Mid central vowel

Mid central vowel
IPA Number 322
Entity (decimal) ə
Unicode (hex) U+0259
Braille ⠢ (braille pattern dots-26)
Audio sample
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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 ⟨ə⟩, a rotated lowercase letter e.

While the Handbook of the International Phonetic Association does not define the roundedness of [ə],[1] it is more often unrounded than rounded. The phonetician Jane Setter describes the pronunciation of the unrounded variant as follows: "[ə] 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 ⟨œ⟩. 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 /ə/ is mid central unrounded [ə], but its word-final rounded allophone is close-mid front rounded [ø̜], close to the main allophone of /ʏ/.[6]

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

Mid central unrounded vowel

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



Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Albanian një [ɲə] 'one'
Afrikaans Standard[3] lig [ləχ] 'light' Also described as open-mid [ɜ].[8] See Afrikaans phonology
Many speakers[3] lug 'air' Many speakers merge /œ/ with /ə/, even in formal speech.[3] See Afrikaans phonology
Catalan Eastern[9] amb [əm(b)] 'with' Reduced vowel. The exact height, backness and rounding are variable.[10] See Catalan phonology
Some Western accents[11]
Chinese Mandarin[12] / gēn About this sound[kən˥]  'root' See Standard Chinese phonology
Chuvash ăман [əm'an] 'worm'
Danish Standard[13][14] hoppe [ˈhʌ̹pə] 'mare' Sometimes realized as rounded [ə̹].[4] See Danish phonology
Dutch Standard[6] renner [ˈrɛnər] '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 /ʏ/.[6] See Dutch phonology
English Most dialects[7][15] Tina [ˈtʰiːnə] 'Tina' Reduced vowel; varies in height between close-mid and open-mid. Word-final /ə/ can be as low as [ɐ].[7][15] See English phonology
Cultivated South African[16] bird [bɜ̝ːd] 'bird' May be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɜː⟩. Other South African varieties use a higher, more front and rounded vowel [øː~ ø̈ː]. See South African English phonology
Received Pronunciation[18] Often transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɜː⟩. It is sulcalized, which means the tongue is grooved like in [ɹ]. 'Upper Crust RP' speakers pronounce a near-open vowel [ɐː], but for some other speakers it may actually be open-mid [ɜː]. This vowel corresponds to rhotacized [ɝ] in rhotic dialects.
Geordie[19] bust [bəst] 'bust' Spoken by some middle class speakers, mostly female; other speakers use [ʊ]. Corresponds to /ɜ/ or /ʌ/ in other dialects.
Indian[20] May be lower. Some Indian varieties merge /ɜ/ or /ʌ/ with /ə/ like Welsh English.
Wales[21] May also be further back; it corresponds to /ɜ/ or /ʌ/ in other dialects.
Yorkshire[22] Middle class pronunciation. Other speakers use [ʊ]. Corresponds to /ɜ/ or /ʌ/ in other dialects.
Galician Some dialects leite [ˈlejtə] 'milk' Alternative realization of final unstressed /e/ or /ɛ/ (normally [i~ɪ~e̝])
fenecer [fənəˈs̪eɾ] 'to die' Alternative realization of unstressed /e/ or /ɛ/ in any position
German Standard[23] Beschlag About this sound[b̥əˈʃläːk]  'fitting' See Standard German phonology
Southern German accents[24] oder [ˈoːdə] 'or' Used instead of [ɐ].[24] See Standard German phonology
Kensiu[25] [təh] 'to be bald' Contrasts with a rhotacized close-mid [ɚ̝].[25]
Kurdish Sorani (Central) شه‌و/şew [ʃəw] 'night' See Kurdish phonology
Palewani (Southern)
Luxembourgish[5] dënn [d̥ən] 'thin' More often realized as slightly rounded [ə̹].[5] See Luxembourgish phonology
Malay Standard Malaysian pengadil [pə.ŋä.dɪl] 'referee' See Malay phonology
Johor-Riau apa [ä.pə] '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 [²stæɾkəstə] '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 [bəˈdit] 'means' The example word is from the Canadian Old Colony variety, in which the vowel is somewhat fronted [ə̟].[28]
Portuguese Brazilian[29] maçã [maˈsə] 'apple' Possible realization of final stressed /ã/.
Romanian[30] păros [pəˈros] 'hairy' See Romanian phonology
Serbo-Croatian[31] vrt [ʋə̂rt̪] 'garden' [ər] is a possible phonetic realization of the syllabic trill /r̩/ when it occurs between consonants.[31] See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Swedish Southern[32] vante [²väntə] 'mitten' Corresponds to a slightly retracted front vowel [ɛ̠] in Central Standard Swedish.[32] See Swedish phonology
Tyap tan [ətan] 'ɡood'
Welsh mynydd [mənɪð] 'mountain' See Welsh phonology

Mid central rounded vowel

Mid central rounded vowel
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Languages may have a mid central rounded vowel (a rounded [ə]), 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 [ɵ] for the close-mid central rounded vowel is generally used instead. If precision is desired, the lowering diacritic can be used: [ɵ̞]. 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 [lɞ̝χ] 'air' Also described as open-mid [ɞ],[8] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨œ⟩. Many speakers merge /œ/ and /ə/, even in formal speech.[3] See Afrikaans phonology
Danish Standard[4] hoppe [ˈhʌ̹pə̹] 'mare' Possible realization of /ə/.[4] See Danish phonology
Dutch Southern[33] hut [ɦɵ̞t] 'hut' Found in certain accents, e.g. in Bruges. Close-mid [ɵ] in Standard Dutch.[33] See Dutch phonology
French[34][35] je [ʒə̹] 'I' Only somewhat rounded;[34] may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ə⟩ or ⟨ɵ⟩. Also described as close-mid [ɵ].[36] May be more front for a number of speakers. See French phonology
German Chemnitz dialect[37] Wonne [ˈv̞ɞ̝nə] 'bliss' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɞ⟩.[37]
Irish Munster[38] scoil [skɞ̝lʲ] 'school' Allophone of /ɔ/ between a broad and a slender consonant.[38] See Irish phonology
Luxembourgish[5] dënn [d̥ə̹n] 'thin' Only slightly rounded; less often realized as unrounded [ə̜].[5] See Luxembourgish phonology
Norwegian Urban East[39] nøtt [nɞ̝tː] 'nut' Also described as open-mid front [œʷ];[26][40] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨œ⟩ or ⟨ø⟩. See Norwegian phonology
Plautdietsch Canadian Old Colony[41] butzt [bɵ̞t͡st] 'bumps' Mid-centralized from [ʊ], to which it corresponds in other dialects.[41]
Swedish Central Standard[42][43] full About this sound[fɵ̞lː] 'full' Pronounced with compressed lips, more closely transcribed [ɵ̞ᵝ] or [ɘ̞ᵝ]. Less often described as close-mid [ø̈].[44] See Swedish phonology

See also