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International Phonetic Alphabet
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International Phonetic Alphabet

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)[1] is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin alphabet. It was devised by the International Phonetic Association as a standardized representation of the sounds of spoken language.[2] The IPA is used by foreign language students and teachers, linguists, Speech-Language Pathologists, singers, actors, lexicographers, constructed language creators (conlangers), and translators.[3][4]

The IPA is designed to represent only those qualities of speech that are distinctive in spoken language: phonemes, intonation, and the separation of words and syllables.[2] To represent additional qualities of speech such as tooth gnashing, lisping, and sounds made with a cleft palate, an extended set of symbols called the Extensions to the IPA may be used.[3]

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, , or with a letter plus diacritics, , depending on how precise one wishes to be.[5] Often, slashes are used to signal broad or phonemic transcription; thus, is less specific than, and could refer to, either or depending on the context and language.

Occasionally letters or diacritics are added, removed, or modified by the International Phonetic Association. As of the most recent change in 2005,[6] there are 107 letters, 52 diacritics, and four prosodic marks in the IPA. These are shown in the current IPA chart, posted at the website of the IPA.[7]



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 Association (in French, l Association phon tique internationale).[8] 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 language.[9] For example, the sound (the sh in shoe) was originally represented with the letter c in English, but with the letter x in French.[8] However, in 1888, the alphabet was revised so as to be uniform across languages, thus providing the base for all future revisions.[8][10]

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 vowels[3] and the removal of letters for voiceless implosives.[11] The alphabet was last revised in May 2005 with the addition of a letter for a labiodental flap.[12] Apart from the addition and removal of symbols, changes to the IPA have consisted largely in renaming symbols and categories and in modifying typefaces.[3]

Extensions to the alphabet are relatively recent; "Extensions to the IPA" was created in 1990 and officially adopted by the International Clinical Phonetics and Linguistics Association in 1994.[13]


A chart of the full International Phonetic Alphabet, expanded and re-organized from the official chart. Only the black symbols are part of the IPA; additional symbols are in grey.

The general principle of the IPA is to provide one letter for each distinctive sound (speech segment) although this practice is not followed if the sound itself is complex.[14] This means that it does not normally 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 or in English. There are no letters that have context-dependent sound values, as c does in English and several 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 property known as "selectiveness".[3][15]

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, tone, stress, and intonation.[16] These are organized into a chart; the chart displayed here is an unofficial expansion and re-organization of the official chart posted at the website of the IPA.


The letters chosen for the IPA are meant to harmonize with the Latin alphabet.[17] For this reason, most letters are either Latin or Greek, or modifications thereof. Some letters that are neither: for example, the letter denoting the glottal stop, , has the form of a dotless question mark, and derives originally from an apostrophe. A few letters, such as that of the voiced pharyngeal fricative, , were inspired by other writing systems (in this case, the Arabic letter ain).[11]

Despite its preference for harmonizing with the Latin script, the International Phonetic Association has occasionally admitted other letters. For example, before 1989, the IPA letters for click consonants were , , , and , all of which were derived either from existing IPA letters, or from Latin and Greek letters. However, except for , none of these letters was widely used among Khoisanists or Bantuists, and as a result they were replaced by the more widespread symbols , , , , and at the IPA Kiel Convention in 1989.[18] 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 , and implosion by a top hook, , but other pseudo-featural elements are due to haphazard derivation and coincidence. For example, all nasal consonants but uvular are based on the form : . However, the similarity between and is a historical accident, and are derived from ligatures of gn and ng, and is an ad hoc imitation of . In none of these is the form consistent with other letters that share these places of articulation.

Some of the new letters were ordinary Latin letters turned upside-down, such as (turned a c e f h m r t v w y). This was easily done with mechanical typesetting machines, and had the advantage of not requiring the casting of special type for IPA symbols.

Symbols and sounds

The International Phonetic Alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet, using as few non-Latin forms as possible.[8] The Association created the IPA so that the sound values of most consonant letters taken from the Latin alphabet would correspond to "international usage".[8] Hence, the letters , , , (hard) , (non-silent) , (unaspirated) , , , , (unaspirated) , (voiceless) , (unaspirated) , , , and have the values used in English; and the vowel letters from the Latin alphabet ( , , , , ) correspond to the (long) sound values of Latin: is like the vowel in machine, is as in rule, etc. Other letters may differ from English, but are used with these values in other European languages, such as , , and .

This inventory was extended by using capital or cursive forms, diacritics, and rotation. There are also several symbols derived or taken from the Greek alphabet, though the sound values may differ. For example, is a vowel in Greek, but an only indirectly related consonant in the IPA. Three of these ( , and ) are used unmodified in form; for others (including , , , and ) 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 letters.[19] 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.

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 and , with the same /p/ phoneme. However, to capture the difference between them (the allophones of /p/), they can be transcribed phonetically as and .

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, and would be seen for those words, which do not contain the ee sound of the IPA letter . 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+27E9) 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).

Handwritten forms

An example of a printed text with IPA letters filled in by hand. The two words at the beginning of line 1 are and . The has a cursive form that looks somewhat like a 2 or a small-capital Q in some cursive hands. IPA letters have handwritten forms designed for use in manuscripts and when taking field notes; they are occasionally seen in publications when the printer did not have fonts that supported IPA, and the IPA was therefore filled in by hand.


bauche 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 terms, and both are generally enclosed in square brackets.[20] 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 , 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: in General American, in Cockney, or 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 (for the pairs or ), and neither is identical to the vowel of the French word pique which is also generally transcribed . 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: .


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 explanation of their choices.[21]

Language study

digraph th ]] () and to show the pronunciation of newly introduced words polite, everything, always, forget. Some language study programs use the IPA to teach pronunciation. For example, in Russia (and earlier in the Soviet Union), mainland China, and Taiwan, textbooks for children[22] and adults[23] for studying English and French consistently use the IPA.



Many British dictionaries, including the Oxford English Dictionary and some learner's 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.[24] 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 Merriam-Webster) use y for IPA and sh for IPA , reflecting common representations of those sounds in written English,[25] using only letters of the English Roman alphabet and variations of them. (In IPA, represents the sound of the French u (as in tu), and represents the pair of sounds in grasshopper.)

Other languages

The IPA is also not universal among dictionaries in languages other than English. Monolingual dictionaries of languages with generally phonemic orthographies generally do not 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 script 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 (pince-nez) to indicate that the 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 in the Czech language.[26]

Standard orthographies and capital variants

IPA letters have been incorporated into the alphabets of various languages, via the Africa Alphabet notably in sub-Saharan Africa: Hausa, Fula, Akan, Gbe languages, Manding languages, Lingala, etc. This has created the need for capital variants. For example, Kabiy of northern Togo has :


These, and others, are supported by Unicode, but appear in Latin ranges other than the IPA extensions.

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 authoritatively transcribed in IPA, such as Nico Castel's volumes[27] and Timothy Cheek's book Singing in Czech.[28] 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, and most of all, knowledge of IPA."[29]


The International Phonetic Association organizes the letters of the IPA into three categories: pulmonic consonants, non-pulmonic consonants, and vowels.[30][31]

Pulmonic consonant letters are arranged singly or in pairs of voiceless (tenuis) and voiced sounds, with these then grouped in columns from front (labial) sounds on the left to back (glottal) sounds on the right. In official publications by the IPA,[32] two columns are omitted to save space, with the letters listed among 'other symbols', and with the remaining consonants arranged in rows from full closure (occlusives: stops and nasals), to brief closure (vibrants: trills and taps), to partial closure (fricatives) and minimal closure (approximants), again with a row left out to save space. In the table below, a slightly different arrangement is made: All pulmonic consonants are included in the pulmonic-consonant table, and the vibrants and laterals are separated out so that the rows reflect the common lenition pathway of stop fricative approximant, as well as the fact that several letters pull double duty as both fricative and approximant; affricates may be created by joining stops and fricatives from adjacent cells. Shaded cells are judged to be implausible.

Vowel letters are also grouped in pairs of unrounded and rounded vowel sounds, with these pairs also arranged from front on the left to back on the right, and from maximal closure at top to minimal closure at bottom. No vowel letters are omitted from the chart, though in the past some of the mid central vowels were listed among the 'other symbols'.

Each character is assigned a number, to prevent confusion between similar letters (such as and , and , or and ) in such situations as the printing of manuscripts. The categories of sounds are assigned different ranges of numbers.[33]


  • Asterisks (*) indicate unofficial IPA symbols for attested sounds. See the respective articles for ad hoc symbols found in the literature.
  • In rows where some letters appear in pairs (the obstruents), the letter to the right represents a voiced consonant (except breathy-voiced ). However, cannot be voiced, and the voicing of is ambiguous.[34] 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 diacritics.
  • Shaded areas indicate articulations judged to be impossible.
  • The letters represent either voiced fricatives or approximants.
  • In many languages, such as English, and are not actually glottal, fricatives, or approximants. Rather, they are bare phonation.[35]
  • It is primarily the shape of the tongue rather than its position that distinguishes the fricatives , , and .
  • The labiodental nasal is not known to exist as a phoneme in any language.[36]

Pulmonic consonants

A pulmonic consonant is a consonant made by obstructing the glottis (the space between the vocal cords) or oral cavity (the mouth) 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.[37]

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.

Co-articulated consonants

Co-articulated consonants are sounds that involve two simultaneous places of articulation (are pronounced using two parts of the vocal tract). In English, the in "went" is a coarticulated consonant, because it is pronounced by rounding the lips and raising the back of the tongue. Other languages, such as French and Swedish, have different coarticulated consonants.


Affricates and double articulated consonants

Affricates and doubly articulated stops are represented by two letters joined by a tie bar, either above or below the letters.[39] The six most common affricates are optionally represented by ligatures, though this is no longer official IPA usage,[20] because a great number of ligatures would be required to represent all affricates this way. Alternatively, a superscript notation for a consonant release is sometimes used to transcribe affricates, for example for , paralleling ~ . The letters for the palatal plosives , are often used as a convenience for 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
voiceless alveolar affricate
voiced alveolar affricate
voiceless postalveolar affricate
voiced postalveolar affricate
voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate
voiced alveolo-palatal affricate
  voiceless alveolar lateral affricate
  voiceless labial-velar plosive
  voiced labial-velar plosive
  labial-velar nasal stop
  • On browsers that use Arial Unicode MS to display IPA characters, the following incorrectly formed sequences may look better due to a bug in that font: .

Non-pulmonic consonants

Non-pulmonic consonants are sounds whose airflow is not dependent on the lungs. These include clicks (found in the Khoisan languages of Africa), implosives (found in languages such as Swahili) and ejectives (found in many Amerindian and Caucasian languages).

View this table as an image
Clicks Implosives Ejectives
Bilabial Bilabial For example:
Laminal alveolar ("dental") Alveolar Bilabial
Apical (post-) alveolar ("retroflex") Palatal Alveolar
Laminal postalveolar ("palatal") Velar Velar
Lateral coronal ("lateral") Uvular Alveolar fricative
  • Clicks are double articulated and have traditionally been described as having a forward 'release' and a rear 'accompaniment', with the click letters representing the release. Therefore all clicks would require two letters for proper notation: etc., or . When the dorsal articulation is omitted, a may usually be assumed. However, recent research disputes the concept of 'accompaniment'.[40] In these approaches, the click letter represents both articulations, with the different letters representing different click 'types', there is no velar-uvular distinction, and the accompanying letter represents the manner, phonation, or airstream contour of the click: etc.
  • Letters for the voiceless implosives are no longer supported by the IPA, though they remain in Unicode. Instead, the IPA typically uses the voiced equivalent with a voiceless diacritic: , etc..
  • Although not confirmed as contrastive in any language, and therefore not explicitly recognized by the IPA, a letter for the retroflex implosive, , is supported in the Unicode Phonetic Extensions Supplement, added in version 4.1 of the Unicode Standard, or can be created as a composite .
  • The ejective diacritic often stands in for a superscript glottal stop in glottalized but pulmonic sonorants, such as . These may also be transcribed as creaky .


cardinal]] front vowels with highest point indicated. The position of the highest point is used to determine vowel height and backness X-ray film]] shows the sounds

The IPA defines a vowel as a sound which occurs at a syllable center.[41] Below is a chart depicting the vowels of the IPA. The IPA maps the vowels according to the position of the tongue.

The vertical axis of the chart is mapped by vowel height. Vowels pronounced with the tongue lowered are at the bottom, and vowels pronounced with the tongue raised are at the top. For example, (said as the "a" in "palm") is at the bottom because the tongue is lowered in this position. However, (said as the vowel in "meet") is at the top because the sound is said with the tongue raised to the roof of the mouth.

In a similar fashion, the horizontal axis of the chart is determined by vowel backness. Vowels with the tongue moved towards the front of the mouth (such as , the vowel in "met") are to the left in the chart, while those in which it is moved to the back (such as , the vowel in "but") are placed to the right in the chart.

In places where vowels are paired, the right represents a rounded vowel (in which the lips are rounded) while the left is its unrounded counterpart.


Diphthongs are typically specified with a non-syllabic diacritic, as in . However, sometimes a tie bar is used, especially if it is difficult to tell if the vowel is characterized by an on-glide or an off-glide: or .

  • officially represents a front vowel, but there is little distinction between front and central open vowels, and is frequently used for an open central vowel.[21] However, if disambiguation is required, the retraction diacritic or the centralized diacritic may be added to indicate an open central vowel, as in or .


Diacritics are small markings which are placed around the IPA letter in order to show a certain alteration or more specific description in the letter's pronunciation.[42] Sub-diacritics (markings normally placed below a letter) may be placed above a letter having a descender (informally called a tail), e.g. .[42]

The dotless i, , is used when the dot would interfere with the diacritic. Other IPA letters may appear as diacritic variants to represent phonetic detail: (fricative release), (breathy voice), (glottal onset), (epenthetic schwa), (diphthongization). Additional diacritics were introduced in the Extensions to the IPA, which were designed principally for speech pathology.

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

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:

Open glottis voiceless
breathy voice, also called murmured
slack voice
Sweet spot modal voice
stiff voice
creaky voice
Closed glottis glottal closure


These symbols describe the features of a language above the level of individual consonants and vowels, such as prosody, tone, length, and stress, which often operate on syllables, words, or phrases: that is, elements such as the intensity, pitch, and gemination of the sounds of a language, as well as the rhythm and intonation of speech.[43] Although most of these symbols indicate distinctions that are phonemic at the word level, symbols also exist for intonation on a level greater than that of the word.[43]

View this table as an image
Length, stress, and rhythm
Primary stress (symbol goes
before stressed syllable)
Secondary stress (symbol goes
before stressed syllable)
Long (long vowel or
geminate consonant)
Syllable break Linking (absence of a break)
Minor (foot) break Major (intonation) break
Global rise Global fall
Tone diacritics and tone letters
Extra high / top Upstep
High Rise
Low Fall
Extra low / bottom Downstep

Finer distinctions of tone may be indicated by combining the tone diacritics and letters shown here, though not many fonts support this. The primary examples are high (mid) rising ; low rising ; high falling ; low (mid) falling ; peaking ; and dipping . A work-around for diacritics sometimes seen when a language has more than one rising or falling tone, and the author does not wish to completely abandon the IPA, is to restrict generic rising and falling for the higher-pitched of the rising and falling tones, and , and to use the non-standard subscript diacritics and for the lower-pitched rising and falling tones, and . When a language has four level tones, the two mid tones are sometimes transcribed as high-mid (non-standard) and low-mid .

Obsolete and nonstandard symbols

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 which has been standardized to . Several letters indicating secondary articulation have been dropped altogether, with the idea that such things should be indicated with diacritics: for is one. In addition, the rare voiceless implosive series has been dropped; they are now written or . A rejected competing proposal for transcribing clicks, , is still sometimes seen, as the official letters may cause problems with legibility, especially when used with brackets, the letter , or the prosodic marks .[44]

There are also unsupported or ad hoc letters from local traditions that find their way into publications that otherwise use the standard IPA. This is especially common with affricates such as the "barred lambda" for .

IPA extensions

The "Extensions to the IPA," often abbreviated as "extIPA," and sometimes called "Extended IPA," are symbols whose original purpose was to accurately transcribe disordered speech. At the IPA Kiel Convention in 1989, a group of linguists drew up the initial extensions[45], which were based on the previous work of the PRDS (Phonetic Representation of Disordered Speech) Group in the early 1980's[46] . The extensions were first published in 1990, then modified, and published again in 1994 in the Journal of the International Phonetic Association, when they were officially adopted by the ICPLA.[47] While the original purpose was to transcribe disordered speech, linguists have used the extensions to designate a number of unique sounds within standard communication, such as hushing, gnashing teeth, and smacking lips. The extensions have also been used to record certain peculiarities in an individual's voice, such as nasalized voicing.[3]

The Extensions to the IPA do not include symbols used for voice quality (VoQS), such as whispering.

Segments without letters

The remaining blank cells on the IPA chart can be filled without too much difficulty if the need arises. Some ad hoc letters have appeared in the literature for the retroflex lateral flap, the voiceless lateral fricatives, the epiglottal trill, and the labiodental plosives. (See the grey letters in the PDF chart.) Diacritics can supply much of the remainder, which would indeed be appropriate if the sounds were allophones.[48]


Representations of consonant sounds outside of the core set are created by adding diacritics to letters with similar sound values. The Spanish bilabial and dental approximants are commonly written as lowered fricatives, and respectively. Similarly, voiced lateral fricatives would be written as raised lateral approximants, . 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 letter and the advanced diacritic, .[49]

Similarly, a labiodental trill would be written (bilabial trill and the dental sign), and labiodental stops rather than with the ad hoc letters sometimes found in the literature. Other taps can be written as extra-short plosives or laterals, e.g. , though in some cases the diacritic would need to be written below the letter. A retroflex trill can be written as a retracted , just as retroflex fricatives sometimes are. The remaining consonants, the uvular laterals ( etc.) 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.[50] For example, the unrounded equivalent of can be transcribed as mid-centered , and the rounded equivalent of as raised . True mid vowels are lowered , while centered and are near-close and open central vowels, respectively. The only known vowels that cannot be represented in this scheme are vowels with unexpected roundedness, which would require a dedicated diacritic, such as and (or and ).

Symbol names

An IPA symbol is often distinguished from the sound it is intended to represent, since there is not necessarily a one-to-one correspondence between letter and sound in broad transcription, making articulatory descriptions such as 'mid front rounded vowel' or 'voiced velar stop' unreliable. While the Handbook of the International Phonetic Association states that no official names exist for its symbols, it admits the presence of one or two common names for each.[51] 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 "epsilon", but Unicode calls it "small letter open E".

The traditional names of the Latin and Greek letters are usually used for unmodified letters.[52] Letters which are not directly derived from these alphabets, such as , may have a variety of names, sometimes based on the appearance of the symbol, and sometimes based on the sound that it represents. In Unicode, some of the letters of Greek origin have Latin forms for use in IPA; the others use the letters from the Greek section.

For diacritics, there are two methods of naming. For traditional diacritics, the IPA notes the name in a well known language; for example, is acute, based on the name of the diacritic in English and French. Non-traditional diacritics are often named after objects they resemble, so is called bridge.

Pullum and Ladusaw list a variety of names in use for IPA symbols, both current and retired, in addition to names of many other non-IPA phonetic symbols.[11] Their collection is extensive enough that the Unicode Consortium used it in the development of Unicode.

ASCII and keyboard transliterations

Several systems have been developed that map the IPA symbols to ASCII characters. Notable systems include Kirshenbaum, Arpabet, SAMPA, and X-SAMPA. The usage of mapping systems in on-line text has to some extent been adopted in the context input methods, allowing convenient keying of IPA characters that would be otherwise unavailable on standard keyboard layouts.

See also



Further reading

External links


IPA font downloads

  • 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.
  • DejaVu fonts have full Unicode IPA support.
  • Doulos SIL, a Times/Times New Roman style font. It contains the same characters as Charis SIL, but only in a single face, roman.
  • 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. For bold typefaces but only the most basic IPA letters, Gentium Basic may be used.
  • TIPA, a font and system for entering IPA phonetic transcriptions in LaTeX documents.

Keyboard input

Sound files

Unicode charts

af:Internasionale Fonetiese Alfabet als:Internationales Phonetisches Alphabet ar: frp:Alfabet Fonetico Internacienal ast:Alfabetu Fon ticu Internacional bn: zh-min-nan:Kok-ch Im-phiau ba: - be: be-x-old: bg: bar:Internationals Phonetischs Alphabet bo: br:Lizherenneg Fonetikel Etrebroadel ca:Alfabet fon tic internacional cv: cs:Mezin rodn fonetick abeceda co:Alfabetu funeticu internaziunali cy:Gwyddor Seinegol Ryngwladol da:Internationale fonetiske alfabet de:Internationales Phonetisches Alphabet dv: et:IPA el: es:Alfabeto Fon tico Internacional eo:Internacia Fonetika Alfabeto ext:IPA eu:Nazioarteko Alfabeto Fonetikoa fa: fr:Alphabet phon tique international fy:Ynternasjonaal Fonetysk Alfabet gv:Abbyrlhit Sheeanagh Eddyr-ashoonagh gd:Aibidil Eadar-n iseanta Fogharach gl:Alfabeto Fon tico Internacional gan: ko: hy: hi: hr:Me unarodna fonetska abeceda io:Internaciona fonetik alfabeto id:Alfabet Fonetis Internasional ia:Alphabeto phonetic international os: is:Al j lega hlj stafr fi it:Alfabeto fonetico internazionale he: jv:Abjad Fon tik Internasional ka: kk: kg:API ku:Alfabeya Fonet k a Navnetewey lo: la:Abecedarium Phoneticum Internationale lv:Starptautiskais fon tiskais alfab ts lb:Internationaalt Phonetescht Alphabet lt:IPA li:Internationaal Fonetisch Alfabet jbo:sornai bacru alfabeta lmo:Alfabet Funetich Internaziunal hu:Nemzetk zi fonetikai b c mk: mg:Abidy Ara-drafipeo Iraisam-pirenena mr: arz: - ms:Abjad Fonetik Antarabangsa mwl:Alfabeto Fon tico Anternacional nl:Internationaal Fonetisch Alfabet nds-nl:Internasjonaal Klaankenskrift ne: ja: ce: frr:IPA no:Det internasjonale fonetiske alfabetet nn:Det internasjonale fonetiske alfabetet nrm:API oc:Alfabet fonetic internacionau uz:Xalqaro fonetik alifbo pa: pap:Alfab t Fon tiko Internashonal km: pcd:Singne dech Cro z te Fon tike Int rnacional nds:Internatschonal Phoneetsch Alphabet pl:Mi dzynarodowy alfabet fonetyczny pt:Alfabeto fon tico internacional ro:Alfabetul Fonetic Interna ional ru: se:Riikkaidgaskasa fonetihkala transkriberenvuog dat sco:Internaitional Phonetic ABC sq:Alfabeti Fonetik Nd rkomb tar simple:International Phonetic Alphabet sk:Medzin rodn fonetick abeceda sl:Mednarodna foneti na abeceda szl:Mjyndzynorodowe F netyczne Abecad o sr: sh:Me unarodna fonetska abeceda su:Alfab t Fon tis Internasional fi:Kansainv linen foneettinen aakkosto sv:Internationella fonetiska alfabetet ta: te: th: tg: tr:Uluslararas Fonetik Alfabesi uk: ur: vi:B ng m u t phi n m qu c t vo:Lafab Fonetik Bev netik wa:Alfabet fonetike etern cion vls:Internationoal Fonetisch Alfabet wuu: zh-yue: zh:

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