The following table was originally taken from Wikipedia Help:IPA_for_English
|Understanding the key|
|This key accommodates standard American, English, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand pronunciations. Therefore, not all of the distinctions shown here will be relevant to your dialect. If, for example, you pronounce cot /ˈkɒt/ and caught /ˈkɔːt/ the same, you can simply ignore the difference between the symbols /ɒ/ and /ɔː/, just as you ignore the distinction between the written vowels o and au when pronouncing them.
In many dialects /r/ occurs only before a vowel; if you speak such a dialect, simply ignore /r/ in the pronunciation guides where you would not pronounce it, as in cart /ˈkɑrt/. In other dialects, /j/ (a y sound) cannot occur after /t/, /d/, /n/ etc. in the same syllable; if you speak such a dialect, ignore the /j/ in transcriptions such as new /njuː/.
On the other hand, there are some distinctions which you might make but which this key does not encode. Examples include the difference between the vowels of fir, fur and fern in Scottish and Irish English, the vowels of bad and had in many parts of Australia and the Eastern United States, and the vowels of spider and spied in some parts of Scotland and North America.
The transcription is essentially phonemic, meaning that it does not encode distinctions which are determined by the environment of a sound. For example, in many dialects the /l/ sounds in lie, ply and pal are pronounced differently (plain voiced [l] in lie, voiceless [l̥] in ply, and "dark" [ɫ] in pal), but they are all transcribed with the symbol /l/ because a native English speaker makes these distinctions automatically.
The IPA stress mark (ˈ) comes before the syllable that has the stress, in contrast to stress marking in some US American dictionaries.
- Although the IPA symbol [r] represents a trill, /r/ is widely used instead of /ɹ/ in broad transcriptions of English.
- /hw/ is not distinguished from /w/ in dialects with the wine-whine merger, such as RP and most varieties of GenAm.
- A number of English words, such as genre and garage, are pronounced with either /ʒ/ or /dʒ/.
- In most dialects, /x/ is replaced by /k/ in loch and by /h/ in Chanukah.
- In non-rhotic accent]]s such as RP, /r/ is not pronounced unless followed by a vowel. In some cases, /ɪər/ etc. may not be distinguished from /ɪr/ etc. When they are distinguished, the long vowels may be transcribed /iːr/ etc. by analogy with vowels not followed by /r/. If you notify us of this on the talk page, we will correct it.
- /ɒ/ is not distinguished from /ɑː/ in dialects with the father-bother merger]] such as GenAm.
- /ɔː/ is not distinguished from /ɑː/ (except before /r/) in dialects with the cot-caught merger such as some varieties of GenAm.
- Commonly transcribed /əʊ/ or /oː/.
- /ɔər/ is not distinguished from /ɔr/ in dialects with the horse-hoarse merger, which include most dialects of modern English.
- /ʊər/ is not distinguished from /ɔr/ in dialects with the pour-poor merger, including many younger speakers.
- This phoneme is not used in the northern half of England and some bordering parts of Wales. These words would take the ʊ vowel: there is no foot-strut split.
- In some articles these are transcribed /ɝː/ and /ɚ/ when not followed by a vowel.
- In dialects with yod-dropping, /juː/ is pronounced the same as /uː/ after coronal consonants (/t/, /d/, /s/, /z/, /n/, /θ/, and /l/) in the same syllable, so that dew /djuː/ is pronounced the same as do /duː/. In dialects with yod-coalescence, /tj/, /dj/, /sj/ and /zj/ are pronounced /tʃ/, /dʒ/, /ʃ/ and /ʒ/, so that the first syllable in Tuesday is pronounced the same as choose.
- Pronounced /iː/ in dialects with the happY tensing, /ɪ/ in other dialects. British convention used to transcribe it with /ɪ/, but the OED and other influential dictionaries recently converted to /i/.
- Pronounced [ə] in Australian and many US dialects, and [ɪ] in Received Pronunciation. Many speakers freely alternate between a reduced [ɪ̈] and a reduced [ə]. Many phoneticians (vd. Olive & Greenwood 1993:322) and the OED uses the pseudo-IPA symbol
ɪ, and Merriam–Webster uses ə̇.
- Pronounced [ʊ] in many dialects, [ə] in others. Many speakers freely alternate between a reduced [ʊ̈] and a reduced [ə]. The OED uses the pseudo-IPA symbol
- Pronounced [ə] in many dialects, and [ɵw] or [əw] before another vowel, as in cooperate. Sometimes pronounced as a full /oʊ/, especially in careful speech. (Bolinger 1989) Usually transcribed as /ə(ʊ)/ (or similar ways of showing variation between /əʊ/ and /ə/) in British dictionaries.
- It is arguable that there is no phonemic distinction in English between primary and secondary stress (vd. Ladefoged 1993), but it is conventional to notate them as here.
- Full vowels following a stressed syllable, such as the ship in battleship, are marked with secondary stress in some dictionaries (Merriam-Webster), but not in others (the OED). Such syllables are not actually stressed.
- Syllables are indicated sparingly, where necessary to avoid confusion.