The International Phonetic Alphabet
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The International Phonetic Alphabet

Course Number: LING 101, Fall 2012

College/University: UNC

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The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) Objective: Transcribe English speech sounds in the international phonetic alphabet. What is the international phonetic alphabet (IPA), and why do we need one? The International Phonetic Alphabet is a way of transcribing speech as its pronounced, which means it can be used to transcribe any language (so long as there are symbols for the sounds spoken in that language)....

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International The Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) Objective: Transcribe English speech sounds in the international phonetic alphabet. What is the international phonetic alphabet (IPA), and why do we need one? The International Phonetic Alphabet is a way of transcribing speech as its pronounced, which means it can be used to transcribe any language (so long as there are symbols for the sounds spoken in that language). Because there is a one-to-one correspondence between symbols and sounds in IPA, there are no problems with weird, ambiguous spelling, silent letters, etc. such as we often find in written English. In phonetics and phonology, we use IPA to represent data sets of sounds from different languages. Using words written in IPA, we can focus on the sounds of a language without having to learn the writing systems of different languagesmany of which dont have any writing system at all, or have one that isnt based on sounds (such as Chinese). You can use your textbook or handouts or the charts provided here to learn the IPA symbols used for English consonants and vowels. Since many languages have sounds we dont use in English, you may be introduced to more symbols in later problem sets; but these symbols are all you need to start transcribing English speech. Transcription Tips: Sounds Not Spelling When transcribing words into the IPA, focus on the sounds, not the way that theyre spelled. Say the word aloud. Normal (Fast) Speech Be careful not to say the word too slowly and carefully, because that may change some of the sounds. The idea is to transcribe the way you usually pronounce the word in normal speech. IPA Symbols Are Not the Same As Letters An IPA symbol may look like an English letter, but represent a different sound than that letter normally does. This is especially true of vowels. Note, for example, that [e] is the vowel sound in say or weigh, not in bed (that would be [ ]). Ignore Silent Letters Many English words have silent letters, the e at the end of cape, for example. Remember, the difference between cap and cape doesnt have to do with the eits a different vowel between [k] and [p] (that is, [kp] vs. [kep]). Your Pronunciation May Vary Even within English, people with different dialects may pronounce words differently. (Again, this is especially true of vowels!) There may be more than one way to transcribe a word, but there is only one way to transcribe the word the way you say it. Use Your Friends If youre worried that your accent or dialect is too non-standard, or if you cant tell what sound youre saying, ask someone else to say the word. If youre worried priming about them to pronounce the word the way you do, write down the word and have them read it to you. The charts on the following pages give examples of the English consonants and vowels. We transcribed the words into IPA using our own dialect of Standard American English; your mileage may vary. (The symbols in parentheses show alternative symbols for the same sound.) 4Phonetic Alphabet Chart: Consonants of English Weird Consonants to Notice Glottal Stop: Voiceless stop thats rare in English. It may almost seem like a short pause instead of a sound. uh-oh is the best example, but it can also replace t in certain words (like mitten) in some dialects. Lateral Flap: A quick flap of the tongue. Comes out sort of like a cross between a t and d sound, as in butter. j Palatal Glide: Be careful with word-medial [j]. Compare layer [lej r ] with lair [ler]. IPA Symbol Example (Standard Orthography) Example (IPA) p powers, superhero, cape paw rz, sup rhiro, kep b Batman, Robin, lab b mn, rab n, lb t toxic, Green Lantern, invisible jet taks k, rin lnt rn, nv z b l d t d Doctor Doom, incredible, Alfred dakt r dum, nkr d b l, lfr d k costume, Doctor Octopus, Hulk kastjum, dakt r akt p s, h lk Gotham, Magneto, Rogue a m, m ni o, ro f fortress, Alpha Flight, tough fort r s, lf flajt, t f v villain, Professor Xavier, Batcave v l n, pr f s r zevi r, b kev threat, Lex Luthor, stealth r t, l ks lu r, st l The Hulk, weather, scythe h lk, w r, saj s Superman, lasso, spandex sup rmn, lso, spnd ks z zonk, laser, disguise za k, lez r, d skajz () Shadowcat, radiation, Flash dokt, redie n, fl () treasure, Mirage tr r, m ra h Hulk, superhero h lk, sup rhiro t (c) champion, Watchmen, launch t mpiy n, wat m n, l nt d ( j) justice, origin, judge d st s, r d n, d d m Magneto, Aquaman, crime m ni o, akw mn, krajm n Nightcrawler, spandex, Robin naj kral r, spnd ks, rab n super strength, Batarang sup r str k , b r l Lois Lane, Alfred, Smallville low s len, lfr d, smalv l r Rogue, Alfred, Nightcrawler ro , lfr d , naj kral r w Wonder Woman, Nightwing w nd r w m n, najtw j(y) united, slayer junaj d, slej r uh-oh, Batman o, b mn Magneto m ni o 5 Phonetic Alphabet Chart: Vowels of English Weird Vowels to Notice aj, aw, j Diphthongs: Although written with two symbols, these count as one sound. Schwa: Always unstressed. Usually comes out sounding like [ ] as in cut. Found in longer words when another vowel is stressed. Low Back Round Vowel: Not everyone has this sound in their dialect. Do you have a difference between caught and cot? If so, then caught would be [k t] . If not, they are both [kat].
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