The monophthong chart was created by Daniel Jones, a British phonetician, in the early 20th century. Jones was an influential figure in the field of phonetics, and his chart has since become a widely used tool for describing and analyzing vowel sounds in various languages. The chart helps us determine the position of the tip of the tongue inside the mouth. Front vowels are found on the left side of the chart, and the tip of the tongue moves forward towards the front of the mouth. On the right side of the chart are back vowels, and the tip of the tongue pulls back.

The vertical axis represents the height of the tongue, with lower values indicating a more open jaw. Vowels that are closer to the roof of the mouth are considered close vowels, while those lower down are called open vowels.

While the monophthong chart isn't perfect, it can still provide a general approximation of the relative position of the tongue when comparing vowel sounds. For instance, the long vowel sound /iː/ requires the tongue to move further forward compared to the short vowel sound /ɪ/. It's important to note that the /ɪ/ sound is often mistakenly considered the short version of the /iː/ sound. However, the monophthong chart can reveal that the /ɪ/ sound is closer to the mid-central vowel sound, the schwa sound /ə/.

The monophthong chart isn't just used by linguists, but also by language learners, dialect coaches, and actors. So whether you're an aspiring actor or a language enthusiast, this chart can help you perfect your pronunciation.




Short vowel


Example words


Near-open front unrounded vowel

hat, cat, man, back


Near-close near-front unrounded vowel

king, fish, wind, still


Near-close near-back rounded vowel

good, should, hood, put

/ɛ/ (/e/)

Open-mid front unrounded vowel

egg, hen, red, pen


Open back rounded vowel

hot, rod, odd, bottle


Near-open central vowel

front, one but, run


Mid central vowel

butter, adapt, attract, bitter


Long vowel


Example words


Close front unrounded vowel

feel, heat, sheep, leap


Mid central vowel

earth, nurse, girl, learn


Mid-back rounded vowel

horse, course, torn, force


Close back rounded vowel

blue, moon, two, shoe


Open back unrounded vowel

park, car, heart, large


Study the monophthong chart in more detail: