Close central rounded vowel

The close central rounded vowel, or high central rounded vowel,[1] is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ʉ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is }. Both the symbol and the sound are commonly referred to as "barred u".

Close central rounded vowel
IPA Number318
Entity (decimal)ʉ
Unicode (hex)U+0289
Audio sample
source · help

The close central rounded vowel is the vocalic equivalent of the rare labialized post-palatal approximant [ẅ].[2]

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

Some languages feature the near-close central rounded vowel, which is slightly lower. It is most often transcribed in IPA with ʉ̞ and ʊ̈, but other transcriptions such as ʊ̟ and ɵ̝ are also possible. The symbol ᵿ, a conflation of ʊ and ʉ, is used as an unofficial extension of the IPA to represent this sound by a number of publications, such as Accents of English by John C. Wells. In the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, ᵿ represents free variation between /ʊ/ and /ə/.

Close central protruded vowel

The close central protruded vowel is typically transcribed in IPA simply as ʉ, and that is the convention used in this article. As there is no dedicated diacritic for protrusion in the IPA, symbol for the close central rounded vowel with an old diacritic for labialization,   ̫, can be used as an ad hoc symbol ʉ̫ for the close central protruded vowel. Another possible transcription is ʉʷ or ɨʷ (a close central vowel modified by endolabialization), but this could be misread as a diphthong.


  • Its vowel height is close, also known as high, which means the tongue is positioned close to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
  • Its roundedness is protruded, which means that the corners of the lips are drawn together, and the inner surfaces exposed.


Because central rounded vowels are assumed to have protrusion, and few descriptions cover the distinction, some of the following may actually have compression.

AngamiKhonoma[3]su[sʉ˦]'deep'Allophone of /u/ after /s/.[3]
ArmenianSome Eastern dialects[4]յուղ[jʉʁ]'oil'Allophone of /u/ after /j/.
BerberAyt Seghrouchen[5]?[lːæjˈɡːʉɾ]'he goes'Allophone of /u/ after velar consonants.
DutchStandard Northern[6]nu[nʉ]'now'Typically transcribed in IPA with y; also described as close front [y][7] and near-close front [].[8] See Dutch phonology
Randstad[9]hut[ɦɵ̝t]'hut'Found in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Lower [ɵ] in Standard Dutch.[9] See Dutch phonology
EnglishAustralian[10]goose[ɡʉːs]'goose'See Australian English phonology
English English[11][12]Can be back [] or front [] instead. The rounding is variable in some varieties.[13]
New Zealand[14]See New Zealand English phonology
Received Pronunciation[15]Realized as back [] in the conservative variety.[15]
South African[16]Realized as back [] in the conservative variety and in many Black and Indian varieties.[16] See South African English phonology
General American[17][ɡʉs]Can be back [u] instead.[17]
Estuary[18]foot[fʉ̞ʔt]'foot'The exact height, backness and roundedness is variable.[18]
Cockney[19]good[ɡʊ̈d]'good'Only in some words, particularly good, otherwise realized as near-back [ʊ].[19]
Rural white Southern American[20]Can be front [ʏ] instead.[20]
Southeastern English[21]May be unrounded [ɪ̈] instead;[21] it corresponds to [ʊ] in other dialects. See English phonology
Ulster[22]Short allophone of /u/.[22]
Shetland[23]strut[stɹʊ̈t]'strut'Can be [ɔ̟] or [ʌ] instead.[23]
GermanUpper Saxon[24]Buden[ˈb̥ʉːd̥n̩]'booths'The example word is from the Chemnitz dialect.
Hausa[25]Allophone of /u/.[25]
IbibioDialect of the Uruan area and Uyo[26]fuuk[fʉ́ʉk]'cover many things/times'Allophone of /u/ between consonants.[26]
Some dialects[26]Phonemic; contrasts with /u/.[26]
IrishMunster[27]ciúin[cʉːnʲ]'quiet'Allophone of /u/ between slender consonants.[27] See Irish phonology
Ulster[28]úllaí[ʉ̜ɫ̪i]'apples'Often only weakly rounded;[28] may be transcribed in IPA with u.
LimburgishSome dialects[29][30]bruudsje[ˈbʀ̝ʉtʃə]'breadroll'Close [ʉ][29] or near-close [ʉ̞],[30] depending on the dialect. Close front [y] in other dialects.[31] Typically transcribed in IPA with y. The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect, in which the vowel is close.
Russian[33]кюрий[ˈkʲʉrʲɪj]'curium'Allophone of /u/ between palatalized consonants. Near-close when unstressed.[33] See Russian phonology
Scots[34]buit[bʉt]'boot'May be more front [ʏ] instead.[34]
SwedishBohuslän[35]yla[²ʉᶻːlä]'howl'A fricated vowel that corresponds to [y̫ː] in Central Standard Swedish.[35] See Swedish phonology
Tamil[36]வால்[väːlʉ]'tail'Epenthetic vowel inserted in colloquial speech after word-final liquids; can be unrounded [ɨ] instead.[36] See Tamil phonology

Close central compressed vowel

Close central compressed vowel

As there is no official diacritic for compression in the IPA, the centering diacritic is used with the front rounded vowel [y], which is normally compressed. Other possible transcriptions are ɨ͡β̞ (simultaneous [ɨ] and labial compression) and ɨᵝ ([ɨ] modified with labial compression[37]).


  • Its vowel height is close, also known as high, which means the tongue is positioned close to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
  • 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.


This vowel is typically transcribed in IPA with ʉ. It occurs in some dialects of Swedish, but see also close front compressed vowel. The close back vowels of Norwegian and Swedish are also compressed. See close back compressed vowel. Medumba has a compressed central vowel [ɨᵝ] where the corners of the mouth are not drawn together.[38]

JapaneseSome younger speakers[39]空気/kūki[kÿːki]'air'Near-back [] for other speakers.[39] See Japanese phonology
NorwegianUrban East[40][41]hus[hÿːs]'house'Typically transcribed in IPA with ʉː. Also described as front [].[42] See Norwegian phonology
SwedishSome dialectsful[fÿːl]'ugly'More front [ ~ ʏː] in Central Standard Swedish; typically transcribed in IPA as ʉː. See Swedish phonology

See also


  1. While the International Phonetic Association prefers the terms "close" and "open" for vowel height, many linguists use "high" and "low".
  2. Instead of "post-palatal", it can be called "retracted palatal", "backed palatal", "palato-velar", "pre-velar", "advanced velar", "fronted velar" or "front-velar".
  3. Blankenship et al. (1993), p. 129.
  4. Dum-Tragut (2009), p. 14.
  5. Abdel-Massih (1971), p. 20.
  6. Gussenhoven (1992), p. 47.
  7. Gussenhoven (2007), p. 30.
  8. Collins & Mees (2003), p. 132.
  9. Collins & Mees (2003:128, 131). The source describes the Standard Dutch vowel as front-central [ɵ̟], but more sources (e.g. van Heuven & Genet (2002) and Verhoeven (2005)) describe it as central [ɵ]. As far as the raised varieties of this vowel are concerned, Collins and Mees do not describe their exact backness.
  10. Harrington, Cox & Evans (1997).
  11. Schneider et al. (2004), pp. 138, 170, 188, 190.
  12. Watson (2007), p. 357.
  13. Schneider et al. (2004), pp. 121, 138, 188, 190.
  14. Schneider et al. (2004), p. 582.
  15. Gimson (2014), p. 133.
  16. Lass (2002), p. 116.
  17. Wells (1982), pp. 476, 487.
  18. Schneider et al. (2004), pp. 188, 191–192.
  19. Mott (2011), p. 75.
  20. Thomas (2004), pp. 303, 308.
  21. Lodge (2009), p. 174.
  22. Jilka, Matthias. "Irish English and Ulster English" (PDF). Stuttgart: Institut für Linguistik/Anglistik, University of Stuttgart. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 April 2014.
  23. Melchers (2004), p. 42.
  24. Khan & Weise (2013), p. 236.
  25. Schuh & Yalwa (1999), p. 90.
  26. Urua (2004), p. 106.
  27. Ó Sé (2000), p. ?.
  28. Ní Chasaide (1999), p. 114.
  29. Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), p. 159.
  30. Verhoeven (2007), pp. 221, 223.
  31. Peters (2006), p. 119.
  32. Chirkova & Chen (2013), p. 75.
  33. Jones & Ward (1969), pp. 38, 67–68.
  34. Schneider et al. (2004), p. 54.
  35. Riad (2014), p. 21.
  36. Keane (2004), p. 114.
  37. e.g. in Flemming (2002) Auditory representations in phonology, p. 83.
  38. Okada (1999), p. 118.
  39. Strandskogen (1979), pp. 15, 21.
  40. Popperwell (2010), pp. 16, 29.
  41. Vanvik (1979), pp. 13, 18.


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  • Blankenship, Barbara; Ladefoged, Peter; Bhaskararao, Peri; Chase, Nichumeno (1993), "Phonetic structures of Khonoma Angami", in Maddieson, Ian (ed.), Fieldwork studies of targeted languages, 84, Los Angeles: The UCLA Phonetics Laboratory Group, pp. 127–141
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