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A front vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a front vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far forward as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. The front vowels identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:
- close front unrounded vowel [i]
- close front rounded vowel [y]
- close-mid front unrounded vowel [e]
- close-mid front rounded vowel [ø]
- open-mid front unrounded vowel [ɛ]
- open-mid front rounded vowel [œ]
- near-open front unrounded vowel [æ]
- open front unrounded vowel [a]
- open front rounded vowel [ɶ]
In some languages, the open front vowels do not pattern or group with the other front vowels in their phonologies.
Effect on preceding consonant
In the phonology of many Indo-European languages, front vowels have a special effect on certain preceding palatal consonants, bringing them forward to alveolar or postalveolar consonant sounds. This is not unique to Indo-European — similar effects can be observed in other languages including Japanese. See also palatalization.
Before back vowel: hard Before front vowel: soft English "C" call (/k/all) cell (/s/ell) English "G" gall (/g/all) gel (/dʒ/ell) French "C" calque (/k/alk) celà (/s/ə-la) French "G" gare (/g/Ar) gel (/ʒ/el) Italian "C" cara (/k/A-ra) ciao (/ʧ/AH-oh) Italian "G" gallo (/g/AL-lo) genere (/ʤ/en-EH-reh) Swedish "K" karta (/k/AR-TA) kär (/ʃ/æhr)
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