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Below is a basic key to the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet. For the smaller set of symbols that is sufficient for English, see Help:IPA for English. Several rare IPA symbols are not included; these are found on the main IPA article.
For each IPA symbol, an English example is given where possible; here "RP" stands for Received Pronunciation. The foreign languages that are used to illustrate additional sounds are primarily the ones most likely to be familiar to English speakers, French, German, and Spanish. For symbols not covered by those, recourse is taken to the populous languages Mandarin Chinese, Hindustani, Arabic, and Russian. For sounds still not covered, other smaller but well-known languages are used, such as Swahili, Turkish, and Zulu.
The left-hand column displays the symbols like this: [ a ] (i). Click on the speaker icon to hear the sound; click on the symbol itself for a dedicated article with a more complete description and examples from multiple languages. All the sounds are spoken more than once, and the consonant sounds are spoken once followed by a vowel and once between vowels.Contents: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ other Diacritic marks Brackets
The symbols are arranged by similarity to letters of the Latin alphabet. Symbols which do not resemble any letter are placed at the end.Symbol Examples Description ^ topA [ a ] (i)Spanish casa, French patte, German Mann For many English speakers, the first part of the ow sound in cow. Found in some dialects of English in cat or father. [ aː ] (i)German Aachen, French gare Long [a]. [ ɐ ]RP cut, German Kaiserslautern(With English, [ɐ] is normally written "[ʌ]".) [ ɑ ] (i)FinnishLinna, Dutch bad [ ɑː ] (i)RP father, French pâte Long [ɑ]. [ ɑ̃ ]French Caen, sans, temps Nasalized [ɑ]. [ ɒ ] (i)RP cot Like [ɑ], but with the lips slightly rounded. [ ʌ ] (i)Like [ɔ], but without the lips being rounded. (When "[ʌ]" is used for English, it may really be [ɐ] or [ɜ].) [ æ ] (i)RP cat ^ topB [ b ] (i)English babble [ ɓ ] (i)Swahili bwana Like a [b] said with a gulp. [ ʙ ] (i)Like the brrr sound made when cold. [ β ] (i)Spanish la Bamba Like [b], but with the lips not quite touching. ^ topC [ c ] (i)Turkish kebap "kebab", Czech stín "shadow" Between English tune (RP) and cute. Sometimes used instead for [tʃ] in languages like Hindi. [ ç ] (i)German Ich More y-like than [x]. Some English speakers have a similar sound in huge. To produce this sound, try whispering loudly the word "ye" as in "Hear ye!". [ ɕ ] (i)Mandarin Xi'an, Polish ściana More y-like than [ʃ]; something like English she. [ ɔ ] (i)see under O^ topD [ d ] (i)English did [ ɗ ] (i)Swahili Dodoma Like [d] said with a gulp. [ ɖ ] (i)English "harder" Like [d] with the tongue curled or pulled back. [ ð ] (i)English the, bathe [ dz ] (i)1English adze, Italian zero [ dʒ ] (i)1English judge [ dʑ ] 1Polishniedźwiedź "bear" Like [dʒ], but with more of a y-sound. [ dʐ ] 1Polish dżem "jam" Like [dʒ] with the tongue curled or pulled back. ^ topE [ e ] (i)Spanish fe; French clé [ eː ] (i)German Klee Long [e]. Similar to English hey, before the y sets in. [ ə ] (i)English above, Hindi ठग [ʈʰəɡ] (thug) "thief" (Only occurs in English when not stressed.) [ ɚ ]American English runner [ ɛ ] (i)English bet [ ɛ̃ ]French Agen, vin, main Nasalized [ɛ]. [ ɜ ] (i)RP bird (long) [ ɝ ]American English bird ^ topF [ f ] (i)English fun [ ɟ ] (i)see under J [ ʄ ] (i)see under J^ topG [ ɡ ] (i)English gig (no different from the symbol "g") [ ɠ ] (i)Swahili Uganda Like [ɡ] said with a gulp. [ ɢ ] (i)Like [ɡ], but further back, in the throat. Found in some Arabic dialects for /q/, as in Gaddafi. [ ʒ ] (i)see under ZEnglish beige. ^ topH [ h ] (i)American English house [ ɦ ] (i)English ahead, when said quickly. [ ʰ ]The extra puff of air in English top [tʰɒp] compared to stop [stɒp], or to French or Spanish [t]. [ ħ ] (i)Arabic محمد Muhammad Far down in the throat, like [h], but stronger. [ ɥ ] (i)see under U [ ɮ ] see under L^ topI [ i ] (i)French ville, Spanish Valladolid [ iː ] (i)English sea Long [i]. [ ɪ ] (i)English sit [ ɨ ] (i)Russian ты "you" Often used for unstressed English roses. ^ topJ [ j ] (i)English yes, German Junge [ ʲ ]Russian Ленин [lʲeˈnʲɪn] Indicates a sound is more y-like. [ ʝ ] (i)Spanish cayo (some dialects) Like [j], but stronger. [ ɟ ] (i)Turkish gör "see", Czech díra "hole" Between English dew (RP) and argue. Sometimes used instead for [dʒ] in languages like Hindi. [ ʄ ] (i)Swahili jambo Like [ɟ] said with a gulp. ^ topK [ k ] (i)English kick, skip ^ topL [ l ] (i)English leaf [ ɫ ] (i)English wool
Eastern Polish łapa [ˈɫapa] "paw" "Dark" el. [ ɬ ] (i)Welsh llwyd [ɬʊɪd] "grey"
Zulu hlala [ɬaːla] "sit" Rather like [l] and [ʃ] or [l] and [θ] said together. Found in Welshnames like Lloyd and Llywelyn and Nelson Mandela's Xhosa name Rolihlahla. [ ɭ ] (i)Like [l] with the tongue curled or pulled back. [ ɺ ] (i)A flapped [l], like [l] and [ɾ] said together. [ ɮ ] (i)Zulu dla "eat" Rather like [l] and [ʒ], or [l] and [ð], said together. ^ topM [ m ] (i)English mime [ ɱ ] (i)English symphony Like [m], but lips touch teeth as they do in [f]. [ ɯ ] see under W [ ʍ ] (i)see under W^ topN [ n ] (i)English nun [ ŋ ] (i)English sing [ ɲ ] (i)Spanish Peña, French champagne Rather like English canyon. [ ɳ ] (i)Hindi वरुण [ʋəruɳ] "Varuna"Like [n] with the tongue curled or pulled back. [ ɴ ] (i)Castilian Spanish Don Juan [doɴˈχwan] Like [ŋ], but further back, in the throat. ^ topO [ o ] (i)Spanish no, French eau [ oː ] (i)German Boden, French VosgesLong [o]. Somewhat reminiscent of English no. [ ɔ ] (i)German Oldenburg, French Garonne [ ɔː ] (i)RP law, French LimogesLong [ɔ]. [ ɔ̃ ]French Lyon, son Nasalized [ɔ]. [ ø ] (i)French feu, bœufs Like [e], but with the lips rounded like [o]. [ øː ] (i)German Goethe, French Deûle, neutre Long [ø]. [ ɵ ] (i)Swedish dum Halfway between [o] and [ø]. Similar to [ʊ] but with the tongue slightly more down and front. [ œ ] (i)French bœuf, seul, German GöttingenLike [ɛ], but with the lips rounded like [ɔ]. [ œː ] (i)French œuvre, heure Long [œ]. [ œ̃ ]French brun, parfum Nasalized [œ]. [ θ ] (i)English thigh, bath [ ɸ ] (i)Japanese 富士 [ɸɯdʑi] FujiLike [p], but with the lips not quite touching ^ topP [ p ] (i)English pip, spit ^ topQ [ q ] (i)Arabic Qur’ānLike [k], but further back, in the throat. ^ topR [ r ] (i)Spanish perro, Scots borrow "Rolled R". (Generally used for English [ɹ] when there's no need to be precise.) [ ɾ ] (i)Spanish pero, American English kitty/kiddie "Flapped R". [ ʀ ] (i)A trill in the back of the throat. Found for /r/ in some conservative registers of French. [ ɽ ] (i)Hindi साड़ी [sɑːɽiː] "sari" Like flapped [ɾ], but with the tongue curled back. [ ɹ ] (i)RP borrow [ ɻ ] (i)American English borrow, butter Like [ɹ], but with the tongue curled or pulled back, as pronounced by many English speakers. [ ʁ ] (i)French Paris, German RiemannSaid back in the throat, but not trilled. ^ topS [ s ] (i)English sass [ ʃ ] (i)English she [ ʂ ] (i)Mandarin Shàolín, Russian Пушкин (Pushkin)Acoustically similar to [ʃ], but with the tongue curled or pulled back.
^ topT [ t ] (i)English tot, stop [ ʈ ] (i)Hindi ठग [ʈʰəɡ] (thug) "thief" Like [t], but with the tongue curled or pulled back. [ ts ] (i)2English cats, Russian царь tsar [ tʃ ] 2English church [ tɕ ] 2Mandarin 北京 Běijīng (i), Polish ciebie "you" Like [tʃ], but with more of a y-sound. [ tʂ ] 2Mandarin zh, Polish cz Like [tʃ] with the tongue curled or pulled back . ^ topU [ u ] (i)French vous "you" [ uː ] (i)French Rocquencourt, German Schumacher, close to RP food Long [u]. [ ʊ ] (i)English foot, German Bundesrepublik [ ʉ ] (i)Australian English food (long) Like [ɨ], but with the lips rounded as for [u]. [ ɥ ] (i)French lui Like [j] and [w] said together. [ ɯ ] (i)see under W^ topV [ v ] (i)English verve [ ʋ ] (i)Hindi वरुण [ʋəruɳə] "Varuna"Between [v] and [w]. Used by some Germans and Russians for v/w, and by some speakers of British English for r. [ ɣ ] (i)Arabic / Swahili ghali "expensive" Sounds rather like French [ʁ]. [ ɤ ] (i)Mandarin HénánLike [o] but without the lips rounded, something like a cross of [ʊ] and [ʌ]. [ ʌ ] see under A^ topW [ w ] (i)English wow [ ʷ ]English rain [ɹʷɛn] Indicates a sound has lip rounding, quick. [ ʍ ] (i)what (some dialects) like [h] and [w] said together [ ɯ ] (i)Turkish kayık "caïque" Like [u], but with the lips flat; something like [ʊ]. [ ɰ ] (i)Spanish agua ^ topX [ x ] (i)Scottish English loch, German Bach, Russian хороший [xɐˈroʂɨj] "good" [ χ ] (i)DutchScheveningen, Castilian Spanish Don Juan [doɴˈχwan] Like [x], but further back , in the throat. Some German and Arabic speakers have [χ] for [x]. ^ topY [ y ] (i)French rue Like [i], but with the lips rounded as for [u]. [ yː ] (i)German Bülow, French sûr Long [y]. [ ʏ ] (i)German EisenhüttenstadtLike [ɪ], but with the lips rounded as for [ʊ]. [ ʎ ] (i)Spanish llama (Castilian) More y-like than [l]. Rather like English million. [ ɥ ] (i)see under U [ ɤ ] (i)see under V [ ɣ ] see under V^ topZ [ z ] (i)English zoos [ ʒ ] (i)English vision, French journal [ ʑ ] (i)formal Russian жжёшь [ʑːoʂ] "you burn", Polish źle More y-like than [ʒ], something like beigey. [ ʐ ] (i)Mandarin 人民日报 Rénmín Rìbào "People's Daily", Russian журнал "journal" Like [ʒ] with the tongue curled or pulled back . [ ɮ ] see under L^ topother [ ʔ ] (i)English uh-oh, Hawai‘i, German The 'glottal stop', a catch in the breath. For some people, found in button [ˈbʌʔn̩], or between vowels across words: Deus ex machina [ˌdeɪəsˌʔɛksˈmɑːkɨnə]; in some nonstandard dialects, in a apple [ʌˈʔæpl̩]. [ ʕ ] (i)Arabic عربي (carabī) "Arabic" A subtle sound deep in the throat. [ ǀ ] (i)English tsk-tsk! or tut-tut!, Zulu icici "earring" (The English click used for disapproval.) The Zimbabwean MP Ncubehas this click in his name. [ ǁ ] (i)English tchick! tchick!, Zulu ixoxo "frog" (The English click used to urge on a horse.) Found in the name of the Xhosa. [ ǃ ] (i)Zulu iqaqa "polecat" A hollow popping sound, like a cork pulled from a bottle.
- ^1 ^2 These symbols are officially written with a tie linking them (e.g. t͡ʃ), and are also sometimes written as single characters (e.g. ʧ) though the latter convention is no longer official. They are written without ligatures here to ensure correct display in all browsers.
All diacritics are here shown on a carrier letter such as the vowel a.Symbol Example Description [ ˈa ]pronunciation
[pʰɹɜʊ̯ˌnɐnsiˈeɪʃn̩] Main stress. The mark denotes the stress of the following syllable. [ ˌa ]Weaker stress. The mark denotes the stress of the following syllable. [ aː ]English shh! [ʃː] Long. Often used with English vowels or diphthongs: Mayo /ˈmeːoː/ for [ˈmeɪ̯ɜʊ̯], etc. [ aˑ ]RP caught [ˈkʰɔˑt] Semi-long. (Although the vowel is different, this is also longer than cot [ˈkʰɒt].) [ a̯ ]English cow [kʰaʊ̯], koi [kʰɔɪ̯] This vowel runs into the vowel next to it. (In English, the diacritic is generally left off: [kaʊ].) [ ã ]French vin blanc [vɛ̃blɑ̃] "white wine" A nasalvowel, as with a Texas twang. [ n̥ ]Sounds like a loud whisper; [n̥] is like a whispered breath through the nose. [l̥] is found in Tibetan Lhasa. [ n̩ ]English button A consonant without a vowel. (English [n̩] is often transcribed /ən/.) [ d̪ ]Spanish dos, French deux The tongue touches the teeth more than it does in English. [ k’ ]Zulu ukuza "come" Like a popped [k], pushed from the throat. Similarly [t’ p’ q’ tʃ’ ts’ tɬ’]. [ á ]Mandarin 妈妈 [mámā] "mother" High tone. Careful!
The PinyinRomanization used for
Mandarin has these same diacritics,
but with different values. (However,
ThaiRomanization uses them the
way the IPA does.) [ ā ]Mandarin 妈妈 [mámā] "mother" Mid tone. [ à ]Mandarin 马的 [màdɤ] "horse's" Low tone. [ â ]Mandarin 骂 [mâ] "scold" Falling tone. [ ǎ ]Mandarin 麻 [mǎ] "hemp" Rising tone. [ . ]English London [ˌlɐn.dən] Syllablebreak. (this is often redundant and therefore left off)
Two types of brackets are commonly used to enclose transcriptions in the IPA:
- [Square brackets] indicate the phonetic details of the pronunciation, regardless of whether they are actually meaningful to a native speaker. This is what a foreigner who does not know the structure of a language might hear. For instance, the English word lulls is pronounced [ˈlɐɫz], with different el sounds at the beginning and end. This may be obvious to speakers of other languages, though a native English speaker might not believe it. Likewise, Spanish la bomba has two different b sounds to foreign ears, [laˈβomba], though a Spaniard might not be able to hear it. Omitting such detail does not make any difference to the identity of the word.
- /Slashes/ indicate meaningful sounds called phonemes. Changing the symbols between slashes would either change the identity of the word or produce nonsense. Since there is no meaningful difference between the two el sounds in the word lulls, they need to be transcribed with the same symbol: /ˈlʌlz/. Similarly, Spanish la bomba is transcribed phonemically with a single b sound, /laˈbomba/. Thus a reader who is not familiar with the language in question might not know how to interpret these transcriptions.
A third kind of bracket is occasionally seen:
- Either //double slashes// or |pipes| (or occasionally other conventions) show that the enclosed sounds are theoretical constructs that aren't actually heard. (This is part of morphophonology.) For instance, most phonologists argue that that the -s at the ends of verbs, which surfaces as either /s/ in talks /tɔːks/ or as /z/ in lulls /lʌlz/, has a single underlying form. If they decide this form is an s, they would write it //s// (or |s|) to claim that phonemic /tɔːks/ and /lʌlz/ are essentially //tɔːks// and //lʌls// underneath. If they were to decide it was essentially the latter, //z//, they would transcribe these words //tɔːkz// and //lʌlz//.
- <Angle brackets> may be used to represent the original orthography: <lulls>, <la bomba>.
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