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Close back unrounded vowel

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Close back unrounded vowel
IPA Number316
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)ɯ
Unicode (hex)U+026F
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. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ɯ. Typographically, it is 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".

The close back unrounded vowel can in many cases be considered the vocalic equivalent of the voiced velar approximant [ɰ].


  • 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. 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[2] eu [ɯ] 'see' Also described as closer to [ɨ].[3][4]
Arara[5] îput [ɯput̚] 'my skin' Frequent realisation of /ɨ/.[5]
Azerbaijani bahalı [bɑhɑˈɫɯ] 'expensive' Closer to an [ɘ][6]
Bashkir ҡыҙ / qıď [qɯð] 'girl'
Chinese Mandarin / cì [t͡sʰɯ˥˩] 'thorn'
Some Wu dialects / vu [vɯ] 'father'
Xiang / xu [xɯ] 'fire'
Chuvash ыхра/ıxra [ɯɣra] 'garlic'
Crimean Tatar джаным/canım [dʒanɯm] 'please'
English African-American[7] hook [hɯ̞k] 'hook' Near-close; possible realization of /ʊ/.[7]
Tidewater[8] Near-close; may be rounded [ʊ] instead.[8]
Some California speakers[9] goose [ɡɯˑs] 'goose' Corresponds to [] in other dialects.
New Zealand[10][11] 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.[10][11] Corresponds to /əl/ in other accents. Develops from dark L; See New Zealand English phonology
Some Philadelphia speakers[12] plus [pɫ̥ɯs] 'plus' Used by some speakers; the exact height and backness is variable.[12] It corresponds to [ʌ] in other accents. See English phonology
South African[13] pill [pʰɯ̞ɫ] 'pill' Near-close; possible allophone of /ɪ/ before the velarised allophone of /l/.[13] See South African English phonology
Estonian[14] 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.[14] See Estonian phonology
Irish Ulster caol [kʰɯːl̪ˠ] 'narrow' See Irish phonology
Japanese[15] 空気 / kūki [kɯːki] 'air' May be compressed [ɯᵝ].[16] See Japanese phonology
Katukina[17] [babɯˈdʒɯ] 'oscar (fish)'
Kazakh қыс/qys [qɯs] 'winter' May be pronounced as [qəs]
Korean[18] 음식 飮食 / eumsik [ɯːmɕ͈ik̚] 'food' See Korean phonology
Kurdish Kurmanji (Northern) ti [tˤɯɾʃ] 'sour' See Kurdish phonology. The "i" after "t" always uses this sound if the "t" is "tˤ". However, it can also appear at other places.
Sorani (Central) ترش / tirş
Kyrgyz кыз / qyz [qɯz] 'girl' See Kyrgyz phonology
Panará[19] [tɯˈsəʰ] 'to breathe'
Portuguese European[20] pegar [pɯ̞ˈɣäɾ] 'to grab' Reduced vowel. Near-close.[20] Typically transcribed in IPA with ɨ. See Portuguese phonology
Romanian Some speakers când [kɯnd] 'when' Typically described as /ɨ/. See Romanian phonology
Scottish Gaelic caol [kʰɯːl̪ˠ] 'thin' See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Sop düm [dɯm] 'tree' See Sop language
Tamil அழகு / aḻagu [əɻəɣɯ] 'beauty'
Thai Standard[21] ขึ้น / khuen/khîn [kʰɯn˥˩] 'to go up'
Turkish[22] sığ [sɯː] 'shallow' Described variously as close back [ɯ],[22] near-close near-back [ɯ̞][23] and close central [ɨ].[24] See Turkish phonology
Turkmen ýaşyl [jɑːˈʃɯl] 'green'
Uyghur تىلىم/tılım / tilim [tɯlɯm] 'my language' In complementary distribution with /ɪ/. See Uyghur phonology
Vietnamese tư [tɯ] 'fourth' See Vietnamese 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. ^ Durie, Mark (1990). "Proto-Chamic and Acehnese Mid Vowels: Towards Proto-Aceh-Chamic" (PDF). Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. LII, Part 1: 100–111. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00021297. S2CID 162224060. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2010.
  3. ^ Asyik, Abdul Gani. "The Agreement System in Acehnese" (PDF). Mon-Khmer Studies. XI: 1–33. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 July 2009. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  4. ^ Al-Harbi, Awwad Ahmad Al-Ahmadi (January 2003). "Acehnese Coda Condition: An Optimality-Theoretic Account" (PDF). Umm Al-Qura University Journal of Educational and Social Sciences and Humanities. 15 (1): 9–28.
  5. ^ a b Alves (2013), p. 269.
  6. ^ Ghaffarvand-Mokari & Werner 2016, p. 514.
  7. ^ a b Wells (1982), p. 557.
  8. ^ a b Wells (1982), p. 536.
  9. ^ Ladefoged (1999), pp. 42–43.
  10. ^ a b Warren, Paul. NZE Phonology (PDF) (Report). Victoria University of Wellington. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 January 2024.
  11. ^ a b Bauer & Warren (2004), p. 585.
  12. ^ a b Gordon (2004), p. 290.
  13. ^ a b Bowerman (2004), p. 936.
  14. ^ a b Asu & Teras (2009), p. 369.
  15. ^ Labrune (2012), p. 25.
  16. ^ Okada (1999), p. 118.
  17. ^ dos Anjos (2012), p. 129.
  18. ^ Lee (1999), p. 122.
  19. ^ Vasconcelos (2013), p. 182.
  20. ^ a b Cruz-Ferreira (1995), p. 91.
  21. ^ Tingsabadh & Abramson (1993), p. 24.
  22. ^ a b Göksel & Kerslake (2005:10)
  23. ^ Kılıç & Öğüt (2004)
  24. ^ Zimmer & Orgun (1999:155)


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Close back unrounded vowel
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