International Phonetic Alphabet

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Not to be confused with the NATO phonetic alphabet, which has also informally been called the “International Phonetic Alphabet”.
For information on how to read IPA transcriptions of English words, see IPA chart for English.
International Phonetic Alphabet
Type: Alphabet
Languages: Reserved for phonetic transcription of any language
Time period: 1888 to the present
Parent writing systems: Romic Alphabet
 Phonotypic Alphabet
  International Phonetic Alphabet
Image:IPA in IPA.png 
The International
Phonetic Alphabet
Nonstandard symbols
Extended IPA
Naming conventions
IPA for English

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)<ref>Laver, John (1994). Principles of Phonetics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 561. ISBN 0-521-45031-4 (hb); ISBN 0-521-45655-X (pb). “The acronym ‘IPA’ strictly refers…to the ‘International Phonetic Association’. But it is now such a common practice to use the acronym also to refer to the alphabet itself (from the phrase ‘International Phonetic Alphabet’) that resistance seems pedantic. Context usually serves to disambiguate the two usages.”</ref> is a system of phonetic notation devised by linguists. It is intended to provide a standardized, accurate and unique way of representing the sounds of any spoken language,<ref name="IPA 1999">International Phonetic Association (1999). Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-65236-7 (hb); ISBN 0-521-63751-1 (pb).</ref> and is used, often on a day-to-day basis, by linguists, speech pathologists and therapists, foreign language teachers, lexicographers and translators.<ref name="world">MacMahon, Michael K. C. (1996). “Phonetic Notation”, P. T. Daniels and W. Bright (eds.): The World’s Writing Systems. New York: Oxford University Press, 821–846. ISBN 0-19-507993-0.</ref> In its unextended form (as of 2005) it has approximately 107 base symbols and 55 modifiers.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

The symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet are divided into three categories: letters, diacritics, and suprasegmentals (symbols that indicate such things as the tone and inflection of a spoken utterance). These categories are then divided into smaller sections. For example, letters are divided into vowels and consonants, and diacritics and suprasegmentals are divided according to whether they indicate articulation, phonation, tone, intonation, or stress.<ref name="IPA 1999" /> From time to time, symbols are added, removed, and modified by the International Phonetic Association.

Although the IPA is meant to represent only those qualities of speech that are relevant to language itself (such as tongue position, manner of articulation, and the separation and accentuation of words and syllables),<ref name="IPA 1999" /> an extended set of symbols called Extended IPA has been created by phonologists to record qualities of speech that have no direct effect on meaning (such as tooth-gnashing, lisping, and sounds made by people with a cleft)<ref name="world" />.


[edit] History

Main article: History of the IPA
Image:IPA chart 2005.png
A diagram explaining the International Phonetic Alphabet.

The development of the IPA began in 1886, when a group of French and British language teachers, led by the French linguist Paul Passy, formed what would come to be known as the International Phonetic Association. Two years after its formation, the International Phonetic Association released the first official version of the IPA, which was based upon the Romic alphabet of Henry Sweet,<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref><ref>Sweet, Henry (1971). Henderson, Eugénie J. A. (ed.): The indispensable foundation: A selection from the writings of Henry Sweet. London: Oxford University Press.</ref> which in turn was formed from the Phonotypic Alphabet of Isaac Pitman and Alexander John Ellis.<ref>Kelly, John (1981). “The 1847 alphabet: An episode of phonotypy”, R. E. Asher and E. J. A. Henderson (eds.): Towards a history of phonetics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-85224-374-X.</ref> Since its creation, the organization of vowels and consonants has largely remained the same.

However, the alphabet itself has undergone a few revisions. The IPA Kiel Convention in 1989 made many changes to the earlier 1932 version. A minor revision took place in 1993, with the addition of the mid-central vowel [ɜ] and the removal of symbols for voiceless implosives,<ref name=Pullum>Pullum, Geoffrey K., William Allen Ladusaw (1996). Phonetic Symbol Guide. University of Chicago Press, 152 & 209. ISBN 0-226-68535-7.</ref> and the alphabet was last revised in May 2005, when a symbol for the labiodental flap was added.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Apart from the addition and removal of symbols, changes to the IPA have consisted largely in renaming symbols and categories, and modifying typefaces.<ref name="world" />

Extensions of the alphabet are relatively recent; the Extended IPA was first created in 1991 and revised to 1997. Also, the VoQS (Voice Quality Symbols) were proposed in 1995 to provide a system for more detailed transcription of voice production.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

[edit] Description

The general principle of the IPA is to provide one symbol for each sound (or speech segment). This means that the IPA does not use letter combinations unless the sound being represented can be regarded as a sequence of two or more sounds. (In contrast, English sometimes uses combinations of two letters to represent single sounds, such as the digraphs sh and th for the sounds [ʃ] and [θ], respectively.) The IPA also does not usually have separate letters for two sounds if no known language makes a distinction between them,<ref name="exception">The famous exception to this is the open front rounded vowel [ɶ], which is not distinguished from the open-mid front rounded vowel [œ] in any known language.[citation needed]</ref> and it does not use letters that represent multiple sounds, the way <x> represents the double consonant [ks] in English. Additionally, the IPA does not use letters whose sound value is context-dependent, such as c in English.

[edit] Selectiveness

The IPA is an example of what is known to linguists as a selective phonetic alphabet.<ref name="world"/> This means that it usually does not have separate symbols for two sounds if there does not exist a language in which these two sounds are contrasted with one another.<ref name="exception"/> In other words, it aims to provide a separate symbol for every contrastive (or phonemic) sound occurring in human language.

For instance, flaps and taps are two different kinds of articulation, but since no language has (yet) been found to make a distinction between, say, an alveolar flap and an alveolar tap, the IPA does not provide such sounds with dedicated symbols. Instead, it provides a single symbol (in this case, [ɾ]) for both sounds.

[edit] Letterforms

The symbols chosen for the IPA are meant to harmonize with the Latin alphabet.<ref name="IPA 1949">International Phonetic Association (1949). The principles of the International Phonetic Association, being a description of the International Phonetic Alphabet and the manner of using it, illustrated by texts in 51 languages. London: University College, Department of Phonetics. “The non-roman letters of the International Phonetic Alphabet have been designed as far as possible to harmonize well with the roman letters. The Association does not recognise makeshift letters; It recognises only letters which have been carefully cut so as to be in harmony with the other letters.”</ref> For this reason, most symbols are either Latin or Greek letters, or modifications thereof. However, there are symbols that are neither: for example, the symbol denoting the glottal stop [ʔ] has the form of a “gelded” question mark, and was originally an apostrophe.<ref>The symbol was changed because the apostrophe did not seem to have sufficient “visual impact”.[citation needed]</ref><ref>Technically, the symbol [ʔ] could be considered Latin-derived, since the question mark may have originated as “Qo”, an abbreviation of the Latin word quæstio, “question”.</ref> Indeed, some symbols, such as that of the pharyngeal fricative [ʕ], though modified to look more Latin, were inspired by glyphs in other writing systems (in this case, the Arabic letter <>‎, `ain).<ref name=Pullum/>

Despite its preference for letters that harmonize with the Latin alphabet, the International Phonetic Association has occasionally admitted symbols that seem to have nothing to do with Roman letters. For example, prior to 1989, the IPA symbols for click consonants were [​ʘ​], [​ʇ​], [​ʗ​], and [​ʖ​], all of which are clearly derived from Latin and Greek letters, as well as punctuation marks. However, except for [ʘ], none of these symbols was reflective of contemporary practice among Khoisanists (who use symbols for click consonants the most frequently). As a result, they were replaced by the more iconic symbols [​ʘ​], [​ǀ​], [​ǃ​], [​ǂ​], and [​ǁ​] at the 1989 convention of the International Phonetic Association in Kiel.<ref>Laver, John. op. cit., 174–175</ref>

[edit] Symbols and sounds

The sound-values of most consonants taken from the Latin alphabet correspond roughly to those of French, and are also close to those of most other European languages (including English): these consonants are [b], [d], [f], (hard) [g], [k], [l], [m], [n], [p], (voiceless) [s], [t], [v], and [z]. The other consonants from the Latin alphabet, [c], [h], [j], [q], [r], [w], [x], and [y], correspond to the sounds these letters represent in various other languages:

IPA as pronounced in
[c] IAST transliteration of Sanskrit, Irish (in some contexts)
[h] English, most Germanic languages
[j] most Germanic and Slavic languages
[q] Quechua (and Arabic transliteration)
[r] Italian and Spanish
[w] English
[x] Russian <х> in the Cyrillic alphabet
[y] German, Old English and the Scandinavian languages;
Ancient Greek <Υ> (upsilon);

The vowels from the Latin alphabet ([a], [e], [i], [o], [u]) correspond to the vowels of Spanish and are similar to those of Italian. [i] is like the vowel in piece, [u] is as in rule, etc.

Symbols derived from the Greek alphabet include [β], [ɣ], [ɛ], [θ], [ʋ], [ɸ], and [χ]. Of these, the only ones that closely correspond to the Greek letters they are derived from are [ɣ] and [θ]. [β], [ɛ], [ɸ], and [χ] denote beta-like, epsilon-like, phi-like, and chi-like sounds, but do not correspond to them exactly. [ʋ] represents a u-like sound, but is otherwise fairly distant from the original Greek letter <υ>, upsilon.

The sound-values of modifications of Latin letters can usually be derived from those of the original letters. For example, letters with a rightward-facing hook at the bottom represent retroflex consonants; and small capital letters usually represent uvular consonants. Apart from the fact that certain kinds of modification to the shape of a letter correspond to certain kinds of modification to the sound represented, there is no way to deduce the sound represented by a symbol from the shape of the symbol (unlike in Visible Speech).

Beyond the letters themselves, there are a variety of secondary symbols which aid in transcription. Diacritic marks can be combined with IPA letters to transcribe modified phonetic values or secondary articulations. There are also special symbols for suprasegmental features such as stress and tone that are often employed.

[edit] Usage

Further information: Phonetic transcription

Although at first the IPA may seem too precise to offer much choice in how to transcribe speech, there is in fact a variety of ways to do so. At one end of the spectrum is narrow transcription, in which every feature of every sound is specified, down to the dialect and speech habits of the individual speaker. At the other end of the spectrum is broad transcription, which attempts to provide just enough detail to allow for variations among different speakers’ pronunciation of the same utterance. In either case, the transcription is generally enclosed in brackets.<ref name="IPA_1999"/>

One kind of broad transcription is known as phonemic transcription, and is usually enclosed in slashes. In this kind of transcription, the same letter is used for two sounds if the particular language being transcribed does not make a distinction between them. (This is a kind of “local selectiveness”.) For example, the American pronunciation of the English word “little” may be transcribed using the IPA as /lɪtl/ (phonemically) or [lɪɾɫ] (narrowly). The broad, phonemic transcription, placed between slashes, indicates merely that the word ends with phoneme /l/, and does not bother to indicate the velarity of this consonant, as this detail is irrelevant insofar as the meaning of the word is concerned. On the other hand, the narrow, allophonic transcription, placed between square brackets, specifies that this final /l/ is dark (velarized) when realized.

[edit] Use in dictionaries

Many British English dictionaries, such as the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary and the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, now use the International Phonetic Alphabet to represent the pronunciation of words. However, most American (and some British) volumes use conventions designed to be more intuitive for readers yet unfamiliar with the IPA. For example, the pronunciation-representation systems in many American dictionaries (such as Merriam-Webster<ref> (1999) Michael Agnes: Webster's New World College Dictionary. New York, NY: Macmillan USA, xxiii. ISBN 0-02-863119-6.</ref>) use “y” for IPA [j] and “sh” for IPA [ʃ], reflecting common representations of those sounds in written English. (In IPA, [y] represents the sound of the German ü, and [sh] represents the pair of sounds in grass hut.)

One of the benefits of using an alternative to the IPA is the ability to use a single symbol for a sound pronounced differently in different dialects. For example, the American Heritage Dictionary uses ŏ for the vowel in cot (kŏt) but ô for the one in caught (kôt).<ref> "Pronunciation Key". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). (2000). Ed. Pickett, Joseph P. et al. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-82517-2. Retrieved on 2006-09-19.</ref> American regional dialects without the caught-cot merger generally pronounce cŏt like IPA [kʰat] (with an open central unrounded vowel) and côt like IPA [kʰɒt] (with an open back rounded vowel), whereas those with the merger pronounce the vowels ŏ and ô the same way (for example, like IPA [ɒ] in the Boston dialect). Using one symbol for the vowel in cot (instead of having different symbols for different pronunciations of the o) enables the dictionary to provide meaningful pronunciations for speakers of most dialects of English.

The IPA is also not universal among dictionaries in other countries and languages. Mass-market Czech multilingual dictionaries, for instance, tend to use the IPA only for sounds not found in the Czech language. <ref>Fronek, J. [2006]. Velký anglicko-český slovník (in Czech). Praha: Leda. ISBN 80-7335-022-X. “In accordace with long-established Czech lexicographical tradition, a modified version of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is adopted in which letters of the Czech alphabet are employed.”</ref>

[edit] Educational initiative

There is some interest in using native speakers to produce sound and video files of sufficient breadth to completely demonstrate all the speech sounds covered by the IPA. Such a project would encompass a large subset of the world's languages. This would aid linguistic and anthropologic research, as well as help teach language learning. Specifically, the development of a reference standard using the IPA (mirroring the idea of the Rosetta Stone) could be used in order to preserve intact examples of the sounds of human language. For education, the IPA can help standardize resources which prepare students and very young children (ages 6-36 months) for universal language acquisition through familiarization and subsequent imitation of the breadth of human speech sounds.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

[edit] Letters

The International Phonetic Alphabet divides its symbols into three categories: pulmonic consonants, non-pulmonic consonants, and vowels.

[edit] Consonants (pulmonic)

Main article: Consonant

A pulmonic consonant is a consonant made by obstructing the glottis or oral cavity and either simultaneously or subsequently letting out air from the lungs. Pulmonic consonants make up the majority of consonants in the IPA, as well as in human language. All consonants in the English language fall into this category.<ref>Fromkin, Victoria, Rodman, Robert [1974] (1998). An Introduction to Language, 6th edition, Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.</ref>

The pulmonic consonant table, which includes most consonants, is arranged in rows that designate manner of articulation, meaning how the consonant is produced, and columns that designate place of articulation, meaning where in the vocal tract the consonant is produced. The main chart includes only consonants with a single place of articulation.

View this table as an image.
Place of articulation Labial Coronal Dorsal Radical (none)
Manner of articulation Bi­la­bial La­bio‐
Den­tal Al­veo­lar Post‐
Pa­la­tal Ve­lar Uvu­lar Pha­ryn‐
Nasal    m    ɱ    n    ɳ    ɲ    ŋ</span>    ɴ  
Plosive p b * * t d ʈ ɖ c ɟ k ɡ q ɢ   ʡ ʔ  
Fricative ɸ β f v θ ð s z ʃ ʒ ʂ ʐ ç ʝ x ɣ χ ʁ ħ ʕ ʜ ʢ h ɦ
Approx­imant    β̞    ʋ    ɹ    ɻ    j    ɰ      
Trill    ʙ    r    *    ʀ    *  
Tap or Flap    ѵ̟    ѵ    ɾ    ɽ          *  
Lateral Fricative ɬ ɮ *    *    *       
Lateral Approx­imant    l    ɭ    ʎ    ʟ  
Lateral Flap      ɺ    *    *    *    


  • Asterisks (*) mark reported sounds that do not (yet) have official IPA symbols. See the articles for ad hoc symbols found in the literature.
  • Daggers (†) mark IPA symbols that do not yet have official Unicode support. Since May 2005, this is the case of the labiodental flap, symbolized by a right-hook v: Image:Labiodental flap (Gentium).png [1]. In the meantime the similarly shaped izhitsa (ѵ) is used here.
  • In rows where some symbols appear in pairs (the obstruents), the symbol to the right represents a voiced consonant (except breathy-voiced [ɦ]). However, [ʔ] cannot be voiced. In the other rows (the sonorants), the single symbol represents a voiced consonant.
  • Although there is a single symbol for the coronal places of articulation for all consonants but fricatives, when dealing with a particular language, the symbols are treated as specifically alveolar, post-alveolar, etc., as appropriate for that language.
  • Shaded areas indicate articulations judged to be impossible.
  • The symbols [ʁ, ʕ, ʢ] represent either voiced fricatives or approximants.
  • It is primarily the shape of the tongue rather than its position that distinguishes the fricatives [ʃ ʒ], [ɕ ʑ], and [ʂ ʐ].

[edit] Coarticulation

Coarticulated consonants are sounds in which two individual consonants are pronounced at the same time. In English, the [w] in “went” is a coarticulated consonant, as the lips are rounded while the back of the tongue is raised simultaneously. Other languages, such as French and Swedish, have different coarticulated consonants.

View this table as an image
ʍ Voiceless labialized velar approximant
w Voiced labialized velar approximant
ɥ Voiced labialized palatal approximant
ɕ Voiceless palatalized postalveolar (alveolo-palatal) fricative
ʑ Voiced palatalized postalveolar (alveolo-palatal) fricative
ɧ Voiceless "palatal-velar" fricative


  • [ɧ] is described as a “simultaneous [ʃ] and [x]”.<ref>Ladefoged, Peter, Maddieson, Ian (1996). The sounds of the world's languages. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 329–330. “The most well-known case [of a possible multiply-articulated fricative] is the Swedish segment that has been described as a doubly-articulated voiceless palato-alveolar-velar fricative, i.e., [ʃ͡x]. The IPA even goes so far as to provide a separate symbol for this sound on its chart, namely <ɧ>.”</ref> However, this analysis is disputed. See voiceless palatal-velar fricative for discussion.

[edit] Affricates and double articulation

Affricates and doubly articulated stops are represented by two symbols joined by a tie bar, either above or below the symbols. The six most common affricates are optionally represented by ligatures, though this is no longer official IPA usage, due to the great number of ligatures that would be required to represent all affricates this way. A third affricate transcription sometimes seen uses the superscript notation for a consonant release, for example for t​͡s, paralleling ~ k͡x. The symbols for the palatal plosives, <c ɟ>, are often used as a convenience for [t​͡ʃ d͡ʒ] or similar affricates, even in official IPA publications, so they must be interpreted with care.

View this table as an image.
Tie bar Ligature Description
t​͡s ʦ voiceless alveolar affricate
d​͡z ʣ voiced alveolar affricate
t​͡ʃ ʧ voiceless postalveolar affricate
d​͡ʒ ʤ voiced postalveolar affricate
t​͡ɕ ʨ voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate
d​͡ʑ ʥ voiced alveolo-palatal affricate
t​͡ɬ  – voiceless alveolar lateral affricate
k͡p  – voiceless labial-velar plosive
ɡ͡b  – voiced labial-velar plosive
ŋ͡m  – labial-velar nasal stop


  • If your browser uses Arial Unicode MS to display IPA characters, the following incorrectly formed sequences may look better due to a bug in that font: ts͡, tʃ͡, tɕ͡, dz͡, dʒ͡, dʑ͡, tɬ͡, kp͡, ɡb͡, ŋm͡.

[edit] Consonants (non-pulmonic)

Non-pulmonic consonants are sounds which are made without the lungs. These include clicks (found in the Khoisan languages of Africa) and implosives (found in languages such as Swahili).

View this table as an image
Click releases Implosives Ejectives
ʘ Bilabial ɓ Bilabial ʼ For example:
ǀ Laminal alveolar ("dental") ɗ Alveolar Bilabial
ǃ Apical (post-) alveolar ("retroflex") ʄ Palatal Alveolar
ǂ Laminal postalveolar ("palatal") ɠ Velar Velar
ǁ Lateral coronal ("lateral") ʛ Uvular Alveolar fricative


  • All clicks are doubly articulated and require two symbols: a velar or uvular stop, plus a symbol for the anterior release: [k͡ǂ, ɡ͡ǂ, ŋ͡ǂ, q͡ǂ, ɢ͡ǂ, ɴ͡ǂ] etc., or [ǂ͡k, ǂ͡ɡ, ǂ͡ŋ, ǂ͡q, ǂ͡ɢ, ǂ͡ɴ]. When the dorsal articulation is omitted, a [k] may usually be assumed.
  • Symbols for the voiceless implosives [ƥ, ƭ, ƈ, ƙ, ʠ] are no longer supported by the IPA, though they remain in Unicode. Instead, the IPA uses the voiced equivalent with a voiceless diacritic: [ɓ̥, ʛ̥], etc.
  • Although not confirmed from any language, and therefore not "explicitly recognized" by the IPA, a retroflex implosive, [ᶑ], is supported in the Unicode Phonetic Extensions Supplement, added in version 4.1 of the Unicode Standard, or can be created as a composite [ɗ̢].
  • The ejective symbol is often seen for glottalized but pulmonic sonorants, such as [mʼ], [lʼ], [wʼ], [aʼ], but these are more properly transcribed as creaky ([m̰], [l̰], [w̰], [a̰]).

[edit] Vowels

Main article: Vowel

View the vowel chart as an image

Edit - Front N.-front Central N.-back Back
Image:Blank vowel trapezoid.png
i • y
ɨ • ʉ
ɯ • u
ɪ • ʏ
• ʊ
e • ø
ɘ • ɵ
ɤ • o
ɛ • œ
ɜ • ɞ
ʌ • ɔ
a • ɶ
ɑ • ɒ


  • Where symbols appear in pairs, the one to the right represents a rounded vowel, as does [ʊ] (at least prototypically). All others are unrounded.
  • Open [ɶ] is not confirmed as a distinct phoneme from open-mid [œ] in any language.
  • [a] is officially a front vowel, but there is little distinction between front and central open vowels, and [a] is frequently used for an open central vowel.
  • [ʊ] and [ɪ] are written as [ɷ] and [ɩ] respectively in older versions of the IPA.

[edit] Diacritics

Diacritics are small markings which are placed around the IPA letter in order to show a certain alteration in the letter's pronunciation. Sub-diacritics (markings normally placed below a letter or symbol) may be placed above a symbol with a descender (informally called a tail), i.e. ŋ̊.

The dotless i, <ı>, is used when the dot would interfere with the diacritic. Other IPA symbols may appear as diacritics to represent phonetic detail: (fricative release), (breathy voice), ˀa (glottal onset), (epenthetic schwa), oʊ (diphthongization). More advanced diacritcs were developed in the Extended IPA for more specific pronunciation encoding.

View the diacritic table as an image
Syllabicity diacritics
ɹ̩ n̩ Syllabic e̯ ʊ̯ Non-syllabic
Consonant-release diacritics
tʰ dʰ Aspirated 2 No audible release
dⁿ Nasal release Lateral release
Phonation diacritics
n̥ d̥ Voiceless s̬ t̬ Voiced
b̤ a̤ Breathy voiced 1 b̰ a̰ Creaky voiced
Articulation diacritics
t̪ d̪ Dental t̼ d̼ Linguolabial
t̺ d̺ Apical t̻ d̻ Laminal
u̟ t̟ Advanced i̠ t̠ Retracted
ë ä Centralized e̽ ɯ̽ Mid-centralized
e̝ ɹ̝ ˔ Raised (ɹ̝ = voiced alveolar nonsibilant fricative)
e̞ β̞ ˕ Lowered (β̞ = bilabial approximant)
Co-articulation diacritics
ɔ̹ x̹ More rounded ɔ̜ x̜ʷ Less rounded
tʷ dʷ Labialized tʲ dʲ Palatalized
tˠ dˠ Velarized tˁ dˁ Pharyngealized
ɫ Velarized or pharyngealized
e̘ o̘ Advanced tongue root e̙ o̙ Retracted tongue root
ẽ z̃ Nasalized ɚ ɝ Rhoticity


  1. Some linguists restrict this breathy-voice diacritic to sonorants, and transcribe obstruents as .
  2. With aspirated voiced consonants, the aspiration is also voiced. Many linguists prefer one of the diacritics dedicated to breathy voice.

The state of the glottis can be finely transcribed with diacritics. A series of alveolar plosives ranging from an open to a closed glottis phonation are:

[t] voiceless [d̤] breathy voice, also called murmured
[d̥] slack voice [d] modal voice
[d̬] stiff voice [d̰] creaky voice
[ʔ͡t] glottal closure

[edit] Suprasegmentals

Further information: Prosody (linguistics)

These symbols describe the suprasegmental features of a language, collectively known as a language's prosody. These symbols show the length, stress, pitch, and rhythm of a language. Many suprasegmentals are often reserved for very specific transcriptions intended to convey the differences in speech between individuals or dialects. They are usually used to indicate a word's stress and length of vowels and consonants. The IPA also has a series of suprasegmentals which are used to indicate intonation in language. Certain languages, such as Japanese and Norwegian, possess intonation. IPA allows for the use of either tone diacritics or tone letters to indicate tones. These are used in tonal languages such as Chinese.

View this table as an image
Length, stress, and rhythm
ˈ Primary stress ˌ Secondary stress
ː Long (long vowel or
geminate consonant)
ˑ Half-long
˘ Extra-short . Syllable break
Linking (absence of a break)
| Minor (foot) break Major (intonation) break
Global rise Global fall
e̋ or ˥ Extra high é or ˦ High
ē or ˧ Mid è or ˨ Low
ȅ or ˩ Extra low ě Rise
ê Fall e Downstep
e Upstep

[edit] Obsolete symbols, nonstandard symbols, and capital variants

The IPA inherited alternate symbols from various traditions, but eventually settled on one for each sound. The other symbols are now considered obsolete. An example is ɷ which has been standardised to ʊ. Several symbols indicating secondary articulation have been dropped altogether, with the idea that such things should be indicated with diacritics: ƍ for is one. In addition, the rare voiceless implosive series ƥ ƭ ƈ ƙ ʠ has been dropped; they can now be written ɓ̥ ɗ̥ ʄ̥ ɠ̥ ʛ̥ respectively.

There are also unsupported or ad hoc symbols from local traditions that find their way into publications that otherwise use the standard IPA. This is especially common with affricates such as ƛ (the "tl" in "Nahuatl").

While the IPA does not itself have a set of capital letters, languages have adopted symbols from the IPA as part of their orthographies, and in such cases they have invented capital variants of these. This is especially common in Africa. An example is Kabye of northern Togo, which has Ɔ Ɛ Ŋ Ɣ Ʃ (capital ʃ). Other IPA-inspired capitals supported by Unicode are Ɓ/Ƃ Ƈ Ɗ/Ƌ Ə/Ǝ Ɠ Ħ Ɯ Ɲ Ɵ Ʈ Ʊ Ʋ Ʒ.

[edit] Extended IPA

Main article: Extended IPA

The Extended IPA is a new group of symbols for the IPA whose original purpose was to accurately transcribe disordered speech. However, linguists have used it to designate a number of unique sounds within standard communication, such as hushing, gnashing teeth, and smacking lips. The Extended IPA has also been used to record certain peculiarities in an individual's voice, such as whispers, nasalized voicing, and whispering<ref name="world" />.

[edit] Sounds that have no symbols in the IPA

The remaining blank cells on the IPA chart can be filled without too much difficulty if the need arises. Some ad hoc symbols have appeared in the literature, for example for the lateral flaps and voiceless lateral fricatives, the epiglottal trill, and the labiodental plosives. Diacritics can supply much of the remainder, which would indeed be appropriate if the sounds were allophones. For example, the Spanish bilabial approximant is commonly written as a lowered fricative, [β̞]. Similarly, voiced lateral fricatives would be written as raised lateral approximants, [ɭ˔ ʎ̝ ʟ̝]. A few languages such as Banda have a bilabial flap as the preferred allophone of what is elsewhere a labiodental flap. It has been suggested that this be written with the labiodental flap symbol and the advanced diacritic, [v̛̟]. Similarly, a labiodental trill would be written [ʙ̪] (bilabial trill and the dental sign). Palatal and uvular taps, if they exist, and the epiglottal tap could be written as extra-short plosives, [ɟ˘ ɢ˘ ʡ˘]. A retroflex trill can be written as a retracted [r̠], just as retroflex fricatives sometimes are. The remaining consonants, the uvular laterals and the palatal trill, while not strictly impossible, are very difficult to pronounce and are unlikely to occur even as allophones in the world's languages.

The vowels are similarly manageable by using diacritics for raising, lowering, fronting, backing, centering, and mid-centering. For example, the unrounded equivalent of [ʊ] can be transcribed as mid-centered [ɯ̽], and the rounded equivalent of [æ] as raised [ɶ̝]. True mid vowels are lowered [e̞ ø̞ ɘ̞ ɵ̞ ɤ̞ o̞], while centered [ɪ̈ ʊ̈] and [ä] are near-close and open central vowels, respectively. The vowels that aren't representable in this scheme are the compressed vowels, which would require a dedicated diacritic.

[edit] Symbol names

An IPA symbol is often distinguished from the sound it is intended to represent since there is not a one-to-one correspondence between symbol and sound in broad transcription. Official names are described in the Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, although the name of a symbol may vary in context. The symbols also have nonce names in the Unicode standard. In some cases, the Unicode names and the IPA names do not agree. For example, IPA calls ɛ "epsilon", but Unicode calls it "small letter open E".

The traditional names of the Latin and Greek letters are used for unmodified symbols. In Unicode, some of the symbols of Greek origin have Latin forms for use in IPA; the others use the symbols from the Greek section. Letters which are not directly derived from these alphabets, such as [ʕ], may have a variety of names, sometimes based on the appearance of the symbol, and sometimes based on the sound that it represents.

For diacritics, there are two methods of naming. For traditional diacritics, the IPA uses the name of the symbol from a certain language, for example, é is acute, based on the name of the symbol in English and French. In non-traditional diacritics, the IPA often names a symbol according to an object it resembles, as is called bridge.

[edit] Other phonetic notation

See also: Unicode and HTML

The IPA is not the only phonetic transcription system in use. The other common Latin-based system is the Americanist phonetic notation, devised for representing American languages, but used by some US linguists as an alternative to the IPA. There are also sets of symbols specific to Slavic, Indic, Finno-Ugric, and Caucasian linguistics, as well as other regional specialties. The differences between these alphabets and IPA are relatively small, although often the special characters of the IPA are abandoned in favour of diacritics or digraphs.

Other alphabets, such as Hangul, may have their own phonetic extensions. There also exist featural phonetic transcription systems, such as Alexander Melville Bell's Visible Speech and its derivatives.

There is an extended version of the IPA for disordered speech (extIPA), and another set of symbols used for voice quality (VoQS). There are also many personal or idiosyncratic extensions, such as Luciano Canepari's canIPA.

Since the IPA uses symbols that are outside the ASCII character set, several systems have been developed that map the IPA symbols to ASCII characters. Notable systems include Kirshenbaum, SAMPA, and X-SAMPA. The usage of mapping systems has been declining as technical support for Unicode spreads.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Ball, Martin J.; Esling, John H.; & Dickson, B. Craig. (1995). The VoQS system for the transcription of voice quality. Journal of the International Phonetic Alphabet, 25 (2), 71-80.
  • Canepari, Luciano. (2005a). "A Handbook of Phonetics: ‹Natural› Phonetics." München: Lincom Europa, pp. 518. ISBN 3-8958-480-3 (hb).
  • Canepari, Luciano. (2005b) "A Handbook of Pronunciation: English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, Esperanto." München: Lincom Europa, pp. 436. ISBN 3-89586-481-1 (hb).
  • Duckworth, M.; Allen, G.; Hardcastle, W.; & Ball, M. J. (1990). Extensions to the International Phonetic Alphabet for the transcription of atypical speech. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics, 4, 273-280.
  • Hill, Kenneth C. (1988). [Review of Phonetic symbol guide by G. K. Pullum & W. Ladusaw]. Language, 64 (1), 143-144.
  • International Phonetic Association. (1989). Report on the 1989 Kiel convention. Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 19 (2), 67-80.
  • Jones, Daniel. (1989). English pronouncing dictionary (14 ed.). London: Dent.
  • Ladefoged, Peter. (1990). The revised International Phonetic Alphabet. Language, 66 (3), 550-552.
  • Ladefoged, Peter; & Halle, Morris. (1988). Some major features of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Language, 64 (3), 577-582.
  • Pullum, Geoffrey K.; & Laduslaw, William A. (1986). Phonetic symbol guide. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-68532-2.

[edit] Notes


[edit] External links

[edit] General

[edit] Free IPA font downloads

  • Gentium, a professionally designed international font (Latin, Greek, Cyrillic) in roman and italic typefaces that includes the IPA, but not yet tone letters or the new labiodental flap.
  • Charis SIL, a very complete international font (Latin, Greek, Cyrillic) in roman, italic, and bold typefaces that includes tone letters and pre-composed tone diacritics on IPA vowels, the new labiodental flap, and many non-standard phonetic symbols. Based on Bitstream Charter, this font suffers from extremely bad hinting when rendered by Freetype on Linux.
  • Doulos SIL, a Times/Times New Roman style font. It contains the same characters as Charis SIL, but only in a single face, roman.
  • SIL93 the legacy SIL IPA93 fonts (Manuscript and Sophia) recoded in Unicode.
  • DejaVu fonts, an open source font family derived from the Bitstream Vera fonts.
  • TIPA, a font and system for entering IPA phonetic transcriptions in LaTeX documents.

[edit] Keyboards

[edit] Sound files

[edit] Charts

[edit] Unicode

[edit] Personal extensions of the IPA

  • canIPA : Luciano Canepari's system (500 base symbols)

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International Phonetic Alphabet

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