Uralic Phonetic Alphabet

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The Uralic Phonetic Alphabet (UPA) or Finno-Ugric transcription system is a phonetic transcription or notational system used predominantly for the transcription and reconstruction of Uralic languages. It was first published in 1901 by Eemil Nestor Setälä, a Finnish linguist.

This page contains rare Unicode characters. You may need to install Charis SIL, Code2000, etc. to view some characters.

Unlike the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) notational standard which concentrates on accurately and uniquely transcribing the phonemes of a language, the UPA is also used to denote the functional categories of a language, as well as their phonetic quality. For this reason, it is not possible to automatically convert a UPA transcription into an IPA one.

The basic UPA characters are based on the Finnish alphabet where possible, with extensions taken from Cyrillic and Greek orthographies. Small-capital letters and some novel diacritics are also used.

General[edit]

Unlike the IPA, which is usually transcribed with upright characters, the UPA is usually transcribed with italic characters. Although many of its characters are also used in standard Latin, Greek, Cyrillic orthographies or the IPA, and are found in the corresponding Unicode blocks, many are not. These have been encoded in the Phonetic Extensions and Phonetic Extensions Supplement blocks. Font support for these extended characters is very rare; Code2000 and Fixedsys Excelsior are two fonts that do support them. A professional font containing them is Andron Mega; it supports UPA characters in Regular and Italics.

Vowels[edit]

A vowel to the left of a dot is illabial (unrounded); to the right is labial (rounded).

  Palatal Central Velar
Close
Blank vowel trapezoid-three-height.svg
i
u
e
o
aå
Near-close
Close-mid
Mid
Open-mid
Near-open
Open

Other vowels are denoted using diacritics; see the section below.

The UPA also uses three characters to denote a vowel of uncertain quality:

  • ɜ denotes a vowel of uncertain quality;
  • denotes a back vowel of uncertain quality;
  • ᴕ̈ denotes a front vowel of uncertain quality

If a distinction between close-mid vowels and open-mid vowels is needed, the IPA symbols for the open-mid basic front illabial and back labial vowels, ɛ and ɔ, can be used. However, in keeping with the principles of the UPA, the open-mid front labial and back illabial vowels are still transcribed with the addition of diacritics, as ɔ̈ and ɛ̮.

Consonants[edit]

The following table describes the consonants of the UPA. Note that the UPA does not distinguish voiced fricatives from approximates, and does not contain many characters of the IPA such as [ɹ].

UPA consonants
  Stop Fricative Lateral Trill Nasal Click
Bilabial p ʙ b φ β ψ m p˿ b˿
Labiodental ʙ͔ f v ᴍ͔
Dental ϑ δ
Alveolar t d s z š ž ʟ l ʀ r ɴ n t˿ d˿
Dentipalatal (palatalised) ť ᴅ́ ď ś ᴢ́ ź š́ ž́ ʟ́ ĺ ʀ́ ŕ ɴ́ ń  
Prepalatal (palatalised and/or anterior) ɢ́ ǵ χ́ j ᴎ́ ŋ́
Velar k ɢ g χ γ ŋ k˿ g˿
Postvelar ɢ͔ χ͔ γ͔ ᴎ͔ ŋ͔
Uvular ρ

When there are two or more consonants in a column, the rightmost one is voiced; when there are three, the centre one is partially devoiced.

Modifiers[edit]

UPA modifier characters
Character Unicode Image Description Use
ä U+0308 - umlaut above Palatal (fully front) vowel
U+0323 UPA a-dot below.png dot below Palatal (fronted) variant of vowel
U+032E UPA a-breve below.png breve below Velar (fully back or backed) vowel or variant of vowel
ā U+0304 UPA a-macron.png macron Long form of a vowel; also by duplication
U+0354 UPA a-left arrowhead.png left arrowhead below Retracted form of a vowel or consonant
U+0355 UPA a-right arrowhead.png right arrowhead below Advanced form of a vowel or consonant
U+032D UPA a-circumflex below.png circumflex below Raised variant of a vowel
U+032C UPA a-caron below.png caron below Lowered variant of a vowel
ă U+0306 UPA a-breve.png breve Shorter or reduced vowel
U+032F UPA a-inverted breve below.png inverted breve below Non-syllabic, glide or semi-vowel
ʀ U+0280 Xsampa-Rslash.png small capital Unvoiced or partially voiced version of voiced sound
superscripted character Very short sound
subscripted character Coarticulation due to surrounding sounds
U+1D1E UPA sideways diaresised u.png Rotated (180°) or sideways (−90°) Reduced form of sound

Differences from IPA[edit]

A major difference is that IPA notation allows distinguishing between phonetic and phonemic transcription, by enclosing the transcription between either brackets [aɪ pʰiː eɪ] or slashes /ai pi e/. UPA has no corresponding standard, and context must be relied upon to distinguish the closeness of transcription.

For phonetic transcription, numerous small differences from IPA come into relevance:

Examples:

Sound UPA IPA
Close-mid back rounded vowel [o]
Mid back rounded vowel o [o̞] or [ɔ̝]
Open-mid back rounded vowel or å̭  [ɔ]
Voiced dental fricative δ [ð]
Alveolar tap ð [ɾ]
Voiceless alveolar lateral approximant ʟ [l̥]
Velar lateral approximant л [ʟ]
Voiceless alveolar nasal ɴ [n̥]
Uvular nasal ŋ͔ [ɴ]

Sample use of UPA[edit]

This section contains some sample words from both Uralic languages and English (using Australian English) along with comparisons to the IPA transcription.

Sample UPA words
English Language UPA IPA
ship English šᴉp [ʃɪp]
ran English rän [ræn] or [ɹæn]
bored English ʙo̭o̭d [b̥oːd]
I sow Moksha və̂ďän [vɤ̈dʲæn]
to wash Udmurt miśkᴉ̑nᴉ̑ [misʲkɪ̈nɪ̈]
nostril Forest Nenets ŋàrŋū̬"ᴲ [ŋɑˑrŋu̞ːʔə̥]
pine Hill Mari pᴞ·ń(ᴅ́ᴢ̌́ö̭ [ˈpʏnʲd̥͡ʑ̥ø]
ermine Skolt Sami pŭə̆ī̮ᵈt̄ėi [pŭə̆ɨːd̆tːəi]

External links[edit]