This list includes phonetic symbols for the transcription of English sounds, plus others that are used in this class for transliterating or transcribing various languages, with the articulatory description of the sounds and some extra comments where appropriate.

These symbols do not always follow the standard IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) usage — rather, they reflect the practices for the languages treated in this course, which are sometimes a bit idiosyncratic due to separate scholarly traditions. In some cases, a second line shows a different use of the same symbol, normally for another language or family of languages. Nevertheless, the list is by no means exhaustive; for example, most pinyin symbols for transcribing Mandarin are not listed here; see week 5.

You certainly don't need to memorize all these symbols, but you can use this page as a reference if you're not sure what a particular symbol means when you encounter it. Remember that you need a Unicode-compatible browser to see these symbols correctly. If you're not sure how to produce special symbols in your word processor, you can cut and paste from this page.

See the bottom of the page for diacritic marks on vowels.

Symbol     Phonetic value     Example

a     low central (or front) unrounded vowel     French la
ä     central vowel ranging between [ɛ] and [ə]     Ethiopic
ɑ     low back unrounded vowel; often written [a]     spa
ɒ     low back rounded vowel     British hot
æ     low front unrounded vowel     cat, laugh, plaid
b     voiced bilabial stop     bib
ḇ     spirantized [b]; historically [β], modern [v]     Hebrew
β     voiced bilabial fricative     Spanish haber
c     voiceless alveolar affricate; IPA [ʦ] or [ts]     Italian zucchero, German zu, Yiddish tsimmes
č     voiceless palatoalveolar affricate; IPA [ʧ] or [tʃ]     church, watch
ɔ     lax mid back rounded vowel     dog (for many speakers)
ɕ     voiceless alveolopalatal fricative     Mandarin xi
ç     voiceless palatal fricative     German ich
d     voiced alveolar stop     dad
ḏ     palatalized [dʸ]; can be pronounced [ǰ]     Egyptian
      or spirantized [d], same as [ð]     Ancient Hebrew
ḍ     voiced retroflex stop; IPA [ɖ]     Indic
      or emphatic, i.e. pharyngealized [dˁ]     Semitic
ð     voiced dental fricative     this, either
e     tense mid front unrounded vowel     bait, made
ə     lax mid central vowel (unstressed in English); "schwa"     about, sofa
ɚ     rhotacized schwa, essentially [ər]     butter, actor
ɛ     lax mid front unrounded vowel     bet, head
ɝ     stressed [ɚ] in English; often transcribed the same way     bird, learn
f     voiceless labiodental fricative     fife, laugh
g     voiced velar stop     gag
ḡ     spirantized [g]; same as [ɣ]     Ancient Hebrew
h     voiceless glottal fricative     hit
ʰ     aspiration of preceding sound     top vs. stop
ḥ     voiceless pharyngeal fricative; IPA [ħ]     Arabic hummus
ḫ     voiceless uvular fricative; same as [χ]     Egyptian, Semitic
ẖ     voiceless fricative; probably palatal [ç]     Egyptian
i     tense high front unrounded vowel     see, diva
ɪ     lax high front unrounded vowel     hit
ỉ     special transcriptional symbol; also [j]     Egyptian
ɨ     high central unrounded vowel     roses
j     voiced palatal glide; same as [y] in other systems     standard IPA; Mycenaean Greek
      or alternate transliteration for [ỉ]     Egyptian
ʲ     palatalization of preceding sound; also [ʸ]     roughly canyon vs. cannon
ǰ     voiced palatoalveolar affricate; IPA [ʤ] or [dʒ]     judge
k     voiceless velar stop     kick, cake
ḳ     voiceless uvular stop; same as [q]     Egyptian
ḵ     spirantized [k]; same as [x]     Ancient Hebrew
l     voiced alveolar lateral liquid     lip
ḷ     voiced retroflex lateral liquid; IPA [ɭ]     Indic
ɬ     voiceless alveolar lateral fricative     Semitic; Welsh "ll"
ɫ     velarized voiced alveolar lateral liquid     hull
m     voiced bilabial nasal     mom
n     voiced alveolar nasal     none
ŋ     voiced velar nasal; don't confuse with sequence [ŋg]     singer
ṇ     voiced retroflex nasal; IPA [ɳ]     Indic
ɲ     voiced palatal nasal     Spanish ñ, Italian gn
ɴ     voiced uvular nasal     Japanese word-final "n"
o     tense mid back rounded vowel     go, hope, boat
ŏ     mid central unrounded vowel, similar to [ə]     Korean "eo"
ɸ     voiceless bilabial fricative     (like blowing out a match)
θ     voiceless dental fricative     thing, myth
p     voiceless bilabial stop     pep
p̅     spirantized [p]; historically [ɸ], modern [f]     Hebrew
þ     runic letter equivalent to [θ]     Icelandic
      or runic letter that can be read as either [θ] or [ð]     Old English, some Scandinavian
q     voiceless uvular stop     Arabic Qatar
r     voiced alveolar trill (often used for other types of "r")     Spanish perro
ɹ     voiced (post)alveolar liquid, the English "r"; often just written [r]     run, sorry
ɾ     voiced alveolar tap; sometimes written [ᴅ]     Am Engl city; Spanish pero
ʀ     voiced uvular trill     some French dialects, etc.
ʁ     voiced uvular fricative     French, German, Modern Hebrew "r"
ṛ     voiced retroflex flap; IPA [ɽ]     Indic
s     voiceless alveolar fricative     sit, hiss, rice, cent
š     voiceless postalveolar fricative; IPA [ʃ]     ship, push, delicious
ś     voiceless alveolopalatal fricative; IPA [ɕ]     Indic
      or voiceless alveolar fricative; historically distinct from [z]     Egyptian (often just "s")
      or voiceless fricative; historically distinct from [s]     Hebrew, other Semitic
ṣ     voiceless retroflex fricative; IPA [ʂ]     Indic, Mandarin ("sh")
      or emphatic, i.e. pharyngealized [sˁ]     Semitic
ʃ     voiceless postalveolar fricative; same as [š]     ship, push, delicious
t     voiceless alveolar stop     stop
ṭ     voiceless retroflex stop; IPA [ʈ]     Indic
      or emphatic, i.e. pharyngealized [tˁ]     Semitic
ṯ     palatalized [tʸ]; can be pronounced [č]     Egyptian
      or spirantized [t], same as [θ]     Ancient Hebrew
ʨ     voiceless alveolopalatal affricate     Mandarin ji (cf. aspirated qi)
tʂ     voiceless retroflex affricate     Mandarin zhi (cf. aspirated chi)
u     tense high back rounded vowel     ooze, prune
ʊ     lax high back rounded vowel     put, book
ŭ     high central unrounded vowel, similar to [ɨ]     Korean "eu"
ü     tense high front rounded vowel     French, German, Mandarin
v     voiced labiodental fricative     verve
ʌ     mid central unrounded vowel; stressed in English     cut, love
ɣ     voiced velar fricative     Spanish haga
w     voiced labial-velar glide     witch
ʍ     voiceless labial-velar fricative     which for some speakers
x     voiceless velar fricative     chutzpah, German ach
χ     voiceless uvular fricative     Semitic, Egyptian
y     voiced palatal glide (in many transcription systems); IPA [j]     yes
      high front rounded vowel (in IPA)     French u, German ü
ʸ     palatalization of preceding sound; IPA [ʲ]     roughly canyon vs. cannon
ʎ     voiced palatal lateral     Italian gli, Castilian ll
z     voiced alveolar fricative     fizz, his, rose
ẓ     voiced retroflex fricative; IPA [ʐ]     Indic, Mandarin ("r")
      or emphatic, i.e. pharyngealized [zˁ] or [ðˁ]     Semitic
ž     voiced palatoalveolar fricative; IPA [ʒ]     rouge, vision
ʒ     voiced palatoalveolar fricative; same as [ž]     rouge, vision
’     glottalization of preceding sound (ejective)     Mayan, Ethiopic
‘     aspiration of preceding sound; same as [ʰ]     Chinese (not Pinyin)
ʔ     glottal stop; also written ’ or ʾ     medial sound in uh-oh
ʕ     voiced pharyngeal fricative; also written ‘ or ʿ     Arabic ‘ayn

The following examples illustrate diacritic marks that can be added to other symbols, in particular vowels. The same accent or other mark may in some cases appear with more than the vowel symbols shown, or with a subset for cases where more than one function is encountered.
Examples     Phonetic value     Languages
ā ē ī ō ū ǖ     high level tone (= Mandarin "tone 1")     Chinese
      or long vowel     Japanese, Greek, etc.
á é í ó ú ǘ     rising tone (= Mandarin "tone 2")     Chinese
      or primary stress     Modern Greek, Spanish, etc.
      or "acute accent"     Classical Greek
      or equivalent to subscript 2 for distinguishing homophones     Sumerian
ǎ ě ǐ ǒ ǔ ǚ     falling-rising tone (= Mandarin "tone 3")     Chinese
à è ì ò ù ǜ     falling tone (= Mandarin "tone 4")     Chinese
      or secondary stress     many transcriptions
      or "grave accent"     Classical Greek
      or word-final stress     Italian
      or equivalent to subscript 3 for distinguishing homophones     Sumerian
â ê î ô û     long vowel that results from two short vowels     Akkadian, other Semitic
      or any long vowel     Cree, etc.
      or "circumflex accent"     Classical Greek

The End of the secret level.