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A front vowel is any in a class of vowel sound used in some spoken languages, its defining characteristic being that the tongue is positioned as far in front as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would make it a consonant. Front vowels are sometimes also called bright vowels because they are perceived as sounding brighter than the back vowels.
Near-front vowels are essentially a type of front vowels; no language is known to contrast front and near-front vowels based on frontness alone.
Rounded front vowels are typically centralized, that is, near-front in their articulation. This is one reason they are written to the right of unrounded front vowels in the IPA vowel chart.
The front vowels that have dedicated symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet are:
There also are front vowels without dedicated symbols in the IPA:
As above, other front vowels can be indicated with diacritics of relative articulation applied to letters for neighboring vowels, such as ⟨i̞⟩, ⟨e̝⟩ or ⟨ɪ̟⟩ for a near-close front unrounded vowel.
In articulation, front vowels contrast with raised vowels and retracted vowels. In this conception, front vowels are a broader category than those listed in the IPA chart, including [ɪ ʏ], [ɨ ʉ], and, marginally, mid-central vowels. Raised or retracted vowels may be fronted by certain consonants, such as palatals and in some languages pharyngeals. For example, /a/ may be fronted to [æ] next to /j/ or /ħ/.
|Before back vowel: hard||Before front vowel: soft|
|English "C"||call [kɔːl]||cell [sɛl]|
|English "G"||gall [ɡɔːl]||gel [dʒɛl]|
|French "C"||calque [kalk]||cela [səla]|
|French "G"||gare [ɡɑʁ]||gel [ʒɛl]|
|Italian "C"||cara [kara]||ciao [tʃao̯]|
|Italian "G"||gallo [ɡalːo]||genere [ˈdʒɛnere]|
|Italian "SC"||scala [skala]||scena [ˈʃɛna]|
|Swedish "K"||karta [kɑːʈa]||kär [ɕæːr]|
|Swedish "G"||god [ɡuːd]||göra [jœːra]|
|Swedish "SK"||skal [skɑːl]||skäl [ɧɛːl]|
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