Aluminum oxynitride (AlON) is a nitrogen-stabilized defective spinel phase of alumina (y-Al2O3). Its structure has not been well understood so far. Solid-state27 Al magic-angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance and quantum chemistry calculation are used to characterize y-Al2O3 and AMON ceramics in the present study. The resonance spectra clearly show different units (e.g. [AlN4], [AlO4] and [AlO6]) and vary with composition. The calculation shows that the vacancy located at octahedral site is more stable than that located at the tetrahedral site, and nitrogen atoms preferentially replace oxygen atoms in the tetrahedral site, which is in agreement with the experimental analysis by nuclear magnetic resonance.