International Phonetic Alphabet

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The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)[note 1] is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin alphabet. It was devised by the International Phonetic Association as a standardized representation of the sounds of spoken language.[1] The IPA is used by foreign language students and teachers, linguists, speech pathologists and therapists, singers, actors, lexicographers, artificial language enthusiasts (conlangers), and translators.[2][3]

The IPA is designed to represent only those qualities of speech that are distinctive in spoken language: 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 palate, an extended set of symbols called the Extensions to the IPA 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.[4] Occasionally letters or diacritics are added, removed, or modified by the International Phonetic Association. As of 2008, there are 107 letters, 52 diacritics, and four prosodic marks in the IPA.


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