In the American Accent Training, it shows /ū/ (a line over u) is a tense vowel, and takes "smooth" as an example.

However, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, it should be [ˈsmüt͟h], and there is no any /ū/.

What is /ū/ on earth?

  • 7
    Different sources use different symbols. To decipher transcriptions in dictionaries, you need to look at a key.
    – herisson
    May 16, 2019 at 3:30
  • 1
    If you know what "smooth" sounds like, then you just need to go by that, and forget Merriam-Webster when you're working with your American Accent Training materials. // Take a look at English Language Learners. Very helpful site. May 16, 2019 at 4:33
  • Any accent training system that is not using IPA is a waste of time. May 16, 2019 at 12:50
  • @Cascabel I don't think so. Popular phonetic symbols, e.g., KK and DJ, are based on IPA, but not IPA. One more example, the phonetic symbol of Merriam-Webster dictionary is totally different from IPA. May 16, 2019 at 12:53
  • @chenzhongpu What?! KK and DJ are IPA. Or rather there's no single "the IPA". All transcriptions in IPA are by definition applications of IPA. See IPA Handbook, p. 30, particularly the last sentence.
    – Nardog
    May 16, 2019 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


Different publications use different conventions. If said book uses "ū" to mean the vowel in smooth, i.e. /uː/ or /u/ in IPA-based conventions, and \ü\ in Merriam-Webster, then it is. You can never expect a symbol in one source to represent the same thing in another.

Traditionally, though, "a", "e", "i", "o", or "u" with a macron above it meant "the sound of the name of the letter" in dictionaries from the 18th and 19th centuries. So "ū" in those old dictionaries corresponds to /juː/ or /ju/ in modern IPA conventions, and \yü\ in Merriam-Webster. But not "ū" in your book.


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