Fronting (phonetics)



In i-mutation and Germanic umlaut, a back vowel is fronted under the influence of /i/ or /j/ in a following syllable[1]. This is assimilation.

Vowel shifts

In the Attic and Ionic dialects of Ancient Greek, Proto-Greek close back /u uː/ were fronted to /y yː/. This change occurred in all cases and was not triggered by a nearby front consonant or vowel.

In Old English and Old Frisian, the back vowels /ɑ ɑː/ were fronted to /æ æː/ in certain cases. For more information, see Phonological history of Old English §§ First a-fronting and Second a-fronting.

In many dialects of English, the vowel /uː/ is fronted to [u̟ː] or [ʉː]. This sound change also occurred in many dialects of Norwegian and Standard Swedish, but not in Danish.

Fronting can also take place as part of a chain shift. For example, in the Northern Cities Shift, the raising of /æ/ left room in the low-front area of the vowel space into which [ɑ] could expand. Thus words like cot and father are often pronounced with a low-front vowel [æ].


  1. Campbell, Lyle (2013). Historical Linguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 20. ISBN 978 0 7486 4594 7.

See also

  • Palatalization refers to a range of sound changes triggered by high or high-front vowels.
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