International Phonetic Alphabet Pronunciation Guide


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Many dictionaries have an International Phonetic Alphabet (henceforth, IPA) spelling of words contained therein. My languages department required all departmental majors take linguistics, in which the teacher had us learn the IPA. I could not find reference to the International phonetic alphabet in the past posts in this group, so I gather it has not been mentioned. Please correct me if I'm wrong on that.

I find IPA an invaluable guide to pronunciation and would like to see take to writing the IPA pronunciation of each word after its listing, such as has done.

Is anyone here familiar with the IPA so that this would be helpful? Feedback appreciated.
  • Hello withshoes,

    Thank you for your suggestion. :)

    I am not involved with dictionary development on this site, but perhaps I can share a few thoughts related to the way things tend to happen on our forums.

    In French-English, we have a Pronunciation thread in our Resources section to help members who wish to learn about IPA, including how to type IPA symbols in forum posts. People who want to conduct serious and in-depth discussions about pronunciation often find it useful, but most other users ignore the IPA information. :p

    In the French-English forum, when people ask questions like "how do I pronounce the French word scrutin?", we usually discourage "scrutin is pronounced a bit like screw-ten" sorts of answers. As you can appreciate, these are not very helpful for people who want to learn the proper pronunciation of a foreign language! But instead of encouraging responses in IPA symbols, we usually just refer people to one of several excellent pronunciation audio websites. This is because a significant percentage of our users are not sufficiently familiar with IPA symbols to find them helpful. We welcome members of all levels and backgrounds here on WordReference, including many with no university-level language training. Even those who took foreign language classes in college probably don't know IPA unless their coursework included linguistics training. The same goes for native speakers who might wish to represent the pronunciation of their own language (e.g., although Cambridge dictionaries use IPA, Merriam-Webster doesn't).

    Of course, this is not to say that IPA wouldn't be useful if we ever added pronunciation to the dictionaries here on WordReference!! :)

    French-English Moderator
    Hello withshoes and jann,
    The question and response are both from 2007 and I don't know how that site was then, but now i do see the IPA being used for the search word. For example, the entry for father in "inglese -> italiano includes the audio pronunciation for father as well as the following: UK:*'father', 'Father': /ˈfɑːðə/US:/ˈfɑðɚ/ ,(fäᵺər)

    However, there is no explanation of what the symbols mean. I found a list of the symbols -- the IPA sy mbols and also some explanations (for example, the single quote (') before the "fa" in the entry for father indicates that the syllable "fa" carries the stress. The following colon :)) indicates that the sound is a bit elongated, etc.. However, I had to do a lot of research to determine all of this and thought that it might be handy if this were all explained in the "Help" for the site.

    i unfortunately do not have a paper dictionary to check if IPA markings are explained (as I would hope that they would be) in the book. But, of course, this is all probably neither here nor there since we do have ever better search engines to help figure it all out.
    hi Janice,

    Wow, this is an old thread -- and thank you for searching first and adding to it. :) Indeed the WordReference dictionaries have grown a lot over the past 15+ years, and some IPA pronunciation information is now available for some languages.

    At the very bottom of every Italian-English dictionary page you'll find a box with useful links, including Simboli di pronuncia. You'll find some IPA info there for both English and Italian, as well as a note about stress marks.

    The good news is that IPA symbols are standardized, so there is extensive documentation readily available on other sites. If you need more help, the letters sub-section of Wikipedia's main article has charts where you can click on a symbol to learn more about it, and in some cases, to hear a recording. There's also a link to a page with charts only. And for some languages, you'll find a Wikipedia entry with a shorter list of just the relevant IPA for that language (e.g., English, French, Italian, etc.)

    I hope that helps!