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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 Today such systems remain in use in American dictionaries for native English speakers,[1] but they have been replaced by the International Phonetic Alphabet in linguistics references, bilingual dictionaries, and most dictionaries outside the United States.[2] A few dictionaries use “sound-alike” pronunciation, sometimes called newspaper respelling[3] or non-phonemic respelling.[4]

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[5] 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.

Contents

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.

The following consonant letters have the same values in IPA and all other systems listed: b, d, f, g, k, l, m, n, p, r,1 s, t, v, w, z.

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.

Consonants
IPAK&KAPANOADAHDRHDWBOMECDDPLDPNNBCMWCDCOD4PODChamABDictcomExamples
čᴄʜchc͡hchchchchchchchchchchchchurch
hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhat
hwhwhw(h)whwhwhwhwhw hw(h)whwwhich
ǯjjjjjjjjjjjjjhjjudge
xxxᴋʜᴋʜᴋ͡ʜkhk(χ)khhhᴋʜloch (Scottish), Buch (German)
ɬɬłhlllan (Welsh)
ŋŋŋɴɢngn͡gngngŋngngŋngngngngngthing
ʃʃšꜱʜshs͡hshshshshshshshshshshshship, dish, ration
θθθᴛʜtht͡hththththththththththththin, thigh, beneath
ðððᴛʜthth̸thththt̷hth:thdhthdhdhththis, thy
jjyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyes
ʒʒžᴢʜzhz͡hzhzhzhzhzhzhzhzhzhzhzhvision, pleasure
Vowels
IPAK&KAPANOADAHDRHDWBOMECDDPLDPNNBCMWCDCOD4PODChamABDictcomExamples
æææaăaaaaaaaăaaaeapat, lad, cat, ran
ee(y)āāāayayāayayāāayāeyeypay, day
ɛərɛrεre(ə)rârârairair--airarārairāreh raircare, hair, there
ɑːɑaäääahaaäaw, oahä, ȧahaaäaaahfather, palm
ɑrɑːarärärärahraarär-ahrära͡raaräraa rahrarm
ɛɛεeĕeeheeɛeeěeeehelet, head
ii(y)ēēēeeeeēēeeēēeeēiyeebee, see
ɪɪɪiĭiihiiiiiǐiiihipit, city
ayīīīyīīyighīīīīayahypie, by, my
ɪərɪrιri(ə)rîrērihreerirēreerīrih reerpier, near, here
ɒɑaäŏoooäoahäǒooaaopot, not, wasp
oo(w)ōōōohōōōohōōōōowohtoe, no
ɔːɔɔôôôawawôaw, oawȯawawöaoawcaught, paw, war
ɔɪɔɪɔyoioioioyoyoioyoiȯioioyoioyoinoise, boy
ʊo͝oo͝oo͝ouo͝ooouooo͝oo͝oŭ2uhootook, put
ʊərᴜrᴜro͝oro͝oro͝orurooru̇roorooruh roortour
uu(w)o͞oo͞oo͞oooooo͞oūoo:üo͞oo͞ooo2uwooboot, soon, through
aᴜawouououowowouowowau̇owowowawouout, now
ʌʌʌəŭuuhuuʋUHəǔuuahuhcut, run, enough
ɜrɜrərərûrûrururʉrerERəre͡rərûrerururge, term, firm, word, heard, bird
əəəəəəuhəəeuhəa, e, i, o, uəəahuhabout, item, edible, gallop, circus
ərɚərərᵊrəruhrərərererərerərərererbutter, winner
juːjuyuyo͞oyo͞oyo͞oyooyooyo͞oyoo:ūyo͞oūy uwyoopupil
aȧami (French)
øː, œœɔ̈œœɶœ̄, œɶfeu (French), schön, zwölf (German)
yː, ʏyüʏüʏu͞e, ueʏtu (French), über (German)
ɔ̃õɔ̨ôɴôɴôɴōⁿawɴbon (French)3
Stress
IPAK&KAPANOADAHDRHDWBOMECDDPLDPNNBCMWCDCOD4PODChamABDictcomExamples
ˈaˋaáaʹˈaa.áa'1aprimary (tonic) stress
ˌaˊaà
5
ˌa(a.)2secondary stress
a?a?tertiary stress

Title abbreviations

Notes

  • ^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.

Concise Oxford Dictionary's system without respelling
COD variantIPA
ph/f/
kn (initial)/n/
wr (initial)/r/
g, dg/dʒ/ (before e, i, y)
/ɡ/ otherwise
c/s/ (before e, i, y)
/k/ otherwise
ai, ay/eɪ/
air/ɛər/
ae, ea, ee, ie/iː/
ė, ie (final), ey/ɪ/
ear, eer, ier/ɪər/
aw/ɔː/
oy/ɔɪ/
ou/aʊ/
i͡r, u͡r/ɜr/
eu, ew/juː/

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).


Comparison of short and long vowels in various IPA schemes for RP
wordquant.qual.Gimson
ridridrɪdrɪd
reedriːdridriːd
codkɔdkɒdkɒd
cordkɔːdkɔdkɔːd

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.


Adaptations of the Gimson system for American English
/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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] The other alterations were intended to reflect changes that have occurred over time.

Upton's reform
wordGimsonUpton
betbetbɛt
batbætbat
nursenɜːsnəːs
squareskweəskwɛː
pricepraɪsprʌɪs

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.

See also

References

  1. ^ Landau 2001, p 118.
  2. ^ Landau 2001, 119–21.
  3. ^ Landau 2001, 121.
  4. ^ Fraser 1997, p 182.
  5. ^ Such as The Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation Mind your language, by Dot Wordsworth, in The Spectator, November 7, 2007.
  6. ^ http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/ipa-english.htm
  7. ^ A Handbook of Varieties of English By Bernd Kortmann, Edgar W. Schneider, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, page 225
  8. ^ A Handbook of Varieties of English By Bernd Kortmann, Edgar W. Schneider, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, page 224

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