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I need examples for English words which contain the sounds ɤ (close-mid back unrounded vowel) and ɐ (schwa, an unstressed neutral vowel). But I am not sure if there are such words at all. If there aren't, I'd like examples for words which contain similar sounds. As I don't understand phonetics well, I can't think of such words by myself. My best guess is to use words like duck, which to me sound very similar, but are actually written with ʌ.

Some background details for the question: I want to explain (in chat) to an English speaker (who reads Cyrillic, but doesn't speak Bulgarian) how the letter ъ is pronounced in Bulgarian. None of us has any education in phonetics. So while I have found out that it is pronounced as the close-mid back unrounded vowel ɤ when stressed and ɐ when not stressed, this doesn't mean anything to him.

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(Comment left before the edit:) This is off-topic here, please support the Linguistics proposal. Thanks. –  RegDwigнt May 20 '11 at 16:07
    
This is off-topic for EL&U, but a practical answer is to go find an audio clip that has the pronunciation and link it. –  MrHen May 20 '11 at 16:08
    
Although this is an extremely interesting question, it's off topic I guess. Anyway, are you asking about the твёрдый знак? –  Alenanno May 20 '11 at 16:10
    
I just re-read the faq. I suppose it is off-topic because of the "no other languages" rules. Does that mean that if I had asked "are there English words which include the ɤ sound" without providing details, it would have been on-topic? Because that's what my question boils down to. With the info I gave, you only need knowledge of the IPA to answer it, not knowledge of Bulgarian. –  rumtscho May 20 '11 at 16:13
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@rumtscho: actually it's off topic because it's more related to Linguistics, but if you can fix it in order to include English more, it will become on topic. –  Alenanno May 20 '11 at 16:19
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closed as off topic by Robusto, MrHen, Marthaª, Mitch, kiamlaluno May 21 '11 at 0:48

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1 Answer

up vote 12 down vote accepted

There are no words in English that have the vowel [ɤ] in them. The [ʌ] sound, like in "duck", is similar to [ɤ], but the sound is made in a slightly different place in the mouth. Generally, it is very difficult to instruct someone to articulate a vowel in a nearby, but unfamiliar, location in the mouth. Instead, it is better to look at a different English vowel that only differs from [ɤ] in a way that is easy for someone to perceive and articulate. For example, rounding of the lips is something that is easy for anyone to manipulate.

Aside from [ʌ], the vowel [ɤ] is also similar to the English vowel [o]; [o] is the close-mid back rounded vowel (while [ɤ] is close-mid back unrounded). This means that the only difference between [ɤ] and [o] is that for [o] the lips are rounded, and for [ɤ] the lips are unrounded (note the lips are also unrounded for e.g. English vowels [i] and [e]).

So, to pronounce [ɤ], I would instruct an English speaker to position their lips as if they are about to say [i] ("ee" sound), and then, without moving the lips, attempt to make an [o] sound.

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