9. IPA fonts, charts, and tests

IPA Fonts:

     If you have an up-to-date operating system installed, you already have IPA fonts available on your computer! With these fonts, you can add IPA symbols to any document you create, and don't have to fill them in by hand anymore. Just click on 'Insert 插入', then 'Symbol 符號'. A table of symbols will appear on your screen. Choose the Lucida Sans Unicode (or MS Mincho) font, then double click on each symbol you want to input, or click on 'Insert/插入'.

     This Web page offers a very convenient and quite efficient way to input IPA symbols:


     Another way to input IPA symbols: go to the following page and click on the symbols you want in the table. They will appear in the field below the chart, from which you can copy and paste them into your document:


     There are further options available for specialized IPA computer fonts.

      SIL International
, formerly called the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), is an organization devoted to (according to their Website) "work[ing] with language communities worldwide to facilitate language-based development through research, translation, and literacy." SIL has made remarkable achievements in linguistic fieldwork 田野調查, practical phonetics, and many other areas of linguistics. Their site is a great place to go for all kinds of phonetic and other linguistic tools:


       To download SIL's IPA computer fonts, go to this page:


Make sure you choose the correct font package for your system. Rather than using the keyboard to input the symbols, which is also possible, do the same as you do for the Lucida Sans Unicode font: click on 'Insert 插入', then 'Symbol 符號'. A table of symbols will appear on your screen. Select an IPA font, then double click on each symbol you want to input, or click on 'Insert/插入'.

     Another alternative for PCs is the
TrueType IPA-SAM phonetic fonts, available through a link on John Well's site:


     John Wells has lots of practical suggestions on how to add IPA symbols to a Word document here:


Displaying IPA symbols on a Web page:

     The SIL and IPA-SAM fonts will not, unfortunately, display correctly on a Web page. You can, however, use the Lucida Sans Unicode font mentioned above.
Just follow the instructions John Wells has posted on his Web site at:


IPA charts, sound files, and tests

     Here is an IPA chart on Peter Ladefoged's site with sound files you can click on, one row at a time; there are also links to enlarged versions of the chart with sound files for each individual sound:


   The IPA symbols are not well known in the US among those who do not study linguistics or phonetics. Most people are more familiar with spelling-based ad hoc symbols, commonly used in English dictionaries published in the US, to indicate the phonetic values of words. This has led to a number of misunderstandings about English phonetics. Can you find things on the following pages that are different from what you have learned about the phonetics of American English vowels? In spite of some misconceptions, these pages are still useful – they give good models of the vowels of standard US English:

Long vowels: http://www.pronuncian.com/materials/podcasts/Episode_8.aspx
Short vowels: http://www.pronuncian.com/materials/podcasts/Episode_9.aspx

     Here is a useful "Introduction to phonetic transcription" from antimoon.com:


     On this page, phonetician John Well of UCL explains "Why phonetic transcription is important":


     And here is an overview of the sounds of English by Timothy Morris of the University of Texas at Arlington:

     Phonetic Transcription Workshop


     Here is a list of BBC vowels in example words with accompanying sound file by Peter Ladefoged:

     You can also test yourself with this phonetic flash quiz by John Maidment at University College London here:

     You can choose which sounds you wish to be tested on. You might like to start with 'RP consonants', which are the same as those for general American English. If you know some French, try the French consonants and vowels. (Here are tables of French sounds in IPA from About.com. Use 'Western European (Windows)' encoding on your browser; and here is a unit with audio files on how to pronounce "difficult" French sounds like the uvular fricative [ʁ] and nasalized vowels. Do you agree with all the tips?) See if you can discover the main distinguishing characteristics of Northern British vowels as compared to standard Southern British. (Sometime if you have time and interest, there's lots of information on English dialects here.) You can come back and do the IPA consonants test (which includes many non-English sounds) after you have learned more of the symbols and sounds. Doing that one now might frustrate you a bit!

     You have learned how to represent the sounds of English in KK pronunciation symbols, and now in IPA. But how would you transcribe the sounds of Chinese into IPA?

Next: Writing Chinese in IPA and the International Phonetic Association

on to next page        back        index I        index II         home