|Open front unrounded vowel|
The open front unrounded vowel, or low front unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. It is one of the eight primary cardinal vowels, not directly intended to correspond to a vowel sound of a specific language but rather to serve as a fundamental reference point in a phonetic measuring system.
The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) that represents this sound is ⟨a⟩, and in the IPA vowel chart it is positioned at the lower-left corner. However, the accuracy of the quadrilateral vowel chart is disputed, and the sound has been analyzed acoustically as extra-open at a position where the front/back distinction has lost its significance. There are also differing interpretations of the exact quality of the vowel: the classic sound recording of [a] by Daniel Jones is slightly more front but not quite as open as that by John Wells.
In practice, it is considered normal by many phoneticians to use the symbol ⟨a⟩ for an open central unrounded vowel and instead approximate the open front unrounded vowel with ⟨æ⟩ (which officially signifies a near-open front unrounded vowel). This is the usual practice, for example, in the historical study of the English language. The loss of separate symbols for open and near-open front vowels is usually considered unproblematic, because the perceptual difference between the two is quite small, and very few languages contrast the two. If there is a need to specify the backness of the vowel as fully front one can use the symbol ⟨æ?⟩, which denotes a lowered near-open front unrounded vowel.
Many languages have some form of an unrounded open vowel. For languages that have only a single open vowel, the symbol for this vowel ⟨a⟩ may be used because it is the only open vowel whose symbol is part of the basic Latin alphabet. Whenever marked as such, the vowel is closer to a central [ä] than to a front [a].
|Afrikaans||Standard||dak||[da?k]||'roof'||Near-front. See Afrikaans phonology|
|Arabic||Standard||||[ana:]||'I am'||See Arabic phonology|
|Azerbaijani||Standard||s?s||[s?æ?s?]||'sound'||Typically transcribed with ⟨æ⟩.|
|Chinese||Mandarin||? / ?n||'safe'||Allophone of /a/ before /n/. See Standard Chinese phonology|
|Dutch||Standard||aas||[a:s]||'bait'||Ranges from front to central. See Dutch phonology|
|Utrecht||bad||[bat]||'bath'||Corresponds to in Northern Standard Dutch. See Dutch phonology|
|English||Australian||hat||'hat'||See Australian English phonology|
|California||Less open in other North American varieties. See English phonology and Canadian Shift|
|Some Central Ohioan speakers|
|Some Texan speakers|
|Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg||Closer in General South African English. See South African English phonology|
|Received Pronunciation||See English phonology|
|East Anglian||palm||[p?a:m]||'palm'||Realized as central by middle-class speakers.|
|Inland Northern American||Less front [? ~ ä] in other American dialects. See Northern cities vowel shift|
|New Zealand||[p?a?:m]||Varies between open near-front [a?:], open central , near-open near-front and near-open central . May be transcribed in IPA with ⟨?:⟩. See New Zealand English phonology|
|French||Conservative Parisian||patte||[pat?]||'paw'||Contrasts with , but many speakers have only one open vowel (phonetically central ). See French phonology|
|Quebec||arrêt||[a]||'stopping'||Contrasts with . See Quebec French phonology|
|German||Altbayern accent||Wassermassen||['s?masn?]||'water masses'||Also illustrates the back , with which it contrasts. See Standard German phonology|
|Many Austrian accents||nah||[na:]||'near'||Less front in other accents. See Standard German phonology|
|Limburgish||Hamont dialect||paens||[pæ?:ns²]||'belly'||Contrasts with central and back ; may be transcribed in IPA with ⟨æ:⟩.|
|Many dialects||baas||[ba?:s]||'boss'||Near-front; realized as central in some other dialects. The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect.|
|Low German||dagg / dag||[dax]||'day'||Backness may vary among dialects.|
|Luxembourgish||Kap||[k?a?:p?]||'cap'||Near-front; sometimes fronted and raised to . See Luxembourgish phonology|
|Norwegian||Stavangersk||hatt||[hat]||'hat'||See Norwegian phonology|
|Polish||jajo||'egg'||Allophone of /a/ between palatal or palatalized consonants. See Polish phonology|
|Spanish||Eastern Andalusian||las madres||[læ 'mæ?:ð?]||'the mothers'||Corresponds to in other dialects, but in these dialects they're distinct. See Spanish phonology|
|Swedish||Central Standard||bank||[ba?k]||'bank'||The backness has been variously described as front [a], near-front [a?] and central . See Swedish phonology|
|West Frisian||Aastersk||kaaks||[ka:ks]||'ship's biscuit'||Contrasts with a back . See West Frisian phonology|