1. Transcriptions

A. Definition - Phonetic transcription (phonetic script or phonetic notation) is the visual representation of speech sounds (or phones). The most common type of phonetic transcription uses a phonetic alphabet, such as the International Phonetic Alphabet.

The pronunciation of words in many languages, as distinct from their written form (orthography), has undergone significant change over time. Pronunciation can also vary greatly among dialects of a language. Standard orthography in some languages, particularly FrenchEnglish, and Irish, is often irregular, and makes it difficult to predict pronunciation from spelling. For example, the words bough and through do not rhyme in English, even though their spellings might suggest they do. In French, the sequence "-ent" is pronounced /ɑ̃/ in accent, but is silent in "posent". Other languages, such as Spanish and Italian have a more consistent—though still imperfect—relationship between orthography and pronunciation (phonemic orthography). 

Therefore, phonetic transcription can provide a function that orthography cannot. It displays a one-to-one relationship between symbols and sounds, unlike traditional writing systems. Phonetic transcription allows us to step outside orthography and examine differences in pronunciation between dialects within a given language, as well as to identify changes in pronunciation that may take place over time. 

The gap between spelling and pronunciation - the differences between spelling and pronunciation lead to a gap between how the words are spelled and how they are pronounced.
Today’s spelling of English is the result of complex processes occurring throughout the history of the English language. The main problem of English spelling is that the way words are spelled does not reflect the way they are pronounced. There are several important turning points: the introduction of the Roman alphabet in the Old English period, the Norman conquest in 1066 AD, the Great Vowel Shift, the introduction of the printing press and the etymological respelling during the Renaissance period, many attempts to reform this spelling system. Moreover, there was constant integration of foreign words into the English language
Obviously there are major differences between English pronunciation and English spelling. The main reason for this is that every language is like a living organism that is influenced by various factors and therefore undergoes constant change. 

The IPA (The International Phonetic Association) - founded in France in 1886, most original members were language teachers. (until 1897, its name was the Phonetic Teachers' Association) Published the first version of its alphabet in 1888.

Guiding principle: one sound = one symbol
- a different symbol for each distinctive sound
- the same symbol should be used for that sound in every language which uses it
- simple symbols for major sounds (from the roman alphabet where possible)
- diacritics for more minor modifications

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is widely used for the transcription of English and many other languages. The IPA offers a set of symbols, and some general guidelines for their use. It does not prescribe transcription systems for particular languages.

Until relatively recently, English dictionaries did not use IPA. Instead, they used (if anything) various respelling schemes. The only dictionaries that did use IPA were specialist pronunciation dictionaries, notable Daniel Jones's English Pronouncing Dictionary ("EPD", first edition 1917). The earliest general dictionaries to adopt IPA seem to have been dictionaries aimed at learners of English as a foreign language: the Oxford Advanced Leaner's Dictionary (first edition 1948), the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (first edition, 1978). This was in response to market forces, since specialist teachers of pronunciation for EFL had been using IPA for many years. The first native-speaker dictionary with IPA may have been Collins English Dictionary (first edition 1979). Since then, many others have followed suit.

Consonants - the transcription of English consonants in IPA is not subject to any disagreement. Everyone agrees that we give the symbols /p, t, k, b, d, f, v, s, z, m, n, r, l, w, h/ their usual values as in ordinary spelling. The remainder are as shown in the box. For Scottish, Welsh and foreign words there is also /x/ (loch) available.

Stress - likewise, there is no disagreement among IPA users about the symbols for word stress (although there may well be disagreement about the analysis of secondary stress). Primary stress is shown by the mark ', placed before the syllable concerned. (Compare the older, non-IPA, dictionary tradition, where it was shown by the mark ´ after the syllable.)
Secondary stress, if shown at all, is indicated by a similar mark below the line. 

Vowels: quantitative-qualitative transcription

B. Phonetic (narrow) transcription and phonemic (broad) transcription - Phonetic transcription may aim to transcribe the phonology of a language, or it may be used to go further and specify the precise phonetic realisation. In all systems of transcription we may therefore distinguish between broad transcription and narrow transcription

Phonemic (broad) transcriptionthe goal is to record the phonemes that a speaker uses rather than actual spoken variants of those phonemes that are produced when a speaker utters a word. Indicates only the most noticeable phonetic features of an utterance
When linguists are developing a phonemic description of a language or dialect they most often select the most common or widely distributed allophone of each phoneme as the typical allophone of that phoneme and use its phonetic symbol to represent the phoneme as a whole. 

Phonetic (narrow) transcriptionis detailed transcription. It aims at describing the extremely large number of idiosyncratic or contextual variations in pronunciation that occur in normal speech. It also attempts to describe the individual variations that occur between speakers of a language or dialect.
Encodes more information about the phonetic variations of the specific allophones in the utterance. 

The difference between broad and narrow is a continuum. One particular form of a broad transcription is a phonemic transcription, which disregards all allophonic difference, and, as the name implies, is not really a phonetic transcription at all, but a representation of phonemic structure. For example, one particular pronunciation of the English word little may be transcribed using the IPA as /ˈlɪtəl/or [ˈlɪɾɫ̩]; the broad, phonemic transcription, placed between slashes, indicates merely that the word ends with phoneme /l/, but the narrow, allophonic transcription, placed between square brackets, indicates that this final/l/ ([ɫ]) is dark (velarized).

The advantage of the narrow transcription is that it can help learners to get exactly the right sound, and allows linguists to make detailed analyses of language variation. The disadvantage is that a narrow transcription is rarely representative of all speakers of a language. Most Americans and Australians would pronounce the /t/ of little as a tap [ɾ]. Some people in southern England would say /t/ as [ʔ] (a glottal stop) and/or the second /l/ as [w] or something similar. A further disadvantage in less technical contexts is that narrow transcription involves a larger number of symbols that may be unfamiliar to non-specialists.

The advantage of the broad transcription is that it usually allows statements to be made which apply across a more diverse language community. It is thus more appropriate for the pronunciation data in foreign language dictionaries, which may discuss phonetic details in the preface but rarely give them for each entry. A rule of thumb in many linguistics contexts is therefore to use a narrow transcription when it is necessary for the point being made, but a broad transcription whenever possible.

There are two principal types of brackets used to set off IPA transcriptions:

[square brackets] - are used with phonetic notations, possibly including details of the pronunciation that may not be used for distinguishing words in the language being transcribed, but which the author nonetheless wishes to document.

/slashes/ - are used for phonemic notations, which note only features that are distinctive in the language, without any extraneous detail.

For example, while the /p/ sounds of pin and spin are pronounced slightly differently in English (and this difference would be meaningful in some languages), the difference is not meaningful in English. Thus phonemically the words are /pɪn/ and /spɪn/, with the same /p/ phoneme. However, to capture the difference between them (the allophones of /p/), they can be transcribed phonetically as [pʰɪn] and [spɪn].

Usage - although the IPA offers over 160 symbols for transcribing speech, only a relatively small subset of these will be used to transcribe any one language. It is possible to transcribe speech with various levels of precision. A precise phonetic transcription, in which sounds are described in a great deal of detail, is known as a narrow transcription. A coarser transcription which ignores some of this detail is called a broad transcription. Both are relative terms, and both are generally enclosed in square brackets. Broad phonetic transcriptions may restrict themselves to easily heard details, or only to details that are relevant to the discussion at hand, and may differ little if at all from phonemic transcriptions, but they make no theoretical claim that all the distinctions transcribed are necessarily meaningful in the language.

Phonetic transcriptions of the word international in two English dialects. The square brackets indicate that the differences between these dialects are not necessarily sufficient to distinguish different words in English.

For example, the English word little may be transcribed broadly using the IPA as [ˈlɪtəl], and this broad (imprecise) transcription is a more or less accurate description of many pronunciations. A narrower transcription may focus on individual or dialectical details: [ˈɫɪɾɫ] in General American, [ˈlɪʔo] in Cockney, or [ˈɫɪːɫ] in Southern US English.

C. Types of notational systems - most phonetic transcription is based on the assumption that linguistic sounds are segmentable into discrete units that can be represented by symbols.

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) - is one of the most popular and well-known phonetic alphabets. It was originally created by primarily British language teachers, with later efforts from European phoneticians and linguists. It has changed from its earlier intention as a tool of foreign language pedagogy to a practical alphabet of linguists. It is currently becoming the most often seen alphabet in the field of phonetics.
Most American dictionaries for native English-speakers—American Heritage Dictionary of the English LanguageRandom House Dictionary of the English LanguageWebster's Third New International Dictionary—employ respelling systems based on the English alphabet, with diacritical marks over the vowels and stress marks. (See Wikipedia: United States dictionary transcription for a generic version.)

Americanist phonetic alphabet - Another commonly encountered alphabetic tradition was originally created for the transcription of Native American and European languages, and is still commonly used by linguists of SlavicIndicUralicSemitic, and Caucasian languages. This is sometimes labeled the Americanist phonetic alphabet, but this is misleading because it has always been widely used for languages outside the Americas. The difference between these alphabets and IPA is small, although often the specially created characters of the IPA are abandoned in favour of already existing characters with diacritics (e.g. many characters are borrowed from Eastern European orthographies) or digraphs.
There are also extended versions of the IPA, for example: Ext-IPAVoQS, and Luciano Canepari's IPA.

Other alphabets, such as Hangul, may have their own phonetic extensions. There also exist featural phonetic transcription systems, such as Alexander Melville Bell's Visible Speech and its derivatives.

The International Phonetic Association recommends that a phonetic transcription should be enclosed in square brackets "[ ]". A transcription that specifically denotes only phonological contrasts may be enclosed in slashes"/ /" instead. If one is in doubt, it is best to use brackets, for by setting off a transcription with slashes one makes a theoretical claim that every symbol within is phonemically contrastive for the language being transcribed. Phonetic transcriptions try to objectively capture the actual pronunciation of a word, whereas phonemic transcriptions are model-dependent. For example, in The Sound Pattern of EnglishNoam Chomsky and Morris Halle transcribed the English word night phonemically as /nixt/. In this model, the phoneme /x/ is never realized as [x], but shows its presence by "lengthening" the preceding vowel. The preceding vowel in this case is the phoneme /i/, which is pronounced [aɪ] when "long". So phonemic /nixt/ is equivalent to phonetic [naɪt], but underlying this analysis is the belief that historical sounds such as the gh in night may remain in a word long after they have ceased to be pronounced, or that a phoneme may exist in a language without ever being directly expressed. (This was later rejected by both Chomsky and Halle.)

For phonetic transcriptions, there is flexibility in how closely sounds may be transcribed. A transcription that gives only a basic idea of the sounds of a language in the broadest terms is called a broad transcription; in some cases this may be equivalent to a phonemic transcription (only without any theoretical claims). A close transcription, indicating precise details of the sounds, is called a narrow transcription. These are not binary choices, but the ends of a continuum, with many possibilities in between. All are enclosed in brackets.

However, phonemic transcriptions may also be broad or narrow, or perhaps it would be better to say abstract versus concrete. They may show a fair amount of phonetic detail, usually of a phoneme's most common allophone, but because they are abstract symbols they do not need to resemble any sound at all directly. Phonemic symbols will frequently be chosen to avoid diacritics as much as possible, under a 'one sound one symbol' policy, or may even be restricted to the ASCII symbols of a typical keyboard. For example, the English word church may be transcribed as /tʃɝːtʃ/, a close approximation of its actual pronunciation, or more abstractly as /crc/, which is easier to type. Phonemic symbols should always be explained, especially when they are as divergent from actual pronunciation as /crc/.
Occasionally a transcription will be enclosed in pipes ("| |"). This goes beyond phonology into morphological analysis. For example, the words pets and beds could be transcribed phonetically as [pʰɛʔts] and [b̥ɛd̥z̥] (in a fairly narrow transcription), and phonemically as /pets/ and /bedz/. Because /s/ and /z/ are separate phonemes in English, they receive separate symbols in the phonemic analysis. However, you probably recognize that underneath this, they represent the same plural ending. This can be indicated with the pipe notation. If you believe the plural ending is essentially an s, as English spelling would suggest, the words can be transcribed |pets| and |beds|. If, as most linguists would probably suggest, it is essentially a z, these would be |petz| and |bedz|.
To avoid confusion with IPA symbols, it may be desirable to specify when native orthography is being used, so that, for example, the English word jet is not read as "yet". This is done with angle brackets or chevronsjet. It is also common to italicize such words, but the chevrons indicate specifically that they are in the original language's orthography, and not in English transliteration.

In iconic phonetic notation, the shapes of the phonetic characters are designed so that they visually represent the position of articulators in the vocal tract. This is unlike alphabetic notation, where the correspondence between character shape and articulator position is arbitrary. This notation is potentially more flexible than alphabetic notation in showing more shades of pronunciation (MacMahon 1996:838–841). An example of iconic phonetic notation is the Visible Speech system, created by Scottish phonetician Alexander Melville Bell (Ellis 1869:15).

An alphabetic notation - another type of phonetic notation that is more precise than alphabetic notation is an alphabetic phonetic notation. Instead of both the alphabetic and iconic notational types' general principle of using one symbol per sound, analphabetic notation uses long sequences of symbols to precisely describe the component features of an articulatory gesture (MacMahon 1996:842–844). This type of notation is reminiscent of the notation used in chemical formulas to denote the composition of chemical compounds. Although more descriptive than alphabetic notation, an alphabetic notation is less practical for many purposes (e.g. for descriptive linguists doing field work or for speech pathologists impressionistically transcribing speech disorders). As a result, this type of notation is uncommon.
Two examples of this type were developed by the Danish Otto Jespersen (1889) and American Kenneth Pike (1943). Pike's system, which is part of a larger goal of scientific description of phonetics, is particularly interesting in its challenge against the descriptive method of the phoneticians who created alphabetic systems like the IPA. An example of Pike's system can be demonstrated by the following. A syllabic voiced alveolar nasal consonant (/n̩/ in IPA) is notated as

2. The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

A. Definition - The International Phonetic Alphabet (unofficially—though commonly—abbreviated IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin alphabet
It was devised by the International Phonetic Association as a standardized representation of the sounds of oral language. The IPA is used by lexicographersforeign language students and teachers, linguists, speech - language pathologistssingersactorsconstructed language creators, and translators.

The IPA is designed to represent only those qualities of speech that are part of oral language: phonesphonemesintonation, and the separation of words and syllables. To represent additional qualities of speech, such as tooth gnashing, lisping, and sounds made with a cleft palate, an extended set of symbols called the Extensions to the International Phonetic Alphabet may be used.

IPA symbols are composed of one or more elements of two basic types, letters and diacritics. For example, the sound of the English letter t may be transcribed in IPA with a single letter, [t], or with a letter plus diacritics, [t̺ʰ], depending on how precise one wishes to be. Often, slashes are used to signal broad or phonemic transcription; thus, /t/ is less specific than, and could refer to, either [t̺ʰ] or [t], depending on the context and language.
Occasionally letters or diacritics are added, removed, or modified by the International Phonetic Association. As of the most recent change in 2005, there are 107 letters, 52 diacritics, and four prosodic marks in the IPA. These are shown in the current IPA chart, posted below in this article and at the website of the IPA.

B. History - in 1886, a group of French and British language teachers, led by the French linguist Paul Passy, formed what would come to be known from 1897 onwards as the International Phonetic Association (in French, l’Association phonétique internationale). Their original alphabet was based on a spelling reform for English known as the Romic alphabet, but in order to make it usable for other languages, the values of the symbols were allowed to vary from language to language. For example, the sound [ʃ] (the sh in shoe) was originally represented with the letterc in English, but with the digraph ch in French. However, in 1888, the alphabet was revised so as to be uniform across languages, thus providing the base for all future revisions. The idea of making the IPA was first suggested by Otto Jespersen in a letter to Paul Passy. It was developed by A.J. EllisHenry SweetDaniel Jones, and Passy.

Since its creation, the IPA has undergone a number of revisions. After major revisions and expansions in 1900 and 1932, the IPA remained unchanged until the IPA Kiel Convention in 1989. A minor revision took place in 1993 with the addition of four letters for mid-central vowels and the removal of letters for voiceless implosives. The alphabet was last revised in 2005 with the addition of a letter for a labiodental flap. Apart from the addition and removal of symbols, changes to the IPA have consisted largely in renaming symbols and categories and in modifying typefaces.
Extensions to the IPA for speech pathology were created in 1990 and officially adopted by the International Clinical Phonetics and Linguistics Association in 1994.

C. Description - the general principle of the IPA is to provide one letter for each distinctive sound (speech segment), although this practice is not followed if the sound itself is complex. This means that:
It does not normally use combinations of letters to represent single sounds, the way English does with shth and ng, or single letters to represent multiple sounds the way x represents /ks/ or /ɡz/ in English.
There are no letters that have context-dependent sound values, as do "hard" and "soft" c or g in several European languages.
Finally, the IPA does not usually have separate letters for two sounds if no known language makes a distinction between them, a property known as "selectiveness".
Among the symbols of the IPA, 107 letters represent consonants andvowels, 31 diacritics are used to modify these, and 19 additional signs indicate suprasegmental qualities such as lengthtonestress, and intonation. These are organized into a chart; the chart displayed here is the official chart as posted at the website of the IPA.

Letter forms - the letters chosen for the IPA are meant to harmonize with the Latin alphabet. For this reason, most letters are either Latin or Greek, or modifications thereof. Some letters are neither: for example, the letter denoting theglottal stopʔ, has the form of a dotless question mark, and derives originally from an apostrophe. A few letters, such as that of the voiced pharyngeal fricativeʕ, were inspired by other writing systems (in this case, the Arabic letter ‎ ‘ain).
Despite its preference for harmonizing with the Latin script, the International Phonetic Association has occasionally admitted other letters. For example, before 1989, the IPA letters for click consonants were ʘʇʗ, and ʖ, all of which were derived either from existing IPA letters, or from Latin and Greek letters. However, except for ʘ, none of these letters were widely used among Khoisanists or Bantuists, and as a result they were replaced by the more widespread symbols ʘǀǃǂ, and ǁ at the IPA Kiel Convention in 1989.
Although the IPA diacritics are fully featural, there is little systemicity in the letter forms. A retroflex articulation is consistently indicated with a right-swinging tail, as in ɖ ʂ ɳ, and implosion by a top hook, ɓ ɗ ɠ, but other pseudo-featural elements are due to haphazard derivation and coincidence. For example, all nasal consonants but uvular ɴ are based on the form nm ɱ n ɲ ɳ ŋ. However, the similarity between m and n is a historical accident, ɲ and ŋ are derived from ligatures of gn and ng, and ɱ is an ad hoc imitation of ŋ.
Some of the new letters were ordinary Latin letters turned 180 degrees, such as ɐ ɔ ə ɟ ɥ ɯ ɹ ʇ ʌ ʍ ʎ (turned a c e f h m r t v w y). This was easily done in the era of mechanical typesetting, and had the advantage of not requiring the casting of special type for IPA symbols.

Capital letters (wildcards, archiphonemes and voice quality symbols) 

Full capital letters - are not used as IPA symbols. They are, however, often used for archiphonemes and for natural classes of phonemes (that is, as wildcards). Such usage is not part of the IPA or even standardized, and may be ambiguous between authors, but it is commonly used in conjunction with the IPA. (The extIPA chart, for example, uses one or two wildcards in its illustrations.) Capital letters are also basic to the Voice Quality Symbols sometimes used in conjunction with the IPA.

The sound values of modified Latin letters can often be derived from those of the original letters. For example, letters with a rightward-facing hook at the bottom represent retroflex consonants; and small capital letters usually represent uvular consonants. Apart from the fact that certain kinds of modification to the shape of a letter generally correspond to certain kinds of modification to the sound represented, there is no way to deduce the sound represented by a symbol from its shape (as for example in Visible Speech) nor even any systematic relation between signs and the sounds they represent (as in Hangul).
Beyond the letters themselves, there are a variety of secondary symbols which aid in transcription. Diacritic marks can be combined with IPA letters to transcribe modified phonetic values or secondary articulations. There are also special symbols for suprasegmental features such as stress and tone that are often employed.

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