International Phonetic Alphabet

International Phonetic Alphabet
IPA in IPA.svg
Alphabet, partially featural
LanguagesUsed for phonetic and phonemic transcription of any language
Time period
since 1888
Parent systems
ISO 15924Latn, 215
Unicode alias

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin alphabet. It was devised by the International Phonetic Association in the late 19th century as a standardized representation of the sounds of spoken language.[1] The IPA is used by lexicographers, foreign language students and teachers, linguists, speech-language pathologists, singers, actors, constructed language creators and translators.[2][3]

The IPA is designed to represent only those qualities of speech that are part of oral language: phones, phonemes, intonation and the separation of words and syllables.[1] To represent additional qualities of speech, such as tooth gnashing, lisping, and sounds made with a cleft lip and cleft palate, an extended set of symbols, the extensions to the International Phonetic Alphabet, may be used.[2]

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.[note 1] 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,[4] 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.[5]


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).[6] 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.[7] For example, the sound [ʃ] (the sh in shoe) was originally represented with the letter ⟨c⟩ in English, but with the digraph ⟨ch⟩ in French.[6] However, in 1888, the alphabet was revised so as to be uniform across languages, thus providing the base for all future revisions.[6][8] The idea of making the IPA was first suggested by Otto Jespersen in a letter to Paul Passy. It was developed by Alexander John Ellis, Henry Sweet, Daniel Jones, and Passy.[9]

Since its creation, the IPA has undergone a number of revisions. After revisions and expansions from the 1890s to the 1940s, the IPA remained primarily unchanged until the Kiel Convention in 1989. A minor revision took place in 1993 with the addition of four letters for mid central vowels[2] and the removal of letters for voiceless implosives.[10] The alphabet was last revised in May 2005 with the addition of a letter for a labiodental flap.[11] Apart from the addition and removal of symbols, changes to the IPA have consisted largely of renaming symbols and categories and in modifying typefaces.[2]

Extensions to the International Phonetic Alphabet for speech pathology were created in 1990 and officially adopted by the International Clinical Phonetics and Linguistics Association in 1994.[12]

Other Languages
Bân-lâm-gú: Kok-chè Im-phiau
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Міжнародны фанэтычны альфабэт
eesti: IPA
贛語: 國際音標
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Koet-chi Yîm-phiêu
Kongo: API
Baso Minangkabau: Abjad Fonetik Antaro Banso
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Guók-cié Ĭng-biĕu
Nordfriisk: IPA
Nouormand: API
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Xalqaro fonetik alifbo
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Međunarodna fonetska abeceda
吴语: 国际音标
粵語: 國際音標
中文: 國際音標