International Phonetic Alphabet

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International Phonetic Alphabet

International Phonetic Alphabet

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    Not to be confused with ICAO spelling alphabet.

    "IPA" redirects here. For other uses, see IPA (disambiguation).

    For usage of IPA in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:IPA or Wikipedia:IPA/Introduction

    International Phonetic Alphabet

    Partially featural alphabet Type

    Used for phonetic and phonemic Spoken

    transcription of any language languages

    since 1888 Time period

    Romic alphabet

    Parent ; Phonotypic alphabet systems o International Phonetic Alphabet

    Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols.

    [note 1]The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin alphabet. It was devised by the International Phonetic Association [1]as a standardized representation of the sounds of spoken language. The IPA is used by foreign language students and teachers, linguists, speech pathologists and therapists, singers, actors, [2][3]lexicographers, artificial language enthusiasts (conlangers), and translators.

    The IPA is designed to represent only those qualities of speech that are distinctive in spoken [1]language: phonemes, intonation, and the separation of words and syllables. To represent additional qualities of speech such as tooth gnashing, lisping, and sounds made with a cleft [2]palate, an extended set of symbols called the Extensions to the IPA may be used.

    IPA symbols are composed of one or more elements of two basic types, letters and diacritics. For example, the sound of the English letter ‹ t › may be transcribed in IPA with a single letter, [t], or

    [4]with a letter plus diacritics, [t?ʰ], depending on how precise one wishes to be. Occasionally letters or diacritics are added, removed, or modified by the International Phonetic Association.

    As of 2008, there are 107 letters, 52 diacritics, and four prosodic marks in the IPA.


[edit] History

    Main article: History of the IPA

    In 1886, a group of French and British language teachers, led by the French linguist Paul Passy,

    formed what would come to be known from 1897 onwards as the International Phonetic [5]Association (in French, l’Association phonétique internationale). Their original alphabet was based on a spelling reform for English known as the Romic alphabet, but in order to make it usable for other languages, the values of the symbols were allowed to vary from language to [6]language. For example, the sound [ʃ] (the sh in shoe) was originally represented with the letter [5]‹c› in English, but with the letter ‹x› in French. However, in 1888, the alphabet was revised so [5][7]as to be uniform across languages, thus providing the base for all future revisions.

    Since its creation, the IPA has undergone a number of revisions. After major revisions and

    expansions in 1900 and 1932, the IPA remained unchanged until the IPA Kiel Convention in

    1989. A minor revision took place in 1993, with the addition of four letters for mid-central [2][8]vowels and the removal of letters for voiceless implosives. The alphabet was last revised in [9]May 2005, with the addition of a letter for a labiodental flap. Apart from the addition and removal of symbols, changes to the IPA have consisted largely in renaming symbols and [2]categories and in modifying typefaces.

    Extensions of the alphabet are relatively recent; "Extensions to the IPA" was created in 1990 and [10]officially adopted by the International Clinical Phonetics and Linguistics Association in 1994.

    [edit] Description

A chart of the full International Phonetic Alphabet.

    IPA chart for English For a guide to pronouncing IPA transcriptions of English words, see


    The general principle of the IPA is to provide one letter for each distinctive sound (speech [11]segment). This means that it does not use combinations of letters to represent single sounds,

    the way English does with ‹sh› and ‹ng›, or single letters to represent multiple sounds the way ‹x› represents /ks/ or /ɡz/ in English. There are no letters that have context-dependent sound values, as ‹c› does in English and other European languages, and finally, the IPA does not usually have separate letters for two sounds if no known language makes a distinction between them, a [2][note 2]property known as "selectiveness".

    Among the symbols of the IPA, 107 letters represent consonants and vowels, 31 diacritics are

    used to modify these, and 19 additional signs indicate suprasegmental qualities such as length, [note 3]tone, stress, and intonation.

    [edit] Letterforms

    [note 4]The letters chosen for the IPA are meant to harmonize with the Latin alphabet. For this

    reason, most letters are either Latin or Greek, or modifications thereof. However, there are letters that are neither: for example, the letter denoting the glottal stop, ‹ʔ›, has the form of a dotless [note 5]question mark, and derives originally from an apostrophe. In fact, there are a few letters,

    such as that of the voiced pharyngeal fricative, ‹ʕ›, which, though modified to fit the Latin [8]alphabet, were inspired by other writing systems (in this case, the Arabic letter ; , `ain).

    Despite its preference for harmonizing with the Latin alphabet, the International Phonetic Association has occasionally admitted letters that do not have this property. For example, before 1989, the IPA letters for click consonants were ‹ʘ›, ‹ʇ›, ‹ʗ›, and ‹ʖ›, all of which were derived

    either from existing IPA letters, or from Latin and Greek letters. However, except for ʘ›, none

    of these letters was widely used among Khoisanists or Bantuists, and as a result they were

    replaced by the more widespread symbols ‹ʘ›, ‹ǀ›, ‹ǃ›, ‹ǂ›, and ‹ǁ› at the IPA Kiel Convention in [12]1989. Although the IPA diacritics are fully featural, there is little systemicity in the letter

    forms. A retroflex articulation is consistently indicated with a right-swinging tail, as in ‹ɖ ʂ ɳ›,

    and implosion by a top hook, ‹ɓ ɗ ɠ›, but other pseudo-featural elements are due to haphazard

    derivation and coincidence. For example, all nasal consonants but uvular ‹ɴ› are based on the

    form ‹n›: ‹m ɱ n ɲ ɳ ŋ›. However, the similarity between ‹m› and ‹n› is a historical accident, ‹ɲ

    and ‹ŋ› are derived from ligatures of gn and ng, and ‹ɱ› is an ad hoc imitation of ‹ŋ›. In none of [citation needed]these is the form consistent with other letters that share these places of articulation.

    Some of the new letters were ordinary Roman letters typeset "turned" (= upside-down) (e.g. ʎ ɹ

    ᴚ ə ɥ ɔ ), which was easily done before mechanical typesetting machines came into use.

    [edit] Symbols and sounds

    The International Phonetic Alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet, using as few non-Latin [5]forms as possible. The Association created the IPA so that the sound values of most consonant [5]letters taken from the Latin alphabet would correspond to "international usage". Hence, the

    letters ‹b›, ‹d›, ‹f›, (hard) ‹ɡ›, (non-silent) ‹h›, (unaspirated) ‹k›, ‹l›, ‹m›, ‹n›, (unaspirated) ‹p›, (voiceless) ‹s›, (unaspirated) ‹t›, ‹v›, ‹w›, and ‹z› have the values used in English; and the vowel

    letters from the Latin alphabet (‹a›, ‹e›, ‹i›, ‹o›, ‹u›) correspond to the sound values of Latin: [i] is like the vowel in machine, [u] is as in rule, etc. Other letters may differ from English, but are

    used with these values in other European languages, such as ‹j›, ‹r›, and ‹y›.

    This inventory was extended by using capital or cursive forms, diacritics, and rotation. There are also several derived or taken from the Greek alphabet, though the sound values may differ. For example, ‹ʋ› is a vowel in Greek, but an only indirectly related consonant in the IPA. Three of

    these (‹β›, ‹θ› and ‹χ›) are used unmodified in form; for others (including ‹ɣ›, ‹ɛ›, ‹ɸ›, and ‹ʋ›)

    subtly different glyph shapes have been devised, which may be encoded in Unicode separately from their "parent" letters.

    The sound values of modified Latin letters can often be derived from those of the original [13]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 generally correspond to certain kinds of modification to the sound represented, there is no way to deduce the sound represented by a symbol from its shape (unlike, for example, 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] Brackets and phonemes

    There are two principal types of brackets used to set off IPA transcriptions:

    ; [square brackets] are used for phonetic details of the pronunciation, possibly including

    details that may not be used for distinguishing words in the language being transcribed,

    but which the author nonetheless wishes to document.

    ; /slashes/ are used to mark off phonemes, all of which are distinctive in the language,

    without any extraneous detail.

    For example, while the /p/ sounds of pin and spin are pronounced slightly differently in English

    (and this difference would be meaningful in some languages), the difference is not meaningful in English. Thus phonemically the words are /pɪn/ and /spɪn/, with the same /p/ phoneme. However,

    to capture the difference between them (the allophones of /p/), they can be transcribed

    phonetically as [pʰɪn] and [spɪn].

    Two other conventions are less commonly seen:

    ; Double slashes //...//, pipes |...|, double pipes ||...||, or braces {...} may be used around a

    word to denote its underlying structure, more abstract even than that of phonemes. See

    morphophonology for examples.

    ; Angle brackets are used to clarify that the letters represent the original orthography of the

    language, or sometimes an exact transliteration of a non-Latin script, not the IPA; or,

    within the IPA, that the letters themselves are indicated, not the sound values that they

    carry. For example, ‹pin› and ‹spin› would be seen for those words, which do not contain

    the ee sound [i] of the IPA letter ‹i›. Italics are perhaps more commonly used for this

    purpose when full words are being written (as pin, spin above), but this convention may

    not be considered sufficiently clear for individual letters and digraphs. The true angle

    brackets ?...? (U+27E8, U+29E9) are not supported by many non-mathematical fonts as

    of 2010. Therefore chevrons ‹...› (U+2039, U+203A) are sometimes used in substitution,

    as are the less-than and greater-than signs <...> (U+003C, U+003E).

    [edit] Usage

    Further information: Phonetic transcription

Ébauche is a French term meaning outline or blank.

    Although the IPA offers over a hundred and sixty symbols for transcribing speech, only a relatively small subset of these will be used to transcribe any one language. It is possible to

    transcribe speech with various levels of precision. A precise phonetic transcription, in which sounds are described in a great deal of detail, is known as a narrow transcription. A coarser

    transcription which ignores some of this detail is called a broad transcription. Both are relative [1]terms, and both are generally enclosed in square brackets. Broad phonetic transcriptions may

    restrict themselves to easily heard details, or only to details that are relevant to the discussion at hand, and may differ little if at all from phonemic transcriptions, but they make no theoretical claim that all the distinctions transcribed are necessarily meaningful in the language.

Phonetic transcriptions of the word international in two English dialects. The square brackets

    indicate that the differences between these dialects are not necessarily sufficient to distinguish different words in English.

    For example, the English word little may be transcribed broadly using the IPA as [ᴚlɪtəl], and

    this broad (imprecise) transcription is an accurate (approximately correct) description of many pronunciations. A more narrow transcription may focus on individual or dialectical details: [ɫɪɾɫ] in General American, [ᴚlɪʔo] in Cockney, or [ɫɪːɫ] in Southern US English.

    It is customary to use simpler letters, without many diacritics, in phonemic transcriptions. The choice of IPA letters may reflect the theoretical claims of the author, or merely be a convenience for typesetting. For instance, in English, either the vowel of pick or the vowel of peak may be

    transcribed as /i/ (for the pairs /pik, piːk/ or /pɪk, pik/), and neither is identical to the vowel of

    the French word pique which is also generally transcribed /i/. That is, letters between slashes do not have absolute values, something true of broader phonetic approximations as well. A narrow transcription may, however, be used to distinguish them: [pʰɪk], [pʰiːk], [pik].

    [edit] Linguists

    Although IPA is popular for transcription by linguists, it is also common to use Americanist

    phonetic notation or IPA together with some nonstandard symbols, for reasons including

    reducing the error rate on reading handwritten transcriptions or avoiding perceived awkwardness of IPA in some situations. The exact practice may vary somewhat between languages and even individual researchers, so authors are generally encouraged to include a chart or other [14]explanation of their choices.

    [edit] Language study

    This section requires expansion.

    A page from an English language textbook used in Russia. The IPA is used to teach the different

    digraph ‹th› (/θ/, /ð/) and to show the pronunciation of newly introduced pronunciations of the

    words polite, everything, always, forget.

    Some language study programs use the IPA to teach pronunciation. For example, in Russia (and [citation needed][15]earlier in the Soviet Union), mainland China, and in Taiwan textbooks for children [16]and adults for studying English and French consistently use the IPA. [edit] Dictionaries

    [edit] English

    Many British dictionaries, among which are learner's dictionaries such as the Oxford Advanced

    Learner's Dictionary and the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, now use the [17]International Phonetic Alphabet to represent the pronunciation of words. However, most

    American (and some British) volumes use one of a variety of pronunciation respelling systems,

    intended to be more comfortable for readers of English. For example, the respelling systems in

    many American dictionaries (such as MerriamWebster) use ‹y› for IPA [j] and ‹sh› for IPA [ʃ], [18]reflecting common representations of those sounds in written English, using only letters of the English Roman alphabet and variations of them. (In IPA, [y] represents the sound of the French

    ‹u› (as in tu), and [sh] represents the pair of sounds in grasshopper.)

    [edit] Other languages

    The IPA is also not universal among dictionaries in languages other than English. Monolingual dictionaries of languages with generally phonemic orthographies generally don't bother with

    indicating the pronunciation of most words, and tend to use respelling systems for words with unexpected pronunciations. Dictionaries produced in Israel use the IPA rarely and sometimes use

    the Hebrew alphabet for transcription of foreign words. Monolingual Hebrew dictionaries use pronunciation respelling for words with unusual spelling; for example, Even-Shoshan Dictionary

    respells ???????? as ???????? because this word uses kamatz katan. Bilingual dictionaries that translate

    from foreign languages into Russian usually employ the IPA, but monolingual Russian

    dictionaries occasionally use pronunciation respelling for foreign words; for example, Ozhegov's

    dictionary adds ??? in brackets for the French word пе?с?е (pince-nez) to indicate that the е

    doesn't iotate the ?.

    The IPA is more common in bilingual dictionaries, but there are exceptions here too. Mass-market bilingual Czech dictionaries, for instance, tend to use the IPA only for sounds not found [19]in the Czech language.

    [edit] Standard orthographies and capital variants

    See also: Latin characters in Unicode

    IPA letters have been incorporated into the standard orthographies of various languages, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa but in other regions as well, for example: Hausa, Fula, Akan, Gbe

    languages, Manding languages, and Lingala.

    An example of a language with IPA letters and capital equivalents is Kabiyé of northern Togo,

    which has Ɔ ɔ Ɛ ɛ Ɖ ɖ Ŋ ŋ Ɣ ɣ Ʃ ʃ Ʊ ʊ (or Ʋ ʋ) : MBƱ AJƐYA KIGBƐNDƱƱ ŊGBƐYƐ

    KEDIƔZAƔ SƆSƆƆ TƆM SE. Other IPA-paired capitals include Ɓ Ƈ Ɗ Ə/Ǝ Ɠ Ħ Ɯ Ɲ Ɵ Ʈ

    Ʒ .

    The above-mentioned and other capital forms are supported by Unicode, but appear in Latin

    ranges other than the IPA extensions.

    [edit] Classical singing

    IPA has widespread use among classical singers for preparation, especially among English-speaking singers who are expected to sing in a variety of foreign languages. Opera librettos are [20]authoritatively transcribed in IPA, such as Nico Castel's volumes and Timothy Cheek's book [21]Singing in Czech. Opera singers' ability to read IPA was recently used by the Visual Thesaurus, which employed several opera singers "to make recordings for the 150,000 words and phrases in VT's lexical database. ...for their vocal stamina, attention to the details of enunciation, [22]and most of all, knowledge of IPA."

    [edit] Letters

    The International Phonetic Alphabet organizes its letter symbols into three categories: pulmonic [23][24]consonants, non-pulmonic consonants, and vowels. Each character is assigned a number, to prevent confusion between similar letters (such as ɵ and θ), for example in printing manuscripts. Different categories of sounds are assigned different ranges of numbers. [edit] Consonants

    Main article: Consonant

    v ? d ? eIPA pulmonic consonants chartchart image audio

    Place ? Labial Coronal Dorsal Radical Glottal

     LabioDental Alveolar Postalv. Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular PharynEpiglotGlottal Bilabial

    ? Manner dental geal tal

    Nasal mnnŋ ɱɳɲɴ

    Plosive p b p b t d t d c k q ɖ ɟ ɡ ɢ ʔ ʈʡ

    Fricative β f v θ ð s z ç x χ ħ h ɸ ʃ ʂ ʐ ʝ ɣ ʜ ʒ

    ʁ ʕ ʢ ɦ Approximant j ʋɹɻɰ

    Trill r* я* ʙʀ

    Flap or tap ? ɾɽɢʡ?

    Lateral Fric. ɮ ɬɭʎʟ?,

    Lateral Appr. l ɭʎʟ

    Lateral flap ɺɺ)* ʎ? These tables contain phonetic symbols, which may not display Non-pulmonic consonants correctly in some browsers. [Help]

    Where symbols appear in pairs, leftright represent the Clicks ʘ ǀ ǃ ǂ ǁ voicelessvoiced consonants.

    Implosives ɓ ɗ ʄ ɠ ʛ Shaded areas denote pulmonic articulations judged to be

    impossible. p t k q s

    Ejectives * Symbol not defined in IPA. ts kx tɬ tʃ Notes

    Affricates ; Asterisks (*) next to letters mark attested sounds pf dz tstʃ dʒ tɕ dʑ ʈʂ ɖʐ that do not (yet) have official IPA symbols. See the respective articles for ad hoc symbols found in the dɮ ɟʝ tɬ literature.

    ; In rows where some letters appear in pairs (the Co-articulated consonants obstruents), the letter to the right represents a voiced Fricatives ɕ ʑ ɧ consonant (except breathy-voiced [ɦ]). However, [ʔ]

    [25]Approximants cannot be voiced, and the voicing of [ʡ] is ambiguous. w ʍ ɥ ɫ

    ɡb? kp? ŋm? Stops

    In the other rows (the sonorants), the single letter represents a voiced consonant.

    ; Although there is a single letter for the coronal places of articulation for all consonants

    but fricatives, when dealing with a particular language, the letters may be treated as

    specifically dental, alveolar, or post-alveolar, as appropriate for that language, without


    ; Shaded areas indicate articulations judged to be impossible.

    ; The letters [ʁ, ʕ, ʢ] represent either voiced fricatives or approximants.

    ; In many languages, such as English, [h] and [ɦ] are not actually glottal, fricatives, or [26]approximants. Rather, they are bare phonation.

    ; It is primarily the shape of the tongue rather than its position that distinguishes the

    fricatives [ʃ ʒ], [ɕ ʑ], and [ʂ ʐ].

    [27]; The labiodental nasal [ɱ] is not known to exist as a phoneme in any language.

    [edit] Pulmonic consonants

    IPA pulmonic consonants chart - audio representations[show]

     IPA pulmonic consonants chart with audiov ? d ? e

    Place ? Labial Coronal Dorsal Radical Glottal

    LabioDenAlvePostRetroPalaVelar UvuPhaEpiGlottal Bila

     dental tal olar alveolar flex tal lar rynglottal bial

    geal? Manner

     Nasal m ɱ n n ɳ ɲ ŋ ɴ

     Plosive p b p b t d t d ʈ ɖ c ɟ k ɡ q ɢ ʡ ʔ

     Fricative β f v θ ð s z ç x χ ħ h ɸ ʃ ʂ ʐ ʝ ɣ ʜ ʒ

    ʁ ʕ ʢ ɦ Approximant j ʋ ɹ ɻ ɰ

     Trill r ʙ ʀ я*

     Flap or tap ? ɾ ɽ ɢ ʡ ?


    Fricative ɬ ɮ ɭ ʎ ʟ ?,


    Approximant l ɭ ʎ ʟ

    Lateral flap

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