What is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)?

IPA stands for International Phonetic Alphabet. It is useful for teaching and learning English. The word “phonetic” relates to the sounds (pronunciation) of speech. The IPA chart uses symbols to represent the different sounds. Some of the symbols are from the Greek and Latin alphabet. When you check a word in most British dictionaries, you can look at the pronunciation of the combined consonants and vowels by checking the symbols. For example, the pronunciation for the word “coat” is written as kəʊt. You need to be familiar with the IPA chart to understand the pronunciation. Many modern American dictionaries do not follow the IPA, but offer pronunciation tips using the English Roman alphabet.

Who invented the IPA?

The IPA was invented by an organization under the same abbreviation. The International Phonetic Association was formed in Paris in 1886. It consisted of a group of language teachers who were looking for a way to teach the pronunciation of foreign languages. They wanted to create a universal alphabet to represent all of the sounds that could be made in all languages.

Who uses the IPA?

Foreign language teachers and students use the IPA. Others who use the IPA include speech pathologists, linguists, singers, actors, therapists and translators.

How can I type out the IPA phonetic symbols?

The website ipa.typeit.org has a handy keyboard for typing out the phonetic symbols. Be aware that you need to use a Unicode font in your document, email or webpage, otherwise the phonemic symbols may not appear correctly.

Why doesn’t my dictionary use the IPA?

Not all dictionaries use the IPA because it does require a bit of work to learn the symbols. Some dictionaries try to make it easier by using normal English letters that are commonly associated with sounds. American dictionaries typically do this. However, by trying to simplify the system, it is no longer a universal notation.