IPA phoneme /j/

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yes /jes/

In English, both in Received Pronunciation and in General American, the IPA phonetic symbol /j/ corresponds to the semivowel sound in words like "you", "yellow" and "yes". This sound is called yod /jɒd/.[1]

Common words[edit]

IPA vowels
æ ɑː
trap father - start
dress face square
ɪ ɪə
kit fleece near
ɒ əʊ ɔː
lot goat taught
ʊ ʊə
foot goose mature
juː jʊə
cute cure
ʌ ə ɜː
strut comma nurse
price mouth choice
IPA consonants
Normal sound: /b, d, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, z/
 ʃ  ŋ
show church sing
ʒ  j 
usual judge you
θ ð s
think that see
IPA Stress
ˈ Primary stress
hotel /həʊˈtel/
ˌ Secondary stress
IPA Syllabification
. nitrate /ˈnaɪ.treɪt/, night-rate /ˈnaɪt.reɪt/

The sequence /juː/ is very common in English and it has special spellings: "u", "ue", "eu" and "ew". Before other vowels /j/ is normally spelled "y".

  • /j/ as "y"
Kenya, yard, yarn, year, yellow, Yemen, yes, yesterday, yet, yield, yolk, York, you, young, your, youth, yo-yo
beyond /bɪˈjɒnd,[2] [3] biˈɒnd[3]/
"u" as /juː/: accumulate, Cuba, cute, distribute, stimulate
"ue" as /juː/: argue, continue, hue, value
"ew" as /juː/: few, Matthew, nephew
"iew" as /juː/: interview, review, view
  • Before /ʊə/
"ur" as /jʊə/: cure, curious, pure, security
  • Before /ə/
"u" as /jə/: accumulate, failure, formula, popular

Other cases

"ia" as /jə/: California, Spaniard
"ie" as /jə/: Daniel
"io" as /jə/: behavior,AmE behaviour,BrE million, onion, opinion

Uncommon words[edit]

  • canyon /ˈkænjən/
  • cognac: /ˈkɒnjæk,BrE ˈkəʊnjækAmE/
  • emu /ˈiːmjuː/
  • fjord /ˈfjɔːrd/
  • hallelujah /ˌhælɪˈluːjə/
  • lasagna,AmE lasagne,BrE /ləˈzænjə/
  • pinata, piñata /pɪnˈjɑːtə/
  • savior,AmE saviourBrE /ˈseɪvjər/
  • yacht /jɒt/

No /j/[edit]

Many words that have "y" in their spelling don't have a /j/ phoneme in their pronunciation. This in practice means there might be subtle differences in syllabification or a difference in vowel quality. For example "kayak" is /ˈkaɪ.æk/ and not /kɑː.jæk/. In some cases there are alternate pronunciations, as in "lawyer". Note, however, that the realization of some of these vowels may contain a [j] sound, as in royal pronounced [ˈrɔjəl].[4] See IPA phonetic symbol [j]. The pronunciation shown by Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary is shown in square brackets.

Phoneme /ɪ/ is [j] according to Merriam-Webster's Even Merriam-Webster's uses [ɪ] Several dictionaries use /j/
/aɪ/ buyer: /ˈbaɪ.ər/ [ˈbajɚ] coyote: /kaɪˈəʊ.tiː/ [kaɪˈoʊti], /ˈkaɪ.oʊt/,AmE /kɔɪˈəʊ.tiː/BrE

kayak: /ˈkaɪ.æk/ [ˈkaɪˌæk]

papaya: /pəˈpaɪə/ [pəˈpajə], /pəˈpɑːjə/
/eɪ/ player: /ˈpleɪ.ər/ [ˈplejɚ]

layer: /ˈleɪ.ər/ [ˈlejɚ], /leər/BrE
mayor: /meər/,BrE /meɪ.ər/AmE [ˈmejɚ]AmE

crayon: /ˈkreɪ.ən, ˈkreɪ.ɒn/ [ˈkreɪˌɑːn]
/ɔɪ/ employer: /ɪmˈplɔɪ.ər/ [ɪmˈplojɚ]

royal: /ˈrɔɪ.əl/ [ˈrojəl].

employee: /ɪmˈplɔɪ.iː/ [ɪmˈploɪˌiː] lawyer: /ˈlɔː.jər/ [ˈlɑːjɚ], /ˈlɔɪ.ər/ [ˈlojɚ]

Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1[edit]

Preconceived ideas and other interferences from L1 obviously interfere in many cases with how students perceive - and pronounce - sounds/words in English. The following sections aims to point out some of the most typical difficulties teachers and students may encounter regarding pronunciation.


While /j/ is very similar to the "i" in the Spanish diphthongs "ia", "ie", "io" and "iu", most Spanish speakers pronounce the initial /j/ in words like "yes", "young" and "university" like /dʒ/, i.e. they do not distinguish between "yet" and "jet" or "use" and "juice". This problem can be solved by making them notice that several Spanish words have initial /j/, such as hiato or ion, which are different from "yato" or "yon".

Conversely, Spanish speakers tend to use /j/ before a vowel where English uses /iː/ (or /ɪ/ in some accents). For example vegetarian might be pronounced /ˌve.dʒəˈteər.jən/ instead of /ˌve.dʒəˈteər.iː.ən/, blending the last two syllables into one.


  1. Oxford Dictionaries, yod.
  2. Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, beyond.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dictionary.com. Random House, Inc. beyond.
  4. Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary, royal

See also[edit]

External links[edit]