Open back rounded vowel

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Open back rounded vowel
IPA number313
Entity (decimal)ɒ
Unicode (hex)U+0252
Braille⠲ (braille pattern dots-256)⠡ (braille pattern dots-16)

The open back rounded vowel, or low back rounded vowel,[1] is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. Acoustically, it is a near-open or near-low back rounded vowel.[2] The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɒ⟩. It is called "turned script a", being a rotated version of "script (cursive) a", which is the variant of a that lacks the extra stroke on top of a "printed a". Turned script aɒ⟩ has its linear stroke on the left, whereas "script a" ⟨ɑ⟩ (for its unrounded counterpart) has its linear stroke on the right.

A well-rounded [ɒ] is rare, but it is found in some varieties of English. In most languages with this vowel, such as English and Persian, the rounding of [ɒ] is slight, and in English at least, it is sulcal or "grooved". However, according to Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), Assamese has an "over-rounded" [ɒ̹], with rounding as strong as that for [u].[3]

According to the phonetician Geoff Lindsey, ⟨ɒ⟩ may be an entirely superfluous IPA symbol, as the sound it represents is far too similar to the open-mid back rounded vowel [ɔ], which makes it unlikely that any language would contrast these two vowels phonemically. He also writes that the contemporary Standard Southern British (SSB) accent lacks [ɒ], having replaced it with the more common [ɔ] (a realization that is also found in e.g. Australia,[4][5] New Zealand[6] and Scotland),[7][8] and advocates for transcribing this vowel with the symbol ⟨ɔ⟩ in SSB.[7]

This is not to be understood as /ɒ/ having the same quality as /ɔː/ (which Lindsey transcribes with ⟨⟩),[7] as the latter vowel is true-mid [ɔ̝ː] in SSB,[9] a pronunciation that was established decades ago.[10] Lindsey also says that more open variants of /ɒ/ used formerly in SSB are satisfyingly represented by the symbols [ɔ̞] and [ɑ] in narrow phonetic transcription, and ⟨ɔ⟩ in phonemic/broad phonetic transcription. According to him, the endless repetition of the symbol ⟨ɒ⟩ in publications on BrE has given this vowel a familiarity out of all proportion to its scarcity in the world’s languages.[7]


IPA: Vowels
Front Central Back

Paired vowels are: unrounded  rounded

  • 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. Unrounded back vowels tend to be centralized, which means that often they are in fact near-back.
  • It is rounded, which means that the lips are rounded rather than spread or relaxed.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans Standard[11] daar [dɒːr] 'there' Fully back. Used by some speakers, particularly young female speakers of northern accents. Other speakers use an unrounded vowel [ɑː ~ ɑ̟ː].[11] See Afrikaans phonology
Assamese[3] পোট্ [pɒ̹t] 'to bury' Also described as close-mid near-back [ʊ̞].[12]
Catalan Majorcan[13][14] soc [ˈsɒk] 'clog' Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɔ⟩. See Catalan phonology
Some Valencian speakers[15] taula [ˈt̪ɑ̟wɫɒ̝] 'table' Can be realized as unrounded [ɑ].
Danish Standard[16] kort [ˈkʰɒ̝ːd̥] 'short' Near-open;[16] also described as open-mid [ɔː].[17] See Danish phonology
Dutch Leiden[18] bad [bɒ̝t] 'bath' Near-open fully back; may be unrounded [ɑ̝] instead.[18] It corresponds to [ɑ] in standard Dutch.
Some dialects[19] bot [bɒt] 'bone' Some non-Randstad dialects,[19] for example those of Den Bosch and Groningen. It is open-mid [ɔ] in standard Dutch.
English Received Pronunciation[20] not [nɒt] 'not' Somewhat raised. Younger RP speakers may pronounce a closer vowel [ɔ]. See English phonology
Northern English[21] May be somewhat raised and fronted.[21]
South African[22] [nɒ̜̈t] Near-back and weakly rounded.[22] Some younger speakers of the General variety may actually have a higher and fully unrounded vowel [ʌ̈].[22] See South African English phonology
Inland Northern American[23] thought About this sound [θɒt]  'thought' See Northern cities vowel shift
Indian[24] [t̪ʰɒʈ] /ɒ/ and /ɔː/ differ entirely by length in Indian English.
Welsh[25][26] [θɒːt] Open-mid in Cardiff; may merge with // in northern dialects.
German Many speakers[27] Gourmand [ɡʊʁˈmɒ̃ː] 'gourmand' Nasalized; common phonetic realization of /ɑ̃ː/.[27] See Standard German phonology
Many Swiss dialects[28] mane [ˈmɒːnə] 'remind' The example word is from the Zurich dialect, in which [ɒː] is in free variation with the unrounded [ɑː].[29]
Hungarian Standard[30] magyar [ˈmɒ̜̽ɟɒ̜̽r] 'Hungarian' Somewhat fronted and raised, with only slight rounding; sometimes transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɔ⟩. Unrounded [ɑ] in some dialects.[31] See Hungarian phonology
Ibibio[32] d [dɒ̝́] 'marry' Near-open;[32] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɔ⟩.
Irish Ulster[33] ólann [ɒ̝ːɫ̪ən̪ˠ] '(he) drinks' Near-open;[33] may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɔː⟩.
Lehali[34] dö [ⁿdɒ̝ŋ] 'yam' Raised vowel, being the back rounded counterpart of /æ/ in a symmetrical vowel inventory.[34]
Lemerig[35] ān̄sār [ʔɒ̝ŋsɒ̝r] 'person' Raised vowel, being the back rounded counterpart of /æ/ in a symmetrical vowel inventory.[35]
Limburgish Maastrichtian[36] plaots [plɒ̝ːts] 'place' Near-open fully back; typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɔː⟩.[36] Corresponds to [ɔː] in other dialects.
Norwegian Urban East[37][38] topp [tʰɒ̝pː] 'top' Near-open,[37][38] also described as close-mid back [o].[39] Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɔ⟩. See Norwegian phonology
Dialects along the Swedish border[40] hat [hɒ̜ːt] 'hate' Weakly rounded and fully back.[40] See Norwegian phonology
Persian فارسی [fɒːɾˈsiː] 'Persian'
Romanian Istro-Romanian[41] cap [kɒp] 'head' Corresponds to [ä] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
Slovak Some speakers[42] a [ɒ] 'and' Under Hungarian influence, some speakers realize the short /a/ as rounded.[42] See Slovak phonology
Swedish Central Standard[43][44] jаg [jɒ̝ːɡ] 'I' Near-open fully back weakly rounded vowel.[43] Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɑː⟩. See Swedish phonology
Gothenburg[44] [jɒːɡ] More rounded than in Central Standard Swedish.[44]
Uzbek Standard[45] choy [t͡ʃɒj] 'tea'
Vastese[46] [example needed]
Yoruba[47] [example needed] Most often transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɔ⟩.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ While the International Phonetic Association prefers the terms "close" and "open" for vowel height, many linguists use "high" and "low".
  2. ^ Geoff Lindsey (2013) The vowel space, Speech Talk
  3. ^ a b Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), pp. 293–294.
  4. ^ Cox & Fletcher (2017), p. 65.
  5. ^ Horvath (2004), p. 628.
  6. ^ Hay, Maclagan & Gordon (2008:21). Note that some sources (e.g. Bauer et al. (2007:98)) describe it as more central [ɞ] than back.
  7. ^ a b c d Geoff Lindsey (2012) Morgen — a suitable case for treatment, Speech Talk
  8. ^ Scobbie, Gordeeva & Matthews (2006), p. 7.
  9. ^ Gimson (2014), pp. 128–129.
  10. ^ Wells (1982:293). According to this source, open-mid [ɔː] was the standard pronunciation in the 1930s.
  11. ^ a b Wissing (2016), section "The unrounded low-central vowel /a/".
  12. ^ Mahanta (2012), p. 220.
  13. ^ a b c Recasens (1996), pp. 81, 130–131.
  14. ^ a b c Rafel (1999), p. 14.
  15. ^ Saborit (2009), pp. 25–26.
  16. ^ a b Basbøll (2005), p. 47.
  17. ^ Grønnum (1998), p. 100.
  18. ^ a b c Collins & Mees (2003), p. 131.
  19. ^ a b Collins & Mees (2003), p. 132.
  20. ^ Roach (2004), p. 242.
  21. ^ a b Lodge (2009), p. 163.
  22. ^ a b c Lass (2002), p. 115.
  23. ^ W. Labov, S. Ash and C. Boberg (1997), A national map of the regional dialects of American English, Department of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania, retrieved May 27, 2013
  24. ^ Sailaja (2009), pp. 24–25.
  25. ^ Connolly (1990), p. 125.
  26. ^ Tench (1990), p. 135.
  27. ^ a b Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015), p. 38.
  28. ^ Krech et al. (2009), p. 263.
  29. ^ Fleischer & Schmid (2006), p. 248.
  30. ^ Szende (1994), p. 92.
  31. ^ Vago (1980), p. 1.
  32. ^ a b Urua (2004), p. 106.
  33. ^ a b Ní Chasaide (1999), p. 114.
  34. ^ a b François (2011), p. 194.
  35. ^ a b François (2011), pp. 195, 208.
  36. ^ a b Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), pp. 158–159.
  37. ^ a b Vanvik (1979), pp. 13, 17.
  38. ^ a b Kvifte & Gude-Husken (2005), p. 2.
  39. ^ Kristoffersen (2000), pp. 16–17.
  40. ^ a b Popperwell (2010), p. 23.
  41. ^ Pop (1938), p. 29.
  42. ^ a b Kráľ (1988), p. 54.
  43. ^ a b Engstrand (1999), pp. 140–141.
  44. ^ a b c Riad (2014), pp. 35–36.
  45. ^ Sjoberg, Andrée F. (1963). Uzbek Structural Grammar. Uralic and Altaic Series. 18. Bloomington: Indiana University. p. 17.
  46. ^ "Vastesi Language - Vastesi in the World". Vastesi in the World. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  47. ^ Bamgboṣe (1969), p. 166.