Open back rounded vowel

Open back rounded vowel
IPA number 313
Entity (decimal) ɒ
Unicode (hex) U+0252
Kirshenbaum A.
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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 a ɒ 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.


AfrikaansStandard[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]
CatalanMajorcan[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].
DanishStandard[16]kort[ˈkʰɒ̝ːd̥]'short'Near-open;[16] also described as open-mid [ɔː].[17] See Danish phonology
DutchLeiden[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.
EnglishReceived 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 [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.
GermanStandard[27]voll[fɒ̝l]'full'Near-open;[27] also described as open-mid back [ɔ][28] and open-mid near-back [ɔ̟].[29] Typically transcribed in IPA with ɔ. See Standard German phonology
Many speakers[30]Gourmand[ɡʊʁˈmɒ̃ː]'gourmand'Nasalized; common phonetic realization of /ɑ̃ː/.[30] Also described as central unrounded [ã̠ː].[31] See Standard German phonology
Many Swiss dialects[32]mane[ˈmɒːnə]'remind'The example word is from the Zurich dialect, in which [ɒː] is in free variation with the unrounded [ɑː].[33]
HungarianStandard[34]magyar[ˈmɒ̜̽ɟɒ̜̽r]'Hungarian'Somewhat fronted and raised, with only slight rounding; sometimes transcribed in IPA with ɔ. Unrounded [ɑ] in some dialects.[35] See Hungarian phonology
Ibibio[36]d[dɒ̝́]'marry'Near-open;[36] typically transcribed in IPA with ɔ.
IrishUlster[37]ólann[ɒ̝ːɫ̪ən̪ˠ]'(he) drinks'Near-open;[37] may be transcribed in IPA with ɔː.
Lehali[38]dö[ⁿdɒ̝ŋ]'yam'Raised vowel, being the back rounded counterpart of /æ/ in a symmetrical vowel inventory.[38]
Lemerig[39]ān̄sār[ʔɒ̝ŋsɒ̝r]'person'Raised vowel, being the back rounded counterpart of /æ/ in a symmetrical vowel inventory.[39]
LimburgishMaastrichtian[40]plaots[plɒ̝ːts]'place'Near-open fully back; typically transcribed in IPA with ɔː.[40] Corresponds to [ɔː] in other dialects.
NorwegianUrban East[41]topp[tʰɒ̝pː]'top'Near-open,[41] typically transcribed in IPA with ɔ. Also described as open-mid near-back [ɔ̟][42] and open-mid back [ɔ].[43] See Norwegian phonology
Dialects along the Swedish border[44]hat[hɒ̜ːt]'hate'Weakly rounded and fully back.[44] See Norwegian phonology
Persian فارسی [fɒːɾˈsiː] 'Persian'
RomanianIstro-Romanian[45]cap[kɒp]'head'Corresponds to [ä] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
SlovakSome speakers[46]a[ɒ]'and'Under Hungarian influence, some speakers realize the short /a/ as rounded.[46] See Slovak phonology
SwedishCentral Standard[47][48]jаg[jɒ̝ːɡ]'I'Near-open fully back weakly rounded vowel.[47] Typically transcribed in IPA with ɑː. See Swedish phonology
Gothenburg[48][jɒːɡ]More rounded than in Central Standard Swedish.[48]
Yoruba[50]Most often transcribed in IPA with ɔ.

See also


  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. 1 2 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. 1 2 3 4 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. 1 2 Wissing (2016), section "The unrounded low-central vowel /a/".
  12. Mahanta (2012), p. 220.
  13. 1 2 3 Recasens (1996), pp. 81, 130–131.
  14. 1 2 3 Rafel (1999), p. 14.
  15. Saborit (2009), pp. 25–26.
  16. 1 2 Basbøll (2005), p. 47.
  17. Grønnum (1998), p. 100.
  18. 1 2 3 Collins & Mees (2003), p. 131.
  19. 1 2 Collins & Mees (2003), p. 132.
  20. Roach (2004), p. 242.
  21. 1 2 Lodge (2009), p. 163.
  22. 1 2 3 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. 1 2 Collins & Mees (2013:234)
  28. Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015:34)
  29. Lodge (2009:87)
  30. 1 2 Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015), p. 38.
  31. Hall (2003), pp. 106–107.
  32. Krech et al. (2009), p. 263.
  33. Fleischer & Schmid (2006), p. 248.
  34. Szende (1994), p. 92.
  35. Vago (1980), p. 1.
  36. 1 2 Urua (2004), p. 106.
  37. 1 2 Ní Chasaide (1999), p. 114.
  38. 1 2 François (2011), p. 194.
  39. 1 2 François (2011), pp. 195, 208.
  40. 1 2 Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), pp. 158–159.
  41. 1 2 Vanvik (1979), p. 13.
  42. Strandskogen (1979), pp. 15, 19.
  43. Popperwell (2010), p. 26.
  44. 1 2 Popperwell (2010), p. 23.
  45. Pop (1938), p. 29.
  46. 1 2 Kráľ (1988), p. 54.
  47. 1 2 Engstrand (1999), pp. 140–141.
  48. 1 2 3 Riad (2014), pp. 35–36.
  49. "Vastesi Language - Vastesi in the World". Vastesi in the World. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  50. Bamgboṣe (1969), p. 166.


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