Pronunciation respelling for English
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Pronunciation respelling is a type of notation system used to convey the pronunciation of words, in a language which doesn't have a phonemic orthography (such as English). Respelling systems are meant to be easy for native readers to understand, but do not represent phonetic differences between English accents or dialects. English dictionaries have used various respelling systems to convey phonemic representations of the spoken word since at least the early nineteenth century. Today such systems remain in use in American dictionaries for native English speakers, but they have been replaced by the International Phonetic Alphabet in linguistics references, bilingual dictionaries, and most dictionaries outside the United States. A few dictionaries use “sound-alike” pronunciation, sometimes called newspaper respelling or non-phonemic respelling.
More sophisticated phonetic systems have been developed, such as James Murray's scheme for the original Oxford English Dictionary, and the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), which replaced it in later editions and has been adopted by many British and international dictionaries. The IPA system is not a respelling system because it uses symbols such as ð and θ which are not used in English spelling. Most current British dictionaries use IPA for this purpose. The pronunciation which these dictionaries refer to is the so-called Received Pronunciation, which is based upon educated speech in southern England.
Traditional respelling systems
The following chart matches the IPA symbols used to represent the sounds of the English language with the phonetic symbols used in several dictionaries, a majority of which transcribe American English.
These works adhere (for the most part) to the one-symbol-per-sound principle. Other works not included here, such as Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (unabridged, 2nd ed.), do not, and thus have several different symbols for the same sound (partly to allow for different phonemic mergers and splits).
The full titles of abbreviated column headings in the following table are viewable in interactive media (as opposed to hard copy). Hover over the abbreviations to see the full titles.
|x||x||x||ᴋʜ||ᴋʜ||ᴋ͡ʜ||kh||k||(χ)||kh||hh||ᴋʜ||loch (Scottish), Buch (German)|
|ʃ||ʃ||š||ꜱʜ||sh||s͡h||sh||sh||sh||sh||sh||sh||sh||sh||sh||sh||sh||ship, dish, ration|
|θ||θ||θ||ᴛʜ||th||t͡h||th||th||th||th||th||th||th||th||th||th||th||thin, thigh, beneath|
|æ||æ||æ||a||ă||a||a||a||a||a||a||a||ă||a||a||ae||a||pat, lad, cat, ran|
|ɛər||ɛr||εr||e(ə)r||âr||âr||air||air||-||-||air||ar||ār||air||ār||eh r||air||care, hair, there|
|ɑː||ɑ||a||ä||ä||ä||ah||aa||ä||aw, o||ah||ä, ȧ||ah||aa||ä||aa||ah||father, palm|
|aɪ||aɪ||ay||ī||ī||ī||y||ī||ī||y||igh||ī||ī||ī||ī||ay||ahy||pie, by, my|
|ɪər||ɪr||ιr||i(ə)r||îr||ēr||ihr||eer||ir||ēr||eer||īr||ih r||eer||pier, near, here|
|ɒ||ɑ||a||ä||ŏ||o||o||o||ä||o||ah||ä||ǒ||o||o||aa||o||pot, not, wasp|
|ɔː||ɔ||ɔ||ô||ô||ô||aw||aw||ô||aw, o||aw||ȯ||aw||aw||ö||ao||aw||caught, paw, war|
|uː||u||u(w)||o͞o||o͞o||o͞o||oo||oo||o͞o||ū||oo:||ü||o͞o||o͞o||oo2||uw||oo||boot, soon, through|
|ʌ||ʌ||ʌ||ə||ŭ||u||uh||u||u||ʋ||UH||ə||ǔ||u||u||ah||uh||cut, run, enough|
|ɜr||ɜr||ər||ər||ûr||ûr||ur||ur||ʉr||er||ER||ər||e͡r||ər||ûr||er||ur||urge, term, firm, word, heard, bird|
|ə||ə||ə||ə||ə||ə||uh||ə||ə||e||uh||ə||a, e, i, o, u||ə||ə||ah||uh||about, item, edible, gallop, circus|
|øː, œ||œ||ɔ̈||œ||œ||ɶ||œ̄, œ||ɶ||feu (French), schön, zwölf (German)|
|yː, ʏ||y||ü||ʏ||ü||ʏ||u͞e, ue||ʏ||tu (French), über (German)|
|ˈa||ˋa||á||aʹ||ˈa||a.||á||a'||1||a||primary (tonic) stress|
- IPA — International Phonetic Alphabet for General American.
- K&K — A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English (1944 ), John S. Kenyon, Thomas A. Knott. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster.
- APA — Americanist phonetic notation, used primarily in linguistics literature in the U.S.A.
- NOAD — New Oxford American Dictionary (2001, 2005). New York: Oxford University Press.
- AHD — American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000). Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.
- RHD — Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1966).
- WBO — World Book Online (1998).
- MECD — Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary.
- DPL — Dictionary of Pronunciation, Abraham Lass and Betty Lass.
- DPN — Dictionary of Pronunciation, Samuel Noory.
- NBC — NBC Handbook of Pronunciation.
- MWCD — Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.
- COD — The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1964 ), 5th edition, E. McIntosh, ed. Oxford: OUP. (This notation was used up to the 7th edition; newer editions use the IPA.)
- POD — The Pocket Oxford Dictionary (2006), 2nd edition, E. Jewell, Oxford: OUP.
- Cham — The Chambers Dictionary (2003).
- AB — Arpabet, a commonly used computerized encoding of English pronunciation. It is used by the CMU Pronouncing Dictionary.
- Dictcom — Dictionary.com offers both spelled pronunciation and IPA
- ^1 The more precise IPA symbol [ɹ] is sometimes used for English /r/.
- ^2 Older editions of The Chambers Dictionary used o͞o for ŭ and o͞o for oo.
- ^3 Nasalized vowel, as in the French phrase un bon vin blanc (IPA: [œ̃ bɔ̃ vɛ̃ blɑ̃]).
- ^4 Older editions of the Concise Oxford Dictionary used a mix of two systems: the "phonetic scheme" shown in the table above and a system “without respelling”. The latter added diacritics to conventional spellings.
- ^5 These are the stress marks in the print edition. Online, primary and secondary are both written '.
Secondary/tertiary stress is only marked when judged to be unpredictable, but is not distinguished from primary stress when it is marked.
Pronunciation without respelling
Some dictionaries indicate hyphenation and syllabic stress in the headword. A few have even used diacritics to show pronunciation “without respelling” in the headwords.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1st through 4th edition used a mix of two systems. Some editions of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary have offered a method for teachers to indicate pronunciation without respelling as a supplement to the respelling scheme used in the dictionary.
|g, dg||/dʒ/ (before e, i, y)|
|c||/s/ (before e, i, y)|
|ae, ea, ee, ie||/iː/|
|ė, ie (final), ey||/ɪ/|
|ear, eer, ier||/ɪər/|
International Phonetic Alphabet
The International Phonetic Alphabet is a standardized method of phonetic transcription developed by a group of English and French language teachers in 1888. In the beginning, only specialized pronunciation dictionaries for linguists used it, for example, the English Pronouncing Dictionary edited by Daniel Jones (EPD, 1917). The IPA was used by English teachers as well, and started to appear in popular dictionaries for learners of English as a foreign language, such as the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (1948), and Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1978).
IPA is very flexible, allowing for a wide variety of transcriptions between broad phonemic transcriptions which describe the significant units of meaning in language, and phonetic transcriptions which may indicate every nuance of sound in detail.
The IPA pronunciation scheme used in the first twelve editions of the EPD was relatively simple, using a quantitative system indicating vowel length using a colon, and requiring the reader to infer other vowel qualities. Many phoneticians preferred a qualitative system, which used different symbols to indicate vowel timbre and colour. A.C. Gimson introduced a quantitative-qualitative IPA notation system when he took over editorship of the EPD (13th edition, 1967), and by the 1990s, the Gimson system had become a de facto standard for phonetic notation of British Received Pronunciation (RP).
The first native (not learner's) English dictionary using IPA may have been the Collins English Dictionary (1979), and others followed suit. The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (OED2, 1989) used IPA, transcribed letter-for-letter from entries in the first edition, which had been noted in a scheme by the original editor, James Murray.
While IPA has not been adopted by popular dictionaries in the United States, there is a demand for learner's dictionaries which provide both British and American English pronunciation. Some dictionaries, such as the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary and the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English provide a separate transcription for each.
British and American English dialects have a similar set of phonemes, but some are pronounced differently; in technical parlance, they consist of different phones. Although developed for RP, the Gimson system being phonemic, it is not far from much of General American pronunciation as well. A number of recent dictionaries, such as the Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner's English Dictionary, add a few non-phonemic symbols /ʳ i u ᵊl ᵊn/ to represent both RP and General American pronunciation in a single IPA transcription.
|/ɒ/||Pronounced [ɑː] in General American.|
|/e/||In American English falls between [e] and [æ] (sometimes transcribed /ɛ/)|
|/əu/||This traditional transcription is probably more accurately replaced by /ou/ in American English.|
|/r/||Regular r is always pronounced|
|/ʳ/||Superscript r is only pronounced in rhotic dialects, such as General American, or when followed by a vowel (for example adding a suffix to change dear into dearest)|
|/i/||Medium i can be pronounced [ɪ] or [iː], depending on the dialect|
|/ɔː/||Many Americans pronounce /ɔː/ the same as /ɒ/ ([ɑː])|
|/ᵊl/||Syllabic l, sometimes transcribed /l/ or /əl/|
|/ᵊn/||Syllabic n, sometimes transcribed /n/ or /ən/|
Clive Upton updated the Gimson scheme, changing the symbols used for five vowels. He served as pronunciation consultant for the influential Concise Oxford English Dictionary, which adopted this scheme in its ninth edition (1995). Upton's reform is controversial: it reflects changing pronunciation, but critics say it represents a narrower regional accent, and abandons parallelism with American and Australian English. In addition, the UCL linguist John C Wells said that he could not understand why Upton had altered the presentation of "price" to prʌɪs.
Upton outlined his reasons for the transcription in a chapter of A Handbook of Varieties of English. He said that the PRICE vowel represented how the starting point could be anything from centralised front to centralised back. The change in the NURSE vowel was intended as a simplification as well as a reflection that nɜːs was not the only possible realisation in RP. The other alterations were intended to reflect changes that have occurred over time.
The in-progress 3rd edition of the Oxford English Dictionary uses Upton's scheme for representing British pronunciations. For American pronunciations it uses an IPA-based scheme devised by Prof. William Kretzschmar of the University of Georgia.
- English spelling reform
- Wikipedia:Manual of Style (pronunciation)
- WP:IPA for English
- International Phonetic Alphabet
- General American
- A Wikipedia pronunciation respelling key
- English pronunciation of Greek letters
- Roman Phonetic Alphabet for English
- ^ Landau 2001, p 118.
- ^ Landau 2001, 119–21.
- ^ Landau 2001, 121.
- ^ Fraser 1997, p 182.
- ^ Such as The Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation
Mind your language, by Dot Wordsworth, in The Spectator, November 7, 2007.
This article is missing citations or needs footnotes. Please help add inline citations to guard against copyright violations and factual inaccuracies. (March 2009)
- ^ http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/ipa-english.htm
- ^ A Handbook of Varieties of English By Bernd Kortmann, Edgar W. Schneider, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, page 225
- ^ A Handbook of Varieties of English By Bernd Kortmann, Edgar W. Schneider, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, page 224
- Emsley, Bert (February 1940), [Expression error: Missing operand for > "Progress in Pronouncing Dictionaries"], American Speech 15 (1): 55–59, doi:10.2307/452729, JSTOR SICI 0003-1283(194002)15%3A1%3C55%3APIPD%3E2.0.CO%3B2-E
- Fraser, Helen (1997), “Dictionary Pronunciation Guides for English,” in International Journal of Lexicography, v 10, n 3, pp 181–208.
- Landau, Sidney I. (2001), Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography, 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press.
- Wells, John (2001). "IPA transcription systems for English", at University College London Department of Phonetics and Linguistics site. Retrieved 2006-08-16.
- Windsor Lewis, Jack (December 2003). "IPA vowel symbols for British English in dictionaries". Journal of the International Phonetic Association 33 (2). http://www.yek.me.uk/ipadicts.html. Retrieved 2007-11-29.
- Antimoon.com. "Introduction to phonetic transcription", at Antimoon.com. Retrieved 2006-08-16.
- Oxford English Dictionary. "Pronunciation", from the Preface to the Third Edition. Retrieved 2006-09-10.
- Oxford English Dictionary. "Key for Second Edition Entries", from the OED website. Retrieved 2006-09-10.
- Oxford English Dictionary. "Key to New Edition Entries", from the OED website. Retrieved 2006-09-10.