Open-mid central unrounded vowel

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Open-mid central unrounded vowel
IPA number 326
Entity (decimal) ɜ
Unicode (hex) U+025C
Kirshenbaum V"
Braille ⠲ (braille pattern dots-256) ⠜ (braille pattern dots-345)

The open-mid central unrounded vowel, or low-mid central unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɜ⟩. Note that the IPA symbol is not the digit ⟨3⟩ nor Cyrillic small letter Ze (which arose from the Greek letter zeta, Ζ ζ), but a reversed Latinized variant of the lowercase epsilon, ɛ. The value of this letter was specified only in 1993; before that, it was transcribed ⟨ɛ̈⟩.

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".


IPA vowel chart
Front Near-​front Central Near-​back Back
Blank vowel trapezoid.svg
Paired vowels are: unrounded • rounded
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IPA help • IPA key • chart • Loudspeaker.svg chart with audio • view


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
English Received Pronunciation[1] bird [bɜːd] 'bird' Sulcalized (the tongue is grooved like in [ɹ]). 'Upper Crust RP' speakers pronounce a more open vowel [ɐː], but for most other speakers it's actually mid ([ɜ̝ː]). This vowel corresponds to rhotacized [ɝ] in rhotic dialects.
Norfolk[2] bet [bɜ̟ʔ] 'bet' Somewhat fronted,[2] corresponds to /ɛ/ in other dialects.
Great Lakes region [bɜ̟ˀt] Corresponds to /ɛ/ in other dialects, may be near-open central [ɐ] instead. See Northern Cities Vowel Shift
Ohio[3] bust [bɜst] 'bust' The most common realization of the vowel transcribed as ⟨ʌ⟩ in American English. Nevertheless, it is not a standard pronunciation throughout the whole country.[1][3]
Most of Texas[3]
Northern Welsh[4] Some speakers.[4] Corresponds to [ə] (or a further back vowel) in other Welsh dialects.[5]
Scottish[6] [bɜ̠st] Somewhat retracted; may be more back [ʌ] instead.
German Chemnitz dialect[7] passe [ˈpɜsə] 'I pass' Typically transcribed in IPA as ⟨ʌ⟩. See Chemnitz dialect phonology
Jebero[8] [ˈkɘnmɜʔ] 'indigenous person' Allophone of /a/ in closed syllables.[8]
Kaingang[9] [ˈɾɜ] 'mark' Varies between central [ɜ] and back [ʌ].[10]
Ladin Some dialects Urtijëi About this sound [uχt̪iˈʒɜj]  'Urtijëi'
Mapudungun[11] füta [ˈfɘtɜ] 'elderly person' Unstressed allophone of /ɐ/.[11]
Northern Tiwa Taos dialect [ʔɜ̃̄mˈpʊ̄i̯ˌwæ̀ˑʔɪ̄nã̄] 'his friends' Allophone of /æ/ and /ɑ/. See Taos phonology
Paicî [mbʷɜ̄] 'remainder'
Romanian Standard[12] măr [mɜ̠r] 'apple' Somewhat retracted;[12] also described as mid [ə]. See Romanian phonology
Transylvanian dialects[13] a [aˈʂɜ] 'such' Corresponds to [ä] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
Vietnamese Southern bên [ˀɓɜːn˧˥] 'side' Allophone of /e/ before /t, n/. See Vietnamese phonology
Xumi Upper[14] [Rbɜ] 'pot, pan'
Yiddish Standard[15] ענלעך [ˈɛnlɜχ] 'similar' Unstressed vowel.[15] See Yiddish phonology


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ladefoged (1993:82)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lodge (2009:168)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Thomas (2001:27–28)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Tench, Paul (1990). "The Pronunciation of English in Abercrave". In Coupland, Nikolas (ed.). English in Wales: Diversity, Conflict, and Change. Multilingual Matters. ISBN 9781853590313.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Wells (1982:380–381)
  6. Lodge (2009:167)
  7. Khan & Weise (2013:236)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Valenzuela & Gussenhoven (2013:101)
  9. Jolkesky (2009:676–677 and 682)
  10. Jolkesky (2009:676 and 682)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Sadowsky et al. (2013:92)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Sarlin (2014:18)
  13. Pop (1938:30)
  14. Chirkova, Chen & Kocjančič Antolík (2013:388)
  15. 15.0 15.1 Kleine (2003:263)


  • Chirkova, Katia; Chen, Yiya; Kocjančič Antolík, Tanja (2013), "Xumi, Part 2: Upper Xumi, the Variety of the Upper Reaches of the Shuiluo River" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 43 (3): 381–396, doi:10.1017/S0025100313000169<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Jolkesky, Marcelo Pinho de Valhery (2009), "Fonologia e prosódia do Kaingáng falado em Cacique Doble", Anais do SETA, Campinas: Editora do IEL-UNICAMP, 3: 675–685<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Khan, Sameer ud Dowla; Weise, Constanze (2013), "Upper Saxon (Chemnitz dialect)" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 43 (2): 231–241, doi:10.1017/S0025100313000145<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Kleine, Ane (2003), "Standard Yiddish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 33 (2): 261–265, doi:10.1017/S0025100303001385<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ladefoged, Peter (1993), A course in phonetics (3rd ed.), Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lodge, Ken (2009), A Critical Introduction to Phonetics, ISBN 978-0-8264-8873-2<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Pop, Sever (1938), Micul Atlas Linguistic Român, Muzeul Limbii Române Cluj<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Roach, Peter (2004), "British English: Received Pronunciation", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (2): 239–245, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001768<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Sadowsky, Scott; Painequeo, Héctor; Salamanca, Gastón; Avelino, Heriberto (2013), "Mapudungun", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 43 (1): 87–96, doi:10.1017/S0025100312000369<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Sarlin, Mika (2014), Romanian Grammar, Helsinki: Books on Demand GmbH, ISBN 978-952-286-898-5<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Thomas, Erik R. (2001), An acoustic analysis of vowel variation in New World English, Publication of the American Dialect Society, 85, Duke University Press for the American Dialect Society, ISSN 0002-8207<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Valenzuela, Pilar M.; Gussenhoven, Carlos (2013), "Shiwilu (Jebero)" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 43 (1): 97–106, doi:10.1017/S0025100312000370<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Wells, John C. (1982), Accents of English, 2: The British Isles, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>