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Most high quality dictionaries, including allmost all pronunciation dictionaries and works intended for professional linguists, use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). This is the standard around the world, and can be applied to every single existent human language. However, to my and many other people's disappointment, many dictionaries choose to go for "simplified phonetics" instead of those of IPA. This is done because it is sometimes thought that it is easier to understand such simplified symbols, and partially this is true, of course. But indeed this makes it all confusing; when you go from one dictionary to another you will find that a different way of transcribing speech sounds is used! I cannot but state that this is the sad truth.

Forum: Audio: Speech and Pronunciation
Posted: May 5, 6:37 PM [GMT 1]
Post Subject: [url="/English/Post/clzlq/Post.htm#222733"]Unifying phonetic symbols[/url]
Post author: [url="/user/djwh/profile.htm"]EyeSeeYou[/url]
I wonder why dictionaries and/or books on phonetics don't unify the symbols used for phonetics to avoid confusion. The symbol /a/ can also be found as /a: /, some books even equal /^/ to shwa!.

I'm only talking about AmE, since I understand I cannot expect AmE and BrE symbols to be all unified.
Comments  
Hi Englishuser...

I absoluately agree with you. The radical differences between phonetic transcriptions in both AmE and BrE make me feel sort of confused in dealing with words. When I encounter new words transcibed in a way other than i studied, I have to turn back to the dictionary to know how they are pronounced. Unifying phonetic symbols would save us both time and trouble. Can this dream come true?
hat
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Whenever a publishing house prepares a dictionary it has to make a decision as to whether it is going to use the IPA or another system.

The IPA is of course international, but does have one or two problems, at least as a system for representing English for those familiar with English orthography. For example /j/ represents the sound of the <y> ie 'yes', but the symbol /y/ represents the first vowel in German 'über' and the vowel in French 'tu'; /x/ represents the sound of <ch> in Scottish 'loch' and the <j> in Spanish 'jamón', while the sound of <x> in 'fox' needs to be represented by /ks/. It also uses signs not found in the Roman alphabet; it is not immediately apparent what sound /ʌ/ represents. I think it is for these reasons that some dictionaries opt not to use the IPA.

The answer is for the IPA to be taught in all schools around the world!
ForbesThe answer is for the IPA to be taught in all schools around the world!
Good idea, Forbes. I don't think it will happen in the foreseeable future. I am familiar with the IPA only as only that is used in all books in Finland, and consequently I never encountered any other symbols until I bought my first American dictionary in my teens. Most of the symbols used in the IPA are self-evident to Finns, which may be one reason for its popularity here.

CB
Rather unusually I suspect, I did in fact learn it at school, at least as it applies to French.

This Wikipedia article is a good introduction and has a section on its use in dictionaries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ipa
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Hi everyone,
I don't think it's a big problem. You just have to learn to read the transcription you are going to use the most. For example, it bothered me that Merriam-Webster used a strange transcription. Well, since I wanted to start using it pretty regularly, I learned to read that transcription. I sometimes check the "pronunciation guide" to be sure. So, cook is /cuk/, but what is that "u"? The guide says it's "u" as in "foot"... simple. Emotion: smile

Dictionaries need to follow this pronunciation key

Vowel scheme:ɘ,ʌ,ɑ̈,ɪ,ɪ̈,ʊ,ʊ̈,æ,æʊ,ɑ̈ʊ,ɛ,ɑ̈ɪ,ɔ,o,ɝ,ɚ,ɒ/ɑ̈/ɔà,á,ä,i,ï, u,ü,ă,ău,äu,e,äi,ŏ,o,àr,àr,ɒ/ä or ŏ.......diacritica,aa,ii,u,uu,ae,aeu,aau,e,aai,aw,o,ar,ar,ɒ/aa or aw......spell able https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/saundspel/conversations/messages/72878