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Close front rounded vowel

Close front rounded vowel
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IPA number 309
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Kirshenbaum y
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The close front rounded vowel, or high front rounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is y, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is y. Across many languages, it is most commonly represented orthographically as ü (in German and Turkish) or y, but also as u (in French and a few other Romance languages); iu/yu (in the romanization of various Asian languages); ű (in Hungarian for the long duration version; the short version is the ü found in other European alphabets); or уь (in Cyrillic-based writing systems such as that for Chechen)

Short /y/ and long /yː/ occurred in pre-Modern Greek. In the Attic and Ionic dialects of Ancient Greek, front [y yː] developed by fronting from back /u uː/ around the 6th to 7th century BC. A little later, the diphthong /yi/ when not before another vowel monophthongized and merged with long /yː/. In Koine Greek, the diphthong /oi/ changed to [yː], likely through the intermediate stages [øi] and [øː]. Through vowel shortening in Koine Greek, long /yː/ merged with short /y/. Later, /y/ unrounded to [i], yielding the pronunciation of Modern Greek. For more information, see the articles on Ancient Greek and Koine Greek phonology.

The close front rounded vowel is the vocalic equivalent of the labialized palatal approximant [ɥ]. The two are almost identical featurally. [y] alternates with [ɥ] in certain languages, such as French, and in the diphthongs of some languages, with the non-syllabic diacritic and ɥ are used in different transcription systems to represent the same sound.

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[citation needed], prefer the terms "high" and "low".

In most languages, this rounded vowel is pronounced with compressed lips ('exolabial'). However, in a few cases the lips are protruded ('endolabial').

Close front compressed vowel


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Front Near-​front Central Near-​back Back
Paired vowels are: unrounded • rounded
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  • 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 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. Note that rounded front vowels are often centralized, which means that often they are in fact near-front.
  • Its roundedness is compressed, which means that the margins of the lips are tense and drawn together in such a way that the inner surfaces are not exposed.


Because front rounded vowels are assumed to have compression, and few descriptions cover the distinction, some examples in the table below may actually have protrusion.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans uur [yːr] 'hour'
Albanian dy [dy] 'two'
Azeri güllə [ɟylˈlæ] 'bullet'
Basque Souletin hirü [hiɾy] 'three'
Bavarian Amstetten dialect[1] [example needed] Near-front.[1]
Breton tut [tyːd] 'people'
Catalan Northern[2] but [byt̪] 'aim' Found in Occitan and French loanwords. See Catalan phonology
Chechen уьш / üş [yʃ] 'they'
Chinese Cantonese syu1 [syː˥] 'book' See Cantonese phonology
Mandarin 绿 lǜ [ly˥˩] 'green' See Mandarin phonology
Wu gniu [ɲy˩˧] 'soft'
Chuvash ÿс / üs [ys] 'to grow'
Cornish tus [tyːz] 'people' Corresponds to /iː/ in "Late" dialect.
Danish Standard[3][4][5][6][7] synlig [ˈs̺y̠ːnli] 'visible' Near-front.[3][4][5][6][7] See Danish phonology
Dutch Standard Belgian[8] fuut About this sound [fy̠t]  'grebe' Near-front,[8] also described as near-close [ʏ].[9] See Dutch phonology
English General
South African[10]
few [fjy:] 'few' Some younger speakers, especially females. Others pronounce a more central vowel [ʉː].
Scouse[11] May be central [ʉː] instead.
Ulster[12] Long allophone of /u/; occurs only after /j/. See English phonology
Scottish [fjy] Some dialects. Corresponds to [[[close back rounded vowel#REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
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~ [[close central rounded vowel#REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
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in other dialects. See English phonology
Estonian üks [yks] 'one'
Finnish[13] yksi [ˈy̠ksi] 'one' Near-front.[14] See Finnish phonology
French[15] chute About this sound [ʃyt̪]  'fall' See French phonology
German Standard[16] über About this sound [ˈʔy̠ːbɐ]  'above' Near-front.[16] See German phonology
Hungarian[17] tű [t̪y̠ː] 'pin' Near-front.[17] See Hungarian phonology
Lombard düü [dyː] 'two'
Mongolian[18] түймэр tüimer [tʰyːmɘɾɘ̆] 'prairie fire'
North Frisian hüüs [hyːs] 'hoarse'
Occitan Gascon lua [ˈlyo̞] 'moon' See Occitan phonology
Languedocien luna [ˈlyno̞]
Piedmontese curt [kyrt] 'short'
Portuguese[19] Brazilian déjà vu [d̪e̞ʒɐ ˈvy] 'déjà vu' Found in French and German loanwords. Speakers with little contact with target language may instead use [u], if unstressed, or [i], if stressed. See Portuguese phonology
Scots buit [byt] 'boot'
Turkish[20] güneş [ɟy̠ˈneʃ] 'sun' Near-front.[20] See Turkish phonology

Close front protruded vowel

Close front protruded vowel
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Catford notes that most languages with rounded front and back vowels use distinct types of labialization, protruded back vowels and compressed front vowels. However, a few languages, such as Scandinavian ones, have protruded front vowels. One of these, Swedish, even contrasts the two types of rounding in front vowels (see near-close near-front rounded vowel, with Swedish examples of both types of rounding).

As there are no diacritics in the IPA to distinguish protruded and compressed rounding, an old diacritic for labialization,   ̫, will be used here as an ad hoc symbol for protruded front vowels. Another possible transcription is or (a close front vowel modified by endolabialization), but this could be misread as a diphthong.



Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Norwegian Standard Eastern[21] syd [sy̫ːd] 'south' See Norwegian phonology
Swedish Central Standard[22] yla About this sound [y̫ːl̪ä]  'howl' May be a sequence [yɥ] instead.[23] See Swedish phonology

See also