Near-open front unrounded vowel

The near-open front unrounded vowel, or near-low front unrounded 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 æ, a lowercase of the Æ ligature. Both the symbol and the sound are commonly referred to as "ash".

Near-open front unrounded vowel
IPA Number325
Entity (decimal)æ
Unicode (hex)U+00E6
Audio sample
source · help

The rounded counterpart of [æ], the near-open front rounded vowel (for which the IPA provides no separate symbol) has been reported to occur allophonically in Danish;[2][3] see open front rounded vowel for more information.

In practice, æ is sometimes used to represent the open front unrounded vowel; see the introduction to that page for more information.


  • Its vowel height is near-open, also known as near-low, which means the tongue is positioned similarly to an open vowel, but is slightly more constricted – that is, the tongue is positioned similarly to a low vowel, but slightly higher.
  • 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.
  • It is unrounded, which means that the lips are not rounded.


AfrikaansStandard[4]perd[pæːrt]'horse'Allophone of /ɛ/ before sequences /rs/, /rt/, /rd/ and, in some dialects, before /k x l r/. See Afrikaans phonology
ArabicStandard[5]كتاب[kiˈtæːb] 'book'Allophone of /a/ in the environment of plain labial and coronal consonants as well as /j/ (depending on the speaker's accent). See Arabic phonology
Bashkir[6] йәй / yäy [jæj]  'summer'
CatalanMajorcan[7]tesi[ˈt̪æzi]'thesis'Main realization of /ɛ/. See Catalan phonology
DanishStandard[2][8]dansk[ˈd̥a̝nsɡ̊]'Danish'Most often transcribed in IPA with a – the way it is realized by certain older or upper-class speakers.[9] See Danish phonology
Dutch[10]pen[pæn]'pen'Allophone of /ɛ/ before /n/ and the velarized or pharyngealized allophone of /l/. In non-standard accents this allophone is generalized to other positions, where [ɛ] is used in Standard Dutch.[11] See Dutch phonology
EnglishCultivated New Zealand[12]cat[kʰæt] 'cat'Higher in other New Zealand varieties. See New Zealand English phonology
General American[13]See English phonology
Conservative Received Pronunciation[14]Fully open [a] in contemporary RP.[14] See English phonology
Estonian[15]väle[ˈvæ̠le̞ˑ]'agile'Near-front.[15] See Estonian phonology
Finnish[16]mäki[ˈmæki]'hill'See Finnish phonology
FrenchParisian[17]bain[bæ̃]'bath'Nasalized; typically transcribed in IPA with ɛ̃. See French phonology
Quebec[18]ver[væːʁ]'worm'Allophone of /ɛ/ before /ʁ/ or in open syllables, and of /a/ in closed syllables.[18] See Quebec French phonology
GermanStandard Austrian[19]oder[ˈoːdæ]'or'Used by some speakers instead of [ɐ].[19] See Standard German phonology
West Central German accents[20]Used instead of [ɐ].[20] See Standard German phonology
Northern accents[21]alles[ˈa̝ləs]'everything'Lower and often also more back in other accents.[21] See Standard German phonology
Western Swiss accents[22]spät[ʃpæːt]'late'Open-mid [ɛː] or close-mid [] in other accents; contrasts with the open-mid /ɛː/.[23] See Standard German phonology
GreekMacedonia[24]γάτα/gáta[ˈɣætæ]'cat'See Modern Greek phonology
Hungarian[26]nem[næm]'no'Typically transcribed in IPA with ɛ. See Hungarian phonology
Kurdish Sorani (Central) گاڵته [gäːɫtʲæ] 'joke' Equal to Palewani (Southern) front [a]. See Kurdish phonology
Limburgish[28][29][30]twelf[ˈtβ̞æ̠ləf]'twelve'Front[29][30] or near-front,[28] depending on the dialect. The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect, in which the vowel is near-front.
Luxembourgish[31]Käpp[kʰæpʰ]'heads'See Luxembourgish phonology
NorwegianUrban East[32][33]lær[læːɾ]'leather'See Norwegian phonology
PortugueseSome dialects[36]pedra[ˈpædɾɐ]'stone'Stressed vowel. In other dialects closer /ɛ/. See Portuguese phonology
Some European speakers[37]também[tɐˈmæ̃]'also'Stressed vowel, allophone of nasal vowel /ẽ̞/.
RomanianBukovinian dialect[38]piele[ˈpæle]'skin'Corresponds to [je] in standard Romanian. Also identified in some Central Transylvanian sub-dialects.[38] See Romanian phonology
Russian[39][40]пять[pʲætʲ] 'five'Allophone of /a/ between palatalized consonants. See Russian phonology
Serbo-CroatianZeta-Raška dialect[41]дан/dan[d̪æn̪]'day'Regional reflex of Proto-Slavic *ь and *ъ. Sometimes nasalised.[41]
SlovakSome speakers[43]väzy[ˈʋæzi̞]'ligaments'Many speakers pronounce it the same as [ɛ̝]. See Slovak phonology
SwedishCentral Standard[44][45][46]ära[²æːɾä] 'hono(u)r'Allophone of /ɛː, ɛ/ before /r/. See Swedish phonology
Stockholm[46]läsa[²læːsä]'to read'Realization of /ɛː, ɛ/ for younger speakers. Higher [ɛː, ɛ̝ ~ ɛ] for other speakers
Turkish[47]sen[s̪æn̪]'you'Allophone of /e/ before syllable-final /m, n, l, r/. In a limited number of words (but not before /r/), it is in free variation with [].[47] See Turkish 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. Grønnum (1998:100)
  3. Basbøll (2005:46)
  4. Donaldson (1993:3)
  5. Holes (2004:60)
  6. Berta (1998:183)
  7. Rafel (1999:14)
  8. Basbøll (2005:45)
  9. Basbøll (2005:32)
  10. Collins & Mees (2003:92, 129)
  11. Collins & Mees (2003:92, 128–129, 131)
  12. Gordon & Maclagan (2004:609)
  13. Wells (1982:486)
  14. Gimson (2014:119–120)
  15. Asu & Teras (2009:368)
  16. Suomi, Toivanen & Ylitalo (2008:21)
  17. Collins & Mees (2013:226)
  18. Walker (1984:75)
  19. Moosmüller, Schmid & Brandstätter (2015:342)
  20. Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015:40)
  21. Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015:64)
  22. Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015:65)
  23. Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015:34, 64–65)
  24. Newton (1972:11)
  25. Revithiadou & Spyropoulos (2009:41)
  26. Szende (1994:92)
  27. François (2005:466)
  28. Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999:159)
  29. Peters (2006:119)
  30. Verhoeven (2007:221)
  31. Gilles & Trouvain (2013:70)
  32. Vanvik (1979:13)
  33. Popperwell (2010:16, 21–22)
  34. Majidi & Ternes (1991)
  35. Campbell (1995)
  36. Portuguese: A Linguistic Introduction – by Milton M. Azevedo Page 186.
  37. Lista das marcas dialetais e ouros fenómenos de variação (fonética e fonológica) identificados nas amostras do Arquivo Dialetal do CLUP (in Portuguese)
  38. Pop (1938), p. 29.
  39. Jones & Ward (1969:50)
  40. Yanushevskaya & Bunčić (2015:224–225)
  41. Okuka 2008, p. 171.
  42. Perera & Jones (1919:5)
  43. Hanulíková & Hamann (2010:374)
  44. Eliasson (1986:273)
  45. Thorén & Petterson (1992:15)
  46. Riad (2014:38)
  47. Göksel & Kerslake (2005:10)


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