Open back unrounded vowel

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Open back unrounded vowel
IPA number 305
Entity (decimal) ɑ
Unicode (hex) U+0251
Kirshenbaum A
Braille ⠡ (braille pattern dots-16)

The open back unrounded vowel, or low back unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɑ⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is A. The letter ⟨ɑ⟩ is called script a because it lacks the extra hook on top of a printed letter a, which corresponds to a different vowel, the open front unrounded vowel. Script a, which has its linear stroke on the bottom right, should not be confused with turned script a, ɒ, which has its linear stroke on the top left and corresponds to a rounded version of this vowel, the open back rounded vowel.

The Hamont dialect of Limburgish has been reported to contrast long open front, central and back unrounded vowels,[1] which is extremely unusual.

The IPA prefers terms "close" and "open" for vowels, and the name of the article follows this. However, a large number of linguists,[who?] perhaps a majority, prefer the terms "high" and "low".


IPA vowel chart
Front Near-​front Central Near-​back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg
i • y
ɨ • ʉ
ɯ • u
ɪ • ʏ
ɪ̈ • ʊ̈
ɯ̽ • ʊ
e • ø
ɘ • ɵ
ɤ • o
 • ø̞
ə • ɵ̞
ɤ̞ • 
ɛ • œ
ɜ • ɞ
ʌ • ɔ
æ • 
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 • Loudspeaker.svg chart with audio • view
  • Its vowel height is open, also known as low, which means the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth – that is, as low as possible in the mouth.
  • Its vowel backness is back, which means the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Note that 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
Afrikaans Standard[2][3][4] daar [dɑːr] 'there' See Afrikaans phonology
Arabic Standard[5] طويل [tˤɑˈwiːl] 'tall' Allophone of long and short /a/ near emphatic consonants, depending on the speaker's accent. See Arabic phonology
Armenian Eastern[5] հաց [hɑt͡sʰ] 'bread'
Catalan Many dialects[6] pal [ˈpɑɫ] 'stick' Allophone of /a/ in contact with velar consonants.[6] See Catalan phonology
Some dialects[7][8] mà [ˈmɑ] 'hand' More central ([ɑ̟], [ä]) in other dialects; fully front [a] in Majorcan Catalan.[8]
Some Valencian and Majorcan speakers[6] lloc [ˈl̠ʲɑk] 'place' Unrounded allophone of /ɔ/ in some accents.[6] Can be centralized.
Some southern Valencian speakers[9] bou [ˈbɑw] 'bull' Pronunciation of the vowel /ɔ/ before [w].[9] Can be centralized.
Danish Conservative[10] barn [ˈb̥ɑːˀn] 'child' Near-open;[10] realized as open central [äː] in contemporary Standard Danish.[11][12] See Danish phonology
Dutch Standard[13][14] bad [bɑt] 'bath' Backness varies among dialects; in the Standard Netherlandic accent it is fully back.[15][13] In the Standard Belgian accent it is raised and fronted to [ɑ̝̈].[14] See Dutch phonology
Leiden[15] [bɑ̝t] Near-open fully back; can be rounded [ɒ̝] instead.[15] See Dutch phonology
Amsterdam[16] aap [ɑːp] 'monkey' Corresponds to [ ~ äː] in standard Dutch.
The Hague[18] nauw [nɑː] 'narrow' Corresponds to [ʌu] in standard Dutch.
English Cardiff[19] hot [hɑ̝̈t] 'hot' Somewhat raised and fronted.[19][20]
General American[21] [hɑt] May be more front [ɑ̟ ~ ä], especially in accents without the cot-caught merger. See English phonology
Cockney[22] bath [bɑːθ] 'bath' Fully back. It can be more front [ɑ̟ː] instead.
South African[23]
Fully back. Broad varieties usually produce a rounded vowel [ɒː ~ ɔː] instead, while Cultivated SAE prefers a more front vowel [ɑ̟ː ~ äː]. See South African English phonology
South African[24]
[bɑ̟ːθ] Typically more front than cardinal [ɑ]. It may be as front as [äː] in some Cultivated South African and southern English speakers. See English phonology and South African English phonology
Received Pronunciation[25]
Non-local Dublin[26] back [bɑq] 'back' Allophone of /æ/ before velars for some speakers.[26]
Estonian[27] vale [ˈvɑ̝lɛˑ] 'wrong' Near-open.[27] See Estonian phonology
Faroese Some dialects[28] vátur [ˈvɑːtʊɹ] 'water' Corresponds to /ɔɑ/ in standard language.[28] See Faroese phonology
Finnish[29] kana [ˈkɑ̝nɑ̝] 'hen' Near-open,[29] also described as open central [ä].[30] See Finnish phonology
French Conservative Parisian[31] pas [pɑ] 'not' Contrasts with /a/, but many speakers have only one open vowel [ä]. See French phonology
Quebec[32] pâte [pɑːt] 'paste' Contrasts with /a/.[32] See Quebec French phonology
Galician[33][34] irmán [iɾˈmɑŋ] 'brother' Allophone of /a/ in contact with velar consonants.[33][34] See Galician phonology
Georgian[35] გუდ [ɡudɑ] 'leather bag'
German Standard Austrian[36] Tag [tʰɑːɡ̊] 'day' For other speakers it is more front. See Standard German phonology.
Some Swiss speakers
Some Northern German speakers [tʰɑːx]
Zurich dialect[37] mane [ˈmɑːnə] 'remind' Allophone of /ɒ/, in free variation with [ɒ].[37]
Hungarian Some dialects[38] magyar [ˈmɑɟɑr] 'Hungarian' Weakly rounded [ɒ] in standard Hungarian.[39] See Hungarian phonology
Inuit West Greenlandic[40] [example needed] Allophone of /a/ before and especially between uvulars.[40] See Inuit phonology
Kaingang[41] [ˈᵑɡɑ] 'terra' Varies between back [ɑ] and central [ɐ].[42]
Limburgish[1][43][44][45] bats [bɑts] 'buttock' Backness varies from fully back [ɑ] to almost central [ɑ̟], depending on the dialect. The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect.[45]
Luxembourgish[46][47] Kapp [kʰɑp] 'head' Described variously as open near-back[46] and near-open back.[47] See Luxembourgish phonology
Malay Kedah dialect[48] mata [matɑ] 'eye' See Malay phonology
Norwegian Standard Eastern[49][50][51] hat [hɑːt̻] 'hate' See Norwegian phonology
Russian[54] палка [ˈpɑɫkə] 'stick' Occurs only before the hard /l/, but not when a palatalized consonant precedes. See Russian phonology
Sema[55] amqa [à̠mqɑ̀] 'lower back' Possible realization of /a/ after uvular stops.[55]
Slovak[56][57] a [ɑ̟] 'and' Near-back; possible realization of /a/.[56][58] See Slovak phonology
Swedish Some dialects jаg [jɑːɡ] 'I' Weakly rounded [ɒ̜ː] in Central Standard Swedish.[59] See Swedish phonology
Turkish[60] at [ɑt̪] 'horse' Also described as central [ä].[61] See Turkish phonology

See also


  1. ^ a b Verhoeven (2007), p. 221.
  2. ^ See the vowel chart in Le Roux & de Villiers Pienaar (1927:46).
  3. ^ Lass (1984), pp. 76, 93–94, 105.
  4. ^ Donaldson (1993), p. 7.
  5. ^ a b Thelwall & Sa'Adeddin (1990), p. 39.
  6. ^ a b c d Saborit (2009), p. 10.
  7. ^ Rafel (1999), p. 14.
  8. ^ a b Recasens (1996), pp. 90–92.
  9. ^ a b Recasens (1996), pp. 131–132.
  10. ^ a b Ladefoged & Johnson (2010), p. 227.
  11. ^ Grønnum (1998), p. 100.
  12. ^ Basbøll (2005), p. 46.
  13. ^ a b Gussenhoven (1992), p. 47.
  14. ^ a b Verhoeven (2005), p. 245.
  15. ^ a b c d Collins & Mees (2003), p. 131.
  16. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 78, 104, 133.
  17. ^ a b Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 104, 133.
  18. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), p. 136.
  19. ^ a b Collins & Mees (1990), p. 95.
  20. ^ a b Lodge (2009), p. 168.
  21. ^ Mannell, Cox & Harrington (2009).
  22. ^ Wells (1982), p. 305.
  23. ^ Lass (2002), p. 117.
  24. ^ Lass (2002), p. 116-117.
  25. ^ Roach (2004), p. 242.
  26. ^ a b "Glossary". Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  27. ^ a b Asu & Teras (2009), p. 368.
  28. ^ a b Árnason (2011), pp. 69, 79.
  29. ^ a b Suomi, Toivanen & Ylitalo (2008), p. 21.
  30. ^ Maddieson (1984), cited in Suomi, Toivanen & Ylitalo (2008:21)
  31. ^ Ashby (2011), p. 100.
  32. ^ a b Walker (1984), p. 53.
  33. ^ a b Regueira (1996), p. 122.
  34. ^ a b Freixeiro Mato (2006), pp. 72–73.
  35. ^ Shosted & Chikovani (2006), pp. 261–262.
  36. ^ Moosmüller, Schmid & Brandstätter (2015), pp. 342–344.
  37. ^ a b Fleischer & Schmid (2006), p. 248.
  38. ^ Vago (1980), p. 1.
  39. ^ Szende (1994), p. 92.
  40. ^ a b Fortescue (1990), p. 317.
  41. ^ Jolkesky (2009), pp. 676–677, 682.
  42. ^ Jolkesky (2009), pp. 676, 682.
  43. ^ Peters (2006), p. 119.
  44. ^ Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), p. 110.
  45. ^ a b Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), p. 159.
  46. ^ a b Trouvain & Gilles (2009), p. 75.
  47. ^ a b Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 70.
  48. ^ Zaharani Ahmad (1991).
  49. ^ Berulfsen (1969), p. 10.
  50. ^ Skaug (2003), pp. 15–19.
  51. ^ Popperwell (2010), pp. 16, 23–24.
  52. ^ a b Vanvik (1979), p. 16.
  53. ^ Vanvik (1979), p. 17.
  54. ^ Jones & Ward (1969), p. 50.
  55. ^ a b Teo (2014), p. 28.
  56. ^ a b Kráľ (1988), p. 54.
  57. ^ Pavlík (2004), p. 95.
  58. ^ Pavlík (2004), pp. 94–95.
  59. ^ Engstrand (1999), p. 141.
  60. ^ Göksel & Kerslake (2005), p. 10.
  61. ^ Zimmer & Orgun (1999), p. 155.


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