/ʌ/ – the UH Vowel.


/ʌ/ is a short vowel sound pronounced with the jaw mid to open, the tongue central or slightly back, and the lips relaxed:

As you can see from the examples, /ʌ/ is normally spelt with ‘u’, ‘o’ or a combination of these. The symbol /ʌ/ does not appear in the Roman alphabet, so in phonics UH is generally used to represent the sound.


Homophones with /ʌ/

Owing to the different spellings that produce /ʌ/, some words sound identical but are written differently (homophones):


LUV, BRUV & GUV

The dual spelling of /ʌ/ with ‘o’ and ‘u’ has led to the appearance of a few homophone abbreviations in colloquial English:

  1. LUV as in “Luv the shoes!”, is an alternative spelling of LOVE, though it has a slightly less powerful meaning.
  2. BRUV as in “Aight bruv, how’s things?” is an abbreviation of BROTHER, but more generally means ‘friend’ or ‘mate’.
  3. GUV as in “What time tomorrow, guv?” is an an abbreviation of GOVERNER, and means ‘boss’ or ‘sir’.

/ʌ/ in English Accents

Across the the north of England, most people do not use /ʌ/, it’s /ʊ/ instead: BUN /bʊn/, SHUT /ʃʊt/, NOTHING /ˈnʊθɪn/, LOVE /lʊv/, ENOUGH /ɪˈnʊf/, FLOOD /flʊd/, DOES /dʊz/.

You can hear this split in the following sentence in three northern accents (Yorkshire, Scouse & Geordie), and then in the same sentence in a southern accent containing /ʌ/:

The mouth position for /ʌ/ is more open and front in cockney, whilst it’s more open and back in old fashioned posh [ɑ]:


HUHUH-HUH, UHUH & UGH

/ʌ/ is found in several very common exclamations, which are normally imitated in spelling with the letters ‘uh’:

HUH /hʌ/ means “right?”
UH-HUH /ʌˈhʌ/ means “yes”
UHUHʌ ʌ/ means “no”
UGH [ʌx] shows disgust or horror:

Advice for Learners

/ʌ/is one of the more difficult vowel sounds for many second language learners of English to acquire. There are two reasons for this, and these indicate the areas to focus on when learning the sound:

  • Firstly, its mouth position is similar to two other sounds: /a/ and /ɑː/ so these need to be clearly distinguished:
  • Secondly, many words pronounced with /ʌ/ contain the same spellings as words pronounced with different, rounded vowel sounds:

This article uses English IPA symbols – learn each of them with pronunciation notesdiagrams and audio in Pronunciation Studio’s free Starter Pack.