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Close back unrounded vowel

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Title: Close back unrounded vowel  
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Subject: Table of vowels, Mid central vowel, Near-close near-back vowel, Back vowel, Velar approximant
Collection: Vowels
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Close back unrounded vowel

Close back unrounded vowel
IPA number 316
Entity (decimal) ɯ
Unicode (hex) U+026F
Kirshenbaum u-
Braille ⠲ (braille pattern dots-256) ⠥ (braille pattern dots-136)

The close back unrounded vowel, or high back unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. Acoustically it is a close back-central unrounded vowel.[1] The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ɯ. Typographically 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 sound is sometimes referred to as "unrounded u".

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


  • Features 1
  • Occurrence 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Bibliography 5


IPA vowel chart
Front Near-​front Central Near-​back Back
Paired vowels are: unrounded • rounded
This table contains phonetic symbols, which may not display correctly in some browsers. [Help]

 •  • chart •  chart with audio •
  • Its vowel height is close, also known as high, which means the tongue is positioned as close as possible 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 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
Acehnese[2] eu [ɯ] 'see' Also described as closer to [ɨ].[3][4]
Alekano hanuva [hɑnɯβɑ] 'nothing'
Azeri qırx [gɯɾx] 'forty'
Bashkir ҡыҙ [qɯð] 'girl'
Chinese Some Min Nan dialects [tɯ] 'pig'
Some Wu dialects [vɯ] 'father'
Xiang [xɯ] 'fire'
Crimean Tatar canım [dʒanɯm] 'please'
English California[5] goose [ɡɯ̟ˑs] 'goose' Near-back;[5] corresponds to [] in other dialects.
South African[6] pill [pʰɯ̟ɫ] 'pill' Near-back; possible allophone of /ɪ/ before the velarised allophone of /l/.[6] Also described as close-mid [ɤ̟].[7]
Estonian[8] kõrv [kɯrv] 'ear' Typically transcribed in IPA as ɤ; can be mid central [ə] or mid back [ɤ̞] instead, depending on the speaker.[8] See Estonian phonology
Garifuna gürûgua [ɡɯˈɹɯɡwə] 'bite'
Irish Ulster caol [kʰɯːl̪ˠ] 'narrow' See Irish phonology
Korean[9] 음식/eumsik [ɯːmɕik̚] 'food' See Korean phonology
Kyrgyz кыз [qɯz] 'girl' See Kyrgyz phonology
Ongota [kuˈbuːɯ] 'dry'
Sakha тыл [tɯl] 'tongue'
Scottish Gaelic caol [kʰɯːl̪ˠ] 'thin' See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Sundanese meunang [mɯnaŋ] 'get'
Thai[10] ขึ้น[11] [kʰɯ̟n˥˩] 'to go up' Near-back.[12]
Turkish sığ     'shallow' See Turkish phonology
Turkmen ýaşyl [jäːˈʃɯl] 'green'
Vietnamese tư [tɯ] 'fourth' See Vietnamese phonology

The symbol ɯ is sometimes used for Japanese /u/, but that sound is rounded, albeit with labial compression rather than protrusion. It is more accurately described as an exolabial close back vowel.

See also


  1. ^ Geoff Lindsey (2013) The vowel space, Speech Talk
  2. ^ Mid-vowels in Acehnese
  3. ^ Agreement System in Acehnese
  4. ^ Acehnese Coda Condition
  5. ^ a b Ladefoged (1999), pp. 42–43.
  6. ^ a b Bowerman (2004), p. 936.
  7. ^ Wells (1982), p. 617.
  8. ^ a b Asu & Teras (2009), p. 369.
  9. ^ Lee (1999), p. 122.
  10. ^ Tingsabadh & Abramson (1993), p. 24.
  11. ^ Dictionary entry for ขึ้น (kheun) (
  12. ^ Tingsabadh & Abramson (1993), p. 25.


  • Asu, Eva Liina; Teras, Pire (2009), "Estonian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 39 (3): 367–372,  
  • Bowerman, Sean (2004), "White South African English: phonology", in Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Kortmann, Bernd; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive, A handbook of varieties of English, 1: Phonology, Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 931–942,  
  • Lee, Hyun Bok (1999), "Korean", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association:A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge University Press, pp. 120–123,  
  • Tingsabadh, M.R. Kalaya; Abramson, Arthur S. (1993), "Thai", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 23 (1): 24–26,  
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