According to phoneticians, a vowel is a speech sound that is produced without significantly restricting the airflow from the lungs. The tongue can be in a variety of postures and at a variety of heights in the mouth, including high, mid, and low (front, central, or back). There are several different lip shapes too while speaking. Vowels can differ in loudness and pitch.
Vowels may be regarded the most important aspect of language pronunciation, given that discrepancies in vowel pronunciation make it more challenging for speakers to understand one another. They are crucial for English’s rhythm in particular.
There are several ways to categorise vowels, and one of them is the frontness of articulation, which describes the region of the tongue that is utilised to enunciate the vowel.
When a certain vowel is uttered, the tongue is elevated to its highest point in the front, middle, or back of the mouth. For instance, the uppermost section of the tongue is in the front of the mouth while pronouncing the sound /ae/, as in “cat” (though the tongue is not raised much at all for this vowel).
Depending on how the frontness of the articulation is, we have three types of vowels:
- Front Vowels
- Central Vowels
- Back Vowels
We shall discuss about Central vowels in this article.
What are Central Vowels?
The central vowels, as their name suggests, are pronounced in the center of the mouth. The centre of the tongue is used to produce central vowels. To elaborate, all centre vowels are generated with the tongue’s body lifted toward the roof of the mouth at the point where the hard and soft palates converge. This placement is halfway between front and back vowels.
There are 5 types of central vowels:
- The first of the high vowels is /uː/ (as in food)
- The second high vowel is /ʊ/ as in good.
- The vowel made with mid tongue elevation is /ɔ:/ (as in caught).
- The vowel with the lowest tongue elevation is /ɑ:/ (as in palm).
- The final vowel with slightly higher tongue elevation and slightly retracted tongue position is the sound /ɒ/ (as cot, pot and lot)
Examples of Central Vowel Words
Following is list of examples of words with central vowels in English pronunciation: