Samuel Stutter, On 03/07/2011 13:12:
> I'm trying to transcribe the "u" vowel in words such as "but", "luck"
> and "done" in English dialects like those in the Greater Manchester
> area. As far as I can make out, all the papers on the subject write
> it as /ʊ/, although, to me, this doesn't appear to quite fit.

"/ʊ/" is simply the standard way, in the British tradition, of symbolizing the FOOT vowel phoneme. Worrying about the incongruity between (1) symbols chosen for phonemes and (2) the (symbols for the) phonetic realization of the phoneme often happens, but is largely a waste of time, done by incomprehenders, and a source of confusion (e.g. in the OED's current pronunciation symbols).

In Lancashire (which includes Manchester, *of course*), [ʊ] is by far the most frequent realization (unlike in the South), with some places with [ə] (NW), [o] (SW, = Liverpool) and [ɔ] (SE, maybe including Manchester).

> There appears to be a distinction between /ʊ/ and this vowel as
> between the "normal" and velarised /l/ in "light" and "dull". I'm
> almost certain it isn't a "different" vowel

If [ʊ] is to X as "light" L is to "dull" L, then I'd guess X is in the region of [u] or [o].

> (I've scoured vowel sound recordings, but none of the IPA transcribed
> ones come as close as /ʊ/).

To my ears (which may be unreliable), there is, between different online IPA vowel sound recordings, a mismatch of up to about half a unit (where the vowel space is three units high and two wide).