Mid Central Vowel
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Mid Central Vowel
Mid central vowel
IPA Number322
Entity (decimal)ə
Unicode (hex)U+0259
Braille? (braille pattern dots-26)
Audio sample

The mid central vowel (also known as schwa) is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨?⟩, a rotated lowercase letter e.

While the Handbook of the International Phonetic Association does not define the roundedness of [?],[1] it is more often unrounded than rounded. The phonetician Jane Setter describes the pronunciation of the unrounded variant as follows: "[?] is a sound which can be produced by basically relaxing the articulators in the oral cavity and vocalising."[2] To produce the rounded variant, all that needs to be done in addition to that is to round the lips.

Afrikaans contrasts unrounded and rounded mid central vowels; the latter is usually transcribed with ⟨oe⟩. The contrast is not very stable, and many speakers use an unrounded vowel in both cases.[3]

Danish[4] and Luxembourgish,[5] have a mid central vowel that is variably rounded. In other languages, the change in rounding is accompanied with the change in height and/or backness. For instance, in Dutch, the unrounded allophone of /?/ is mid central unrounded [?], but its word-final rounded allophone is close-mid front rounded , close to the main allophone of /?/.[6]

The symbol ⟨?⟩ is often used for any unstressed obscure vowel, regardless of its precise quality. For instance, the English vowel transcribed ⟨?⟩ is a central unrounded vowel that can be close-mid , mid [?] or open-mid , depending on the environment.[7]

Mid central unrounded vowel

The mid central unrounded vowel is frequently written with the symbol [?]. If greater precision is desired, the symbol for the close-mid central unrounded vowel may be used with a lowering diacritic, []. Another possibility is using the symbol for the open-mid central unrounded vowel with a raising diacritic, [].



Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Albanian një [] 'one'
Afrikaans Standard[3] lig [l] 'light' Also described as open-mid .[8] See Afrikaans phonology
Many speakers[3] lug 'air' Many speakers merge /oe/ with /?/, even in formal speech.[3] See Afrikaans phonology
Catalan Eastern[9] amb [?m(b)] 'with' Reduced vowel. The exact height, backness and rounding are variable.[10] See Catalan phonology
Some Western accents[11]
Chinese Mandarin[12] ? / g?n 'root' See Standard Chinese phonology
Chuvash ? [?m'an] 'worm'
Danish Standard[13][14] hoppe ['hp?] 'mare' Sometimes realized as rounded [].[4] See Danish phonology
Dutch Standard[6] renner ['r?n?r] 'runner' The backness varies between near-front and central, whereas the height varies between close-mid and open-mid. Many speakers feel that this vowel is simply an unstressed allophone of .[6] See Dutch phonology
English Most dialects[7][15] Tina ['t?i:n?] 'Tina' Reduced vowel; varies in height between close-mid and open-mid. Word-final /?/ can be as low as .[7][15] See English phonology
Cultivated South African[16] bird [b:d] 'bird' May be transcribed in IPA with ⟨?:⟩. Other South African varieties use a higher, more front and rounded vowel . See South African English phonology
Received Pronunciation[18] Often transcribed in IPA with ⟨?:⟩. It is sulcalized, which means the tongue is grooved like in [?]. 'Upper Crust RP' speakers pronounce a near-open vowel , but for some other speakers it may actually be open-mid . This vowel corresponds to rhotacized in rhotic dialects.
Geordie[19] bust [b?st] 'bust' Spoken by some middle class speakers, mostly female; other speakers use . Corresponds to or in other dialects.
Indian[20] May be lower. Some Indian varieties merge or with /?/ like Welsh English.
Wales[21] May also be further back; it corresponds to or in other dialects.
Yorkshire[22] Middle class pronunciation. Other speakers use . Corresponds to or in other dialects.
Galician Some dialects leite ['lejt?] 'milk' Alternative realization of final unstressed /e/ or /?/ (normally [i~?~e?])
fenecer [f?n?'s?e?] 'to die' Alternative realization of unstressed /e/ or /?/ in any position
German Standard[23] Beschlag 'fitting' See Standard German phonology
Southern German accents[24] oder ['o:d?] 'or' Used instead of .[24] See Standard German phonology
Indonesian Standard Indonesian lelah [l?.lah] 'tired' See Indonesian phonology
Jakartan dialect datang [da.t] 'to come' Usually occurs around Jakarta. If the letter /a/ is located in the last syllable between consonants, the sound changes from [a] to [?]. For the dialects in Sumatra in which the /a/ letter ([a]) in the last syllable changes to an [?] sound, see Malay phonology.
Kashmiri [k?t?s] 'how many'
Kensiu[25] [t?h] 'to be bald' Contrasts with a rhotacized close-mid .[25]
Kurdish Sorani (Central) ?/?ew [w] 'night' See Kurdish phonology
Palewani (Southern)
Luxembourgish[5] dënn [dn] 'thin' More often realized as slightly rounded [].[5] See Luxembourgish phonology
Malay Standard Malaysian pengadil [p?.?ä.d?l] 'referee' See Malay phonology
Johor-Riau[disambiguation needed] apa [ä.p?] 'what' Common realisation of /a/ at the end of words and before /h/. See Malay phonology
Terengganu Common realisation of /a/ at the end of words and before /h/. See Terengganu Malay
Norwegian Many dialects[26] sterkeste [²stæ?k?st?] 'the strongest' Occurs only in unstressed syllables. The example word is from Urban East Norwegian. Some dialects (e.g. Trondheimsk) lack this sound.[27] See Norwegian phonology
Plautdietsch[28] bediedt [b?'dit] 'means' The example word is from the Canadian Old Colony variety, in which the vowel is somewhat fronted [].[28]
Portuguese Brazilian[29] maçã [ma's?] 'apple' Possible realization of final stressed /ã/.
Romanian[30] p?ros [p?'ros] 'hairy' See Romanian phonology
Serbo-Croatian[31] vrt [rt?] 'garden' [?r] is a possible phonetic realization of the syllabic trill /r?/ when it occurs between consonants.[31] See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Swedish Southern[32] vante [²vänt?] 'mitten' Corresponds to a slightly retracted front vowel [] in Central Standard Swedish.[32] See Swedish phonology
Tyap a?tan [?tan] '?ood'
Welsh mynydd [m?n?ð] 'mountain' See Welsh phonology

Mid central rounded vowel

Mid central rounded vowel
Audio sample

Languages may have a mid central rounded vowel (a rounded [?]), distinct from both the close-mid and open-mid vowels. However, since no language is known to distinguish all three, there is no separate IPA symbol for the mid vowel, and the symbol [?] for the close-mid central rounded vowel is generally used instead. If precision is desired, the lowering diacritic can be used: []. This vowel can also be represented by adding the more rounded diacritic to the schwa symbol, or by combining the raising diacritic with the open-mid central rounded vowel symbol, although it is rare to use such symbols.



Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans Standard[3] lug [l] 'air' Also described as open-mid ,[8] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨oe⟩. Many speakers merge /oe/ and /?/, even in formal speech.[3] See Afrikaans phonology
Danish Standard[4] hoppe ['hp] 'mare' Possible realization of /?/.[4] See Danish phonology
Dutch Southern[33] hut [t] 'hut' Found in certain accents, e.g. in Bruges. Close-mid in Standard Dutch.[33] See Dutch phonology
English California[34] foot [ft] 'foot' Part of the California vowel shift.[34] Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨?⟩.
French[35][36] je [] 'I' Only somewhat rounded;[35] may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨?⟩ or ⟨?⟩. Also described as close-mid .[37] May be more front for a number of speakers. See French phonology
German Chemnitz dialect[38] Wonne ['vn?] 'bliss' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨?⟩.[38]
Irish Munster[39] scoil [skl?] 'school' Allophone of /?/ between a broad and a slender consonant.[39] See Irish phonology
Luxembourgish[5] dënn [dn] 'thin' Only slightly rounded; less often realized as unrounded [].[5] See Luxembourgish phonology
Norwegian Urban East[40] nøtt [nt:] 'nut' Also described as open-mid front ;[26][41] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨oe⟩ or ⟨ø⟩. See Norwegian phonology
Plautdietsch Canadian Old Colony[42] butzt [bt?st] 'bumps' Mid-centralized from , to which it corresponds in other dialects.[42]
Swedish Central Standard[43][44] full 'full' Pronounced with compressed lips, more closely transcribed [] or []. Less often described as close-mid .[45] See Swedish phonology

See also


  1. ^ International Phonetic Association (1999), p. 167.
  2. ^ "A World of Englishes: Is /?/ "real"?". 19 June 2013. Retrieved 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Wissing (2016), section "The rounded and unrounded mid-central vowels".
  4. ^ a b c d Basbøll (2005), p. 143.
  5. ^ a b c d e Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 70.
  6. ^ a b c Collins & Mees (2003), p. 129.
  7. ^ a b c Wells (2008), p. XXV.
  8. ^ a b Wissing (2012), p. 711.
  9. ^ Recasens (1996), pp. 59-60, 104-105.
  10. ^ Recasens (1996), p. 106.
  11. ^ Recasens (1996), p. 98.
  12. ^ Lee & Zee (2003), p. 110.
  13. ^ Allan, Holmes & Lundskær-Nielsen (2011), p. 2.
  14. ^ Basbøll (2005), pp. 57, 143.
  15. ^ a b Gimson (2014), p. 138.
  16. ^ Lass (2002), p. 116.
  17. ^ Lodge (2009), p. 168.
  18. ^ Roach (2004), p. 242.
  19. ^ Watt & Allen (2003), p. 268.
  20. ^ Sailaja (2009), pp. 24-25.
  21. ^ Wells (1982), pp. 380-381.
  22. ^ Stoddart, Upton & Widdowson (1999), pp. 74, 76.
  23. ^ Krech et al. (2009), p. 69.
  24. ^ a b Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015), p. 40.
  25. ^ a b Bishop (1996), p. 230.
  26. ^ a b Vanvik (1979), pp. 13, 20.
  27. ^ Vanvik (1979), p. 21.
  28. ^ a b Cox, Driedger & Tucker (2013), p. 224.
  29. ^ Battisti, Elisa; Gomes de Oliveira, Samuel; Battisti, Elisa; Gomes de Oliveira, Samuel (2019-06-01). "ELEVAÇÃO DA VOGAL /a/ EM CONTEXTO NASAL EM PORTUGUÊS BRASILEIRO: ESTUDO PRELIMINAR". Lingüística. 35 (1): 35-55. doi:10.5935/2079-312x.20190003. ISSN 2079-312X.
  30. ^ Chi?oran (2001:7)
  31. ^ a b Landau et al. (1999), p. 67.
  32. ^ a b Riad (2014), p. 22.
  33. ^ a b Collins & Mees (2003:128, 131). The source describes the Standard Dutch vowel as front-central , but more sources (e.g. van Heuven & Genet (2002) and Verhoeven (2005)) describe it as central . As far as the lowered varieties of this vowel are concerned, Collins and Mees do not describe their exact backness.
  34. ^ a b Eckert, Penelope. "Vowel Shifts in California and the Detroit Suburbs". Stanford University.
  35. ^ a b Fougeron & Smith (1993), p. 73.
  36. ^ Lodge (2009), p. 84.
  37. ^ "english speech services | Le FOOT vowel". 15 January 2012. Retrieved 2018.
  38. ^ a b Khan & Weise (2013), p. 236.
  39. ^ a b Ó Sé (2000), p. ?.
  40. ^ Kristoffersen (2000), pp. 16-17.
  41. ^ Kvifte & Gude-Husken (2005), p. 2.
  42. ^ a b Cox, Driedger & Tucker (2013), pp. 224-225.
  43. ^ Engstrand (1999), p. 140.
  44. ^ Rosenqvist (2007), p. 9.
  45. ^ Andersson (2002), p. 272.


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External links

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