Training - Vowel Mutation ü

Welcome to our ü audio training. This is a special training for those people who do not have this phone in their own mother tongue (e.g. English).

We shall explain the similarities and differences to other vowels which you already know.

As already explained on the site Vowel Mutations under the topic Pronunciation/Phonetic Script, there are two ü phones:

  Script Letter   Examples  
         
long ü phone: [y, y:] ü, üh or y   grün (green)
Xylofon nt (xylophone)
         
short ü phone: ] ü or y   fünf (five)
Ypsilon nt (upsilon)
         

We shall concentrate on the long ü sound. If you look at the following table, you will see that the ü phone is a mixture between the German i and u.

Script   long i [i:]   long ü [y:]   long u [u:]
             
Roundedness   unrounded
(the lips are spread)
  rounded
(its roundedness is compressed, which means that the margins of the lips approach one another, so that the inner surfaces are not exposed)
  rounded
(its roundedness is protruded, which means that the corners of the lips are drawn together, and the inner surfaces exposed)
             
Backness   front
(the tongue is positioned as far forward as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant)
  front
(the tongue is positioned as far forward as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant)
  back
(the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant)
             
Height   close
(the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant)
  close
(the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant)
  close
(the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant)
             

Roundedness

Concerning the roundedness, the i is not rounded. However, if you compare ü and u, both phones are rounded. The only difference is that when you say ü, the margins of the lips only approach one another so that the inner surfaces are not exposed. When you say u, the corners of your lips are drawn together and the inner surfaces are exposed, which means that your inner lips are protruded.

 

Backness (of the tongue)

The German i and ü are both front vowels, which means that the tongue is positioned as far forward as possible in the mouth. The u phone is a back vowel, which means that the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth.

 

Height (of the tongue)

All three phones (i, ü and u) are close vowels, which means that the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.

All in all, we can summarize as follows:

 

Characteristics of the ü phone

  1. The margins of the lips approach one another without protruded lips.
  2. The tongue has the same position as during the articulation of the German i.

If we take these characteristics into consideration, then the easiest way for you to pronounce ü, will be to say i with round mouth.

At first, we shall start with saying a long German i. Click on i, listen and then repeat. Click on i again and say it yourself. Feel where your tongue is when you pronounce the German i. You might have noticed that the tip of your tongue is directly at the lower row of your teeth.

Now we say u. Repeat saying u. Click on u again, listen and repeat. You may have noticed that your tongue is at the very bottom and back part of your mouth.

In order to find the middle of both phones i and u, we shall now do something else. We will say i, go to u and then go back to i, but without stopping the vibrations of the vocal chords. This sounds as follows: i-u-i. Click i-u-i again, and repeat. Try to remember where your tongue is going and what your lips are doing. Again, click i-u-i. After this exercise, you may have noticed how your tongue moved backwards and down and while going back to i, you moved it back to the front at the lower row of your teeth. You also felt how your lips became round and then, while going back to i, spread again.

You will now hear the same exercise very slowly: i-u-i. Listen and repeat. This almost sounds like overtone singing. Click i-u-i again and repeat yourself, but still very slowly. If you listened very carefully, you may already have heard the ü. It is right in the middle of i and u. So, you may have heard the following: i-ü-u-ü-i. Click, listen and try you