This is the universally accepted abbreviation for the International Phonetic Alphabet - the recognised way, throughout the world, (International) of communicating the sounds of languages (Phonetic) in writing (Alphabet). It is the most accurate way of writing down how people actually talk. In the hands of an experienced and well-trained expert, it can be nearly as good as a direct recording in showing how someone - maybe a stroke victim recovering the power of speech - talks. It is produced by the International Phonetic Association (also IPA, French: L'Association Phonétique Internationale (API)), currently at the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, School of English, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki 54124, GREECE. The Association's official version of the Alphabet is available (March 2008) at [], and has been copied to AWE at IPA Chart.
Most teachers and students of language can't use it at this level. Few need to. For most of us, it is really a phonemic alphabet - it is good enough to teach us how to speak. In this more general usage, it is an invaluable tool in learning foreign languages. Non-native students learning English as a foreign language often know it much better than native students. (If you don't know it, and do not want to learn it, the only thing to notice is that the phonetic representations of the IPA are separated from ordinary writing by slashes - / /. So don't bother to read what lies between.)
In this Guide, the IPA is used as a broad phonemic system to indicate appropriate pronunciation. There is also an attempt to show pronunciation in a way that we think native speakers at least will find helpful without having to learn a new alphabet. (This is by re-spelling words in a way that brings out their pronunciation, and where necessary and possible indicating rhyme words.) If you don't know the IPA, you should not have to learn it in order to use this Guide. (The only thing to notice is that the phonetic representations of the IPA are separated from ordinary writing by slashes - / /. So don't bother to read what lies between.)
If you want to learn it, however, there is a brief introduction to the symbols used at IPA in AWE. (For more detail, search the web. Good websites can be found, e.g. those maintained by University College London and the Summer Institute of Linguists in the USA, housed on-line at http://www.sil.org/computing/fonts/ipareadme.html, and otherwise at:
- SIL International Publishing Services
- User Support
- 7500 West Camp Wisdom Road
- Dallas, TX 75236
- United States of America
- Voice (972) 708-7495
- Fax (972) 708-7388
- E-Mail mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also use an academic library or good bookshop to find hard copy versions.)
However, to use the IPA well demands tuition, skill and experience. Be warned!