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International Phonetic Alphabet

This article is about the alphabet officially used in linguistics. NATO phonetic alphabet has been informally and nonstandardly called the International Phonetic Alphabet as well.

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). The alphabet has undergone a number of revisions during its history, including some major ones codified by the IPA Kiel Convention (1989). 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.

The sound-values of the letters are in some cases identical with French and/or English usage; e.g. [z] has the same sound as in English zinc or French zero. [j], on the other hand, has the sound value of English y in yoke (= German j); whereas [y] has the Scandinavian or Old English value of the letter (= German ü or French u). The general principle is to use one symbol for one speech segment, avoiding letter combinations like sh and th in English orthography.

Vowels in general tend to be close to Latin and Italian, [e] is like the English long a in mate, [i] is approximately the vowel sound found in English meet, and so on.

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[?] like stress and tone.

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See also: SAMPA for a method of mapping IPA designations into ASCII, without losing information.

External links


  • Daniel Jones, English pronouncing dictionary, London, Dent, 14th ed., 1989.

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