Close front rounded vowel

Close front rounded vowel
Close front rounded vowel
IPA number 309
Entity (decimal) y
Unicode (hex) U+0079
Kirshenbaum y

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The close front rounded vowel, or high front rounded vowel, 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⟩ or ⟨y⟩, but also as ⟨u⟩ (in French and a few other Romance languages and in Dutch); ⟨iu⟩/⟨yu⟩ (in the romanization of various Asian languages, as well as Middle German); ⟨uu⟩ (in Dutch); ⟨ű⟩ (in Hungarian); ⟨уь⟩ (in Cyrillic-based writing systems such as that for Chechen); or ⟨ㅟ⟩ (in Hangul, used for Korean).

The IPA prefers terms "close" and "open" for vowels, and the name of the article follows this. However, a large number of linguists, perhaps a majority, prefer the terms "high" and "low", and these are the only terms found in introductory textbooks on phonetics such as those by Peter Ladefoged.

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


IPA vowel chart
Front Near-​front Central Near-​back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg
Paired vowels are: unrounded • rounded
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  • Its vowel height is close, also known as high, which means the tongue is positioned as close as possible 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 as far forward as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
  • Its vowel 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.


Note: Since front rounded vowels are assumed to have compression, and few descriptions cover the distinction, some of the following may actually have protrusion.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans uur [yr] 'hour'
Albanian dy [dy] 'two'
Azeri güllə [ɟylˈlæ] 'bullet'
Basque Souletin hirü [hiɾy] 'three'
Catalan Northern Catalan but [ˈbyt] 'aim' Found in Occitan and French loanwords. See Catalan phonology
Chinese Cantonese /syu1 [syː˥] 'book' See Cantonese phonology
Mandarin 绿/lǜ [ly˥˩] 'green' See Mandarin phonology
Wu / gniu [ɲy˩˧] 'soft'
Chechen уьш/üş [yʃ] 'they'
Danish yde [ˈyːðə] 'to supply' See Danish phonology
Dutch[1] debuut [dəˈbyt] 'debut' See Dutch phonology
English Scottish food [fyd] 'food' Some dialects. Corresponds to /u/ (or [ʉ]) in other dialects. See English phonology
Estonian üks [yks] 'one'
Finnish[2] yksi [ˈyksi] 'one' See Finnish phonology
French[3] chute [ʃyt] 'fall' See French phonology
German Blüte [ˈblyːtə] 'blossom' See German phonology
Hungarian[4] tű [tyː] 'pin' See Hungarian phonology
Korean wi [y] 'top' May be diphthongized to [wi] by younger speakers. See Korean phonology
Lombard düü [dyː] 'two'
Mongolian[5] түймэр/tüimer [tʰyːmɘɾɘ̆] 'prairie fire'
North Frisian hüüs [hyːs] 'hoarse'
Occitan Gascon lua [ˈlyo] 'moon'
Languedocien luna [ˈlyno]
Scots buit [byt] 'boot'
Turkish güneş [ɟyˈneʃ] 'sun' See Turkish phonology
West Frisian drúf [dryːf] 'grape'

Close front protruded vowel

Close front protruded vowel

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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, have compressed 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 [yʷ] or [iʷ] (a close front vowel modified by endolabialization), but this could be misread as a diphthong.)


  • Its vowel height is near-close, also known as near-high, which means the tongue is not quite so constricted as a close vowel (high vowel).
  • Its vowel backness is near-front, which means the tongue is positioned almost as far forward as a front vowel.
  • Its vowel roundedness is protruded, which means that the corners of the lips are drawn together, and the inner surfaces exposed.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Norwegian syd [sy̫ːd] 'south' See Norwegian phonology
Swedish yla About this sound [y̫ː(ɥ)la] 'howl' See Swedish phonology

See also



  • Fougeron, Cecile; Smith, Caroline L (1993), "Illustrations of the IPA:French", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 23 (2): 73–76 
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos (1992), "Dutch", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 22 (2): 45–47, doi:10.1017/S002510030000459X 
  • Iivonen, Antti; Harnud, Huhe (2005), "Acoustical comparison of the monophthong systems in Finnish, Mongolian and Udmurt", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 35 (1): 59–71, doi:10.1017/S002510030500191X 
  • Szende, Tamás (1994), "Illustrations of the IPA:Hungarian", Journal of the International Phonetic Alphabet 24 (2): 91–94 

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