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International Phonetic Alphabet

Alphabetic system of phonetic notation

Top 10 International Phonetic Alphabet related articles

International Phonetic Alphabet
"IPA" in IPA ([aɪ pʰiː eɪ])
Script type
Alphabet
– partially featural
Time period
since 1888
LanguagesUsed for phonetic and phonemic transcription of any language
Related scripts
Parent systems
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Latn, , ​Latin
Unicode
Unicode alias
Latin
The official chart of the IPA, revised in 2020

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin script. It was devised by the International Phonetic Association in the late 19th century as a standardized representation of speech sounds in written form.[1] The IPA is used by lexicographers, foreign language students and teachers, linguists, speech-language pathologists, singers, actors, constructed language creators and translators.[2][3]

The IPA is designed to represent those qualities of speech that are part of lexical (and to a limited extent prosodic) sounds in oral language: phones, phonemes, intonation and the separation of words and syllables.[1] To represent additional qualities of speech, such as tooth gnashing, lisping, and sounds made with a cleft lip and cleft palate, an extended set of symbols, the extensions to the International Phonetic Alphabet, may be used.[2]

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 with a letter plus diacritics, [t̺ʰ], depending on how precise one wishes to be.[note 1] Slashes are used to signal phonemic transcription; thus /t/ is more abstract than either [t̺ʰ] or [t] and might refer to either, 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,[4] there are 107 segmental letters, an indefinitely large number of suprasegmental letters, 44 diacritics (not counting composites) and four extra-lexical prosodic marks in the IPA. These are shown in the current IPA chart, also posted below in this article and at the website of the IPA.[5]

International Phonetic Alphabet Intro articles: 12

History

In 1886, a group of French and British language teachers, led by the French linguist Paul Passy, formed what would be known from 1897 onwards as the International Phonetic Association (in French, l'Association phonétique internationale).[6] Their original alphabet was based on a spelling reform for English known as the Romic alphabet, but to make it usable for other languages the values of the symbols were allowed to vary from language to language.[7] For example, the sound [ʃ] (the sh in shoe) was originally represented with the letter ⟨c⟩ in English, but with the digraph ⟨ch⟩ in French.[6] In 1888, the alphabet was revised so as to be uniform across languages, thus providing the base for all future revisions.[6][8] The idea of making the IPA was first suggested by Otto Jespersen in a letter to Paul Passy. It was developed by Alexander John Ellis, Henry Sweet, Daniel Jones, and Passy.[9]

Since its creation, the IPA has undergone a number of revisions. After revisions and expansions from the 1890s to the 1940s, the IPA remained primarily unchanged until the Kiel Convention in 1989. A minor revision took place in 1993 with the addition of four letters for mid central vowels[2] and the removal of letters for voiceless implosives.[10] The alphabet was last revised in May 2005 with the addition of a letter for a labiodental flap.[11] Apart from the addition and removal of symbols, changes to the IPA have consisted largely of renaming symbols and categories and in modifying typefaces.[2]

Extensions to the International Phonetic Alphabet for speech pathology were created in 1990 and officially adopted by the International Clinical Phonetics and Linguistics Association in 1994.[12]

International Phonetic Alphabet History articles: 12

Description

The general principle of the IPA is to provide one letter for each distinctive sound (speech segment).[13] This means that:

  • It does not normally use combinations of letters to represent single sounds, the way English does with ⟨sh⟩, ⟨th⟩ 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, the way ⟨c⟩ and ⟨g⟩ in several European languages have a "hard" or "soft" pronunciation.
  • 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".[2][note 2]
    • However, if a large number of phonemically distinct letters can be derived with a diacritic, that may be used instead.[note 3]

The alphabet is designed for transcribing sounds (phones), not phonemes, though it is used for phonemic transcription as well. A few letters that did not indicate specific sounds have been retired (⟨ˇ⟩, once used for the "compound" tone of Swedish and Norwegian, and ⟨ƞ⟩, once used for the moraic nasal of Japanese), though one remains: ⟨ɧ⟩, used for the sj-sound of Swedish. When the IPA is used for phonemic transcription, the letter–sound correspondence can be rather loose. For example, ⟨c⟩ and ⟨ɟ⟩ are used in the IPA Handbook for /t͡ʃ/ and /d͡ʒ/.

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.[note 4] These are organized into a chart; the chart displayed here is the official chart as posted at the website of the IPA.

Letter forms

The letters chosen for the IPA are meant to harmonize with the Latin alphabet.[note 5] For this reason, most letters are either Latin or Greek, or modifications thereof. Some letters are neither: for example, the letter denoting the glottal stop, ⟨ʔ⟩, originally had the form of a dotless question mark, and derives from an apostrophe. A few letters, such as that of the voiced pharyngeal fricative, ⟨ʕ⟩, were inspired by other writing systems (in this case, the Arabic letter 〈‎〉, ʿayn, via the reversed apostrophe).[10]

Some letter forms derive from existing letters:

  1. The right-swinging tail, as in ⟨ɖ ɳ ʂ⟩, marks retroflex articulation. It derives from the hook of an r.
  2. The top hook, as in ⟨ɠ ɗ ɓ⟩, marks implosion.
  3. Several nasal consonants are based on the form ⟨n⟩: ⟨n ɲ ɳ ŋ⟩. ⟨ɲ⟩ and ⟨ŋ⟩ derive from ligatures of gn and ng, and ⟨ɱ⟩ is an ad hoc imitation of ⟨ŋ⟩.
  4. Letters turned 180 degrees, such as 〈ɐ ɔ ə ɟ ɓ ɥ ɾ ɯ ɹ ʇ ʊ ʌ ʍ ʎ〉 (from 〈a c e f ɡ h ᴊ m r t ꭥ v w y〉),[14] when either the original letter (e.g., 〈ɐ ə ɹ ʇ ʍ〉) or the turned one (e.g., 〈ɔ ɟ ɓ ɥ ɾ ɯ ʌ ʎ〉) is reminiscent of the target sound. This was easily done in the era of mechanical typesetting, and had the advantage of not requiring the casting of special type for IPA symbols, much as the same type had often been used for b and q, d and p, n and u, 6 and 9 to cut down on expense.

Typography and iconicity

The International Phonetic Alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet, using as few non-Latin forms as possible.[6] The Association created the IPA so that the sound values of most consonant letters taken from the Latin alphabet would correspond to "international usage".[6] 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 (long) 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 small-capital and 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, ⟨ʋ⟩ is a vowel in Greek, but an only indirectly related consonant in the IPA. For most of these, subtly different glyph shapes have been devised for the IPA, namely ⟨ɑ⟩, ⟨⟩, ⟨ɣ⟩, ⟨ɛ⟩, ⟨ɸ⟩, ⟨⟩, and ⟨ʋ⟩, which are encoded in Unicode separately from their parent Greek letters, though one of them – ⟨θ⟩ – is not, while both Latin ⟨⟩, ⟨⟩ and Greek ⟨β⟩, ⟨χ⟩ are in common use.[15]

The sound values of modified Latin letters can often be derived from those of the original letters.[16] 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 (as for example in Visible Speech) nor even any systematic relation between signs and the sounds they represent (as in Hangul).

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 transcription delimiters

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

Symbol Use
[ ... ] Square brackets are used with phonetic notation, whether broad or narrow[17] – that is, for actual pronunciation, possibly including details of the pronunciation that may not be used for distinguishing words in the language being transcribed, which the author nonetheless wishes to document. Such phonetic notation is the primary function of the IPA.
/ ... / Slashes[note 6] are used for abstract phonemic notation,[17] which note only features that are distinctive in the language, without any extraneous detail. For example, while the 'p' sounds of English pin and spin are pronounced differently (and this difference would be meaningful in some languages), the difference is not meaningful in English. Thus phonemically the words are usually analyzed as /pɪn/ and /spɪn/, with the same phoneme /p/. To capture the difference between them (the allophones of /p/), they can be transcribed phonetically as [pʰɪn] and [spɪn]. Phonemic notation commonly uses IPA symbols that are rather close to the default pronunciation of a phoneme, but for legibility or other reasons can use symbols for something that diverges from their designated values, such as /c, ɟ/ for affricates, as found in the Handbook, or /r/ (which according to the IPA is a trill) for English r.

Other conventions are less commonly seen:

Symbol Use
{ ... } Braces ("curly brackets") are used for prosodic notation.[18] See Extensions to the International Phonetic Alphabet for examples in this system.
( ... ) Parentheses are used for indistinguishable[17] or unidentified utterances. They are also seen for silent articulation (mouthing),[19] where the expected phonetic transcription is derived from lip-reading, and with periods to indicate silent pauses, for example (…) or (2 sec). The latter usage is made official in the extIPA, with unidentified segments circled.[20]
⸨ ... ⸩ Double parentheses indicate an obscured sound,[18] as in ⸨2σ⸩, two audible syllables obscured by another noise. The extIPA specifies double parentheses for extraneous noise (as a knock on a door), but the IPA Handbook identifies IPA and extIPA usage as equivalent.[21]

All three of the above are provided by the IPA Handbook. The following are not, but may be seen in IPA transcription or in associated material (especially angle brackets):

Symbol Use
⟦ ... ⟧ Double square brackets are used for extra-precise (especially narrow) transcription. This is consistent with the IPA convention of doubling a symbol to indicate greater degree. Double brackets may indicate that a letter has its cardinal IPA value. For example, ⟦a⟧ is an open front vowel, rather than the perhaps slightly different value (such as open central) that "[a]" may be used to transcribe in a particular language. Thus two vowels transcribed for easy legibility as ⟨[e]⟩ and ⟨[ɛ]⟩ may be clarified as actually being ⟦e̝⟧ and ⟦e⟧; ⟨[ð]⟩ may be more precisely ⟦ð̠̞ˠ⟧.[22] Double brackets may also be used for a specific token or speaker, for example the pronunciation of a child as opposed to the adult phonetic pronunciation that is their target.[23]
⫽ ... ⫽
| ... |
‖ ... ‖
{ ... }
Double slashes are used for morphophonemic transcription. This is also consistent with the IPA convention of doubling a symbol to indicate greater degree (in this case, more abstract than phonemic transcription). Other symbols sometimes seen for morphophonemic transcription are pipes and double pipes (as in Americanist phonetic notation) and braces (from set theory, especially when enclosing a set of phonemes, e.g. {t d} or {t|d}), but all of these conflict with IPA indications of prosody.[24]
 ... 
⟪ ... ⟫
Angle brackets[note 7] are used to mark orthography and transliteration; this notation is also used to identify an individual grapheme. Within the IPA, they are used to indicate that the letters stand for themselves and not for the sound values that they carry. For example, ⟨cot⟩ would be used for the orthography of the English word cot, as opposed to its pronunciation /ˈkɒt/. Italics are more commonly used for this purpose when full words are being written (as "cot" just above), but italics may not be sufficiently clear when demarcating individual letters and digraphs. Furthmore, italic markup is not evident to sight-impaired readers who rely on screen reader technology. It may occasionally be useful to distinguish original orthography from transliteration with double angle brackets.

Cursive forms

IPA letters have cursive forms designed for use in manuscripts and when taking field notes, but the 1999 Handbook of the International Phonetic Association recommended against their use, as cursive IPA is "harder for most people to decipher."[25]

Letter g

Typographic variants include a double-story and single-story g.

In the early stages of the alphabet, the typographic variants of g, opentail ⟨ɡ⟩ ( ) and looptail g ( ), represented different values, but are now regarded as equivalents. Opentail ⟨ɡ⟩ has always represented a voiced velar plosive, while ⟨ ⟩ was distinguished from ⟨ɡ⟩ and represented a voiced velar fricative from 1895 to 1900.[26][27] Subsequently, ⟨ǥ⟩ represented the fricative, until 1931 when it was replaced again by ⟨ɣ⟩.[28]

In 1948, the Council of the Association recognized ⟨ɡ⟩ and ⟨ ⟩ as typographic equivalents,[29] and this decision was reaffirmed in 1993.[30] While the 1949 Principles of the International Phonetic Association recommended the use of ⟨ ⟩ for a velar plosive and ⟨ɡ⟩ for an advanced one for languages where it is preferable to distinguish the two, such as Russian,[31] this practice never caught on.[32] The 1999 Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, the successor to the Principles, abandoned the recommendation and acknowledged both shapes as acceptable variants.[33]

International Phonetic Alphabet Description articles: 54

Modifying the IPA chart

The authors of textbooks or similar publications often create revised versions of the IPA chart to express their own preferences or needs. The image displays one such version. All pulmonic consonants are moved to the consonant chart. Only the black symbols are part of the IPA; common additional symbols are in grey. Some of these are in the extIPA or are mentioned in the Handbook.

The International Phonetic Alphabet is occasionally modified by the Association. After each modification, the Association provides an updated simplified presentation of the alphabet in the form of a chart. (See History of the IPA.) Not all aspects of the alphabet can be accommodated in a chart of the size published by the IPA. The alveolo-palatal and epiglottal consonants, for example, are not included in the consonant chart for reasons of space rather than of theory (two additional columns would be required, one between the retroflex and palatal columns and the other between the pharyngeal and glottal columns), and the lateral flap would require an additional row for that single consonant, so they are listed instead under the catchall block of "other symbols".[34] The indefinitely large number of tone letters would make a full accounting impractical even on a larger page, and only a few examples are shown.

The procedure for modifying the alphabet or the chart is to propose the change in the Journal of the IPA. (See, for example, August 2008 on an open central unrounded vowel and August 2011 on central approximants.)[35] Reactions to the proposal may be published in the same or subsequent issues of the Journal (as in August 2009 on the open central vowel).[36] A formal proposal is then put to the Council of the IPA[37] – which is elected by the membership[38] – for further discussion and a formal vote.[39][40]

Only changes to the alphabet or chart that have been approved by the Council can be considered part of the official IPA. Nonetheless, many users of the alphabet, including the leadership of the Association itself, deviate from the official system.[41]

International Phonetic Alphabet Modifying the IPA chart articles: 7

Usage

Of more than 160 IPA symbols, relatively few will be used to transcribe speech in any one language, with various levels of precision. A precise phonetic transcription, in which sounds are specified in detail, is known as a narrow transcription. A coarser transcription with less detail is called a broad transcription. Both are relative terms, and both are generally enclosed in square brackets.[1] 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

For example, the English word little may be transcribed broadly as [ˈlɪtəl], approximately describing many pronunciations. A narrower transcription may focus on individual or dialectical details: [ˈɫɪɾɫ] in General American, [ˈlɪʔo] in Cockney, or [ˈɫɪːɫ] in Southern US English.

Phonemic transcriptions, which express the conceptual counterparts of spoken sounds, are usually enclosed in slashes (/ /) and tend to use simpler letters with few diacritics. The choice of IPA letters may reflect theoretical claims of how speakers conceptualize sounds as phonemes or they may be merely a convenience for typesetting. Phonemic approximations between slashes do not have absolute sound values. For instance, in English, either the vowel of pick or the vowel of peak may be transcribed as /i/, so that pick, peak would be transcribed as /pik, piːk/ or as /pɪk, pik/; and neither is identical to the vowel of the French pique which is also generally transcribed /i/. By contrast, a narrow phonetic transcription of pick, peak, pique could be: [pʰɪk], [pʰiːk], [pikʲ].

Linguists

IPA is popular for transcription by linguists. Some American linguists, however, use a mix of IPA with Americanist phonetic notation or use some nonstandard symbols for various reasons.[42] Authors who employ such nonstandard use are encouraged to include a chart or other explanation of their choices, which is good practice in general, as linguists differ in their understanding of the exact meaning of IPA symbols and common conventions change over time.

Dictionaries

English

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.[43] 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 [j] and ⟨sh⟩ for IPA [ʃ], reflecting common representations of those sounds in written English,[44] 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.)

Other languages

The IPA is also not universal among dictionaries in languages other than English. Monolingual dictionaries of languages with 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 alphabet for transcription of foreign words.[45] Bilingual dictionaries that translate from foreign languages into Russian usually employ the IPA, but monolingual Russian dictionaries occasionally use pronunciation respelling for foreign words.[46] 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.[47]

Standard orthographies and case variants

IPA letters have been incorporated into the alphabets of various languages, notably via the Africa Alphabet in many sub-Saharan languages such as Hausa, Fula, Akan, Gbe languages, Manding languages, Lingala, etc. This has created the need for capital variants. For example, Kabiyè of northern Togo has Ɖ ɖ, Ŋ ŋ, Ɣ ɣ, Ɔ ɔ, Ɛ ɛ, Ʋ ʋ. These, and others, are supported by Unicode, but appear in Latin ranges other than the IPA extensions.

In the IPA itself, however, only lower-case letters are used. The 1949 edition of the IPA handbook indicated that an asterisk ⟨*⟩ may be prefixed to indicate that a word is a proper name,[48] but this convention was not included in the 1999 Handbook.

Classical singing

IPA has widespread use among classical singers during preparation as they are frequently required to sing in a variety of foreign languages, in addition to being taught by vocal coach to perfect the diction of their students and to globally improve tone quality and tuning.[49] Opera librettos are authoritatively transcribed in IPA, such as Nico Castel's volumes[50] and Timothy Cheek's book Singing in Czech.[51] Opera singers' ability to read IPA was used by the site 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".[52]

IPA number

Each character, letter or diacritic, is assigned a number, to prevent confusion between similar characters (such as ɵ and θ, ɤ and ɣ, or ʃ and ʄ) in such situations as the printing of manuscripts. The categories of sounds are assigned different ranges of numbers.[53]

International Phonetic Alphabet Usage articles: 32

Letters

The International Phonetic Association organizes the letters of the IPA into three categories: pulmonic consonants, non-pulmonic consonants, and vowels.[54][55]

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, two columns are omitted to save space, with the letters listed among 'other symbols',[56] 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 represent articulations that are judged to be impossible.

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'.

Consonants

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.[57]

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.

Place Labial Coronal Dorsal Laryngeal
Nasal m ɱ n ɳ̊ ɳ ɲ̊ ɲ ŋ̊ ŋ ɴ
Plosive p b t d ʈ ɖ c ɟ k ɡ q ɢ ʡ ʔ
Sibilant fricative s z ʃ ʒ ʂ ʐ ɕ ʑ
Non-sibilant fricative ɸ β f v θ̼ ð̼ θ ð θ̠ ð̠ ɹ̠̊˔ ɹ̠˔ ɻ˔ ç ʝ x ɣ χ ʁ ħ ʕ h ɦ
Approximant ʋ ɹ ɻ j ɰ ʔ̞
Tap/flap ⱱ̟ ɾ̼ ɾ̥ ɾ ɽ̊ ɽ ɢ̆ ʡ̆
Trill ʙ̥ ʙ r ɽ̊r̥ ɽr ʀ̥ ʀ ʜ ʢ
Lateral fricative ɬ ɮ ɭ̊˔ ɭ˔ ʎ̝̊ ʎ̝ ʟ̝̊ ʟ̝
Lateral approximant l ɭ ʎ ʟ ʟ̠
Lateral tap/flap ɺ̥ ɺ ɭ̥̆ ɭ̆ ʎ̆ ʟ̆

Notes

  • In rows where some letters appear in pairs (the obstruents), the letter to the right represents a voiced consonant (except breathy-voiced [ɦ]).[58] In the other rows (the sonorants), the single letter represents a voiced consonant.
  • While IPA provides a single letter for the coronal places of articulation (for all consonants but fricatives), these do not always have to be used exactly. 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 [ʁ, ʕ, ʢ] represent either voiced fricatives or approximants.
  • In many languages, such as English, [h] and [ɦ] are not actually glottal, fricatives, or approximants. Rather, they are bare phonation.[59]
  • It is primarily the shape of the tongue rather than its position that distinguishes the fricatives [ʃ ʒ], [ɕ ʑ], and [ʂ ʐ].
  • Some listed phones are not known to exist as phonemes in any language.

Non-pulmonic consonants

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

Ejective Stop ʈʼ ʡʼ
Fricative ɸʼ θʼ ʃʼ ʂʼ ɕʼ χʼ
Lateral fricative ɬʼ
Click
(top: velar;
bottom: uvular)
Tenuis



Voiced ɡʘ
ɢʘ
ɡǀ
ɢǀ
ɡǃ
ɢǃ
ɡǂ
ɢǂ
Nasal ŋʘ
ɴʘ
ŋǀ
ɴǀ
ŋǃ
ɴǃ
ŋǂ
ɴǂ
Tenuis lateral
Voiced lateral ɡǁ
ɢǁ
Nasal lateral ŋǁ
ɴǁ
Implosive Voiced ɓ ɗ ʄ ɠ ʛ
Voiceless ɓ̥ ɗ̥ ᶑ̊ ʄ̊ ɠ̊ ʛ̥

Notes

  • Clicks have traditionally been described as consisting of a forward place of articulation, commonly called the click 'type' or historically the 'influx', and a rear place of articulation, which when combined with the voicing, aspiration, nasalization, affrication, ejection, timing etc. of the click is commonly called the click 'accompaniment' or historically the 'efflux'. The IPA click letters indicate only the click type (forward articulation and release). Therefore all clicks require two letters for proper notation: ⟨k͡ǂ, ɡ͡ǂ, ŋ͡ǂ, q͡ǂ, ɢ͡ǂ, ɴ͡ǂetc., or with the order reversed if both the forward and rear releases are audible. The letter for the rear articulation is frequently omitted, in which case a ⟨k⟩ may usually be assumed. However, some researchers dispute the idea that clicks should be analyzed as doubly articulated, as the traditional transcription implies, and analyze the rear occlusion as solely a part of the airstream mechanism.[60] In transcriptions of such approaches, the click letter represents both places of articulation, with the different letters representing the different click types, and diacritics are used for the elements of the accompaniment: ⟨ǂ, ǂ̬, ǂ̃etc.
  • Letters for the voiceless implosives ⟨ƥ, ƭ, ƈ, ƙ, ʠ⟩ are no longer supported by the IPA, though they remain in Unicode. Instead, the IPA typically uses the voiced equivalent with a voiceless diacritic: ⟨ɓ̥, ʛ̥⟩, etc..
  • The letter for the retroflex implosive, , is not "explicitly IPA approved" (Handbook, p. 166), but has the expected form if such a symbol were to be approved.
  • The ejective diacritic is placed at the right-hand margin of the consonant, rather than immediately after the letter for the stop: ⟨t͜ʃʼ⟩, ⟨kʷʼ⟩. In imprecise transcription, it often stands in for a superscript glottal stop in glottalized but pulmonic sonorants, such as [mˀ], [lˀ], [wˀ], [aˀ] (also transcribable as creaky [m̰], [l̰], [w̰], [a̰]).

Affricates

Affricates and co-articulated stops are represented by two letters joined by a tie bar, either above or below the letters.[61] The six most common affricates are optionally represented by ligatures (ʦ, ʣ, ʧ, ʤ, ʨ, ʥ), though this is no longer official IPA usage,[1] 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 t͡s, paralleling ~ k͡x. The letters for the palatal plosives c and ɟ are often used as a convenience for t͡ʃ and d͡ʒ or similar affricates, even in official IPA publications, so they must be interpreted with care.

Pulmonic
Sibilant ts dz t̠ʃ d̠ʒ ʈʂ ɖʐ
Non-sibilant p̪f b̪v t̪θ d̪ð tɹ̝̊ dɹ̝ t̠ɹ̠̊˔ d̠ɹ̠˔ ɟʝ kx ɡɣ ɢʁ ʡʢ ʔh
Lateral ʈɭ̊˔ ɖɭ˔ cʎ̝̊ ɟʎ̝ kʟ̝̊ ɡʟ̝
Ejective
Central tsʼ t̠ʃʼ ʈʂʼ kxʼ qχʼ
Lateral tɬʼ cʎ̝̊ʼ kʟ̝̊ʼ

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 [w] in "went" is a coarticulated consonant, being pronounced by rounding the lips and raising the back of the tongue. Similar sounds are [ʍ] and [ɥ]. In some languages, plosives can be double-articulated, for example in the name of Laurent Gbagbo.

t͡p
d͡b
Labial–alveolar
Labial–velar
Labial–velar
ɧ
Sj-sound (variable)
Lateral approximant
Velarized alveolar

Notes

  • [ɧ], the Swedish sj-sound, is described by the IPA as a "simultaneous [ʃ] and [x]", but it is unlikely such a simultaneous fricative actually exists in any language.[62]
  • Multiple tie bars can be used: ⟨a͡b͡c⟩ or ⟨a͜b͜c⟩. For instance, if a prenasalized stop is transcribed ⟨m͡b⟩, and a doubly articulated stop ⟨ɡ͡b⟩, then a prenasalized doubly articulated stop would be ⟨ŋ͡m͡ɡ͡b

Vowels

Tongue positions of cardinal front vowels, with highest point indicated. The position of the highest point is used to determine vowel height and backness.
X-ray photos show the sounds [i, u, a, ɑ].

The IPA defines a vowel as a sound which occurs at a syllable center.[63] Below is a chart depicting the vowels of the IPA. The IPA maps the vowels according to the position of the tongue.

Front Central Back
Close
Near-close
Close-mid
Mid
Open-mid
Near-open
Open

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, [ɑ] (the first vowel in father) is at the bottom because the tongue is lowered in this position. [i] (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 [ɛ], the vowel in "met") are to the left in the chart, while those in which it is moved to the back (such as [ʌ], 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

Diphthongs are typically specified with a non-syllabic diacritic, as in ⟨uɪ̯⟩ or ⟨u̯ɪ⟩, or with a superscript for the on- or off-glide, as in ⟨uᶦ⟩ or ⟨ᵘɪ⟩. Sometimes a tie bar is used, especially if it is difficult to tell if the diphthong is characterized by an on-glide, an off-glide or is variable: ⟨u͡ɪ⟩.

Notes

  • a⟩ officially represents a front vowel, but there is little distinction between front and central open vowels, and ⟨a⟩ is frequently used for an open central vowel.[42] If disambiguation is required, the retraction diacritic or the centralized diacritic may be added to indicate an open central vowel, as in ⟨⟩ or ⟨ä⟩.

International Phonetic Alphabet Letters articles: 311