Appendix:English pronunciation

From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


The following tables show the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and the English pronunciation (enPR) or American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) symbols that are used to represent the various sounds of the English language. The sounds of Received Pronunciation (RP, UK), General American pronunciation (GenAm, US), Canadian English (CanE), Australian English (AuE), and New Zealand English (NZE) are shown.

For vowels in other dialects, see Wikipedia's IPA chart for English. An image of an old version of these tables is available.

For a fuller list of dialects, see International Phonetic Alphabet chart for English dialects.

Non-rhotic dialects (RP, Australia, New Zealand) do not pronounce what was historically a syllable-final r; instead they have a schwa (/ə/), centering diphthong (ending in /ə̯/), or a long vowel (ending in ː). Rhotic dialects (General American and Canadian) pronounce the syllable-final r. Also, they make no vowel length distinction, so none of their vowels end in the length symbol ː.

This vowel table below lists the standard phonemic vowel notations in each accent and contains both monophthongs and diphthongs. Variations of notation within the same accent are also listed.

enPR / AHD[1] IPA examples
ä ɑː ɑ ɒ, ɑ ɐː, aː father, palm
är ɑː ɑɹ ɐː, aː arm, bard, starry, start
ă æ, a æ æ ɛ bad, cat, ran, trap[2][3]
ăr æɹ, aɹ æɹ, ɛɹ ɛɹ æɹ ɛɹ carry, marry, paragraph[4]
ā æɪ day, pain, hey, weight, face
âr ɛə eɹ, ɛɹ ɛɹ iə, eə hair, there, fairy, vary, Mary, square[5][6][7][4]
ĕ ɛ e bed, egg, meadow, dress[8]
ĕr ɛɹ very, error, merry[4]
ē i ease, see, siege, ceiling, fleece
îr ɪə, ɪː ɪɹ ɪə iə, iːə near, here, serious[6][7]
(ē) ɪ, i, iː i city, happy, everyday, mania, geography[9]
ĭ ɪ ə sit, city, bit, will, kit
(ĭ) ɪ ə roses, spotted, secure
ĭr ɪɹ əɹ mirror, Sirius
ī (ʌɪ) ɑɪ my, rice, pie, hi, Mayan, price[10]
ŏ ɒ ɑ ɒ, ɑ ɔ, ɒ not, wasp, cot, lot
ŏr ɒɹ ɑɹ (rarely ) ɔɹ, ɒɹ borrow, sorry, sorrow, tomorrow (sometimes morrow)[11]
ŏr ɒɹ (regionally ɑɹ) ɔɹ, ɒɹ horror, forest, orange, quarrel, warrior[11][12][13]
ôr ɔːɹ oːɹ forum, glory
ôr ɔː horse, north,[6] hoarse, force[13]
ô ɔː ɔ (with the cot-caught merger: ɑ) ɒ, ɑ law, caught, thought[14]
ō əʊ əʉ, ɐʉ ɐʉ no, go, hope, know, toe, goat
oi ɔɪ boy, noise, choice
o͝o, ŏŏ ʊ put, foot, wolf
o͝or, ŏŏr ʊə, ɔː ʊɹ ʊə ʉə, ʉːə, oː tour, tourism, stoor, cure[6]
o͞o, ōō u ʉː lose, soon, through, goose
ou æɔ æʊ house, now, tower, mouth
ŭ ʌ ɐ, a run, enough, up, other, strut[15]
ûr ɜː ɜɹ ɜː øː fur, blurry, bird, swerve, nurse[16]
ə ə Rosa's, about, oppose, comma
ər ə əɹ ə ə, ɐ, a winner, enter, error, doctor, letter[16]

Foreign vowels

Found primarily in some English dictionaries' transcription of the original (foreign) pronunciations of foreign words, especially French or German.

enPR / AHD[1] IPA examples
œ œ, ø oeuvre, Königsberg
ü y Debussy, Württemberg (also used in some dialects, e.g. the MLE pronunciation of wound)
  1. 1.0 1.1 “Pronunciation Key”, in The American Heritage Dictionary Of The English Language[1], 5th edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018, archived from the original on 19 January 2024
  2. ^ RP /æ/ is sometimes transcribed /a/, for example in dictionaries of the Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ See badlad split for more discussion of the vowel /æ/ in Australian English.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 In many accents in the United States and most accents in Canada, some or all of the vowels of Mary, marry, and merry are merged (the Marymarrymerry merger). If all three are merged, the resulting vowel is usually transcribed /ɛɹ/. In accents that distinguish all three, marry has /æɹ/, merry has /ɛɹ/, and Mary has /eɹ/.
  5. ^ An older alternative symbol to RP /ɛə/ is /eə/, reflecting the mid height of the vowel in earlier RP, and the fact that it was a centring diphthong.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 RP in the early 20th century had five centring diphthongs /ɑə/, /eə/, /ɪə/, /ɔə/, /ʊə/. Of these, /ɔə/ in force formerly contrasted with a long vowel /ɔː/ in north, thought. All of them are now generally pronounced as long monophthongs (pure vowels) /ɑː/, /ɔː/, /ɛː/, /ɪː/, /ɵː/ (monophthongization). However, many words that formerly had /ʊə/ (= /ɵː/) are now pronounced with /ɔː/. /ɑə/ monophthongized first, very early in the 20th century, then /ɔə/, and more recently the rest.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Many speakers of New Zealand English, especially younger speakers, make no distinction between the vowels of near and square; see nearsquare merger for more discussion.
  8. ^ /ɛ/ is sometimes transcribed /e/ for RP—for example, in the Collins English Dictionary.
  9. ^ In some dictionaries such as the Longman and the Collins English dictionaries, /i/ is used as an archiphoneme to represent the neutralization of the distinction between /ɪ/ and /iː/ in this position.
  10. ^ For RP, /aɪ/ is also transcribed (e.g. by Oxford University Press) as /ʌɪ/.
  11. 11.0 11.1 The words borrow, sorry, sorrow, tomorrow, and, for some speakers, morrow, and words derived from these, are most often pronounced with /ɑɹ/ (like start) in GenAm, while other words like horror and forest are more often pronounced with /oɹ/ (like horse, hoarse). See e.g. borrow, sorry, horror, forest in Merriam-Webster.
  12. ^ This sequence only occurs before another vowel. In General American accents influenced by some American English dialects, such as eastern coastal American English, the /ɑɹ/ in forest and origin is distinguished from the /oɹ/ in horse and north, unlike in General American. See Mergers of /ɒɹ-/ and /ɔːɹ-/ for more details.
  13. 13.0 13.1 General American /oɹ/ is alternatively transcribed in other dictionaries as [oɚ, ɔɚ] (Merriam-Webster), /ɔːr/ (Cambridge, Longman), /ɔr/ (Collins), and /oʊr/ ( Discussed at Wiktionary:Beer parlour/2022/November#the vowel of floor, horse, etc in GenAm.
  14. ^ In varieties of General American where the vowels of lot and thought are merged (cotcaught merger), the merged vowel is transcribed /ɑ/.
  15. ^ Some linguists, such as Geoff Lindsey, former phonetics lecturer at University College London, and Will Styler, professor of linguistics at UC San Diego, argue that /ʌ/ is not distinct from /ə/ in General American. Compare the note about the nurse vowel, /ɜɹ ~ əɹ/. This has been discussed at Wiktionary:Beer parlour/2022/November#ʌ in American English pronunciations.
  16. 16.0 16.1 The nurse vowel /ɜɹ/ is generally not considered phonemically distinct from /əɹ/ in General American and Canadian English (see for instance this article by Will Styler, professor of linguistics at UC San Diego). It is transcribed distinctly for consistency with the Received Pronunciation transcription system and because they differ in aspects like stress; however, dictionaries of the Oxford University Press such as the Oxford English Dictionary transcribe the nurse vowel as /əː/ for RP and British English as well. The Merriam–Webster Dictionary uses non-IPA "ər" (corresponding to IPA [ɜɹ, əɹ] for both /ɜɹ/ and /əɹ/. Compare the note about the strut vowel, /ʌ/ ~ /ə/. This has been discussed at Wiktionary:Beer parlour/2022/November#/ɝ/ vs /ɚ/ in GenAm.

In order to allow Module:syllables to count syllables, the disyllabic sequence /iə/ must be transcribed with a period to mark the syllable break – /i.ə/ – so that it will not be confused with the New Zealand diphthong /iə/.

Syllable-final /ɹ/ is sometimes replaced with /ɚ/: /ðɛɚ/ instead of /ðɛɹ/. In order to keep Module:syllables from counting /ɚ/ as a syllable, add the non-syllabic diacritic: /ðɛɚ̯/.

Some speakers do not contrast unstressed /ɪ/ and /ə/, or the two sounds may be in free variation. Some sources use the symbol ⟨ɨ⟩ or ⟨⟩ to indicate the vowel which results from the merger of, or which may be pronounced as either of, these sounds.[1][2]

To be added or sorted into the table above: bath, cloth.

IPA enPR / AHD[3] examples
b b but, web, rubble
t͡ʃ ch chat, teach, nature
d d dot, idea, nod
f f fan, left, enough, photo
ɡ g get, bag
h h ham
ʍ (hw)[4] hw which
d͡ʒ j joy, agile, age
k k cat, tack
x ᴋʜ[5] loch (Scottish English)
l l left
l̩ (əl)[6] l little
m m man, animal, him
m̩ (əm)[6] m spasm, prism
n n note, ant, pan
n̩ (ən)[6] n hidden
ŋ ng singer, ring
p p pen, spin, top, apple
ɹ[7] r run, very
s s set, list, ice
ʃ sh ash, sure, ration
t t ton, butt
θ th thin, nothing, moth
ð th this, father, clothe
v v voice, navel
w w wet
j y yes
z z zoo, quiz, rose
ʒ zh vision, treasure
  1. ^ C. Upton; Kretzschmar; Konopka; Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English, (2001, Oxford University Press)
  2. ^ Key to Pronunciation ((Can we date this quote?)) “Oxford English Dictionary”, in (Please provide the book title or journal name)[2], Oxford University Press
  3. ^ “Pronunciation Key”, in The American Heritage Dictionary Of The English Language[3], 5th edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018, archived from the original on 19 January 2024
  4. ^ Some phonologists dispute that /ʍ/ is a distinct phoneme in English, and use /hw/ instead.
  5. ^ The AHD uses ᴋʜ not only for /x/ but also for /ç/, as in the German pronunciation of Königsberg. /ç/ is not phonemic in GA or RP, but occurs as an allophone of /hj/ in many dialects, e.g. in human (however, the AHD represents it as h in English words).
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Some phonologists dispute that /l̩/, /n̩/, /m̩/ are distinct phonemes in English, and use /əl/, /ən/, /əm/ instead.
  7. ^ Often written /r/, especially in works that cover only English, even though the sound is usually not a trill. For further information, see Pronunciation of English /r/.

Fortis and lenis

The so-called voiceless and voiced obstruents are more properly fortis and lenis. Each member of a fortis–lenis pair is distinguished from the other by various articulatory and auditory features, but not consistently by voicing or lack of it.

In most dialects of English, the fortis (voiceless) stops and affricate /p t tʃ k/ are always voiceless, and are aspirated ([pʰ tʰ tʃʰ kʰ]) at the beginning of a word and at the beginning of a stressed syllable: for example, RP today [tʰəˈdeɪ], chain [tʃʰeɪn] and account [əˈkʰaʊnt]. Vowels and sonorants immediately preceding syllable final fortis obstruents are usually pronounced shorter than before lenis obstruents, as in bet vs. bed and bent vs. bend. This phenomenon is known as pre-fortis clipping.

The lenis (voiced) stops and affricate /b d dʒ ɡ/ are always unaspirated. Lenis obstruents /b v ð d z dʒ ʒ ɡ/ are often devoiced at the beginning or end of words, but are fully voiced between voiced vowels and sonorants.

The fortis–lenis distinction is neutralized in a few cases.

Initial consonant clusters consisting of /s/ and a stop (as in spill, still, skill) are typically analyzed as having a fortis stop, which agrees with the spelling, but may be analyzed equally well as having a lenis stop (i.e., *sbill, *sdill, *sgill). The stop is both voiceless and unaspirated, and there is no additional phonetic feature that establishes it as either fortis or lenis.

In addition, some dialects have a sound change known as intervocalic alveolar flapping, in which /t d/ are both pronounced as an alveolar flap [ɾ] between vowels or liquids and when not at the beginning of a stressed syllable. Further, in American English, /nt/ between vowels may be pronounced as a nasalized alveolar flap, [ɾ̃]. The fortis stop /t/ loses its distinctive voicelessness, and essentially becomes lenis. Flapping causes latter and ladder to both be pronounced as [ˈɫæɾɚ], and causes winter to be pronounced as [ˈwɪɾ̃ɚ], similar to winner [ˈwɪ̃nɚ].

Linking semivowels

When two vowels occur next to each other (termed hiatus), speakers sometimes perceive the vowels to be separated by a sound similar to one of the semivowels /j w/. The identity of such "linking semivowels" is predictable based on the identity of the preceding vowel: a /j/-like sound may be perceived after vowels ending in a high front unrounded sound, such as /iː~i/, /ɔɪ~oɪ/, /aɪ~ʌɪ~ɑɪ/, /eɪ~æɪ/, whereas a /w/-like sound may be perceived after vowels ending in a high back (or central) rounded sound, such as /uː~u~ʉː/, /aʊ~æʊ/, /əʊ~oʊ~əʉ~ɐʉ/.

Even though some speakers hear semivowels in these contexts, there is evidence that such "linking" semivowels are not phonetically identical to the semivowel phonemes that can be found at the start of words (as in "yearn" /jɜː(r)n/ or "weevil" /wiːvəl/). For example, the phonetician John Wells discusses "I earn" versus "I yearn" and "two evils" versus "two weevils" as minimal pairs showing that there is usually no neutralization of the phonemic contrast between the sequences /ɑɪ.ɜː/ and /ɑɪ.jɜː/, or between /tuː.iː/ and /tuː.wiː/.[1][2] Therefore, such "linking semivowels" should not be included in phonemic transcriptions.

It is also inadvisable to include them in phonetic transcriptions, since a number of phoneticians have argued that what is heard as a semivowel is actually nothing more than the final portion of the preceding vowel or diphthong.[1][2] For example, assuming we transcribe yellow and ready as [ˈjɛləʊ] and [ˈɹɛdi], it is unnecessary and redundant to use transcriptions such as yellowing [ˈjɛləʊwɪŋ] or readying [ˈɹɛdijɪŋ] as opposed to [ˈjɛləʊɪŋ] and [ˈɹɛdiɪŋ] , since there is likely no distinction on the phonetic level between the segments transcribed [ʊ], [i] and the supposedly following segments [w], [j]. A 2014 phonetic study of American English found that there were significant acoustic differences between the pronunciation of two vowels separated by a phonemic glide, and sequences of a high vowel or diphthong followed by a vowel: the perceptual illusion of a glide in the latter case could be explained in terms of a diphthongal realization of the first vowel phoneme, rather than insertion of a glide after it.[3]

An alternative analysis of the English vowel system treats the glides /j w/ as an inherent part of diphthongs and "tense" vowels.[4] In this kind of analysis (which is not used on Wiktionary), words like yellow, yellowing and ready, readying might be transcribed as /ˈjɛləw/, /ˈjɛləwɪŋ/ and /ˈɹɛdɪj/, /ˈɹɛdɪjɪŋ/. Note that this analysis also does not involve glide insertion when these vowels are placed before other vowels.

Other symbols

A stress mark is placed before the syllable that is stressed in IPA and after it in enPR / AHD.

ˈ (ˈa) (a) primary stress, as in rapping /ˈɹæpɪŋ/
ˌ (ˌa) (a′) secondary stress when before the primary stress;
unstressed full vowel when after the primary stress, as in battlefield (phonetically [ˈbætəlˌfiːld], phonologically /ˈbætəlfiːld/)
a.a a-a division between syllables
 ̩ syllabic consonant, as in ridden [ˈɹɪdn̩]
ʔ glottal stop, as in uh-oh /ˈʌʔoʊ/, [ˈʌ̆ʔ˦oʊ˨]
̃ (ã) ɴ () nasalization, as in croissant /ˈkɹwæsɒ̃/

Note: The EnPR and print AHD marks are formatted slightly differently. Online, AHD writes both ', though they do not always represent the same phoneme.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wells, John (2010 August 31) “linking semivowels?”, in John Wells’s phonetic blog[4] (blog)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Wells, John (2010 September 1) “linking semivowels (ii)”, in John Wells’s phonetic blog[5] (blog)
  3. ^ Davidson, Lisa, Erker, Daniel (2014) “Hiatus resolution in American English: The case against glide insertion”, in Language[6], volume 90, number 2, pages 482-514
  4. ^ Lindsey, Geoff (2012 March 8) “The British English vowel system”, in Speech Talk[7] (blog)

Further reading

  • Gimson, A. C. (1980) An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English, 3rd edn. edition, London: Edward Arnold, →ISBN
  • Kenyon, John Samuel (1950) American Pronunciation, 10th edn. edition, Ann Arbor: George Wahr
  • Kenyon, John S. with Thomas A. Knott (1944/1953) A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English, Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, →ISBN
  • Wells, J. C. (2000) Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, 2nd edn. edition, Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education Limited, →ISBN
  • Learning the IPA for English, (Standard American English)
  • Official IPA chart, as well as sub-charts and an interactive version with audio recordings
  • lexconvert a GPL command-line program to convert between Unicode IPA and the ASCII notations of various English speech synthesizers
  • YouGlish, a way to quickly check snippets of speech for pronunciations of any particular English word