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Close back rounded vowel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Close back rounded vowel
IPA Number308
Entity (decimal)u
Unicode (hex)U+0075
Audio sample

The close back rounded vowel, or high back rounded vowel,[1] is a type of vowel sound used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨u⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is u.

In most languages, this rounded vowel is pronounced with protruded lips ('endolabial'). However, in a few cases the lips are compressed ('exolabial').

The close back rounded vowel is almost identical featurally to the labio-velar approximant [w]. [u] alternates with [w] in certain languages, such as French, and in the diphthongs of some languages, [u̯] with the non-syllabic diacritic and [w] are used in different transcription systems to represent the same sound.

Close back protruded vowel

The close back protruded vowel is the most common variant of the close back rounded vowel. It is typically transcribed in IPA simply as ⟨u⟩ (the convention used in this article). As there is no dedicated IPA diacritic for protrusion, the symbol for the close back rounded vowel with an old diacritic for labialization, ⟨  ̫⟩, can be used as an ad hoc symbol ⟨⟩. Another possible transcription is ⟨⟩ or ⟨ɯʷ⟩ (a close back vowel modified by endolabialization), but that could be misread as a diphthong.


  • Its vowel height is close, also known as high, which means the tongue is positioned close to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
  • Its vowel backness is back, which means the tongue is positioned back in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
  • Its roundedness is protruded, which means that the corners of the lips are drawn together, and the inner surfaces exposed.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans Standard[2] boek [bu̜k] 'book' Only weakly rounded.[3] See Afrikaans phonology
Arabic Standard[4] جنوب‎/ǧanuub [d͡ʒaˈnuːb] 'south' See Arabic phonology
Armenian Eastern[5] դուռ/dur [dur] 'door'
Bavarian Amstetten dialect[6] [example  needed]
Bulgarian[7] луд/lud [ɫut̪] 'crazy' See Bulgarian phonology
Catalan[8] suc [s̺uk] 'juice' See Catalan phonology
Chinese Mandarin[9][10] / tǔ [t̪ʰu˩˧] 'earth' See Standard Chinese phonology
Cantonese[11] / fū About this sound[fuː˥] 'man' See Cantonese phonology
Shanghainese[12] /ku [ku˩] 'melon' Height varies between close and close-mid; contrasts with a close to close-mid back compressed vowel.[12]
Danish Standard[13][14] du [tu] 'you' See Danish phonology
Dutch Standard[15][16] voet About this sound[vut] 'foot' Somewhat fronted in Belgian Standard Dutch.[16]
English Australian[17] book [buk] 'book' Also described as near-close near-back [ʊ];[18][19] corresponds to [ʊ] in other accents. See Australian English phonology
Cape Flats[20] May be advanced to [ʉ], or lowered and unrounded to [ɤ].[20] See South African English phonology
Cultivated South African[21] boot [bu̟ːt] 'boot' Typically more front than cardinal [u]. Instead of being back, it may be central [ʉː] in Geordie and RP, and front [] in Multicultural London. See English phonology and South African English phonology
General American[22]
Multicultural London[24]
Received Pronunciation[25]
Pakistani[29] [buːʈ]
Greater New York City [buːt][30]
New Zealand[31][32] treacle [ˈtɹ̝̊iːku] 'treacle' Possible realization of the unstressed vowel /ɯ/, which is variable in rounding and ranges from central to (more often) back and close to close-mid.[31][32] Corresponds to /əl/ in other accents. See New Zealand English phonology
Estonian[33] sule [ˈsule̞] 'feather' (gen. sg.) See Estonian phonology
Finnish[34][35] kukka [ˈkukːɑ] 'flower' See Finnish phonology
Faroese[36] gulur [ˈkuːlʊɹ] 'yellow' See Faroese phonology
French[37][38] About this sound[u] 'where' See French phonology
Georgian[39] და/guda [ɡudɑ] 'leather bag'
German Standard[40][41] Fuß About this sound[fuːs] 'foot' See Standard German phonology
Many speakers[42] Stunde [ˈʃtundə] 'hour' The usual realization of /ʊ/ in Switzerland, Austria and partially also in Western and Southwestern Germany (Palatinate, Swabia).[42] See Standard German phonology
Greek Modern Standard[43][44] που / pu [pu] 'where' See Modern Greek phonology
Hungarian[45] út [uːt̪] 'way' See Hungarian phonology
Icelandic[46][47] þú [θ̠u] 'you' See Icelandic phonology
Italian[48] tutto [ˈt̪ut̪t̪o] 'all', 'everything' See Italian phonology
Kaingang[49] nduki [ˈndukːi] 'in the belly'
Korean / nun [nuːn] 'snow' See Korean phonology
Kurdish[50][51][50][51][50][51][52] Kurmanji (Northern) çû [t͡ʃʰuː] 'wood' See Kurdish phonology
Sorani (Central) چوو/çû
Palewani (Southern)
Latin Classical[53] sus [suːs] 'pig'
Limburgish[54][55] sjoen [ʃu̟n] 'beautiful' Back[55] or near-back,[54] depending on the dialect. The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect.
Lower Sorbian[56] zub [z̪up] 'tooth'
Luxembourgish[57] Luucht [luːχt] 'air' See Luxembourgish phonology
Mongolian[58] үүр [uːɾɘ̆] 'nest'
Persian دور/dur [duɾ] 'far' See Persian phonology
Polish[59] buk About this sound[buk] 'beech tree' Also represented orthographically by ⟨ó⟩. See Polish phonology
Portuguese[60] tu [ˈtu] 'you' See Portuguese phonology
Romanian[61] unu [ˈun̪u] 'one' See Romanian phonology
Russian[62] узкий/uzkiy About this sound[ˈus̪kʲɪj] 'narrow' See Russian phonology
Serbo-Croatian[63] дуга / duga [d̪ǔːɡä] 'rainbow' See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Shiwiar[64] [example  needed]
Spanish[65] curable [kuˈɾäβ̞le̞] 'curable' See Spanish phonology
Sotho[66] tumo [tʼumɔ] 'fame' Contrasts close, near-close and close-mid back rounded vowels.[66] See Sotho phonology
Swahili ubongo [ubongo] 'brain'
Thai Standard[67] ชลบุรี/chonburi About this sound[tɕ͡ʰōn.bū.rīː]  'Chonburi'
Turkish[68][69] uzak [uˈz̪äk] 'far' See Turkish phonology
Udmurt[70] урэтэ/urėtė [urete] 'to divide'
Ukrainian[71] рух/rukg [rux] 'motion' See Ukrainian phonology
Upper Sorbian[56][72] žuk [ʒuk] 'beetle' See Upper Sorbian phonology
Urdu دُور‎/dur [duɾ] 'far' See Urdu phonology
Yoruba[73] itọju [itɔju]
Zapotec Tilquiapan[74] gdu [ɡdu] 'all'

Close back compressed vowel

Close back compressed vowel
Audio sample

Some languages, such as Japanese and Swedish, have a close back vowel that has a distinct type of rounding, called compressed or exolabial.[75] Only Shanghainese is known to contrast it with the more typical protruded (endolabial) close back vowel, but the height of both vowels varies from close to close-mid.[12]

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


  • Its vowel height is close, also known as high, which means the tongue is positioned close to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
  • Its vowel backness is back, which means the tongue is positioned back in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
  • Its roundedness is compressed, which means that the margins of the lips are tense and drawn together in such a way that the inner surfaces are not exposed.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Chinese Shanghainese[12] /tub [tɯᵝ˩] 'capital' Height varies between close and close-mid; contrasts with a close to close-mid back protruded vowel.[12]
Japanese[76] 空気 / kūki About this sound[kɯ̟ᵝːki] 'air' Near-back; may be realized as central [ɨᵝ] by younger speakers.[76] See Japanese phonology
Lizu[77] [Fmɯ̟ᵝ][clarification needed] 'feather' Near-back.[77]
Norwegian[78][79] mot [mɯᵝːt] 'courage' The example word is from Urban East Norwegian, in which the vowel can be diphthongized to [ɯᵝə̯].[80] See Norwegian phonology
Swedish Central Standard[81][82] oro [²ɯᵝːrɯᵝː] 'unease' Often realized as a sequence [ɯᵝβ̞] or [ɯᵝβ][81] (hear the word: About this sound[²ɯᵝβrɯᵝβ]). See Swedish phonology

See also


  1. ^ While the International Phonetic Association prefers the terms "close" and "open" for vowel height, many linguists use "high" and "low".
  2. ^ Donaldson (1993), pp. 2, 5.
  3. ^ Donaldson (1993), p. 5.
  4. ^ Thelwall & Sa'Adeddin (1990), p. 38.
  5. ^ Dum-Tragut (2009), p. 13.
  6. ^ Traunmüller (1982), cited in Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:290)
  7. ^ Ternes & Vladimirova-Buhtz (1999), p. 56.
  8. ^ Carbonell & Llisterri (1992), p. 54.
  9. ^ Lee & Zee (2003), pp. 110–111.
  10. ^ Duanmu (2007), pp. 35–36.
  11. ^ Zee (1999), pp. 59–60.
  12. ^ a b c d e Chen & Gussenhoven (2015), pp. 328–329.
  13. ^ Grønnum (1998), p. 100.
  14. ^ Basbøll (2005), p. 46.
  15. ^ Gussenhoven (1992), p. 47.
  16. ^ a b Verhoeven (2005), p. 245.
  17. ^ Cox & Palethorpe (2007), p. 344.
  18. ^ Mannell, Cox & Harrington (2009a).
  19. ^ Lindsey (2012).
  20. ^ a b Finn (2004), p. 970.
  21. ^ Lass (2002), p. 116.
  22. ^ Mannell, Cox & Harrington (2009b).
  23. ^ Watt & Allen (2003), p. 268.
  24. ^ Gimson (2014), p. 91.
  25. ^ Roach (2004), p. 242.
  26. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), p. 95.
  27. ^ Connolly (1990), p. 125.
  28. ^ Tench (1990), p. 135.
  29. ^ Mahboob & Ahmar (2004), p. 1007.
  30. ^ Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006). The Atlas of North American English. chpt. 17.CS1 maint: location (link)
  31. ^ a b "NZE Phonology" (PDF). Victoria University of Wellington. p. 3.
  32. ^ a b Bauer & Warren (2004), p. 585.
  33. ^ Asu & Teras (2009), p. 368.
  34. ^ Iivonen & Harnud (2005), pp. 60, 66.
  35. ^ Suomi, Toivanen & Ylitalo (2008), p. 21.
  36. ^ Árnason (2011), pp. 68, 74.
  37. ^ Fougeron & Smith (1993), p. 73.
  38. ^ Collins & Mees (2013), p. 225.
  39. ^ Shosted & Chikovani (2006), pp. 261–262.
  40. ^ Hall (2003), pp. 87, 107.
  41. ^ Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015), p. 34.
  42. ^ a b Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015), p. 64.
  43. ^ Arvaniti (2007), p. 28.
  44. ^ Trudgill (2009), p. 81.
  45. ^ Szende (1994), p. 92.
  46. ^ Árnason (2011), p. 60.
  47. ^ Einarsson (1945:10), cited in Gussmann (2011:73)
  48. ^ Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004), p. 119.
  49. ^ Jolkesky (2009), pp. 676–677, 682.
  50. ^ Thackston (2006a), p. 1.
  51. ^ a b c Khan & Lescot (1970), pp. 8-16.
  52. ^ Fattah describes the sound as being voyelle longue centrale arrondie (p. 116).
  53. ^ Wheelock's Latin (1956).
  54. ^ a b Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), p. 159.
  55. ^ a b Peters (2006), p. 119.
  56. ^ a b Stone (2002), p. 600.
  57. ^ Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 70.
  58. ^ Iivonen & Harnud (2005), pp. 62, 66–67.
  59. ^ Jassem (2003), p. 105.
  60. ^ Cruz-Ferreira (1995), p. 91.
  61. ^ Sarlin (2014), p. 18.
  62. ^ Jones & Ward (1969), p. 67.
  63. ^ Landau et al. (1999), p. 67.
  64. ^ Fast Mowitz (1975), p. 2.
  65. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003), p. 256.
  66. ^ a b Doke & Mofokeng (1974), p. ?.
  67. ^ Tingsabadh & Abramson (1993), p. 24.
  68. ^ Zimmer & Organ (1999), p. 155.
  69. ^ Göksel & Kerslake (2005), p. 11.
  70. ^ Iivonen & Harnud (2005), pp. 64, 68.
  71. ^ Danyenko & Vakulenko (1995), p. 4.
  72. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 20.
  73. ^ Bamgboṣe (1969), p. 166.
  74. ^ Merrill (2008), p. 109.
  75. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 295.
  76. ^ a b Okada (1999), p. 118.
  77. ^ a b Chirkova & Chen (2013), p. 78.
  78. ^ Vanvik (1979), pp. 13, 17.
  79. ^ While Vanvik (1979) does not describe the exact type of rounding of this vowel, some other sources (e.g. Haugen (1974:40) and Kristoffersen (2000:16)) state explicitly that it is compressed.
  80. ^ Vanvik (1979), p. 17.
  81. ^ a b Engstrand (1999), p. 140.
  82. ^ Rosenqvist (2007), p. 9.


External links

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