̽] modified with labial compression). The spread-lip diacritic ⟨  ͍ ⟩ may also be used with a rounded vowel letter ⟨ʊ͍⟩ as an ad hoc symbol, though technically 'spread' means unrounded.

Only the Shanghainese dialect is known to contrast this with the more typical protruded (endolabial) near-close near-back vowel, although the height of both of these vowels varies from close to close-mid.[17]

The near-close back compressed vowel can be transcribed ⟨ɯ̞͡β̞⟩, ⟨ɯ̞ᵝ⟩ or ⟨u͍˕⟩.



Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Chinese Shanghainese[17] [tɯ̽ᵝ¹] 'capital' The height varies between close and close-mid; contrasts with a close to close-mid back protruded vowel.[17]
Norwegian Urban East[63][64] ond [ɯ̞ᵝnː] 'evil' Back;[63][64] also described as close [ɯᵝ].[65] Its type of rounding is more often said to be compressed[66][67] than protruded.[64] See Norwegian phonology
Swedish Central Standard[88][89] ort   [ɯ̽ᵝʈː] 'locality' The quality has been variously described as near-close near-back [ɯ̽ᵝ],[88] near-close back [ɯ̞ᵝ][89] and close back [ɯᵝ].[90] See Swedish phonology


  1. ^ While the International Phonetic Association prefers the terms "close" and "open" for vowel height, many linguists use "high" and "low".
  2. ^ International Phonetic Association (1999), p. 169.
  3. ^ International Phonetic Association (1999), p. 13.
  4. ^ a b c Wells (1982), p. 486.
  5. ^ a b c Watt & Allen (2003), p. 268.
  6. ^ a b c Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), pp. 158–159.
  7. ^ Such as Haugen (2004).
  8. ^ a b c Khan (2010), p. 222.
  9. ^ a b c Lee (1999), p. 121.
  10. ^ a b c Liljegren & Haider (2009), pp. 383–384.
  11. ^ a b Lass (1987), p. 119.
  12. ^ a b Mahanta (2012), p. 220.
  13. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), pp. 293–294.
  14. ^ a b Ternes & Vladimirova-Buhtz (1999), p. 56.
  15. ^ a b Watkins (2001), p. 293.
  16. ^ Lee & Zee (2003), p. 111.
  17. ^ a b c d e Chen & Gussenhoven (2015), pp. 328–329.
  18. ^ a b Uldall (1933), p. ?.
  19. ^ a b Basbøll (2005), p. 47.
  20. ^ Grønnum (1998), p. 100.
  21. ^ Ladefoged & Johnson (2010), p. 227.
  22. ^ Basbøll (2005), p. 58.
  23. ^ a b van Oostendorp (2013), section 29.
  24. ^ Mannell, Cox & Harrington (2009).
  25. ^ a b c Geoff Lindsey (2012) The British English vowel system, Speech Talk
  26. ^ Cox & Palethorpe (2007), p. 344.
  27. ^ Wells (1982), pp. 421–422.
  28. ^ Connolly (1990), p. 125.
  29. ^ Tench (1990), p. 135.
  30. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), pp. 92–93.
  31. ^ a b Mott (2011), p. 75.
  32. ^ a b Gimson (2014), p. 91.
  33. ^ Bauer et al. (2007), p. 98.
  34. ^ Bauer et al. (2007), pp. 98, 100–101.
  35. ^ Lodge (2009), p. 168.
  36. ^ a b Altendorf & Watt (2004), p. 188.
  37. ^ a b Hillenbrand (2003), p. 122.
  38. ^ Lodge (2009), p. 163.
  39. ^ Árnason (2011), pp. 68, 75.
  40. ^ a b Walker (1984), pp. 51–60.
  41. ^ a b Regueira (2010), pp. 13–14.
  42. ^ a b Freixeiro Mato (2006), p. 112.
  43. ^ a b Eades & Hajek (2006), p. 111.
  44. ^ a b Collins & Mees (2013), p. 234.
  45. ^ a b Kohler (1999), p. 87.
  46. ^ a b Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015), p. 34.
  47. ^ Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015), p. 64.
  48. ^ a b Khan & Weise (2013), p. 237.
  49. ^ Marti (1985), p. ?.
  50. ^ Fleischer & Schmid (2006), p. 247.
  51. ^ Ohala (1999), p. 102.
  52. ^ Szende (1994), p. 92.
  53. ^ a b Ó Sé (2000), p. ?.
  54. ^ a b Bertinetto & Loporcaro (2005), p. 137.
  55. ^ Jolkesky (2009), pp. 676–677, 682.
  56. ^ Jolkesky (2009), pp. 676, 682.
  57. ^ a b Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), p. 110.
  58. ^ a b Baird (2002), p. 94.
  59. ^ Prehn (2012), p. 157.
  60. ^ a b Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 70.
  61. ^ Iivonen & Harnud (2005), pp. 62, 66–67.
  62. ^ a b Babel, Houser & Toosarvandani (2012), p. 240.
  63. ^ a b c d Vanvik (1979), p. 13.
  64. ^ a b c d e f Popperwell (2010), pp. 27-28.
  65. ^ a b Strandskogen (1979), pp. 15, 20.
  66. ^ a b Haugen (1974), p. 40.
  67. ^ a b Kristoffersen (2000), p. 16.
  68. ^ a b Haugen (2004), p. 30.
  69. ^ a b Lamuwal & Baker (2013), p. 245.
  70. ^ Barbosa & Albano (2004), p. 229.
  71. ^ a b Jones & Ward (1969), p. 69.
  72. ^ Eaton (2006), p. 237.
  73. ^ a b Peters (2017), p. ?.
  74. ^ a b Fast Mowitz (1975), p. 2.
  75. ^ Perera & Jones (1919), pp. 5, 10.
  76. ^ Perera & Jones (1919), p. 10.
  77. ^ a b Pavlík (2004), pp. 93, 95.
  78. ^ Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 375.
  79. ^ a b Doke & Mofokeng (1974), p. ?.
  80. ^ a b Zamora Vicente (1967), p. ?.
  81. ^ Riehl & Jauncey (2005), p. 257.
  82. ^ a b Kanu & Tucker (2010), p. 249.
  83. ^ Tench (2007), p. 230.
  84. ^ a b Göksel & Kerslake (2005), p. 10.
  85. ^ Zimmer & Organ (1999), p. 155.
  86. ^ Danyenko & Vakulenko (1995), p. 4.
  87. ^ a b Bamgboṣe (1969), p. 166.
  88. ^ a b Rosenqvist (2007), p. 9.
  89. ^ a b Engstrand (1999), p. 140.
  90. ^ Dahlstedt (1967), p. 16.