Near-close near-back unrounded vowel

Near-close near-back unrounded vowel

The near-close near-back unrounded vowel or near-high near-back unrounded vowel, is a type of a vowel sound, used in a few spoken languages. The International Phonetic Alphabet can represent this sound in a number of ways (see the box on the right), but arguably the most common symbol is ɯ̽ (mid-centralized [ɯ]), a symbol equivalent to a more complex ɯ̞̈ (lowered and centralized [ɯ]), or sometimes with the old convention of ω.[1]

Theoretically, it can also be represented in the IPA as ʊ̜ (less rounded [ʊ]), but because [ʊ] is defined by the Handbook of the International Phonetic Association as rounded (rather than unspecified for rounding as [ə] and [ɐ]),[2] the symbol ʊ̜ can also signify a weakly rounded [ʊ], rather than a fully unrounded vowel that is described in this article.

The near-close back unrounded vowel, which differs from its near-back counterpart in that it is a lowered, but not centralized close back unrounded vowel has not been reported to occur in any language, but it can be transcribed in the IPA as ɯ̞ or ɤ̝, or sometimes with the old convention of ω̠.

The only languages in which it is phonemic are Korean and European Portuguese, although in the latter it appears only in unstressed syllables.


IPA vowel chart
Front Near-front Central Near-back Back
i  y
ɨ  ʉ
ɯ  u
ɪ  ʏ
ɪ̈  ʊ̈
ɯ̽  ʊ
e  ø
ɘ  ɵ
ɤ  o
ə  ɵ̞
ɛ  œ
ɜ  ɞ
ʌ  ɔ
ɐ  ɞ̞
a  ɶ
ä  ɒ̈
ɑ  ɒ
Paired vowels are: unrounded  rounded
This table contains phonetic symbols, which may not display correctly in some browsers. [Help]

IPA help  IPA key  chart   chart with audio  view


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
English California[3] hook [hɯ̽k] 'hook' Local realization of /ʊ/; often pronounced with spread lips.[3] See English phonology
Tidewater[4] May be rounded [ʊ] instead.[4]
Irish Ulster[5] Allophone of /ɪ/.[5]
Korean[6] 어른/eoreun [ɘːɾɯ̽n] 'seniors' Typically transcribed in IPA with ɯ. See Korean phonology
Mirandese cebada [s̪ɯ̽ˈβ̞äð̞ə] 'barley' Unstressed vowel; typically transcribed in IPA with ɨ.
Portuguese European[7] pegar [pɯ̽ˈɣäɾ] 'to hold' Unstressed vowel;[7] most often transcribed in IPA with ɨ, ɯ or ə. See Portuguese phonology
Turkish acı [äˈd͡ʒɯ̽] 'spicy' Allophone of /ɯ/ in final open syllable of a phrase. See Turkish phonology
Vietnamese Hanoi[8] t [t̻ɯ̽˧˨] 'word' Common allophone of /ɯ/.[8] See Vietnamese phonology



  • Cruz-Ferreira, Madalena (1995), "European Portuguese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 25 (2): 90–94, doi:10.1017/S0025100300005223 
  • International Phonetic Association (1999), Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-65236-7 
  • Kirby, James P. (2011), "Vietnamese (Hanoi Vietnamese)" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 41 (3): 381–392, doi:10.1017/S0025100311000181 
  • Ladefoged, Peter (1999), "American English", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, Cambridge University Press, pp. 41–44 
  • Lee, Hyun Bok (1999), "Korean", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, Cambridge University Press, pp. 120–122, ISBN 0-521-63751-1 
  • Ní Chasaide, Ailbhe (1999), "Irish", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, Cambridge University Press, pp. 111–16, ISBN 0-521-63751-1 
  • Wells, John C. (1982), Accents of English, 3: Beyond the British Isles, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-24225-8 
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