Open-mid back unrounded vowel

Open-mid back unrounded vowel
Open-mid back unrounded vowel
IPA number 314
Entity (decimal) ʌ
Unicode (hex) U+028C
Kirshenbaum V

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The open-mid back unrounded vowel, or low-mid back 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 ʌ, graphically a rotated lowercase ⟨v⟩ (called a turned V, though conceived of as a small-capital ⟨a⟩ without the crossbar), and both the symbol and the sound are commonly referred to as either a wedge, a caret, or a hat. In transcriptions for some languages (including several dialects of English), this symbol is also used for the near-open central vowel.

The IPA prefers terms "close" and "open" for vowels, and the name of the article follows this. However, a large number of linguists, perhaps a majority, prefer the terms "high" and "low", and these are the only terms found in introductory textbooks on phonetics such as those by Peter Ladefoged.



IPA vowel chart
Front Near-​front Central Near-​back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg
Paired vowels are: unrounded • rounded
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  • Its vowel height is open-mid, also known as low-mid, which means the tongue is positioned halfway between an open vowel (a low vowel) and a mid vowel.
  • 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.
  • Its vowel roundedness is unrounded, which means that the lips are not rounded.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
English Newfoundland[1] plus [plʌs] 'plus' Less fronted than other dialects. See English phonology
Irish Ulster dialect ola [ʌlˠə] 'oil' See Irish phonology
Korean [pʌl] 'punishment' See Korean phonology
Russian[3] ела [ˈje̞ɫʌ] '(she) ate' Allophone of final [a] after [ɫ].
Vietnamese ân [ʌn] 'grace' Also transcribed as central [ɜ]. See Vietnamese phonology

Before World War II, the /ʌ/ of Received Pronunciation was phonetically close to a back vowel [ʌ]; this sound has since shifted forward towards [ɐ] (a near-open central vowel). Daniel Jones reports his speech (southern British), as having an advanced back vowel [ʌ̘] between his central /ə/ and back /ɔ/; however, he also reports that other southern speakers had a lower and even more advanced vowel approaching cardinal [a].[4] In American English varieties, e.g., the West and Midwest, and the urban South, the typical phonetic realization of the phoneme /ʌ/ is a central vowel that can be transcribed as [ɜ] (open-mid central).[5][6] Truly backed variants of /ʌ/ that are phonetically [ʌ] can occur in Inland Northern American English, Newfoundland English, Philadelphia English, some African-American Englishes, and (old-fashioned) white Southern English in coastal plain and Piedmont areas.[7][8] Despite this, the symbol ⟨ʌ⟩ is still commonly used to indicate this phoneme, even in the more common varieties with central variants [ɐ] or [ɜ]. This may be due to both tradition as well as the fact that some other dialects retain the older pronunciation.[9]


  1. ^ Thomas (2001:27–28, 61–63)
  2. ^ Thomas (2001:27–28, 73–74)
  3. ^
  4. ^ Jones (1972:86–88)
  5. ^ Gordon (2004:340)
  6. ^ Tillery & Bailey (2004:333)
  7. ^ Thomas (2001:27–28, 112–115, 121, 134, 174)
  8. ^ Gordon (2004:294–296)
  9. ^ Roca & Johnson (1999:135)


  • Gordon, Matthew (2004a), "New York, Philadelphia and other Northern Cities", in Kortmann, Bernd, A Handbook of Varieties of English: Volume 1: Phonology, Walter de Gruyter, pp. 294–296, ISBN 3110175320 
  • Gordon, Matthew (2004b), "The West and Midwest: phonology", in Kortmann, Bernd, A Handbook of Varieties of English: Volume 1: Phonology, Walter de Gruyter, pp. 340, ISBN 3110175320 
  • Jones, Daniel (1972), An outline of English phonetics (9th ed.), Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons Ltd. 
  • Roca, Iggy; Johnson, Wyn (1999), Course in Phonology, Blackwell Publishing 
  • Thomas, Erik R. (2001), "An acoustic analysis of vowel variation in New World English", Publication of the American Dialect Society (Duke University Press for the American Dialect Society) 85, ISSN 0002-8207 
  • Tillery, Jan and Guy Bailey (2004), "The urban South: phonology", in Kortmann, Bernd, A Handbook of Varieties of English: Volume 1: Phonology, Walter de Gruyter, pp. 333, ISBN 3110175320 

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