In Romanian, there are currently two letters used for the /ɨ/ (i with bar) sound (close central unrounded vowel), namely "â" and "î" – there used to be other letters as well, in order to de show the ethimology of the word, like û,ê, etc.

However, this is somewhat at odds with Romanian orthography as we're a so called "phonetic language", aka, we write as we pronounce. So the goal is one letter for one sound.

Many people argue that the best letter to represent the /ɨ/ sound is "î". And, while I agree "î" is a good candidate, I don't see why "â" letter would not be a good candidate as well. Here is my reason:

/ɨ/, while not close to /a/ vowel sound, is actually close to /ə/ (mid central vowel) denoted in Romanian language by "ă" letter.

And, therefore, I don't think /ɨ/ is more close to /i/ than it is to /ə/

My question is: Are both lettrers a good candidate for the sound /ɨ/? Or does indeed only "î" make sense?

  • 2
    The main reason for having those two letters is having something like an <a> in the Romanian word “România” so that it remind the Latin word. If only <î> exists, then the word “Romînia” doesn't look really Roman. What I mean is that the reason is purely imperialistic, “our ancestry is great!”
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 6 at 14:22
  • @YellowSky This is exactly what I'm writing about. Nobody seems to take into account the possibility of only having "â", and get rid of "î". Why? I've heard phonetic arguments. That î and i alternate. But so do â and ă (e.g urât/urăsc)
    – Dan
    Mar 7 at 10:01
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Agreed! You're the first one I've seen to take the defence of â. And I like it! Since I never understood why favor "î"?
    – Dan
    Mar 7 at 10:02
  • @JanusBahsJacquet In my question is double. One one hand, it's about sounds: Is /ɨ/ more close /i/ than it is to /ə/? Based on that answer, the final question is if /ɨ/ (sound, I use slashes to denote sounds, AFAIK, IPA does) should be represented by "â" or "î" (notice here it's about letters)
    – Dan
    Mar 7 at 14:55
  • @JanusBahsJacquet because if /ɨ/ sound is closer to /i/ sound; maybe we should use "î" letter for that sound. One the other hand, maybe there are good reasons to use "â" letter to denote the sound because /ə/ and /ɨ/ are also close
    – Dan
    Mar 7 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


Historically speaking Romanian /ɨ/ evolved from /ə/, and there are very few words where they contrast. Hence I would suggest â to emphasise the connection with ă.

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