The open back rounded vowel, or low back rounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. Acoustically, it is a near-open or near-low back rounded vowel. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɒ⟩. It is called "turned script a", being a rotated version of "script (cursive) a", which is the variant of a that lacks the extra stroke on top of a "printed a". Turned script a ⟨ɒ⟩ has its linear stroke on the left, whereas "script a" ⟨ɑ⟩ (for its unrounded counterpart) has its linear stroke on the right.
A well-rounded [ɒ] is rare, but it is found in some varieties of English. In most languages with this vowel, such as English and Persian, the rounding of [ɒ] is slight, and in English at least, it is sulcal or "grooved". However, according to Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), Assamese has an "over-rounded" [ɒ̹], with rounding as strong as that for [u].
According to the phonetician Geoff Lindsey, ⟨ɒ⟩ may be an entirely superfluous IPA symbol, as the sound it represents is far too similar to the open-mid back rounded vowel [ɔ], which makes it unlikely that any language would contrast these two vowels phonemically. He also writes that the contemporary Standard Southern British (SSB) accent lacks [ɒ], having replaced it with the more common [ɔ] (a realization that is also found in e.g. Australia,New Zealand and Scotland), and advocates for transcribing this vowel with the symbol ⟨ɔ⟩ in SSB.
This is not to be understood as /ɒ/ having the same quality as /ɔː/ (which Lindsey transcribes with ⟨oː⟩), as the latter vowel is true-mid [ɔ̝ː] in SSB, a pronunciation that was established decades ago. Lindsey also says that more open variants of /ɒ/ used formerly in SSB are satisfyingly represented by the symbols [ɔ̞] and [ɑ] in narrow phonetic transcription, and ⟨ɔ⟩ in phonemic/broad phonetic transcription. According to him, the endless repetition of the symbol ⟨ɒ⟩ in publications on BrE has given this vowel a familiarity out of all proportion to its scarcity in the world’s languages.
Its vowel height is open, also known as low, which means the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth – that is, as low as possible in the mouth.
Its vowel backness is back, which means the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Unrounded back vowels tend to be centralized, which means that often they are in fact near-back.
It is rounded, which means that the lips are rounded rather than spread or relaxed.
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