Vowel Symbols
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Vowel Symbols [i] beed small i [I] bid cap i, or small cap i [e] bait small e PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Vowel Symbols [i] beed small i [I] bid cap i, or small cap i [e] bait small e [E] bed epsilon [Q] bad ash [A] pod script a (note the difference between [ A ] and [a]) [] bought open o [o] boat small o [U] book upsilon [u] boot small u

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Vowel Symbols [i] beed small i [I] bid cap i, or small cap i [e] bait small e

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Vowel Symbols

[i]beedsmall i

[I]bidcap i, or small cap i

[e]baitsmall e



[A]podscript a (note the difference between [A] and [a])

[]boughtopen o

[o]boatsmall o


[u]bootsmall u

[Ã]butcaret or wedge or turned v


[«]about, mantraschwa

Diphthong Symbols

[au]bout(Note that we’re using typewriter ‘a’ here. Explanation later.)


[ai]ride(Again with typewriter ‘a’.)

[ʌi]write(Don’t worry just yet how the diphthongs in “ride” and “write”

are different. For now just use [ai] for both.)

What’s a diphthong?

di = two; phthong = Greek word for sound (those whacky Greeks)

So, diphthong = two sounds; in this context, two vowels.

monophthong: one vowel ([i], [u], [ɪ], etc.)

diphthong: two vowels; i.e., one vowel quality slides into another one:

“buy”: [a]->[i]; “now”: [a]->[u]; “boy”: [ɔ]->[i]


(1) Monophthong/diphthong distinction not quite that simple; more later

(2) The word is diphthong, NOTdipthong

  • Summary of IPA Consonant Symbols

  • (excluding the obvious ones – b,d,g,p,t,k,w,l etc.)

  • [T]thintheta

    [D]theneth or bar d

  • [S] / [sà]shoelong s or esh

  • [Z] / [zà]measurelong z

  • [/]uh-oh / buttonglottal stop

  • [tS] / [cà]churcht/long s

  • [dZ] / [jà]judge d/long z

  • [j]yes

  • [ã]which / whether (for speakers who distinguish which/witch)

  • [N]singengma or long n

  • [R]butterflap

Rhotic Diphthongs

English has quite a few diphthongs consisting of some initial vowel followed by [Ô]

Some examples:

beer near fear rear [iÔ]

beardare care chair [eÔ]

floor door war sore [oÔ]

tour contour [uÔ]

tar bar far car [AÔ]

These are thrown in for completeness. We’ll spend some time on them later. For now, just know they exist.

A Few Comments on Transcription

  • Do your best to get spelling out of your head – e.g., the 1st sound in “cat” is [k], not [c].

  • Transcribe the utterance as it is spoken, not as you would say it.

  • Case matters – e.g., “Bill” = [bIl], not [BIl].

  • Transcription practices vary a fair amount across phoneticians; i.e., there often isn’t just one acceptable way to transcribe an utterance. I’ll try to stick with the approach that McKay uses, but get used to the idea that when you leave here supervisors may have different ways of doing things.Avoid transcription fist fights if possible. They’re unprofessional.

  • Transcription is mostly easy, but a few things will require some work and practice (e.g. , schwa, flaps, glottal stops, syllabic consonants, etc.)

  • 6. Letters vs. phonetic symbols:

  • Jimmy – These are letters

  • [dZImi] – These are not letters. They are phonetic symbols.

  • 7. Sometimes phonetic symbols are enclosed in square brackets and sometimes in slashes:

  • [dZImi]

  • /dZImi/

  • Don’t worry about that just yet. We’ll talk about it later.

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