See this Standard IPA Vowel chart enter image description here


I am confused of the "Front", "Near-Front", "Central", "Near-Back", "Back" position of the tongue. If you draw a straight line from the position "Near-Front" down, you can see that the /ɛ/ in the "Near-Front" position. See the picture bellowed: enter image description here

But click on /ɛ/, it takes us to page saying it "Open-mid front unrounded vowel" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-mid_front_unrounded_vowel)

So, is /ɛ/ in "Front" or "Near-Front" position?

I think it is in "Front".

  • Imagine the "near front" line as slanting, the way the "front" and "central" lines are. – herisson Feb 4 '16 at 5:02

Vowels along the rightmost (slanted) line are front vowels. Those along the middle (also slanted) line are central vowels. Anything between them is a near-front vowel. The same principle works for near-back vowels - they are those between the central and the back lines. So I and Y are near-front, and ɯ̽ and ʊ are near-back.

This is because the shape of our mouth-cavity is not rectangular. The upper teeth (normally) overhang the lower teeth. This means that to be near the front of the top of the mouth is to be further forward than being near the front of the bottom of the mouth. You can probably feel this with your tongue. However this is only a figurative representation, and you could easily represent the mouth-cavity as a box, and then the naming would perhaps be more obvious.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.