The Close central unrounded vowel has two symbols in the IPA:

  • /ɨ/
  • /ï/

It appears (from my completely unscientific survey of having seen the symbols in use) that the former is the more common. What is the history of these two forms? Is one preferred? Is one antiquated?

  • I don't know about the history, but the reason /ï/ is possible is because the double-dot diacritic is used in the IPA to indicate centralization (this is the only way to indicate precisely a central /ä/ for example.) Usually it's preferred in phonemic transcription to use distinct IPA letters for phonemes rather than differentiating them by diacritics. – brass tacks Apr 23 '15 at 3:26
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    There's also the dotless i symbol that's used in writing Turkish. – Greg Lee Apr 23 '15 at 3:59
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    @GregLee. I think the question is about IPA, not about Turkish orthography. – fdb Apr 23 '15 at 12:37

Originally, the distinction was made between ɯ as a back unrounded vowel vs. ï as a "mixed" vowel. In 1932 (Copenhagen) there were substantial changes, indeed one could say that the old IPA was tossed out for something like the new IPA, and at that point ʉ ɨ were introduced for central vowels. At that point, diaresis was given its current status of marking "centralization", i.e. movement from the standard reference position to something closer to the center. So actually, ï is a centralized close unrounded front vowel, not a central vowel.

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