I know that the diacritic ̈ is for centralization and ̞ for lowered. So when [e] is centralized, it becomes [ɘ] and when lowered it becomes [ə]. See the diagram:

enter image description here

If someone gives me the transcription [ë̞] (centralized and lowered [e]), how should I know which sound it is? I saw this in a textbook. The book said "anyone who is well-versed in IPA will know what sound [ë̞] is" I read the whole chapter but they didn't tell what sound it was.

When someone gives [ë̞], how do linguists pronounce it? Is it [ə]? I know that mixing diacritics can get you another sound for which IPA already has another symbol.


  • is [ï] another symbol for [ɨ]? and
  • [ɛ̈] for [ɜ]?
  • I am not asking multiple questions, but the main point is one: when one vowel gets centralized, it becomes the other?
    – user30668
    Commented Jan 24, 2021 at 10:01

3 Answers 3


Typically linguists use such diacritics when the sound they're describing is in between the sounds associated with unmodified base glyphs of the IPA. So I would not expect the author to write [ë̞] to represent the same sound as [ə], but rather a sound intermediate between [e] and [ə]


I agree with @drammock and would add this. IPA is really a phonetically-based system of phonological symbolization. When a person write a certain sound of a language as [ɪ] or [e], that is in part a statement about what the vowel sounds like, where [ɪ] or [e] represent approximate targets. There is substantial variation in the formants of [ɪ] or [e] across languages that have those values, so that [ë] is a statement that in a token, [e] is centralized relative to a standard value. That might be "Expert IPA productions", or it might be and more often is "relative to canonical value in this language". Therefore [ë̞] might be a sensible thing to write for a contextual variant of /e/ especially when /ə/ is itself a bit off the IPA-expert standard.


Phonetic transcription is an example of cooperative communication. As such, it follows from the maxim of quantity, that if someone is using [ë̞] there must not have been a simpler transcription that adequately describes the phone in question

Therefore the choice of this particular transcription tells us that [e] is likely the closest cardinal vowel to the phone, but that the phone is more central and lower than cardinal [e]

In a loose or phonemic transcription, it'd be possible that [e] isn't the closest cardinal vowel, and was chosen to show some other information (possibly this vowel patterns with front vowels rather than central ones, or maybe it results from a recent split with genuine [e]), but as this is in square brackets I am assuming we are speaking purely in phonetic terms here

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.