Open central unrounded vowel

Open central unrounded vowel
IPA Number304 415
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)a​̈
Unicode (hex)U+0061 U+0308
X-SAMPAa_" or a

The open central unrounded vowel, or low central unrounded vowel,[1] is a type of vowel sound, used in many spoken languages. While the International Phonetic Alphabet officially has no dedicated letter for this sound between front [a] and back [ɑ], it is normally written ⟨a⟩. If precision is required, it can be specified by using diacritics, typically centralized ⟨ä⟩. However, it has been argued[by whom?] that the purported distinction between a front and central open vowel is based on outdated phonetic theories, and that cardinal [a] is the only open vowel, while [ɑ], like [æ], is a near-open vowel.[2]

It is usual to use plain ⟨a⟩ for an open central vowel and, if needed, ⟨æ⟩ for an open front vowel. Sinologists may use the letter ⟨⟩ (small capital A). The IPA has voted against officially adopting this symbol in 1976, 1989, and 2012.[3][4][5]

The Hamont-Achel dialect of Limburgish has been reported to contrast long open front, central and back unrounded vowels.[6] This is extremely unusual.

  1. ^ While the International Phonetic Association prefers the terms "close" and "open" for vowel height, many linguists use "high" and "low".
  2. ^ Geoff Lindsey, The vowel space, March 27, 2013
  3. ^ Wells (1976).
  4. ^ International Phonetic Association (1989), p. 74.
  5. ^ Keating (2012).
  6. ^ Verhoeven (2007), p. 221.

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