Help:IPA conventions for English

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The various English dictionaries use different and sometimes conflicting IPA transcriptions for English. For example, the transcription /i/ may be used for the vowel of sit, of seat, or at the end of city. A dictionary may not even be consistent between one edition and the next. This table correlates the more widely used dictionaries with the conventions of the WP:IPA for English key that is used on Wikipedia.

Most dictionaries transcribe a specific dialect or accent, such as the Received Pronunciation (RP) of the Oxford English Dictionary, or a narrow range of dialects. Wikipedia's WP:IPA for English key, on the other hand, is intended to cover RP, General American, Australian, and other national standards. As such, Wikipedia transcribes /r/ where it is found in rhotic dialects, but also the vowel distinctions found in non-rhotic dialects, without distinct UK and US transcriptions. Specific dialects may also be transcribed—local pronunciations of place names are often useful, for example—but they are normally written in addition to a more universal pronunciation.

When entering IPA in an article, please use the {{IPA}} template so that it is formatted properly on all web browsers. /Slashes/ and [brackets] should be included inside the IPA template, so that they display in the same font as the IPA itself. Also, please use proper stress ˈ and length ː marks (available at the bottom of your edit window) rather than the non-IPA shortcuts of apostrophe ' and colon :. Depending on the reader's font preferences, the latter can be ambiguous.

For a list of those languages other than English which have agreed-upon transcriptions in Wikipedia, see {{IPAkeys}}. For a comparison of the non-IPA transcriptions found in many US dictionaries, see Pronunciation respelling for English.

Alternative pronunciations

When dictionaries give alternative pronunciations, they may mean that people disagree. For example, some people pronounce bath /ˈbæθ/, with the vowel of bat, while others with the same accent pronounce it /ˈbɑːθ/, with the vowel of bra. This is the kind of difference celebrated in "You like to-MAY-toes; I like to-MAH-toes". On Wikipedia, we would normally need to transcribe both, unless only one is considered correct, as may be the case for personal and place names.

However, often variant transcriptions reflect distinctions between accents, and these we do not need to transcribe, since our IPA key already covers such distinctions. For example, dictionary.com transcribes horse as "/hɔrs/" and hoarse as "/hɔrs, hoʊrs/". The two transcriptions of hoarse are meant to show that some people pronounce it the same as horse; it does not mean that there are two pronunciations of hoarse among those who either do or do not make this distinction. (See horse-hoarse merger.) It would not be possible to have the song lyric "You say hoarse and I say horse", because only those people who say hoarse would be able to sing it. And indeed in the OED there is only one pronunciation for each word: horse (hɔːs) and hoarse (hɔəs). Therefore on Wikipedia we would only have one transcription for each: horse /ˈhɔrs/, hoarse /ˈhɔərs/. Since the IPA key defines the orthographic conventions of /ɔr/ and /ɔər/ according to basic English words, readers who do not make the horse-hoarse distinction will see /ɔr/ and /ɔər/ as being equivalent, much as the spelling pronunciations YOU-clid and EWE-clid for "Euclid" would be seen as equivalent.

Consonants

Consonants vary little between dictionaries. The ones which do are those in the words:

rich, char /r ~ ɹ ~ (r) ~ (ɹ) ~ zero/;
which, /ʍ ~ hw ~ (h)w ~ w/;
and new, /njuː ~ nuː/.

Wikipedia editors have decided to go with /ˈrɪtʃ/, /ˈtʃɑr/, /ˈhwɪtʃ/, /njuː/ for these words.

A few dictionaries, such as dictionary.com, use "/y/" for /j/, but /y/ is more properly a vowel, and appears as such in transcriptions of French and German, often alongside English IPA transcriptions.

Vowels

Parentheses are not used on Wikipedia, as such transcriptions aren't truly phonemic. In non-rhotic accents such as RP, /r/ is not pronounced unless followed by a vowel, and non-rhotic dictionaries generally leave it out. American and Australian dictionaries tend not to indicate vowel length. Other differences are highlighted in red.

WP OED2 SOED OED3
(UK)
OED3
(US)
K&K dict Wells Mac
æ æ a a æ æ æ æ æ
ær ær ɛr ær ær ær
ʌɪ
aɪr aɪə(r) aɪr ər
aɪ.ər ˈaɪə(r) aɪɚ aɪər
aᴜ
aʊr aʊə(r) aᴜr ər
aʊ.ər ˈaʊə(r) aᴜɚ aʊər
ɑː ɑː ɑː ɑː ɑ ɑ ɑ ɑː a
ɑr ɑː, ɑː(r) ɑː ɑr ɑr ɑr ɑː, ɑːr a
ɒ ɒ ɒ ɒ ɑ ɑ ɒ ɒ
ɒr ɒr ɔr ɔr, ɑr, ɒr ɔr, ɒr  ?
e
ɛ ɛ ɛ ɛ ɛ ɛ ɛ e ɛ
ɛr ɛr ɛr ɛr ɛr er
ɛər ɛə, ɛə(r) ɛː ɛ(ə)r ɛr, ɛːr, er ɛər eə, eər ɛə
ɜr ɜː, ɜː(r) əː ər ɝ ɜr ɜː, ɜːr ɜ
i i i i
ɪ ɪ ɪ ɪ ɪ ɪ ɪ ɪ ɪ
ɪr ɪr ɪr ɪr ɪr
ɪər ɪə, ɪə(r) ɪə ɪə ɪ(ə)r ɪr ɪər ɪə, ɪər ɪə
əʊ əʊ əʊ o əʊ
ɔː ɔː ɔː ɔː ɔ ɔ ɔ ɔː ɔ
ɔr ɔː, ɔː(r) ɔː ɔr ɔr ɔr ɔː, ɔːr ɔ
ɔər ɔə, ɔə(r) ɔː ɔ(ə)r or, ɔr ɔr, oʊr  ? ɔ
ɔɪ ɔɪ ɔɪ ɔɪ ɔɪ ɔɪ ɔɪ ɔɪ ɔɪ
u u u u
ʊ ʊ ʊ ʊ ʊ ʊ ʊ
ʊər ʊə, ʊə(r) ʊə ʊ(ə)r ᴜr ʊər ʊə, ʊər (ʊə)
ʌ ʌ ʌ ʌ ə ʌ ʌ ʌ ʌ
ʌr ʌr ʌr ɝ ɜr, ʌr  ?
juː juː juː ju yu
u, yu1
juː
Reduced vowels
ə ə ə ə ə ə ə ə ə
ən (ə)n (ə)n ən n ən
əm (ə)m əm əm m əm
əl (ə)l (ə)l əl l əl
ər ə, ə(r) ə ə ər ɚ ər ə, ər ə
i ɪ i i i ɪ i i
ɨ ɪ ɪ ɪ ə ɪ ə ɪ ə
ɵ ə(ʊ) o (before C)
əw (before V)
 ?
ʉ ʊ ʊ ə ə u, ʊ, ə
WP OED2 SOED OED3
(UK)
OED3
(US)
K&K dict Wells Mac
  1. ^ In many dialects, /juː/ is pronounced the same as /uː/ after "tongue tip sounds" (/t/, /d/, /s/, /z/, /n/, /θ/, and /l/) in the same syllable, so that dew /djuː/ is pronounced the same as do /duː/.

Stress

One-syllable words may have stress. Most dictionaries leave it out, but that can be confusing when several such words are strung together. For example, in the name Zack de la Rocha, Zack and Rocha have stress, but de la does not: /ˈzæk dɛlə ˈroʊtʃə/. It would therefore convey an incorrect pronunciation to leave the stress mark off Zack.

OED2 does not indicate stress on monosyllables, but uses the stress mark to disambiguate disyllables: higher (ˈhaɪə(r)) vs. hire (haɪə(r)). On WP, the distinction is made with the aid of the syllabicity mark: /ˈhaɪ.ər/, /ˈhaɪr/.

Dictionaries also disagree on secondary stress. Generally, any stressed syllable prior to the last is marked as secondary (/ˌzæk dɛlə ˈroʊtʃə/), and that convention is followed here. However, several dictionaries also mark full (unreduced) vowels as having secondary stress when they come after the primary stress, even though they are not actually stressed: cerebrate, dict.com /ˈsɛrəˌbreɪt/, OED2 (ˈsɛrɪbreɪt). This practice is avoided on Wikipedia; if you have a word transcribed /ˈCVˌCV/, it should probably be /ˈCVCV/: /ˈsɛrɨbreɪt/.








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