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Vowels are sounds which are made on the most open stricture of approximation. Phonetically, vowels are classified in terms of the location of the constriction (front vs. back), the degree of opening (close vs. open) and whether there is lip rounding or not (rounded vs. unrounded). Apart from these basic distinctions vowel can contrast in duration (short vs. long), their conformational aspect (oral vs. nasal). The vowels in some languages also contrast in voice quality (modal vs. creaky). The videos on this page only demonstrate some of the more basic distinctions.

Symbols for the phonetic transcription of vowels

Phonetic symbol for the unrounded, close, front vowel.
Phonetic symbol for the close, rounded, front vowel.
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
UNROUNDED
CLOSE
ROUNDED
CLOSE
CLOSE
ROUNDED
CLOSE
UNROUNDED
FRONT
BACK
CLOSE - MID
UNROUNDED
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
CLOSE - MID
ROUNDED
CLOSE - MID
ROUNDED
CLOSE - MID
UNROUNDED
FRONT
BACK
FRONT
BACK
CLOSE
UNROUNDED
CLOSE
ROUNDED
OPEN - MID
UNROUNDED
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
OPEN - MID
ROUNDED
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
OPEN - MID
UNROUNDED
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
OPEN - MID
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
ROUNDED
FRONT
BACK
OPEN
UNROUNDED
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
OPEN
ROUNDED
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
OPEN
UNROUNDED
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
OPEN
Phonetic symbol for the voiced alveolar click.
ROUNDED
FRONT
BACK

The phonetics of vowels

 
 
 
 
 
UNROUNDED
CLOSE
HALF-CLOSE
HALF-OPEN
ROUNDED
UNROUNDED
ROUNDED
CLOSE
HALF-CLOSE
HALF-OPEN
OPEN
OPEN
FRONT
BACK