Open front unrounded vowel

Open front unrounded vowel
IPA Number304
Entity (decimal)a
Unicode (hex)U+0061
Braille⠁ (braille pattern dots-1)
Audio sample

The open front unrounded vowel, or low front unrounded vowel,[1] is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. It is one of the eight primary cardinal vowels, not directly intended to correspond to a vowel sound of a specific language but rather to serve as a fundamental reference point in a phonetic measuring system.[2]

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) that represents this sound is ⟨a⟩, and in the IPA vowel chart it is positioned at the lower-left corner. However, the accuracy of the quadrilateral vowel chart is disputed, and the sound has been analyzed acoustically as extra-open at a position where the front/back distinction has lost its significance. There are also differing interpretations of the exact quality of the vowel: the classic sound recording of [a] by Daniel Jones is slightly more front but not quite as open as that by John Wells.[3]

In practice, it is considered normal by many phoneticians[who?] to use the symbol ⟨a⟩ for an open central unrounded vowel and instead approximate the open front unrounded vowel with ⟨æ⟩ (which officially signifies a near-open front unrounded vowel).[4] This is the usual practice, for example, in the historical study of the English language. The loss of separate symbols for open and near-open front vowels is usually considered unproblematic, because the perceptual difference between the two is quite small, and very few languages contrast the two. If there is a need to specify the backness of the vowel as fully front one can use the symbol ⟨æ̞⟩, which denotes a lowered near-open front unrounded vowel.

The Hamont-Achel dialect of Limburgish has been reported to contrast long open front, central and back unrounded vowels.[5] This is extremely unusual.


  • Its vowel height is open, also known as low, which means the tongue is positioned far from the roof of the mouth – that is, low in the mouth.
  • Its vowel backness is front, which means the tongue is positioned forward in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. This subsumes central open (central low) vowels because the tongue does not have as much flexibility in positioning as it does in the mid and close (high) vowels; the difference between an open front vowel and an open back vowel is similar to the difference between a close front and a close central vowel, or a close central and a close back vowel.
  • It is unrounded, which means that the lips are not rounded.


Many languages have some form of an unrounded open vowel. For languages that have only a single open vowel, the symbol for this vowel ⟨a⟩ may be used because it is the only open vowel whose symbol is part of the basic Latin alphabet. Whenever marked as such, the vowel is closer to a central [ä] than to a front [a]. However, there may not actually be much of a difference. (See Vowel#Acoustics.)

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans Standard[6] dak [da̠k] 'roof' Near-front.[6] See Afrikaans phonology
Arabic Standard[7] أنا‎/anaa [anaː] 'I' 1st person singular pronoun See Arabic phonology
Azerbaijani[8] Standard səs [s̪æ̞s̪] 'sound' Typically transcribed with ⟨æ⟩.
Bulgarian[9] най/nay [n̪a̠j] 'most' Near-front.[9]
Chinese Mandarin[10] / ān About this sound[ʔan˥]  'safe' Allophone of /a/ before /n/.[10] See Standard Chinese phonology
Chuvash сас [sas] 'sound, noise'
Dutch Standard[11][12] aas [aːs] 'bait' Ranges from front to central.[13] See Dutch phonology
Utrecht[14] bad [bat] 'bath' Corresponds to [ɑ] in Northern Standard Dutch. See Dutch phonology
English Australian[15] hat About this sound[hat]  'hat' See Australian English phonology
California[16][17] Less open [æ] in other North American varieties. See English phonology and Canadian Shift
Some Central Ohioan speakers[17]
Some Texan speakers[17]
Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg[19] Closer [æ] in General South African English. See South African English phonology
Received Pronunciation except Conservative Received Pronunciation[20] Closer [æ] in Conservative Received Pronunciation. See English phonology
East Anglian[21] bra [bɹaː] 'bra' Realized as central [äː] by middle-class speakers.[21]
Inland Northern American[22] Less front [ɑ ~ ä] in other American dialects. See Northern cities vowel shift
New Zealand[23] [bɹa̠ː] Varies between open near-front [a̠ː], open central [äː], near-open near-front [ɐ̟ː] and near-open central [ɐː].[23] May be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɐː⟩. See New Zealand English phonology
French Conservative Parisian[12][24] patte [pat̪] 'paw' Contrasts with /ɑ/, but many speakers have only one open vowel (phonetically central [ä]).[25] See French phonology
Quebec[26] arrêt [aʁɛ] 'stopping' Contrasts with /ɑ/.[26] See Quebec French phonology
German Altbayern accent[27] Wassermassen [ˈʋɑsɐmasn̩] 'water masses' Also illustrates the back /ɑ/, with which it contrasts.[27] See Standard German phonology
Many Austrian accents[27] nah [naː] 'near' Less front in other accents.[27] See Standard German phonology
Igbo[28] ákụ [ákú̙] 'kernal'
Kurdish Palewani (Southern) گه‌ن/gan [gan] 'bad' Equal to Sorani (Central) near-front [æ]. See Kurdish phonology
Limburgish Hamont-Achel dialect[5] paens [ˈpæ̞̌ːns] 'belly' Contrasts with central [äː] and back [ɑː]; may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨æː⟩.[5]
Many dialects[29][30][31] baas [ˈba̠ːs] 'boss' Near-front;[29][30][31] realized as central [äː] in some other dialects.[5] The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect.
Low German[32] dagg / dag [dax] 'day' Backness may vary among dialects.[32]
Luxembourgish[33] Kap [kʰa̠ːpʰ] 'cap' Near-front; sometimes fronted and raised to [a̝ː].[34] See Luxembourgish phonology
Norwegian Stavangersk[35] hatt [hat] 'hat' See Norwegian phonology
Trondheimsk[36] lær [læ̞ːɾ] 'leather'
Polish[37] jajo About this sound[ˈjajɔ]  'egg' Allophone of /a/ between palatal or palatalized consonants. See Polish phonology
Spanish Eastern Andalusian[38] las madres [læ̞ˑ ˈmæ̞ːð̞ɾɛˑ] 'the mothers' Corresponds to [ä] in other dialects, but in these dialects they're distinct. See Spanish phonology
Swedish Central Standard[39][40] bank [baŋk] 'bank' The backness has been variously described as front [a],[39] near-front [a̠][40] and central [ä].[41] See Swedish phonology
West Frisian Aastersk[42] kaaks [kaːks] 'ship's biscuit' Contrasts with a back /ɑː/.[42] See West Frisian phonology


  1. ^ While the International Phonetic Association prefers the terms "close" and "open" for vowel height, many linguists use "high" and "low".
  2. ^ John Coleman: Cardinal vowels
  3. ^ Geoff Lindsey (2013) The vowel space, Speech Talk
  4. ^ Keith Johnson: Vowels in the languages of the world Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine (PDF), p. 9
  5. ^ a b c d Verhoeven (2007), p. 221.
  6. ^ a b Wissing (2016), section "The unrounded low-central vowel /ɑ/".
  7. ^ Thelwall & Sa'Adeddin (1990), p. 38.
  8. ^ Mokari & Werner (2016), p. ?.
  9. ^ a b Ternes & Vladimirova-Buhtz (1999), p. 56.
  10. ^ a b Mou (2006), p. 65.
  11. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 95, 104, 132-133.
  12. ^ a b Ashby (2011), p. 100.
  13. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), p. 104.
  14. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), p. 131.
  15. ^ Cox & Fletcher (2017), p. 179.
  16. ^ Gordon (2004), p. 347.
  17. ^ a b c d Thomas (2004:308): A few younger speakers from, e.g., Texas, who show the LOT/THOUGHT merger have TRAP shifted toward [a], but this retraction is not yet as common as in some non-Southern regions (e.g., California and Canada), though it is increasing in parts of the Midwest on the margins of the South (e.g., central Ohio).
  18. ^ Boberg (2005), pp. 133–154.
  19. ^ Bekker (2008), pp. 83–84.
  20. ^ "Case Studies – Received Pronunciation Phonology – RP Vowel Sounds". British Library.
  21. ^ a b Trudgill (2004), p. 172.
  22. ^ W. Labov, S. Ash and C. Boberg (1997). "A national map of the regional dialects of American English". Department of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  23. ^ a b Bauer et al. (2007), p. 98.
  24. ^ Collins & Mees (2013), pp. 225–227.
  25. ^ Collins & Mees (2013), pp. 226–227.
  26. ^ a b Walker (1984), p. 53.
  27. ^ a b c d Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015), p. 64.
  28. ^ Ikekeonwu (1999), p. 109.
  29. ^ a b Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), p. 110.
  30. ^ a b Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), p. 159.
  31. ^ a b Peters (2006), p. 119.
  32. ^ a b Prehn (2012), p. 157.
  33. ^ Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 70.
  34. ^ Gilles & Trouvain (2013), pp. 70–71.
  35. ^ Vanvik (1979), p. 17.
  36. ^ Vanvik (1979), p. 15.
  37. ^ Jassem (2003), p. 106.
  38. ^ a b Zamora Vicente (1967), p. ?.
  39. ^ a b Bolander (2001), p. 55.
  40. ^ a b Rosenqvist (2007), p. 9.
  41. ^ Engstrand (1999), p. 140.
  42. ^ a b van der Veen (2001), p. 102.


  • Ashby, Patricia (2011), Understanding Phonetics, Understanding Language series, Routledge, ISBN 978-0340928271
  • Bauer, Laurie; Warren, Paul; Bardsley, Dianne; Kennedy, Marianna; Major, George (2007), "New Zealand English", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 37 (1): 97–102, doi:10.1017/S0025100306002830
  • Bekker, Ian (2008). The vowels of South African English (PDF) (Ph.D.). North-West University, Potchefstroom.
  • Boberg, Charles (2005), "The Canadian shift in Montreal", Language Variation and Change, 17 (2): 133–154, doi:10.1017/s0954394505050064
  • Bolander, Maria (2001), Funktionell svensk grammatik (1st ed.), Liber AB, ISBN 9789147050543
  • Collins, Beverley; Mees, Inger M. (2003) [First published 1981], The Phonetics of English and Dutch (5th ed.), Leiden: Brill Publishers, ISBN 978-9004103405
  • Collins, Beverley; Mees, Inger M. (2013) [First published 2003], Practical Phonetics and Phonology: A Resource Book for Students (3rd ed.), Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-50650-2
  • Cox, Felicity; Fletcher, Janet (2017) [First published 2012], Australian English Pronunciation and Transcription (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1-316-63926-9
  • Dudenredaktion; Kleiner, Stefan; Knöbl, Ralf (2015) [First published 1962], Das Aussprachewörterbuch (in German) (7th ed.), Berlin: Dudenverlag, ISBN 978-3-411-04067-4
  • Engstrand, Olle (1999), "Swedish", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the usage of the International Phonetic Alphabet., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 140–142, ISBN 978-0-521-63751-0
  • Gilles, Peter; Trouvain, Jürgen (2013), "Luxembourgish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 43 (1): 67–74, doi:10.1017/S0025100312000278
  • Gordon, Matthew J. (2004), "The West and Midwest: phonology", in Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Kortmann, Bernd; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive (eds.), A handbook of varieties of English, 1: Phonology, Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 338–351, ISBN 978-3-11-017532-5
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos; Aarts, Flor (1999), "The dialect of Maastricht" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 29 (2): 155–166, doi:10.1017/S0025100300006526
  • Heijmans, Linda; Gussenhoven, Carlos (1998), "The Dutch dialect of Weert" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 28 (1–2): 107–112, doi:10.1017/S0025100300006307
  • Ikekeonwu, Clara (1999), "Igbo", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, pp. 108–110, ISBN 978-0-521-63751-0
  • Jassem, Wiktor (2003), "Polish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 33 (1): 103–107, doi:10.1017/S0025100303001191
  • Ladefoged, Peter (1999), "American English", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association (Cambridge Univ. Press): 41–44
  • Mokari, Payam Ghaffarvand; Werner, Stefan (2016), Dziubalska-Kolaczyk, Katarzyna (ed.), "An acoustic description of spectral and temporal characteristics of Azerbaijani vowels", Poznań Studies in Contemporary Linguistics, 52 (3), doi:10.1515/psicl-2016-0019, S2CID 151826061
  • Mou, Xiaomin (2006). Nasal codas in Standard Chinese: a study in the framework of the distinctive feature theory (PhD). Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. hdl:1721.1/35283.
  • Peters, Jörg (2006), "The dialect of Hasselt", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 36 (1): 117–124, doi:10.1017/S0025100306002428
  • Pop, Sever (1938), Micul Atlas Linguistic Român, Muzeul Limbii Române Cluj
  • Prehn, Maike (2012). Vowel quantity and the fortis-lenis distinction in North Low Saxon (PDF) (PhD). Amsterdam: LOT. ISBN 978-94-6093-077-5.
  • Rosenqvist, Håkan (2007), Uttalsboken: svenskt uttal i praktik och teori, Stockholm: Natur & Kultur, ISBN 978-91-27-40645-2
  • Ternes, Elmer; Vladimirova-Buhtz, Tatjana (1999), "Bulgarian", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, Cambridge University Press, pp. 55–57, ISBN 978-0-521-63751-0
  • Thelwall, Robin; Sa'Adeddin, M. Akram (1990), "Arabic", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 20 (2): 37–41, doi:10.1017/S0025100300004266
  • Thomas, Erik R. (2004), "Rural Southern white accents", in Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Kortmann, Bernd; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive (eds.), A handbook of varieties of English, 1: Phonology, Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 300–324, ISBN 978-3-11-017532-5
  • Trudgill, Peter (2004), "The dialect of East Anglia: Phonology", in Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Kortmann, Bernd; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive (eds.), A handbook of varieties of English, 1: Phonology, Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 163–177, ISBN 3-11-017532-0
  • van der Veen, Klaas F. (2001), "13. West Frisian Dialectology and Dialects", in Munske, Horst Haider; Århammar, Hans (eds.), Handbook of Frisian studies, Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag GmbH, pp. 98–116, ISBN 978-3-484-73048-9
  • Vanvik, Arne (1979), Norsk fonetikk, Oslo: Universitetet i Oslo, ISBN 978-82-990584-0-7
  • Verhoeven, Jo (2007), "The Belgian Limburg dialect of Hamont", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 37 (2): 219–225, doi:10.1017/S0025100307002940
  • Walker, Douglas (1984), The Pronunciation of Canadian French (PDF), Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, ISBN 978-0-7766-4500-1
  • Wells, J.C. (1982), Accents of English, 2: The British Isles, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Wissing, Daan (2016). "Afrikaans phonology – segment inventory". Taalportaal. Archived from the original on 15 April 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  • Zamora Vicente, Alonso (1967), Dialectología española (2nd ed.), Biblioteca Romanica Hispanica, Editorial Gredos, ISBN 9788424911157

External links

This page was last updated at 2021-06-10 01:26, update this pageView original page

All information on this site, including but not limited to text, pictures, etc., are reproduced on Wikipedia (wikipedia.org), following the . Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License


If the math, chemistry, physics and other formulas on this page are not displayed correctly, please useFirefox or Safari