Near-back vowel

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A near-back vowel (also called a back-central vowel or a centralized back vowel) is any in a class of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a near-back vowel is that the tongue is positioned as in a back vowel, but slightly further forward in the mouth. In practice, what are analyzed phonemically as unrounded back vowels are typically near-back in their actual articulation.


The only near-back vowel that has a dedicated symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet is the near-close near-back rounded vowel [ʊ]. If precision is desired, the protruded rounding can be transcribed as ⟨⟩ or ⟨ʊ̹⟩, whereas the compressed rounding as ⟨ʊᵝ⟩. The unrounded equivalent of this vowel can be transcribed as either ⟨ɯ̽⟩ or ⟨ʊ̜⟩.

Other near-back vowels can be indicated with diacritics of relative articulation applied to letters for neighboring vowels, such as ⟨⟩ or ⟨ʉ̠⟩ for a close near-back rounded vowel.

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