Cardinal vowels are a set of reference vowels used by phoneticians in describing the sounds of languages. They are classified depending on the position of the tongue relative to the roof of the mouth, how far forward or back is the highest point of the tongue, and the position of the lips (rounded or unrounded).
A cardinal vowel is a vowel sound produced when the tongue is in an extreme position, either front or back, high or low. The current system was systematised by Daniel Jones in the early 20th century, though the idea goes back to earlier phoneticians, notably Ellis and Bell.
Table of cardinal vowels
Three of the cardinal vowels—[i], [ɑ] and [u]—have articulatory definitions. The vowel [i] is produced with the tongue as far forward and as high in the mouth as is possible (without producing friction), with spread lips. The vowel [u] is produced with the tongue as far back and as high in the mouth as is possible, with protruded lips. This sound can be approximate