|Mid central vowel|
The mid central vowel (also known as schwa) is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨?⟩, a rotated lowercase letter e.
While the Handbook of the International Phonetic Association does not define the roundedness of [?], it is more often unrounded than rounded. The phonetician Jane Setter describes the pronunciation of the unrounded variant as follows: "[?] is a sound which can be produced by basically relaxing the articulators in the oral cavity and vocalising." To produce the rounded variant, all that needs to be done in addition to that is to round the lips.
Some languages, such as Danish and Luxembourgish, have a mid central vowel that is variably rounded. In some other languages, things are more complicated, as the change in rounding is accompanied with the change in height and/or backness. For instance, in Dutch, the unrounded allophone of /?/ is mid central unrounded [?], but its word-final rounded allophone is close-mid front rounded , close to the main allophone of /?/.
The symbol ⟨?⟩ is often used for any unstressed obscure vowel, regardless of its precise quality. For instance, the English vowel transcribed ⟨?⟩ is a central unrounded vowel that can be close-mid , mid [?] or open-mid , depending on the environment.
The mid central unrounded vowel is frequently written with the symbol [?]. If greater precision is desired, the symbol for the close-mid central unrounded vowel may be used with a lowering diacritic, . Another possibility is using the symbol for the open-mid central unrounded vowel with a raising diacritic, .
|Afrikaans||Standard||lig||[l]||'light'||Also described as open-mid . See Afrikaans phonology|
|Many speakers||lug||'air'||Many speakers merge /oe/ with /?/, even in formal speech. See Afrikaans phonology|
|Catalan||Eastern Catalan||amb||[?m(b)]||'with'||Reduced vowel. The exact height, backness and rounding are variable. See Catalan phonology|
|Some Western accents|
|Chinese||Mandarin||? / g?n||'root'||See Standard Chinese phonology|
|Danish||Standard||hoppe||['hb]||'mare'||Sometimes realized as rounded . See Danish phonology|
|Dutch||Standard||renner||['r?n?r]||'runner'||The backness varies between near-front and central, whereas the height varies between close-mid and open-mid. Many speakers feel that this vowel is simply an unstressed allophone of . See Dutch phonology|
|English||Most dialects||Tina||['t?i:n?]||'Tina'||Reduced vowel; varies in height between close-mid and open-mid. Word-final /?/ can be as low as . See English phonology|
|Cultivated South African||bird||[b:d]||'bird'||May be transcribed in IPA with ⟨?:⟩. Other South African varieties use a higher, more front and rounded vowel . See South African English phonology|
|Received Pronunciation||Often transcribed in IPA with ⟨?:⟩. It is sulcalized, which means the tongue is grooved like in [?]. 'Upper Crust RP' speakers pronounce a near-open vowel , but for some other speakers it may actually be open-mid . This vowel corresponds to rhotacized in rhotic dialects.|
|Geordie||bust||[b?st]||'bust'||Spoken by some middle class speakers, mostly female; other speakers use . Corresponds to or in other dialects.|
|Indian||May be lower. Some Indian varieties merge or with /?/ like Welsh English.|
|Wales||May also be further back; it corresponds to or in other dialects.|
|Yorkshire||Middle class pronunciation. Other speakers use . Corresponds to or in other dialects.|
|German||Standard||Beschlag||'fitting'||See Standard German phonology|
|Southern German accents||oder||['o:d?]||'or'||Used instead of . See Standard German phonology|
|Kensiu||[t?h]||'to be bald'||Contrasts with a rhotacized close-mid .|
|Kurdish||Sorani (Central)||?||[w]||'night'||See Kurdish phonology|
|Luxembourgish||dënn||[dn]||'thin'||More often realized as slightly rounded . See Luxembourgish phonology|
|Norwegian||Many dialects||sterkeste||[²stæ?k?st?]||'the strongest'||Occurs only in unstressed syllables. The example word is from Urban East Norwegian. Some dialects (e.g. Trondheimsk) lack this sound. See Norwegian phonology|
|Plautdietsch||bediedt||[b?'dit]||'means'||The example word is from the Canadian Old Colony variety, in which the vowel is somewhat fronted .|
|Serbo-Croatian||vrt||[rt?]||'garden'||[?r] is a possible phonetic realization of the syllabic trill /r?/ when it occurs between consonants. See Serbo-Croatian phonology|
|Swedish||Southern||vante||[²vänt?]||'mitten'||Corresponds to a slightly retracted front vowel  in Central Standard Swedish. See Swedish phonology|
Languages may have a mid central rounded vowel (a rounded [?]), distinct from both the close-mid and open-mid vowels. However, since no language is known to distinguish all three, there is no separate IPA symbol for the mid vowel, and the symbol [?] for the close-mid central rounded vowel is generally used instead. If precision is desired, the lowering diacritic can be used: . This vowel can also be represented by adding the more rounded diacritic to the schwa symbol, or by combining the raising diacritic with the open-mid central rounded vowel symbol, although it is rare to use such symbols.
|Afrikaans||Standard||lug||[l]||'air'||Also described as open-mid , typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨oe⟩. Many speakers merge /oe/ and /?/, even in formal speech. See Afrikaans phonology|
|Danish||Standard||hoppe||['hb]||'mare'||Possible realization of /?/. See Danish phonology|
|Dutch||Southern||hut||[t]||'hut'||Found in certain accents, e.g. in Bruges. Close-mid in Standard Dutch. See Dutch phonology|
|French||je||||'I'||Only somewhat rounded; may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨?⟩ or ⟨?⟩. Also described as close-mid . May be more front for a number of speakers. See French phonology|
|German||Chemnitz dialect||Wonne||['vn?]||'bliss'||Typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨?⟩.|
|Irish||Munster||scoil||[skl?]||'school'||Allophone of /?/ between a broad and a slender consonant. See Irish phonology|
|Luxembourgish||dënn||[dn]||'thin'||Only slightly rounded; less often realized as unrounded . See Luxembourgish phonology|
|Norwegian||Urban East||nøtt||[nt:]||'nut'||Also described as open-mid front ; typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨oe⟩ or ⟨ø⟩. See Norwegian phonology|
|Plautdietsch||Canadian Old Colony||butzt||[bt?st]||'bumps'||Mid-centralized from , to which it corresponds in other dialects.|
|Swedish||Central Standard||full||'full'||Pronounced with compressed lips, more closely transcribed  or . Less often described as close-mid . See Swedish phonology|