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a briefing document


a phonetics chart for british english

by the auroran sunset

 


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A phonetics chart for British English is a supplementary document to how to teach a child to read using phonics [synthetic phonics].
on teaching reading how to teach a person number, arithmetic, mathematics

index
introduction
vowels (including diphthongs)
consonants
additional sounds, including those imported from other languages
more on consonants
pulmonic consonants
non- pulmonic consonants
velarisation
how to add phonetic symbols to a webpage, includes symbol descriptions
bibliography
endnotes

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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disclaimer

 

The following tables contain the phonetic symbols [1] for the standard sounds used in English. There is one table for most vowels and one table for most consonants, as well as a third table for additional sounds. Along with each symbol, there are two example words, with the relevant sound highlighted. The first example is always a very simple word that most learners will already know. The second example is usually slightly more challenging.

After each symbol, there is a link to an illustrative mp3. Each mp3 has the sound repeated three times on its own, followed by the two examples. Most browsers will play the mp3 automatically when you click the link. If you have problems, right click on the link and download the mp3. You can then listen to the example in a music player such as iTunes or WinAMP.

All examples assume standard British English pronunciation - sometimes known as “Queen’s English”, “King’s English”, “Received Pronunciation” and “BBC English”. Strangely, now that regional accents have become fashionable, BBC English is one of the few accents you are unlikely to hear from a modern BBC presenter. Americans, and other ‘colonials’, may find some examples confusing - if unsure, please listen to the mp3 for that sound. Each file is approximately 30kB - about the same as a small image.

Note that because consonant sounds are by definition whispered, it is extremely difficult to say those sounds clearly and loudly on their own. Thus, I have added an ‘-er’ or schwa sound [mp3 link] on the end of each consonant sound: I say [də] [2], not [d]. Obviously when saying a word yourself, you do not add that schwa sound after every consonant! [3]

The sound, or phoneme, associated with each phonetic symbol [like those in the table below] does not change from accent to accent, or language to language, instead different symbols are used to write the different pronunciations. For example, the word “fast” has a long vowel sound in Queen’s English, but a short vowel sound in American English (and Northern British English!). Thus for King’s English, the pronunciation of “fast” is written as [faːst]; and for American English, the pronunciation of “fast” is written as [fæst].

Therefore, while your pronunciation of the example words may well differ from ours - as demonstrated on the mp3s - your pronunciation of the phonetic symbols themselves should not differ significantly from ours!

Once you can recognise the phonetic symbols, you should be able to look up and read the pronunciation of any word in any dictionary [you need to learn some extra sounds/symbols, not shown here, for many foreign languages]. [4]

click to return to the index

vowels (including diphthongs)

ʌ
up
muck
click for mp3
aː
hard
calm
click for mp3
æ
cat
flagellate
click for mp3
ə
away
dictator
click for mp3
ɛ
head
emperor
click for mp3
ɜː
learn
herbal
click for mp3
ɪ
six
imp
click for mp3
iː
see
evil
click for mp3
ɒ
hot
oxymoron
click for mp3
ɔː
call
awesome
click for mp3
ʊ
wood
whoops!
click for mp3
uː
you
moody
click for mp3

I
irate
click for mp3

ow!
spout
click for mp3

əʊ
go
Mona Lisa
click for mp3

air
wary
click for mp3

say
alien
click for mp3
ɪə
ear
happier
click for mp3
ɔɪ
oil
spoilt brat
click for mp3
ʊə
tour
demur
click for mp3

click to return to the index

consonants

b
baby
bonanza
click for mp3
d
did
dilettante
click for mp3
f
fish
fife
click for mp3
g
gift
glimmer
click for mp3
h
hello
hell-raiser
click for mp3
j
yes
younger
click for mp3
k
back
capitulate
click for mp3
l
leg
legerdemain
click for mp3
m
lemon
manipulate
click for mp3
n
no
notorious
click for mp3
ŋ
sing
humdinger
click for mp3
p
pet
peculiar
click for mp3
r
red
resistance
click for mp3
s
sun
sucker
click for mp3

she
splash
click for mp3
t
tea
telemetry
click for mp3
t∫
chess
childish
click for mp3
θ
think
theory
click for mp3
ð
mother
themselves
click for mp3
v
voice
vex
click for mp3
w
we
sweltering
click for mp3
z
zoo
sneeze
click for mp3
ʒ
pleasure
measured
click for mp3

gym
jamboree
click for mp3
 

additional sounds,
including those imported from other languages [5]

ɑ
bâtiment [Fr.: building]
pâte [Fr.: pastry]
click for mp3
ɑː
barn
father
click for mp3
a
mari [Fr.: husband]
patte [Fr.: foot, paw]
click for mp3
(ə)
beaten
button
click for mp3 [7]
e
pet
bébé [Fr.: baby]
click for mp3
ɜː
yurt
bird
click for mp3

eː
Schnee
[Ger.: snow]
click for mp3

ɛː
Führe
[Ger.: load]
click for mp3
ɔ
boeuf [Fr.: beef]
leur [Fr.: their]
click for mp3

Sohn
[Ger.: son]
click for mp3
øː
Goethe
[Ger.: a name]
click for mp3
u
douce [Fr: soft.]
fou [Fr.: mad]
click for mp3

ʏ
book
Müller [Ger.: a name]
click for mp3

y
du [Fr.: of the]
pur [Fr.: pure]
click for mp3
yː
grün
[Ger.: green]
click for mp3
ɛ~
fin [Fr.: end]
lin [Fr.: flax, linen]
click for mp3
ɑ~
franc [Fr.: franc]
clan [Fr.: clan]
click for mp3
ɔ~
bon [Fr.: good]
long [Fr.: long]
click for mp3
œ~
un [Fr.: one]
brun [Fr.: brown]
click for mp3

ɛə
pair
hairy
click for mp3

ɔə
boar
saw
click for mp3
aɪə
fiery
beer
click for mp3
aʊə
sour
bower
click for mp3
   
         
(r)
her
fur
click for mp3
hw
when
whine
click for mp3
ŋɡ
finger
banger
click for mp3
ʎ
seraglio
[It.: menagerie]
click for mp3
ɲ
cognac [Fr.: brandy]
gnôle [Fr.: hooch]
click for mp3

x
ach [Ger: oh]
loch
click for mp3

ç
ich
[Ger.: I]
click for mp3

ɣ
sagen
[North Ger.: to say]
click for mp3

c
baardmannetjie
[Afrikans: scaley-feathered finch (Sporopipes squamifrons)]
click for mp3 [8]
ɥ
huit [Fr.: eight]
cuisine [Fr.: kitchen]
click for mp3

[Note that phonetic symbols such as a or ʊ may be modernised to display as ɑ or u.]

 

more on consonants

How a consonant is articulated, or spoken, involves controlling and manipulating your breath leaving the mouth, using the lips, teeth, tongue and the interior of the mouth, as well as the speed and strength of the air flow.

Consonants are of two types, pulmonic and non-pulmonic, though most languages only include the pulmonic type. Pulmonic consonants are produced using pressurised air expelled (outward-going) from the lungs, while non-pulmonic consonants comprise ejective, implosive and click sounds. Ejective and implosive sounds use glottalic airflow, while clicks use velaric airflow.

Cross-section of the human head, labelling components of the vocal tract
Cross-section of the human head, labelling components of the vocal tract

Pulmonic consonants

Place of articulation (where in the mouth a sound is made):
Bilabial: articulated with both lips
Labiodental: articulated with both upper teeth and lower lips
Dental: articulated on or between the teeth
Alveolar: articulated with tongue tip on aveolar ridge
Postalveolar: articulated with tongue tip just behind aveolar ridge
Retroflex: articulated curling backwards
Palatal: articulated with the mid-tongue at the hard palate. The tongue is not raised
Velar: articulated with the back of the tongue on the soft palate
Uvular: articulated with the back of the tongue at the uvula
Pharyngeal: articulated with the back of the tongue and the pharynx
Glottal: articulated at the glottis (vocal chords/folds)
 
Method of articulation (how the breathe flow is used to make a sound):
Plosive/oral stop: complete obstruction of mouth air flow followed by release
Nasal: complete obstruction of mouth air flow, with velum open so air can escape from nose, humming
Trill: sound from rapid vibration of one articulator against another
Tap or flap: sound made by brief but complete closure of vocal tract
Fricative: sound formed by narrowing the vocal tract esurient to make turbulent airflow
Lateral fricative: fricative with air flow centrally blocked, so escaping to the sides
Approximant: sound caused when vocal tract narrowed, but not enough to form turbulent airflow
Lateral approximant: approximant with air flow centrally blocked, so escaping to the sides

 

Non-pulmonic consonants

Consonants formed without pulmonic airflow. This type of consonants instead are formed with velaric airflow (clicks) or glottalic airflow (implosives and ejectives).

 

Velarisation [this section is a beta release]

Velarisation is used to pronounce or supplement the pronunciation of a consonant with an articulation at the soft palate, the back of the tongue being raised towards the soft palate during the articulation of the consonant.

Examples of velarised consonants in English are the ‘l’ in milk and in build, described as a dark l. Further understanding may be helped by pronouncing alternately the consonants ‘k’ and ‘t’, where ‘k’ is velar and ‘t’ is dental . Other velar sounds are ‘g’, ‘Å‹’ and ‘x’.

More technically,

  1. velar is a place of articulation. It is comprised of two articulators - the active articulator, which is the back of the tongue and the passive articulator, which is the soft palate.
  2. Velarisation is a secondary articulation where a high back tongue position is added to a primary articulation.
  3. There are no velarised consonants in French.
    In English, the ‘l’ in milk, described as a dark l, is a velarised consonant. The light or palatised version of ‘l’ is found in lawn.
    In other languages, such as Russian and Irish [Gaeilge], velarised consonants are systematically contrasted phonemically with palatised consonants. When teaching Irish, the terms ‘slender’ describes palatial consonants and ‘wide’, velarised ones;while when teaching Russian the terms ‘soft’ describes palatial consonants and ‘hard’, velarised ones.

To be developed:
Bilabialisation
Labiodentalisation
Dentalisation
Alveolarisation
Postalveolarisation
Retroflexive
Palatalisation
Uvularisation
Labialisation
Pharyngealization
Glottalisation


how to add phonetic symbols to a webpage,
includes symbol descriptions

Unlike with Microsoft Word, copying and pasting these symbols into the HTML source code for your website will probably not work. To add phonetic symbols to an HTML document, you must type special “HTML entities”. An HTML entity is something that starts with an ampersand (&) and end with a semicolon (;), which browsers translate to a special character rather than displaying directly. The following table contains the HTML codes (entities) for all the symbols used above that aren’t just standard alphabetic characters. For those with older setups having trouble seeing these characters, please see here.

symbol name & description what to type
ː extended sound mark ː
˜ tilde (sometimes called a swung dash):
in this context, this symbol indicates a nasal vowel. The tilde is frequently indicated over or across the letter concerned.
˜
ʌ carot: an upside-down ‘v’ ʌ
ɒ script ‘a’ turned 180 degrees ɒ
æ aelig—a-e ligature:
a lowercase ‘a’ linked to a lowercase ‘e’
æ
ə schwa : an ‘e’ rotated 180 degrees ə
ɜ a back-to-front lowercase Greek epsilon ɜ
ɛ lowercase Greek epsilon ɛ
ɪ a small capital ‘i’ ɪ
ɔ an ‘o’ open on the left-hand side,
or a back-to-front ‘c’
ɔ
ʊ an upside-down Greek capital omega ʊ
ŋ engma: an ‘n’ with a ‘j’ hook at bottom right ŋ
esh: like the integral symbol used in mathematics ∫
θ theta: a lowercase Greek theta θ
ð eth: a lowercase Greek delta with a bar through its tail ð
ʒ ezh: like a stylised ‘3’ ʒ
ɑ open a: script ‘a’ ɑ
ø e -slash (front-rounded vowel):
‘o’ crossed by a diagonal line
ø
ʏ near-close near-front rounded vowel :
small capital letter ‘Y’
ʏ
œ o-e ligature:
a lowercase ‘o’ linked to a lowercase ‘e’
œ
ʎ palatal l: similar to a mirror-image lambda ʎ
ɲ IPA palatal n:
an ‘n’ with a ‘j’ hook at bottom left
ɲ
ç c cédilla: ‘c’ with a comma under the letter ç
ɣ IPA gamma:
similar to a lowercase Greek gamma with a looped foot
ɣ
ɥ front-round glide:
an inverted, reversed lower-case ‘h’
ɥ

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endnotes

  1. There doesn’t seem to be much of a serious difference between the terms ‘phonetics’ and ‘phonics’. However, for what it is worth:

    Phonics is a term from the 17th century. It is used to talk about the relationship between sound and spelling, especially when teaching English reading and spelling.

    Phonetics is a term from the mid-19th century. It is used to talk about the study of speech sounds.
     

  2. Some users with older operating systems and browsers may have problems seeing the phonetic symbols properly. You may for example see a box or a question mark instead of the symbol. This problem should not occur on any post-2000 operating system, such as Mac OSX, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, etc.

    For those having this problem, here is one solution. Download and install the Mozilla Firefox browser. Firefox is free and is also by far the best browser available on the market today. We would recommend using Firefox even if you did not have this problem to solve.

    You will also need to install a font that contains the IPA (International Phonetics Alphabet) characters. Here for example is Lucida Sans Unicode in TTF (True-Type Font) format. Download that file and copy it to your Fonts Folder - usually C:\Windows\Fonts under older versions of Windows. Next open your Firefox Preferences. In the Fonts area, select "Lucida Sans Unicode" from the dropdown. You should now be able to see phonetic characters, and many others, without difficulty.
     

  3. Note that is very important when teaching reading that you do not add the ‘-er’ or schwa sound onto the end of consonants, because it will tend to confuse and cause the words to be synthesised incorrectly. For example, if you teach your child to pronounce ‘c’ as [cə] and ‘t’ as [tə], then when they try to pronounce ‘cat’, it will become [cəætə] (ker-a-ter! ...kerater), rather than [cæt] (k-a-t...kat)!
     

  4. The pronunciation guides in dictionaries also have accent marks over the emphasised vowel sounds. The accent mark looks like an French acute accent, like in é.

  5. diphthong
    This word is not clearly defined, having several associated meanings.
    In general, diphthongs occur when two vowels merge to form one combined vowel. This can also occur as you speak quickly and separate vowels run together An example of a monothong or pure vowel is heard in ‘sum’, while a a diphthong vowel is heard in ‘eye’.

    The word diphthong comes originally from the ancient Greek diphthongos. It became dipthongus in Late Latin, then diptonge in Middle English and diptongue in Middle French, before ‘settling’ on diphthong. Thus, it is acceptable to say this word as dip-thong or as dif-thong.

  6. This page is not an explanation of the International Phonetic Alphabet [IPA] [.pdf file]. The list of sounds used here is derived from that used by the Oxford English Dictionary, to be found in the OED help file, section 6.1.1 [.pdf, page 40 of 53 onwards]. Note that the IPA includes symbols for many languages, not just those for English.

    Sources for the html entities used are
    The International Phonetic Alphabet in Unicode
    Unicode Entity Codes for Phonetic Symbols, Penn State University

    Entities and pronunciations were verified from
    The sounds of English and the International Phonetic Alphabet
    UCLA course in phonetics - sounds: consonants, vowels (Macromedia Flash required to hear the sounds),
    as well as from personal and general knowledge.
    Some background to German pronunciations.

  7. the symbol for the “syllabic n” can also be displayed as ən. This symbol indicates that the consonant n is pronounced as a separate syllable, it sounds like a vowel. Further examples are ‘written’ and ‘listen’.

    syllabic
    of a consonant - forming a syllable by itself, as the (n) in button [buht-n] or the (l) in bottle [bot-l]
    of a vowel - dominating the other sounds in a syllable; sonantal (a voiced sound).


  8. Many thanks to Limbic for providing this mp3 recording for the sound of this unusual syllable (and word).

  9. Primary and secondary articulation
    Primary articulation describes either
    • the place and manner in which a stricture is made for a consonant or
    • the combination of lip shape, tongue contour and larynx height used to produce a vowel. Note that a primary articulation may still allow some movement for other articulators that not involved in the formation of that primary articulation. That movement is the secondary articulation. It is no less important than the primary articulation.
    Types of secondary articulation are classed as labialisation, palatalisation, velarisation, and pharyngealisation. There can also be combinations, such as labiovelarisation. Other minor types of secondary articulation are rhotacisation and faucalisation.

Related links for further reading:
how to teach a child to read using phonics
Reading and vocabulary tests, and related information
Book reading lists
reality, laying the foundations for sound education
aristotle’s logic - why aristotelian logic does not work
citizenship curriculum
introduction to franchise discussion documents The logic of ethics
franchise by examination, education and intelligence power, ownership and freedom

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