Phonetic Alphabet

What is the Phonetic Alphabet?

There are many instances of the Phonetic alphabet, with the most common being the International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA, which is based on the Latin script. Since the modern Latin alphabet is used by most spoken languages in the world, including English, this makes the IPA the predominant phonetic notation system in the world, and most others modify or derive this system to suit their needs. The IPA was created in the late 19th century and standardized the representation of speech sounds in written form. This is useful in many cases, with the most notable historical application being telecommunication in logistics and military support, where it can be difficult to understand what someone is saying.

Phonetic Alphabets have been adopted throughout the world by lexicographers, foreign language students, some linguists, and translators as a way to communicate nuanced subjects and categories. In everyday life, phonetic alphabets are used even by those who do not understand the structure itself. For example, phonetic sounds are used in everyday conversation, especially on the telephone to spell out addresses or phone numbers. Speakers use any word that starts with the letter they are describing, such as "A for 'Apple'".

What is the History of the Phonetic Alphabet?

In 1886, a group of British and French language teachers formed what is now known as the International Phonetic Association. The alphabet was based on a spelling reform for English and English speakers that was known as the Romic alphabet. The Phonetic alphabet was therefore an adaption that made this alphabet useful for other languages, as the values and symbols differ greatly between many languages around the world. For example, there is a sound in the word "Shoe", particularly the "sh", which is often denoted in the English language with a "c". Some English speakers know from the phrase structure when "c" becomes "c" or if "c" is an "s" or "sh" sound. In French, this is represented phonetically by "ch" which would differ greatly in the English language, making "ch" a more "chuh" sound.

Since the creation of the association, the IPA has changed many different times due to various revisions. The most significant expansion ended in the 1940s and remained fundamentally constant until 1989. There was a minor revision in 1993 which added four letters for different vowels and removed letters that have voiceless implosives. Apart from these fundamental changes, most variations have been to rename categories and symbols.

Interesting Facts About the Phonetic Alphabet

There are more than 160 symbols in the IPA language, but only a relative few are used to transcribe speech into another language due to difficulty in precision. Phonetic transcriptions are notoriously difficult to use, as sounds need to be specified in detail, especially for those who are still only learning the language and may have different biases based on their tonal upbringing. IPA is extremely popular for linguists, but most often pair it with their own phonetic notation to increase the accuracy of pronunciation.

Phonetic Alphabet