The International Phonetic Alphabet was originally developed by British and French phoneticians under the auspices of the International Phonetic Association, established in Paris in 1886 (both the organisation and the phonetic script are best known as IPA). It is intended as a notational standard for the phonetic representation of all languages. The alphabet has undergone a number of revisions during its history, including some major ones codified by the IPA Kiel Convention (1989); the most recent revision was in 1993, updated again in 1996. Most letters are taken from the Roman alphabet or derived from it, some are taken from the Greek alphabet, and some are apparently unrelated to any standard alphabet.
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DescriptionThe sound-values of the consonants that are identical to those in the Latin alphabet in most cases correspond to English usage. [p], [b], [t], [d], [k], [g], [m], [n], [f], [v], [s], [h], [z], [l]. [w].
The vowel symbols that are identical to those in the Latin alphabet ([a], [e], [i], [o], [u]) correspond roughly to the vowels of Spanish or Italian. [i] is like the vowel in meet, [u] like the vowel in food, etc.
Most of the other symbols that are shared with the Latin alphabet, like [j], [r], [c], and [y], correspond to sounds those letters represent in other languages. [j] has the sound value of English y in yoke (= German or Dutch j); whereas [y] has the Scandinavian or Old English value of the letter (= German y or ü or French u). The general principle is to use one symbol for one speech segment, avoiding letter combinations such as sh and th in English orthography.
Letters that have shapes that are modified Latin letters usually correspond to a similar sound. For example, all the retroflex consonants have the same symbol as the equivalent alveolar consonants, except with a rightward pointing hook coming out of the bottom.
Diacritic marks can be combined with IPA signs to transcribe slightly modified phonetic values or secondary articulations. There are also special symbols for suprasegmental features such as stress and tone.
When characters from the IPA phonetic alphabet are embedding in another script they are isolated from from the rest of the text with either solidus ("/") or square brackets ("[" and "]"). Properly the brackets should be used when a narrow phonetic transcription is given, for example the English word "hill" would be [çɪʟ]. Solidi are used when a broad phonemic transcription is given, "hill" would be /hil/.
- IPA in Unicode
- SAMPA for a method of mapping IPA designations into ASCII, and Kirshenbaum, another method
- Unicode and HTML/IPA Extensions
- Official home page of the IPA
- Peter Ladefoged's Course in Phonetics (with sound files)
- IPA chart source
- Daniel Jones, English pronouncing dictionary, London, Dent, 14th ed., 1989.