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How the sounds of English are represented by the IPA

International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)


The IPA was first published in 1888 by the Association Phonétique Internationale (International Phonetic Association), a group of French language teachers founded by Paul Passy. The aim of the organisation was to devise a system for transcribing the sounds of speech which was independent of any particular language and applicable to all languages.
A phonetic script for English created in 1847 by Isaac Pitman and Henry Ellis was used as a model for the IPA.


  • The IPA is used in dictionaries to indicate the pronunciation of words.
  • The IPA has often been used as a basis for creating new writing systems for previously unwritten languages.
  • The IPA is used in some foreign language text books and phrase books to transcribe the sounds of languages which are written with non-latin alphabets. It is also used by non-native speakers of English when learning to speak English.
IPA pulmonic consonants
Where symbols appear in pairs, the one on the right represents a voiced consonant, while the one on the left is unvoiced. Shaded areas denote articulations judged to be impossible.
IPA non-pulmonic consonants and other symbols
IPA diacritics
IPA vowels, suprasegmentals and tone accents