Close central unrounded vowel

The close central unrounded vowel, or high central unrounded vowel,[1] is a type of vowel sound used in some languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ɨ, namely the lower-case letter i with a horizontal bar. Both the symbol and the sound are commonly referred to as barred i.

Close central unrounded vowel
IPA Number317
Entity (decimal)ɨ
Unicode (hex)U+0268
Audio sample
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Occasionally, this vowel is transcribed ï (centralized i) or ɯ̈ (centralized ɯ).[2]

The close central unrounded vowel is the vocalic equivalent of the rare post-palatal approximant [j̈].[3]

Some languages feature the near-close central unrounded vowel, which is slightly lower. It is most often transcribed in IPA with ɨ̞ and ɪ̈, but other transcriptions such as ɪ̠ and ɘ̝ are also possible. In many British dictionaries, this vowel has been transcribed ɪ, which captures its height; in the American tradition it is more often ɨ, which captures its centrality, or ,[4] which captures both. is also used in a number of other publications, such as Accents of English by John C. Wells. In the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, represents free variation between /ɪ/ and /ə/.


  • 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.
  • It is unrounded, which means that the lips are not rounded.


/ɨ/ is uncommon as a phoneme in Indo-European languages, occurring most commonly as an allophone in some Slavic languages, such as Russian. However, it is very common as a separate phoneme in the indigenous languages of the Americas and is often in phonemic contrast with other close vowels such as /i/ and /u/ both in modern living languages as well as reconstructed proto-languages (such as Proto-Uto-Aztecan). Campbell, Kaufman & Smith-Stark (1986) identify the presence of this vowel phoneme as an areal feature of a Mesoamerican Sprachbund (although that is not a defining feature of the entire area).

Acehnesetupeue[tupɨə]'to know'Asyik[5] and Al-Ahmadi Al-Harbi[6] describe this sound as such while Durie[7] describes it as closer to [ɯ]
AngamiKhonoma[9]prü[pɻɨ˨]'hail stone'The height varies between close [ɨ] and mid [ə].[9] Typically transcribed in IPA with ə.
Arhuaco ikʉ [ɪk'ɨ] 'Arhuaco language'
BerberCentral Atlas Tamazight[10][χdɨ̞m]'to work'Epenthetically inserted into consonant clusters before labial and coronal consonants.
Chinese Mandarinchī ()[tʂʰɨ˥]'to eat'
EnglishInland Southern American[11]good[ɡɨ̞d]'good'Corresponds to [ʊ] in other dialects. See English phonology
Southeastern English[12][ɡɪ̈d]May be rounded [ʊ̈] instead;[12] it corresponds to [ʊ] in other dialects. See English phonology
London[13][14]lip[lɪ̈ʔp]'lip'Possible realization of /ɪ/.[13][14]
South African[15][lɨ̞p]For some speakers it can be equal to [ə]. General and Broad varieties of SAE have an allophonic variation, with [ɪ] ([i] in Broad) occurring near velar and palatal consonants, and [ɨ̞~ə] elsewhere. See South African English phonology
Southern American[16][lɪ̈p]Allophone of /ɪ/ before labial consonants, sometimes also in other environments.[16]
Southeastern English[17]rude[ɹɨːd]'rude'May be rounded [ʉː], or a diphthong [ʊʉ̯~əʉ̯] instead.
Hausa[19]Allophone of /i/.[19]
IrishMunster[20]caora[kɨːɾˠə]'sheep'Allophone of /i/ between broad consonants.[20] See Irish phonology
Ulster[21]Allophone of /ɪ/. Near-close.[21]
Kurdish[25][26] Palewani (Southern) کرماشان [cʰɨɾmäːʃäːn] 'kermanshah' Equal to Kurmanji and Sorani [ɪ]. See Kurdish phonology
Latgalian[27]dyžan[ˈd̪ɨʒän̪]'very much'See Latgalian phonology
Mah Meri[28][d͡ʑäbɨ̞ʔ͡k̚]'to be drunk'
Mapudungun[29]müṉa[mɘ̝ˈn̪ɐ̝]'male cousin on father's side'Unstressed allophone of /ɘ/.[29]
Paicî[32]May be transcribed in IPA with ɯ.
Romanian[33]înot[ɨˈn̪o̞t̪]'I swim'See Romanian phonology
Russian[34]ты[t̪ɨ]'you' (singular)Occurs only after unpalatalized consonants. Near-close when unstressed.[34] See Russian phonology
Sahaptin[35][kʼsɨt]'cold'Epenthetic. No lengthened equivalent
Sema[36]sü[ʃɨ̀]'to hurt'Described variously as close [ɨ][36] and near-close [ɨ̞].[37]
Shipibo[38]tenaitianronki[ˈt̪ɨnɐi̞ti̞ɐ̃ɽõ̞ɣi̞]Possible realization of /ɯ/ after coronal consonants.[38]
Sirionó[39][eˈsɨ]'dry wood'
SwedishBohuslän[40]bli[blɨᶻː]'to become'A fricated vowel that corresponds to [] in Central Standard Swedish.[40] See Swedish phonology
TajikBukharan[41]ғижғиж[ʁɨʑʁɨʑ]'the sound of
wood sawing'
Allophone of /i/ in the environment of uvular consonants.[41]
Tamil[42]வால்[väːlɨ]'tail'Epenthetic vowel inserted in colloquial speech after word-final liquids; can be rounded [ʉ] instead.[42] See Tamil phonology
vur[vɨ̞r]'to give'Allophone of /ɨ/ in closed syllables.[44]
TurkishStandard[45]sığ[sɨː]'shallow'Also described as close back [ɯ][46] and near-close near-back [ɯ̽][47] Typically transcribed in IPA with ɯ. See Turkish phonology
Balkans[48]Word-final merger of standard Turkish sounds /i/ and /ɯ/, shift of /y/ and /u/ into single phoneme due to interactions caused by Balkan sprachbund. Dombrowski[48] transcribes this phoneme as /i/.
Udmurt[49]ургетэ, ыргетэ[50][ɨrgete]'it growls'
WelshNorthern dialects[51]llun[ɬɨːn]'picture'Close when long, near-close when short.[51] Merges with /ɪ/ in southern dialects. See Welsh phonology
ZapotecTilquiapan[52]nɨ[nɨ]'be sour'

The sound of Polish y is often represented as /ɨ/, but actually it is a close-mid advanced central unrounded vowel, more narrowly transcribed [ɘ̟].[53] Similarly, European Portuguese unstressed e, often represented as /ɨ/, is actually a near-close near-back unrounded vowel,[54] more narrowly transcribed using ad hoc symbols such as [ɯ̽] (mid-centralized), [ɯ̟] (fronted) and [ʊ̜] (less rounded i.e. unrounded)

See also


  1. While the International Phonetic Association prefers the terms "close" and "open" for vowel height, many linguists use "high" and "low".
  2. See e.g. Gimson (2014:133), who transcribes the unrounded central realization of the English GOOSE vowel /uː/ with the symbol [ɯ̈ː].
  3. Instead of "post-palatal", it can be called "retracted palatal", "backed palatal", "palato-velar", "pre-velar", "advanced velar", "fronted velar" or "front-velar".
  4. Pullum & Ladusaw (1996:298)
  5. Asyik, Abdul Gani (1982), "The agreement system in Acehnese" (PDF), Mon-Khmer Studies, 11: 1–33, archived from the original (PDF) on 5 June 2013, retrieved 9 November 2012
  6. Al-Ahmadi Al-Harbi, Awwad Ahmad (2003), "Acehnese coda condition: An optimality-theoretic account", Umm Al-Qura University Journal of Educational and Social Sciences and Humanities, 15: 9–21, archived from the original on 2009-07-29, retrieved 2009-03-06
  7. Mid-vowels in Acehnese Archived 2010-07-14 at the Wayback Machine
  8. Hayward & Hayward (1999), p. 47.
  9. Blankenship et al. (1993), p. 129.
  10. Abdel-Massih (1971:15)
  11. Wells (1982), pp. 534–535.
  12. Lodge (2009:174)
  13. Altendorf & Watt (2004:188–189)
  14. Mott (2012:75)
  15. Lass (2002), pp. 113–115.
  16. Wells (1982:534)
  17. Lodge (2009), p. 174.
  18. "Phonological inventory of Paraguayan Guarani". South American Phonological Inventory Database. Berkeley: University of California. 2015.
  19. Schuh & Yalwa (1999), p. 90.
  20. Ó Sé (2000), p. ?.
  21. Ní Chasaide (1999:114)
  22. Wendel & Wendel (1978), p. 198.
  23. "Koshur: Spoken Kashmiri: A Language Course: Transcription". Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  24. Pearce (2011), p. 251.
  25. Thackston (2006a), p. 1.
  26. Khan & Lescot (1970), pp. 8-16.
  27. Nau (2011), pp. 9–10.
  28. Kruspe & Hajek (2009), p. 244.
  29. Sadowsky et al. (2013:92)
  30. Iivonen & Harnud (2005), pp. 62, 66–67.
  31. Olson (2004), p. 235.
  32. Gordon & Maddieson (1996), p. 118.
  33. Sarlin (2014), p. 18.
  34. Jones & Ward (1969), pp. 33, 38.
  35. Hargus & Beavert (2002).
  36. Teo (2014), p. 28.
  37. Teo (2012), p. 368.
  38. Valenzuela, Márquez Pinedo & Maddieson (2001), p. 283.
  39. Firestone (1965), p. ?.
  40. Riad (2014), p. 21.
  41. Ido (2014), p. 91.
  42. Keane (2004), p. 114.
  43. Tench (2007), p. 230.
  44. Tench (2007:231)
  45. Zimmer & Organ (1999:155)
  46. Göksel & Kerslake (2005:10)
  47. Kılıç & Öğüt (2004)
  48. Dombrowski, Andrew. "Vowel Harmony Loss in West Rumelian Turkish".
  49. Iivonen & Harnud (2005), pp. 64, 68.
  50. ургетыны [Udmurt-Russian dictionary] (in Russian)
  51. Ball (1984), p. ?.
  52. Merrill (2008), p. 109.
  53. Jassem (2003), p. 105.
  54. Cruz-Ferreira (1995), p. 91.


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