A near-close vowel
or a near-high vowel
is any in a class of vowel
sound used in some spoken languages
. The defining characteristic of a near-close vowel is that the tongue is positioned similarly to a close vowel
, but slightly less constricted.
illustrating the /i–ɪ̟–e/ and /u–ʊ̠–o/ contrasts in Sotho, from Doke & Mofokeng (1974
:?). The near-close vowels are normally transcribed without diacritics (i.e. as ⟨ɪ⟩ and ⟨ʊ⟩, respectively), or even with the symbols for close central vowels (⟨ɨ⟩ and ⟨ʉ⟩, respectively), though the latter set is not phonetically correct.
Other names for a near-close vowel are lowered close vowel
and raised close-mid vowel
, though the former phrase may also be used to describe a vowel that is as low as close-mid
(sometimes even lower); likewise, the latter phrase may also be used to describe a vowel that is as high as close.
Near-close vowels are also sometimes described as lax variants of the fully close vowels, though, depending on the language, they may not necessarily be variants of close vowels at all.
It is rare for languages to contrast a near-close vowel with a close vowel and a close-mid vowel
based on height alone. An example of such language is Danish
, which contrasts short and long versions of the close front unrounded /i
/, near-close front unrounded /e̝
/ and close-mid front unrounded /e
/ vowels, though in order to avoid using any relative articulation
diacritics, Danish /e̝
/ and /e
/ are typically transcribed with phonetically inaccurate symbols /e/ and /ɛ/, respectively.
This contrast is not present in Conservative Danish, which realizes the latter two vowels as, respectively, close-mid [e
] and mid
It is even rarer for languages to contrast more than one close/near-close/close-mid triplet. For instance, Sotho
has two such triplets: fully front /i–ɪ–e/ and fully back /u–ʊ–o/.
In the case of this language, the near-close vowels /ɪ, ʊ/ tend to be transcribed with the phonetically inaccurate symbols /ɨ, ʉ/, i.e. as if they were close central
It may be somewhat more common for languages to contain allophonic
vowel triplets that are not contrastive; for instance, Russian
has one such triplet:
- close central rounded [ʉ], an allophone of /u/ between soft consonants in stressed syllables;
- near-close central rounded [ʉ̞], an allophone of /u/ between soft consonants in unstressed syllables;
- close-mid central rounded [ɵ], an allophone of /o/ after soft consonants.
The Handbook of the International Phonetic Association
defines these vowels as mid-centralized
) equivalents of, respectively, [i
] and [u
therefore, an alternative transcription of these vowels is [i̽, y̽, u̽] or the more complex [ï̞, ÿ˕, ü̞]; however, they are not centralized in all languages - some languages have a fully front variant of [ɪ] and/or a fully back variant of [ʊ];
the exact backness of these variants can be transcribed in the IPA with [ɪ̟, ʊ̠], [i̞, u̞] or [e̝, o̝].
There also are near-close vowels that don't have dedicated symbols in the IPA:
(IPA letters for rounded vowels
are ambiguous as to whether the rounding is protrusion or compression. However, transcription of the world's languages tends to pattern as above.)
Other near-close vowels can be indicated with diacritics of relative articulation
applied to letters for neighboring vowels, such as ⟨ɪ̟⟩, ⟨i̞⟩ or ⟨e̝⟩ for a near-close front unrounded vowel, or ⟨ʊ̠⟩, ⟨u̞⟩ or ⟨o̝⟩ for a near-close back rounded vowel.
- ^ Basbøll (2005), pp. 45, 48, 50–52.
- ^ • Example languages with a fully front [ɪ̟]: Danish and Sotho (Sources: Basbøll (2005:45); Doke & Mofokeng (1974:?)).
• Example languages with a fully back [ʊ̠]: Korean and Sotho (Sources: Lee (1999:121); Doke & Mofokeng (1974:?)).
- Basbøll, Hans (2005), The Phonology of Danish, ISBN 0-203-97876-5
- Doke, Clement Martyn; Mofokeng, S. Machabe (1974), Textbook of Southern Sotho Grammar (3rd ed.), Cape Town: Longman Southern Africa, ISBN 0-582-61700-6
- International Phonetic Association (1999), Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-65236-7
- Jones, Daniel; Ward, Dennis (1969), The Phonetics of Russian, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-06736-7
- Ladefoged, Peter; Johnson, Keith (2010), A Course in Phonetics (6th ed.), Boston, Massachusetts: Wadsworth Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4282-3126-9
- Lee, Hyun Bok (1999), "Korean", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, Cambridge University Press, pp. 120–122, ISBN 0-521-63751-1
Last edited on 16 April 2021, at 10:20
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