A near-open vowel or a near-low vowel is any in a class of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a near-open vowel is that the tongue is positioned similarly to an open vowel, but slightly more constricted.
Other names for a near-open vowel are lowered open-mid vowel and raised open vowel, though the former phrase may also be used to describe a vowel that is as low as open; likewise, the latter phrase may also be used to describe a vowel that is as high as open-mid.
Near-open vowels are sometimes described as lax variants of the fully open vowels, though, depending on the language, they may not necessarily be variants of open vowels at all.
The near-open vowels with dedicated symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet are:
- near-open front unrounded vowel [æ]
- near-open central vowel without specified rounding [ɐ] (usually used for an unrounded vowel; the distinction can be made as ⟨ɜ̞⟩ (or ⟨æ̈⟩) vs ⟨ɞ̞⟩)
Other near-open vowels can be indicated with diacritics of relative articulation applied to letters for neighboring vowels, such as ⟨ɒ̽⟩ and ⟨ɑ̽⟩ for near-open near-back rounded and unrounded vowels.