Close front rounded vowel

The close front rounded vowel, or high front 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 y, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is y. Across many languages, it is most commonly represented orthographically as ü (in German, Turkish and Basque) or y, but also as u (in French and a few other Romance languages and also in Dutch and the Kernewek Kemmyn standard of Cornish); 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)

Close front rounded vowel
IPA Number309
Entity (decimal)y
Unicode (hex)U+0079
Audio sample
source · help

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.

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

The close front compressed vowel is typically transcribed in IPA simply as y, and that is the convention used in this article. There is no dedicated diacritic for compression in the IPA. However, the compression of the lips can be shown with the letter β̞ as i͡β̞ (simultaneous [i] and labial compression) or iᵝ ([i] modified with labial compression). The spread-lip diacritic   ͍ may also be used with a rounded vowel letter as an ad hoc symbol, though technically 'spread' means unrounded.


  • 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 vowel backness is front, which means the tongue is positioned forward in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. 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 of the following may actually have protrusion.

AlbanianStandardylber[ylbɛɾ]'rainbow'See Albanian phonology
AfrikaansStandard[2]u[y]'you' (formal)See Afrikaans phonology
BavarianAmstetten dialect[4]
CatalanNorthern[6]fulla[fyʎ̟ə]'leaf'Found in Occitan and French loanwords. See Catalan phonology
ChineseMandarin[7][8] / nǚ[ny˩˧]'woman'See Standard Chinese phonology and Cantonese phonology
Cantonese[9] / s[sy˥]'book'
DanishStandard[11][12]synlig[ˈsyːnli]'visible'See Danish phonology
DutchStandard[13][14]nu[ny]'now'Also described as near-close [].[15] The Standard Northern realization has also been described as close central [ʉ].[16] See Dutch phonology
EnglishGeneral South African[17]few[fjyː]'few'Some younger speakers, especially females. Others pronounce a more central vowel [ʉː].[17] See South African English phonology
Multicultural London[18]May be back [] instead.[18]
Scouse[19]May be central [ʉː] instead.
Ulster[20]Long allophone of /u/; occurs only after /j/.[20] See English phonology
Estonian[21]üks[yks]'one'See Estonian phonology
Faroese[22]mytisk[ˈmyːtɪsk]'mythological'Appears only in loanwords.[23] See Faroese phonology
Finnish[24][25]yksi[ˈyksi]'one'See Finnish phonology
French[26][27]tu[t̪y]'you'The Parisian realization has been also described as near-close [].[28] See French phonology
GermanStandard[29][30]über[ˈyːbɐ]'over'See Standard German phonology
Many speakers[31]schützen[ˈʃyt͡sn̩]'protect'The usual realization of /ʏ/ in Switzerland, Austria and partially also in Western and Southwestern Germany (Palatinate, Swabia).[31] See Standard German phonology
GreekTyrnavos[32]σάλιο / salio[ˈsäly]'saliva'Corresponds to /jo/ in Standard Modern Greek.[32]
Hungarian[33]tű[t̪yː]'pin'See Hungarian phonology
Korean휘파람 / hwiparam[çypʰɐɾɐm]'whistle'Now usually a diphthong [ɥi], especially in Seoul and surrounding dialects. See Korean phonology
Kurdish[35][36] Kurmanji (Northern) kü [kʰyːɥ] 'mountain' Equal to Palewani (Southern) [ʉː]. See Kurdish phonology
Limburgish[37][38]zuut[zyːt]'sees'Central [ʉː] in Maastricht.[39] The example word is from the Weert dialect.
Lombard[40] Most dialects[40] ridüü


[ri'dy:] 'laughed' [40]
Low German[41]für / fuur[fyːɐ̯]'fire'
Luxembourgish[42]Hüll[hyl]'envelope'Occurs only in loanwords.[42] See Luxembourgish phonology
Mongolian[43]Inner Mongoliaтүймэр / tüimer[tʰyːmɘɾɘ̆]'prairie fire'Diphthong [uj] in Khalkha.
OccitanBesalú[besalyː]'Town of Besalú'See Occitan phonology
Old Malaypriatin / prihatin[priyatin]'concerned'
Norwegian[44]syd[syːd]'south'The example word is from Urban East Norwegian, in which the vowel varies in rounding between compressed [yː] and protruded [y̫ː]. It can be diphthongized to [yə̯].[45][46] See Norwegian phonology.
PlautdietschCanadian Old Colony[47]buut[byːt]'builds'Corresponds to back [u] in other varieties.[47]
PortugueseAzorean[48]figura[fiˈɣyɾə]'figure'Stressed vowel, fronting of original /u/ in some dialects.[48] See Portuguese phonology
Brazilian[50]déjà vu[d̪e̞ʒɐ ˈvy]'déjà vu'Found in French and German loanwords. Speakers may instead use [u] or [i]. See Portuguese phonology
Ripuarian[51]nuus[nyːs]'nothing'The example word is from the Kerkrade dialect.
Saterland Frisian[52][53]wüül[vyːl]'wanted' (v.)
SwedishCentral Standard[54]ut[yːt̪]'out'Often realized as a sequence [yβ̞] or [yβ].[55][56] The height has been variously described as close [yː][54] and near-close [ʏː].[57][58] Typically transcribed in IPA with ʉː; it is central [ʉː] in other dialects. See Swedish phonology
Turkish[59][60]güneş[ɟyˈn̪e̞ʃ]'sun'See Turkish phonology
West Frisian[61]út[yt]'out'See West Frisian phonology

Close front protruded vowel

Close front protruded vowel

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.

Acoustically, this sound is "between" the more typical compressed close front vowel [y] and the unrounded close front vowel [i].


  • 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 vowel backness is front, which means the tongue is positioned forward in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Rounded front vowels are often centralized, which means that often they are in fact near-front.
  • Its roundedness is protruded, which means that the corners of the lips are drawn together, and the inner surfaces exposed.


Kurdish[36][35] Palewani (Southern) کۊ [kʰy̫ːɥ] 'mountain' Allophone of [ʉː] in regional dialects. See Kurdish phonology
Norwegian[44]syd[sy̫ːd]'south'The example word is from Urban East Norwegian, in which the vowel varies in rounding between protruded [y̫ː] and compressed []. It can be diphthongized to [y̫ə̯].[45][46] See Norwegian phonology.
SwedishCentral Standard[62][63]yla[²y̫ːlä]'howl'Often realized as a sequence [y̫ɥ̫] or [y̫ɥ̫˔][55][63] (hear the word: [²y̫ɥ̫lä]); it may also be fricated [y̫ᶻː] or, in some regions, fricated and centralized ([ʉᶻː]).[64] 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. Donaldson (1993), p. 2.
  3. Mokari & Werner (2016), p. ?.
  4. Traunmüller (1982), cited in Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:290)
  5. Ternes (1992), pp. 431, 433.
  6. Recasens (1996), p. 69.
  7. Lee & Zee (2003), pp. 110–111.
  8. Duanmu (2007), pp. 35–36.
  9. Zee (1999), pp. 59–60.
  10. Chen & Gussenhoven (2015), p. 328.
  11. Grønnum (1998), p. 100.
  12. Ladefoged & Johnson (2010), p. 227.
  13. Verhoeven (2005), p. 245.
  14. Gussenhoven (2007), p. 30.
  15. Collins & Mees (2003), p. 132.
  16. Gussenhoven (1992), p. 47.
  17. Lass (2002), p. 116.
  18. Gimson (2014), p. 91.
  19. Watson (2007), p. 357.
  20. 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.
  21. Asu & Teras (2009), p. 368.
  22. Árnason (2011), pp. 68, 74.
  23. Árnason (2011), p. 75.
  24. Iivonen & Harnud (2005), pp. 60, 66.
  25. Suomi, Toivanen & Ylitalo (2008), p. 21.
  26. Fougeron & Smith (1993), p. 73.
  27. Lodge (2009), p. 84.
  28. Collins & Mees (2013), p. 225.
  29. Hall (2003), pp. 92, 107.
  30. Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015), p. 34.
  31. Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015), p. 64.
  32. Trudgill (2009), pp. 86–87.
  33. Szende (1994), p. 92.
  34. Maddieson & Anderson (1994), p. 164.
  35. Thackston (2006a), p. 1.
  36. Khan & Lescot (1970), pp. 8-16.
  37. Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), p. 110.
  38. Peters (2006), p. 119.
  39. Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), p. 159.
  40. Loporcaro, Michele (2015). Vowel Length from Latin to Romance. Oxford University Press. pp. 93–96. ISBN 978-0-19-965655-4.
  41. Prehn (2012), p. 157.
  42. Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 72.
  43. Iivonen & Harnud (2005), pp. 62, 66–67.
  44. Vanvik (1979), pp. 13, 20.
  45. Vanvik (1979), p. 19.
  46. Kristoffersen (2000), pp. 15–16.
  47. Cox, Driedger & Tucker (2013), pp. 224–245.
  48. Variação Linguística no Português Europeu: O Caso do Português dos Açores (in Portuguese)
  49. Portuguese: A Linguistic Introduction – by Milton M. Azevedo Page 186.
  50. (in Portuguese) The perception of German vowels by Portuguese-German bilinguals: do returned emigrants suffer phonological erosion? Pages 57 and 68.
  51. Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (1997), p. 16.
  52. Fort (2001), p. 411.
  53. Peters (2017), p. ?.
  54. Riad (2014), pp. 27–28.
  55. Engstrand (1999), p. 141.
  56. Riad (2014), p. 28.
  57. Engstrand (1999), p. 140.
  58. Rosenqvist (2007), p. 9.
  59. Zimmer & Orgun (1999), p. 155.
  60. Göksel & Kerslake (2005), p. 11.
  61. Tiersma (1999), p. 11.
  62. Engstrand (1999), pp. 140–141.
  63. Riad (2014), p. 26.
  64. Riad (2014), p. 21.


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