Phonetic Alphabet 

Phonetic Alphabet

English Phonetic Alphabet 

Here in this article, you find the basic knowledge of 26 letters of English alphabet of four types and 44 different phonic sounds or phonetic alphabet which are developed by the International Phonetic Alphabet. 

 

The English word “alphabet” has been formed from the Latin word “alphabetum”which in turn originated from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, “alpha” and “beta”. The English alphabet consists of 26 letters and 44 pronunciation symbols. 

Generally we find four types of alphabet used in English Language.

 

They are: 

English Alphabet

 

These letters of alphabet in English are divided into

Vowels: (5 letters)

A E I O U

 

Consonants: (19 letters)

 

B C D F G H J K L M N P Q R S T V X Z

 

Semi-vowels: (2 letters)

W Y (These two letters can be used as vowels and consonants)

 

W is used as a vowel in the words like –  saw, raw, row, crow etc

W is  used as a consonant in the words like – was, who, when, what, whether etc.,

 

Y is used as vowel in the words like – sky, why, fly, my cry etc.,

Y is used as consonant in the words like – yarn, yearning, yoke, you  etc.,

 

A more detailed chart is provided below where in you find capital letters, small letters with their phonetic symbols and how to pronounce them.

 

English Alphabet

 

The English alphabet contains 26 letters which individually and in combination represent 44 different phonic sounds.

 

These 44 phonetic alphabet in English which are also called phonemes or phonetic symbols mentioned here are in line with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

Since English is not a phonetic language, this IPA symbols are really helpful for the learners of the language.

The English language seems to be very complicated because of its spelling rules and silent letters. So, the IPA help to learn the correct sounds, word stress and pronunciation. 

These 44 phonetic symbols can be divided into two major categories – they are 

 

Vowel sounds and Consonant sounds

In a vowel sound, we find the air flow is unobstructed when the sound is made.
In consonant sound, we find the air flow is cut off, partially or, sometimes completely, when the sound is made.

Vowel Sounds:

There are five letters of vowels used to make 20 different phonemes or phonetic symbols in English language.

And these vowel sounds have been divided into three categories for the sake of easy understanding.

 

They are:

 

 7 short vowels:

Short vowel symbols in the IPA are /ɪ/-pit, /e/-pet, /æ/-pat, /ʌ/-cut, /ʊ/-put, /ɒ/-dog, /ə/-about.

 

5 long vowels:

Long vowel symbols in the IPA are /i:/-week, /ɑ:/-hard,/ɔ:/-fork,/ɜ:/-heard, /u:/-boot.

 

and 8 Diphthongs (two short vowels joined together):

Diphthong vowel symbols in the IPA are /eɪ/-place, /oʊ/-home, /aʊ/-mouse, /ɪə/-clear, /eə/-care, /ɔɪ/-boy, /aɪ/-find, /ʊə/-tour.

 

Short Vowels

(IPA Symbol) Common spelling Word examples
/æ/ a – cat Cat, hand, nap, flat, have
/ə/ a – again Alive, mother, attack, maker, doctor
/e/ e – egg Went, intend, send, letter, head, get, said
/i/ i – igloo sit, him, film, women, busy, build, hymn,
/ɒ/ o – orange Rob, top, watch, squat, sausage, not, jog, hop
/ʌ/ u – mug Fun, love, money, one, London, come. cup, double, monk
/u/ oo – book Put, look, should, cook, book, look.good, should, wood

Long Vowels

IPA Symbol Common spelling                     Word examples
/ɑ:/ ɑɑ – car                   Fast, hard, bath, car, art, hard
/i:/ ee – sheep                   Need, beat, team, sea, me, free
/ɜ:/ ii – bird                   Nurse, heard, third, turn.
/ɔ:/ oo – door                  Talk, law, yawn, jaw, saw, score, four
/u:/ uu – shoot                   Few, boot, lose, gloomy, fruit, chew.

Diphthong Vowels

IPA Symbol Word examples
/ɪə/          Near, ear, clear, tear, beer, fear
/eə/ Hair, there, care, stairs, pear
/eɪ/          Face, space, rain , case, eight
/ɔɪ/ Joy, employ, toy, coil, oyster
/aɪ/ My, sight, pride, kind, flight
/əʊ/ No, don’t, stones, alone, hole
/aʊ/ Mouth, house, brown, cow, out
/ʊə/ Tourist, tour, pure

Consonant Sounds:

 

There are 21 consonants in English which represent 24 different consonant phonic sounds.  Like vowels, the consonant sounds have also been divided into several categories like

 

Plosives,

Fricatives,

Affricates,

Nasal,

Approximants and 

Lateral.

 

Plosives: These are consonant sounds that are made by stopping air flowing out of the mouth, and then suddenly releasing it.

 

Voiced: /p/, /t/, /k/     

Voiceless: /b/, /d/, /g/

 

IPA Symbol Common spelling Word examples Place of articulation
/p/ p – pig
Pin, cap, purpose, pause, pen, pencil  Bilabial
/b/ b – ball Bag, bubble, build, robe. Bilabial
/t/ t – tap Time, train, tow, late. Alveolar
/d/ d – dog Door, day, drive, down, feed. Alveolar
/k/  k – kite Cash, quick, cricket, sock. Velar
/g/  g – grapes Girl, green, grass, flag. Velar

Fricatives: These are consonants produced when air passes through a narrow channel between two articulators.

 

Voiced: /v/,/ð//z/, /ʒ/, /h/

Voiceless: /f/, /θ//s/,/ʃ/

IPA Symbol Common spelling Word examples Place of articulation
/f/ f – fan Full, Friday, fish, knife. Labiodental
/v/ v – van Vest, village, view, cave. Labiodental
/θ/ th – thin Thought, think, Bath. Dental
/ð/ th – then There, those, brothers, others. Dental
/s/  s – sea Seal, missing, face  Alveolar
/z/ z – zebra Zoo, crazy, lazy, zigzag, nose. Alveolar
/ʃ/ sh – shark Shirt, rush, shop, cash. Palatal
/ʒ/ s – vision Television, delusion, casual Palato-alveolar
/h/ h – hat High, help, hello. Glottal


Affricates:
These are also called semi plosive.  These consonant sounds that begin as a stop (sound with complete obstruction of the breath stream) and concludes with a fricative (sound with incomplete closure and a sound of friction). 

 

Voiced: /dʒ/

Voiceless: /ʈʃ/

 

IPA Symbol Common spelling        Word examples     Place of articulation
/ʈʃ/ ch – catch Choose, cheese, church, watch.       Palatal
/dʒ/ j – joke Joy, juggle, juice, stage.       Palato-alveolar

 

Nasal: These are consonant sounds in which the escaping air passes through the nasal cavity.

 

Voiced:  /m/, /n/, /ŋ

 

IPA Symbol Common spelling Word examples Place of articulation
/m/ m – moon Room, mother, mad, more. Bilabial
/n/ n – noon Now, nobody, knew, turn. Alveolar
/ŋ/ ng – sing King, thing, song, swimming. Velar

Approximants: These speech sounds that are formed by the passage of air between two articulators (such as the lips or tongue) which are close but not touching.

 

Voiced: /r/, /j/,/w/,

 

IPA Symbol Common spelling Word examples Place of articulation
/r/ r – real Road, roses, river, ring, ride. Alveolar-retroflex
/j/ y – you Yellow, usual, tune, yesterday, yard. Palatal
/w/ w -web Wall, walk, wine, world. Labial-velar

Lateral: This consonant sound occurs when the tongue blocks the middle of your mouth so that air has to pass around the sides

 

Voiced: /l/

 

IPA Symbol Common spelling Word examples Place of articulation  
/l/ l – love Law, lots, leap, long, pill, cold, chill, melt Alveolar-lateral  

Note:

The following 3 consonant letters have not been mentioned in the above list because they don’t have their own unique sound.

c borrows the sounds of /k/ and /s/
q is the combination of /kw/
x is the combination of /ks/ (box) or /gz/ (exist)

 

The names for the main places of articulation are shown in the diagram and the table below to understand the phonetic transcription in an easy manner.

 

image source: internet

 

 

Place Description
Bilabial both lips
Labiodental lower lip against upper teeth
Dental tongue tip against upper teeth
Alveolar tongue tip against teeth ridge
Alveolar-lateral tongue tip against teeth ridge but with sides lowered
Alveolar-retroflex tongue tip curled back near teeth ridge
Palato-alveolar tongue tip slightly retracted from teeth ridge
Palatal tongue blade against hard palate
Velar back of tongue against soft palate
Glottal vocal fold closure in larynx

 

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