The IPA symbol /ʌ/ name is "open-mid back unrounded vowel" and the IPA vowel trapezoid shows it as the unrounded version of /ɔ/, but its sound in English sounds very different from [ɔ] to me. It sounds to me identical to [ɜ] (open-mid central unrounded vowel). Am I listening right? If so, why are 2 different IPA symbols used for identical sounds?

Example: [ɜ] in search [sɜ:t͡ʃ] (RP English) (https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/search) vs [ʌ] in butter [bʌɾɚ] (https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/butter). I would compare the GA English pronunciation of "search" but I have been already told that ɜ is pronounced differently in that word in GA English.

  • 1
    The IPA symbol /ʌ/ has not been changed since it was first assigned to that vowel. The vowel has changed. Further, it differs quite a bit in American and British English. There are some British songs where it sounds like very much like [ɑ] to me. Of course, in British English, /ɑː/ is longer, so people can distinguish them that way (unless you're singing). – Peter Shor Jul 2 '19 at 13:33
  • Your examples of search and butter sound like different vowels to me. Of course, that British pronunciation of search is probably not using the IPA [ɜ:], while that American pronunciation of butter is also probably not using IPA [ʌ]. – Peter Shor Jul 2 '19 at 15:06
  • Take a look at this IPA vowel chart from Wikipedia. It's a little farther back than and a little below central, according to Wikipedia. (But it varies a lot.) – Peter Shor Jul 2 '19 at 18:42
  • @PeterShor It never has been there (I believe)! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 2 '19 at 21:46
  • 1
    In terms of the STRUT vowel, /ʌ/, it is indeed nowadays a central vowel and would be transcribed in IPA proper as [ ɐ ] - definitely not [ ʌ ] (although as has been mentioned there is a reasonable amount of variation in its realisations). – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 3 '19 at 14:55

Your Answer

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

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.