Close back unrounded vowel

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Close back unrounded vowel
IPA number 316
Entity (decimal) ɯ
Unicode (hex) U+026F
Kirshenbaum u-
Braille ⠲ (braille pattern dots-256) ⠥ (braille pattern dots-136)

The close back unrounded vowel, or high back unrounded vowel,[1] is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. Acoustically it is a close back-central unrounded vowel.[2] The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɯ⟩. Typographically a turned letter m, given its relation to the sound represented by the letter u it can be considered a u with an extra "bowl". It is not to be confused with ⟨⟩, a sequence of the symbols ⟨u⟩ and ⟨ɪ⟩ (which represent the close back rounded vowel and the near-close near-front unrounded vowel, respectively), nor with ⟨ω⟩, which is an unofficial symbol for the near-close near-back unrounded vowel.


IPA: Vowels
Front Central Back

Paired vowels are: unrounded  rounded

  • Its vowel height is close, also known as high, which means the tongue is positioned as close as possible 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 as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Unrounded back vowels tend to be centralized, which means that often they are in fact near-back.
  • It is unrounded, which means that the lips are not rounded.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Acehnese[3] eu [ɯ] 'see' Also described as closer to [ɨ].[4][5]
Alekano hanuva [hɑnɯβɑ] 'nothing'
Bashkir ҡыҙ [qɯð] 'girl'
Chinese Hokkien Amoy dialects [tɯ] 'pig'
Some Wu dialects [vɯ] 'father'
Xiang [xɯ] 'fire'
Crimean Tatar canım [dʒanɯm] 'please'
English California[6] goose [ɡɯ̟ˑs] 'goose' Near-back;[6] corresponds to [] in other dialects.
New Zealand[7][8] treacle [ˈtɹ̝̊iːkɯ] '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.[7][8] Corresponds to /əl/ in other accents. See New Zealand English phonology
South African[9] pill [pʰɯ̟ɫ] 'pill' Near-back; possible allophone of /ɪ/ before the velarised allophone of /l/.[9] Also described as close-mid [ɤ̟].[10] See South African English phonology
Estonian[11] kõrv [kɯrv] 'ear' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɤ⟩; can be close-mid central [ɘ] or close-mid back [ɤ] instead, depending on the speaker.[11] See Estonian phonology
Garifuna gürûgua [ɡɯˈɹɯɡwə] 'bite'
Irish Ulster caol [kʰɯːl̪ˠ] 'narrow' See Irish phonology
Kensiu[12] [häjɯ̟p] 'to know' Near-back.[12]
Korean[13] 음식/飮食 eumsik [ɯːmɕik̚] 'food' See Korean phonology
Kyrgyz кыз [qɯz] 'girl' See Kyrgyz phonology
Ongota [kuˈbuːɯ] 'dry'
Scottish Gaelic caol [kʰɯːl̪ˠ] 'thin' See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Shipibo[14] kuni [ˈkɯ̟ni̞] 'whisker' Near-back.[14]
Sundanese meunang [mɯnaŋ] 'get'
Thai[15] ขึ้น[16] [kʰɯ̟n˥˩] 'to go up' Near-back.[17]
Turkish[18][19] sığ [sɯ̟ː] 'shallow' Near-back.[18] See Turkish phonology
Turkmen ýaşyl [jäːˈʃɯl] 'green'
Tuvan Кызыл [kɯˈzɯl] 'Kyzyl'
Uyghur تىلىم [tɯlɯm] 'my language' In complementary distribution with /ɪ/. See Uyghur phonology
Vietnamese tư [tɯ] 'fourth' See Vietnamese phonology
Xumi Upper[20] [Hkɯ] 'to bake' Allophone of /ʉ/ after velar consonants.[20]
Yakut тыл [tɯl] 'tongue'

The symbol ⟨ɯ⟩ is sometimes used for Japanese /u/, but that sound is rounded, albeit with labial compression rather than protrusion. It is more accurately described as an exolabial close back vowel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ While the International Phonetic Association prefers the terms "close" and "open" for vowel height, many linguists use "high" and "low".
  2. ^ Geoff Lindsey (2013) The vowel space, Speech Talk
  3. ^ Mid-vowels in Acehnese Archived 2010-07-14 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Agreement System in Acehnese Archived 2013-06-05 at WebCite
  5. ^ Acehnese Coda Condition
  6. ^ a b Ladefoged (1999), pp. 42–43.
  7. ^ a b "NZE Phonology" (PDF). Victoria University of Wellington. p. 3. 
  8. ^ a b Bauer & Warren (2004), p. 585.
  9. ^ a b Bowerman (2004), p. 936.
  10. ^ Wells (1982), p. 617.
  11. ^ a b Asu & Teras (2009), p. 369.
  12. ^ a b Bishop (1996), p. 230.
  13. ^ Lee (1999), p. 122.
  14. ^ a b Valenzuela, Márquez Pinedo & Maddieson (2001:282)
  15. ^ Tingsabadh & Abramson (1993), p. 24.
  16. ^ Dictionary entry for ขึ้น (kheun) (
  17. ^ Tingsabadh & Abramson (1993), p. 25.
  18. ^ a b Zimmer & Organ (1999:155)
  19. ^ Göksel & Kerslake (2005:10)
  20. ^ a b Chirkova, Chen & Kocjančič Antolík (2013), p. 389.