Open front unrounded vowel: Wikis


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See also: IPA, Consonants
  Front Near- front Central Near- back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg
i · y
ɨ · ʉ
ɯ · u
ɪ · ʏ
ɪ̈ · ʊ̈
e · ø
ɘ · ɵ
ɤ · o
ɛ · œ
ɜ · ɞ
ʌ · ɔ
a · ɶ
ɑ · ɒ
Where symbols appear in pairs, the one to the right represents
a rounded vowel. Vowel length is indicated by appending  
IPA – number 304
IPA – text a
IPA – image {{{imagesize}}}
Entity a
Kirshenbaum a
About this sound Sound sample

The open front 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 a, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is a.

This symbol is very frequently used for an open central unrounded vowel, and this usage is accepted by the International Phonetic Association. Since no language distinguishes front from central open vowels, a separate symbol is not considered necessary. If required, the difference may be specified with the central diacritic, [ä], or the retracted diacritic, [a̠] (see Centralized vowels). Many Sinologists use an unofficial symbol [ᴀ] (small capital A) alternatively (see Obsolete and nonstandard symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet).



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


Most languages have some form of an unrounded open vowel. For languages that only have a single low vowel, the symbol for this vowel <a> may be used because it is the only low 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].

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Arabic Standard[1] عاد [ʕäːd̪d̪] 'came back' See Arabic phonology
Bengali পা pa [pa] 'foot', 'leg' See Bengali
Catalan[2] sac [säk] 'sack' See Catalan phonology
Chinese Cantonese /saa1 [saː˥] 'sand' See Standard Cantonese
Mandarin /tā [tʰa˥] 'he' See Standard Mandarin
Croatian patka [pätkä] 'duck'
Czech amerika [ämɛrɪkä] 'America'
Dutch zaal [zäːl] 'hall' In some dialects, this may actually be a back vowel. See Dutch phonology
English Southern American time [tʰäːm] 'time'
Inland Northern American stock [stak] 'stock' See Northern cities vowel shift
Australian car [kʰäː] 'car'
Canadian stack [stak] 'stack' Depending on the region, the quality may vary from front to central; the length may also vary (for example, it is shorter in Scottish than in Canadian); many speakers may have [æ] instead. For the Canadian vowel, see Canadian Shift.
Northern English
French[3] patte [pät] 'paw' See French phonology.
German Rat [ˈʀaːt] 'advice' In some dialects, this may actually be a back vowel. See German phonology
Greek ακακί α [akaˈciˌa] 'acacia' See Modern Greek phonology
Hebrew פח [päχ] 'garbage can' Hebrew vowels are not shown in the script, see Niqqud and Hebrew phonology
Hungarian káka [kaːkɑ] 'juncus' See Hungarian phonology
Igbo ákụ [ákú̙] 'kernal'
Italian[4] bara [ˈbärä] 'coffin' See Italian phonology
Japanese /ka [kä] 'mosquito' See Japanese phonology
Malay api [api] 'fire'
Polish[5] kat Pl-kat.ogg [kät] 'executioner' See Polish phonology
Portuguese[6] vá [vä] 'go'(3rd sg) See Portuguese phonology
Romanian cal [käl] 'horse' See Romanian phonology
Russian там [tam] 'there' See Russian phonology
Serbian лако/lako [ˈlakɔ] 'easily'
Scottish Gaelic slat [slät] 'yard'
Spanish[7] rata [ˈrätä] 'rat' See Spanish phonology
Swedish bank [ˈbaŋːk] 'bank' See Swedish phonology
Turkish at [ät] 'horse' See Turkish phonology
Vietnamese sa [sa] 'gauze' Variety: [ʂa]. See Vietnamese phonology
Welsh mam [mam] 'mother' See Welsh phonology
Zapotec Tilquiapan[8] na [na] 'now'



  • Carbonell, Joan F.; Llisterri, Joaquim (1992), "Catalan", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 22 (1-2): 53–56  
  • Cruz-Ferreira, Madalena (1995), "European Portuguese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 25 (2): 90–94  
  • Fougeron, Cecile; Smith, Caroline L (1993), "Illustrations of the IPA:French", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 23 (2): 73–76  
  • Jassem, Wiktor (2003), "Polish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 33 (1): 103–107  
  • Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio; Fernández-Planas, Ana Ma.; Carrera-Sabaté, Josefina (2003), "Castilian Spanish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 33 (2): 255–259  
  • Merrill, Elizabeth (2008), "Tilquipan Zapotec", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 38 (1): 107–114  
  • Rogers, Derek; d'Arcangeli, Luciana (2004), "Italian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (1): 117–121  
  • Thelwall, Robin (1990), "Illustrations of the IPA: Arabic", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 20 (2): 37–41  


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