Tuesday, November 28, 2017

TIP TUESDAY: THE INTERNATIONAL PHONETIC ALPHABET

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Several years ago, a friend came to stay with me for a few days. He perused a page on Wikipedia and wondered out loud about some marks following the name of the subject he was reading about. I told him that the marks were symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet. He said, Well, they don't do any good if people don't know what they are.

He was right––as he is occasionally. So today I'll clue you in on the IPA so when you come across it, you know what it is.

The IPA consists of symbols that resemble letters in the English language. It's based on Latin. Each symbol represents a sound in oral language. It's used by linguists, lexicographers, and a variety of people who want to learn how to pronounce words or names, whether in their own language or any other language. It can even be used to represent unrecorded languages.

I learned the IPA long ago when I took a class on linguistics. I don't remember all the symbols, but I still get the general idea of a pronunciation when I see it written in IPA.

Let's take the example of Milo Ventimiglia, who stars in the popular NBC show This Is Us, which I started watching because my good friend Rita at SoulComfort's Corner recommended it. Ventimiglia also played Jess on The Gilmore Girls, a show I adored because it's about my daughter and me.

Need I remind you yet again that I am the real Lorelai Gilmore?


So if we look up Milo on Wikipedia, we see this after his name: /vɛntɪˈmljə/ That's the pronunciation of Ventimiglia in IPA symbols. 

You can find the entire IPA chart with its symbols and sounds online. It looks like this:



Yes, I know it's too small to read. Don't start complaining in your comments. Look it up online if you want to see a larger version of it. You can do it. You can also find helpful information HERE.

So now you know what those funny symbols mean when you happen across them, even if you don't know how to read them. But you can learn the IPA if you like, or pick out your favorite resource for the symbols and use it as a reference guide.

You're welcome.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug



41 comments:

  1. Thank you for continuing my education.
    When things are too small for me on screen I hit control + a few times. It helps.

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    1. I didn't know about control+. My screen allows me to put my fingers on it to make things as large as I want.

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  2. I've seen it too and always wondered what it was. Thank you, Janie.

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  3. I've never understood or been able to read those official little pronunciation symbols. I prefer the much cruder phonetic pronunciation practice of using common little words that sound like how a syllable should sound, with all caps being used for the stressed syllable. Sort of like LOLcat-speak. As in "ex-KYOO-zay MWAH" to illustrate "excusez moi."

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    1. That works, too, and it's a whole lot funnier.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. I knew what they were and I still don't like them.

    By the way, on the subject of Wikipedia, why the hell does every Wikipedia article say "From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia" at the top of the article? Does anyone go to a Wikipedia article and not know what site they're on when they get there? That's like my greeting you by saying "Hello! I'm the one who just said that, by the way!"

    I asked that question once, and someone suggested that it was to keep people from quoting from Wikipedia on their own blogs or websites, without crediting Wikipedia. Yeah, like that would work. Anyone who can do a copy-and-paste knows how to select only what he or she wants to use.

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    1. I think the Wikipedia statement is there because Wikipedia loves itself.

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  6. The link you gave is very helpful, thanks.

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  7. The things I learn from my blogging friends. Thanks for broadening my education.

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    1. It's about time you learned something, Chatterbox.

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  8. I was forced to take linguistics as a freshman, on the theory I had a too region specific twang. I loathed it. I do not care to ever transcribe the d-j sound again. I did learn to lower my voice several notes (yep, right fro the piano) and breath into my diaphragm, not my shoulders. I still hated linguistics.

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    1. It sounds as if the school turned linguistics into a punishment.

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  9. You always have interesting writing/reading information to share with us. Thank you.

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  10. DS, with a masters in linguistics, told me he already forgot some of the symbols. Hooray for your interest when you don't even have to for a grade!

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    1. If you don't use the IPA all the time, it's easy to forget the symbols. I used to have it memorized. Now I don't.

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  11. Love these things. And you made me giggle when you preemptively told everyone not to crank at you about the size of the picture. Way to take charge!

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  12. Glad you like the show, too. I had absolutely no clue what those symbols were for. Good to know...even vaguely know. ;)

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  13. This is the first time I've ever even heard of the IPA. I mean, I've drank (drunken?) quite a few IPA's, but never did I think it had anything to do with pronunciation. Very cool.

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    1. I've drunk, but I like drunken better.

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  14. Hi Janie - Michael Quinion has had an interesting website - and this article will be useful .. thanks for directing us there - I've always wanted to know and been too idle to find out - cheers Hilary

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    1. I would never apply the word "idle" to you, Hilary.

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  15. I always figured those weird characters explained how to say it, but never realized there was a key. I'm smarter today!

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    1. I hope I'm at least a tiny bit smarter at the end of each day.

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  16. What a wonderful reference! Thanks!

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  17. Replies
    1. Did she invite you, or did you simply show up?

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  18. Replies
    1. Why go to school? I answer all questions.

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  19. I can see why there would be a whole course (or more than one) on this. It sounds complicated. But interesting!

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    1. The IPA itself isn't difficult to learn. For me the hard part is identifying the different sounds we make based on the placement of our tongues and that sort of thing. I didn't understand that part at all, but fortunately, it wasn't on the test.

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  20. Gosh I've never even seen them, but now I know what they are, so thanks!

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    1. You might notice them someplace now that you know what they mean.

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